My favourite books of 2020

Disclosure: some of the titles within this post were previously sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review. I’m an affiliate for Blackwell’s so this post contains affiliate links to their sites. If you buy a book via my links, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you – thank you! 

What a year it’s been. While it might have been terrible in many respects, I did manage to read an astonishing number of excellent books. 263 of them in fact. I discovered audiobooks this year, so that’s an extra 46 books I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

In terms of print books, I read 113 translated books and 102 books originally published in English. Therefore, I’ve allowed myself to choose a top ten from those three categories! So here we have a top 30 essentially. I’d recommend all of these books in a heartbeat. These are just books I read this year by the way, not necessarily 2020 releases.

Without further ado, let’s jump into my favourite books of 2020! These are in no particular order. I’d say Girl, Woman, Other, The Eighth Life and Cantoras are my ultimate top three, but I can’t go any further than that. I love all these books equally.


A stack of the books listed in the translated favourites section
My top ten favourite translated reads of 2020
The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili, tr. Ruth Martin & Charlotte Collins

This comes as no surprise to anybody. I’ve been raving about this book since March and have coerced a fair number of people into buying a copy. I’m just a sucker for a sprawling family saga with a historical backdrop. Please don’t let the 900 plus pages intimidate you. They’ll fly by.

Read my full review
Buy The Eighth Life at Blackwell’s

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, tr. Stephen Snyder

I read this on the 2nd of January and it’s held onto a position in my favourites all year long. A haunting yet quiet dystopian narrative delving into memory and loss with imagery that remains burned into your brain long after you turn the last page.

Read my full review
Buy The Memory Police at Blackwell’s

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, tr. Anonymous

A book that gives off House of the Spirits and One Hundred Years of Solitude vibes is sure to make it into my top ten. But this book stands on its own legs too, Azar proving herself a force to be reckoned with. Also I have insane respect for the translator of this book, who has had to remain anonymous for their own safety.

Read my full review
Buy The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree at Blackwell’s

Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, tr. Jordan Stump

Okay, I know I said I’d recommend all these books in a heartbeat but maybe this is one I’d recommend knowing your own tastes beforehand. It will either work for you and blow you away or frustrate you, as NDiaye’s style is very dense, but mesmerising. A haunting exploration of the way trauma is passed down through generations, with slight The Vanishing Half vibes.

Read my full review
Buy Ladivine at Bookshop UK

Learning to Talk to Plants by Marta Orriols, tr. Mara Faye Lethem

This book is such a unique exploration of grief, the premise left me speechless. The prose is hypnotising so although the pace of the novel is slow, the prose keeps you turning the pages. If you enjoyed Here Is the Beehive then you’ll definitely enjoy this one.

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Buy Learning to Talk to Plants at Blackwell’s

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez, tr. Megan McDowell

This is an almost perfect short story collection. Enríquez blends pure horror with cutting social commentary to outstanding effect. I am literally on the edge of my seat waiting for her full length novel to be released in English next year!

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Buy Things We Lost in the Fire at Blackwell’s

My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci, tr. David Hackston

Dual narratives that intertwine is one of my favourite ways of telling a story! And it’s rare that you get so attached to both storylines, but Statovci pulls it off with aplomb here. It’s definitely one I need to reread to appreciate the finer details and catch more of the symbolism.

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Buy My Cat Yugoslavia at Blackwell’s

Dead Girls by Selva Almada, tr. Annie McDermott

2020 was a great year for my reading because I discovered Charco Press! Selva Almada is one of their gems, and Dead Girls is a harrowing yet pertinent book which blends creative writing with journalism, exploring three unsolved femicides in Argentina. Don’t miss it.

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Buy Dead Girls at Blackwell’s

Loop by Brenda Lozano, tr. Annie McDermott

This is another book I’d recommend more carefully (sorry for lying in the intro lol), mainly to others who love quiet, introspective narratives. I got totally lost (in the best way) in the narrator’s thoughts, meandering from one topic to the next. I think fellow Ali Smith lovers will be a fan of Brenda Lozano.

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Buy Loop at Blackwell’s

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, tr. Elisabeth Jaquette

At only 112 pages, you know this one had to be powerful to make my favourites list. Shibli makes excellent use of those few pages, splitting the novel into two distinct sections which are very different yet harmonise perfectly. Dark and thought-provoking, you need to squeeze this one into your TBR.

Read my full review
Buy Minor Detail at Blackwell’s


A stack of my favourite books originally published in English, listed below.
My favourite non-translated reads of 2020
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

This was another book I read in January and which stuck with me all year long. The twelve people in this book felt like real people to me, their stories and characters so alive and vivid. I’ll certainly be delving into Evaristo’s backlist in 2021.

Read my full review
Buy Girl, Woman, Other at Blackwell’s

Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis

This book ripped out my heart, stomped on it, sewed it back up and stuffed it back in again. Once I finished it, I just wanted to flip right back to the first page and start it all over again. The women of this book and their stories will stay with you forever.

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Dark, Salt, Clear by Lamorna Ash

If you’d told me a non-fiction book about a Cornish fishing village and the fishing industry would be on my list of favourites for 2020, I’d have laughed in your face. But this book is utterly immersive and so fascinating. I read it during the very first month of lockdown and it was the perfect escape from real life.

Read my full review
Buy Dark, Salt, Clear at Blackwell’s

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

I endured months and months of glowing reviews from US bookstagrammers before this book was finally released in the UK. Needless to say it was more than worth the wait. It’s such a gorgeous yet heart-breaking story about family, love and grief.

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Buy The Death of Vivek Oji at Blackwell’s

Lanny by Max Porter

I absolutely loved this kooky, fable-esque tale for adults, especially the incredible character of Dead Papa Toothwort! If you love experimental fiction along the lines of Ali Smith then you’ll surely love Lanny.

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Buy Lanny at Blackwell’s

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

It’s almost a given that I’ll love a book when it addresses some aspect of motherhood and Patsy was no different. But Patsy is definitely an unconventional mother, and I adored reading about her journey to finding her true self. Plus, we always love a queer love story featuring slightly older characters.

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Buy Patsy at Blackwell’s

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Every time I remember this book is a debut I’m blown away all over again. I don’t usually have much of an opinion on Booker winners (the International Booker is another story), but I believe this one is a worthy winner! Utterly bleak and heart-breaking, yet with a glimmer of hope that is Shuggie.

Read my full review
Buy Shuggie Bain at Blackwell’s

Sula by Toni Morrison

Every time I read a new Toni Morrison, I’m convinced it’s somehow even better than the last one I read and loved. Sula is extraordinary and I could have read another 300 pages about the friendship between Sula and Nel.

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Buy Sula at Blackwell’s

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Since finishing Robin Hobb’s series, I needed something to fill the fantasy void and The Broken Earth trilogy was PERFECT. The whole trilogy is epic, complex, clever, brutal, just brilliant. The first book is my favourite though. Jemisin blew my tiny mind.

Read my full review
Buy The Fifth Season at Blackwell’s

Saltwater by Jessica Andrews  

Any book set in the North East was always going to have my heart, but Saltwater completely mesmerised me. Andrews has said that when she was growing up in the North East, she didn’t feel like her life was ‘worth much’. She hoped this book would show other young folk from up here that there is poetry in everyone’s life. I think she succeeded.

Read my full review
Buy Saltwater at Blackwell’s


As a bonus, I’ll leave a list of my favourite audiobooks I listened to this year. Believe me, this was difficult to narrow down. The top two are my two favourites, but after that they’re in no particular order again.


If LitHub can do this, so can I. Here are 15 more titles that I truly loved.


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One thought on “My favourite books of 2020

  1. Wow, this is some wrap-up indeed! I’m glad books have provided such a great escape for you this year and hope you discover many more great ones in 2021 too.

    Your glowing review of Cantoras made me pick it up sooner rather than later and I’m glad I did! I also really enjoyed the story and think De Robertis did a great job with the characters. ♥️