2020 has been the year of seeking escapism wherever we can. Books have been a saviour for me this year and whilst I haven’t read as many as I intended to (story of my life!), I’ve still read a fair few.
I don’t know about you but I never pick up a book without reading the reviews and a personal recommendation is even better, so here are a few I would (and the odd one I wouldn’t) recommend.
The One that Offered Much-Needed Escapism
The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary had been doing the rounds for a while (Instagram is a GREAT place for finding book recommendations) before I took the plunge. I read it early summer when the lockdown days were long and I wanted some light reading material that would make me feel like I was on holiday.
This book is the perfect holiday accompaniment. It’s a traditional rom-com at heart; a bit of frothy fun with an engaging storyline. Yes I guessed the ending (bar a few twists along the way) but I liked the central characters – Tiffy and Leon. Light-hearted fun which is just what the doctor ordered this year.
The One that Opened my Eyes
Books are a brilliant way to gain a tiny window into someone else’s life; An American Marriage by Tayari Jones was an education for me. It shares the story of a young African-Amercian couple in the early years of marriage. One night Roy is arrested and wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit.
Tayari Jones tackles issues of race and justice with sensitivity, whilst beautifully depicting what happens to a relationship when unforeseen events conspire to sabotage it.
The One that Made Me Cry
First off, let me tell you that I very rarely cry at a film or a book but Half a World Away by Mike Gayle was an emotional rollercoaster. I have loved every one of Mike Gayle’s books but I think this one is probably my favourite so far.
Essentially it is a story of two people from very different lives, developing a deep empathy for one another while discovering who they are in the process. I connected with the characters straight away and by the end, was so invested in Kerry and her half brother, Noah, that I kept having to put it down as my emotions couldn’t cope!
The One that Made Me Laugh Out Loud
I heard I’m Just a Teenage Punch Bag by Jackie Clune advertised on one of my favourite podcasts – Postcards from Midlife with Lorraine Candy and Trish Halpin. It was heralded as the perfect read for midlife mums with teenagers, who are looking for some solidarity.
From the very first page I was laughing out loud at the mum’s description of being bullied day at night, by her teenagers. The storyline wasn’t particularly ingenious but the writing and wit was so refreshing.
The One that I Couldn’t Put Down
My sister-in-law lent me The Holiday by T.M. Logan and whilst it wasn’t a literary masterpiece, I raced through the chapters and didn’t guess the ending – a rarity for me!
It sees an old group of friends embarking on a holiday together to celebrate one member of the party’s 40th birthday. If you like thrillers, this one is full of suspense and dramatic events.
The One that Completely Absorbed Me
Much like everyone else, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was far and away my favourite book of the year. It’s gently and beautifully written with a compelling storyline. If you haven’t read it (you might possibly be the only person I know who hasn’t!) the central character is the ‘Marsh Girl’ Kya, who is deeply misunderstood and revered by the majority of people in her town.
It’s a stunning coming-of-age story and I cannot wait for it to be on our screens – yes, the film rights have been bought by Reese Witherspoon.
The One that Everyone Else Liked but I Didn’t
I had high hopes for Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng because Little Fires Everywhere was my favourite read of 2019. I know others who really enjoyed it but I just found this book a little lacking.
It might be that I loved LFE so much that it was always destined to disappoint but when I reached the end, I felt somewhat ’empty’. Yes it had some sub text and it left me thinking a bit, but I felt that so much more could have been made of the complex characters.
Have you read it? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
I’m now in the process of compiling my reading list for 2021. At the top of the pile are some rather hefty, serious-looking marketing books so I will be in desperate need of escapism this year! Do share your favourites from 2020 in the comments; as I said, recommendations are my favourite way to source new reading material.