Ah, 2020. What a year, one I’d rather not ever have to relive! Please don’t send time machines back there, it’s not worth it!
I set lofty goals for myself on January 1, hoping I’d be able to read 60 books in 365 days. I’d read 50 the year before, so what was 10 more? Plus, with as much as I was traveling at the end of 2019, I had plenty of uninterrupted reading time on planes and trains. I assumed that would carry over into 2020.
Ha. Right. I think we all know how that turned out.
In the end, I read 45 books. Which, all things considered, is a pretty incredible feat. There were years when I only read 20 books, and worse years where I only read 5. To me, managing to read more than 1 book a month is amazing, so I’m still proud that I read anything at all. Sure, I would have loved to hit my Goodreads goal, but it’s not the end of the world.
What did disappoint me, though, was the quality of a lot of the books I read. It wasn’t hard to pick my top 5 of 2020 because… well, there were only 5 books out of the 45 that I really enjoyed.
Anyway, here’s everything I read in 2020 and my favorites of the bunch!
First, here are all the books I read in 2020!
Can I just say, I read more books in 2020 that I actively hated than any other year. Clearly all of 2020 was cursed and that included my reading as well. There were so many 0 and 1-star reviews out of this bunch, it was honestly embarrassing.
But enough about those, here are my favorites of 2020!
The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
This novel of the drug trade takes you deep inside a world riddled with corruption, betrayal, and bloody revenge.
Art Montana is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and incorruptible Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hell’s Kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hitman. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug Federaci.
From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you’ve never seen it.
While this book did feel a little textbook-y at times, it was a thrilling exploration of the world of cartels and organized crime. Very long, but so very worth it.
Crow by A. Zavarelli
An Irish mobster. A missing friend. Two loyalties, ripping me apart.
I had a plan.
Get in, get my information, and get out. Easy, right?
Turns out, infiltrating the Irish mafia isn’t exactly what I thought it would be. I just wanted a soldier. Someone I could flirt with to get me in the door.
That’s when Lachlan Crow noticed me. Problem was, he wasn’t a soldier. No, he was next in line for the throne of the Irish underworld. And he was determined to hate me from the outset. My sob story about needing a job? Yeah, he wasn’t buying that either.
Too bad for him, I won’t let anyone get in the way of my mission.
Who cares if we have some kind of crazy chemistry? He’s the worst kind of wrong- and I would never in a million years be with a guy like him.
Because they took her from me, and I’m going to make them pay.
When I say I want to read a dark romance about the mob, THIS IS WHAT I MEAN. This gave me romance without romanticizing organized crime itself. It was violent and gritty and true to what the mob is, but it also had a love story, which was exactly what I want from a mafia romance. And the writing! The writing was great! It was one of the few books, in my opinion, that did dual POV very well. I never once had to ask myself, “wait, whose POV is this?” Excellent all around.
Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard
High in a snowy mountain range, a monastery that holds more than just faith clings to the side of a cliff. Below, thwarted by a lake, a bloodthirsty horde of raiders await the coming of winter and the frozen path to destroy the sanctuary and its secrets.
The Bloodwitch Aeduan has teamed up with the Threadwitch Iseult and the magical girl Owl to stop the destruction. But to do so, he must confront his own father, and his past.
This is the third book in the Witchlands series, a series I’ve come to absolutely adore. I didn’t love the second book, but this one absolutely made up for it. Witchlands is spectacular, and I can’t wait for its conclusion in the fourth book coming out this year!
Parachutes by Kelly Yang
Speak enters the world of Gossip Girl in this modern immigrant story from New York Times bestselling author Kelly Yang about two girls navigating wealth, power, friendship, and trauma.
They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.
Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate-team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. When her debate coach starts working with her privately, Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course.
Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining in deeper and more complicated ways, as they grapple with life-altering experiences. Award-winning author Kelly Yang weaves together an unforgettable modern immigrant story about love, trauma, family, corruption, and the power of speaking out.
This book made me pretty uncomfortable at times, but that was the point. It was an exploration of privilege, elitism, racism, and culture. It was an important read, one that made me so angry at times, and I’m including it in my top 5 for that very reason.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.
Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.
Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.
Last but certainly not least, this book BLEW ME AWAY. Trigger warnings all around (be sure to look into those) but WOW WOW WOW. Great book, fantastic writing, and and ending that made me actually scream. Please, if you can, read this one.
2020 was a disappointing year for many reasons and the quality of the books I read was definitely part of that. Still, these 5 books were gems amongst dirt. I’m hoping 2021 will be better, but uhh… I’m keeping my expectations low!
What was your favorite book this year? Did you have a reading goal? If you did, did you reach it? And if not, do you think you’ll set one for 2021?