This is the sixth year I’ve been reviewing books on this blog, and in an effort to focus on something positive coming out of 2020, I’m inspired to start a new tradition of summarising the best books I’ve read and reviewed, the most popular reviews of the year and a wrap-up of the reading challenges I participated in.
2020 brought significantly more visitors to this blog than previous years, so a big welcome to you all and thank you so much for taking the time to read my reviews.
Best Reads of 2020
My favourite books of the year fell into 4 main genres: literary fiction, fantasy, non-fiction and science fiction.
Even though it was a difficult year for authors, there was some excellent Australian fiction that came out in 2020: “The Yield” by Tara June Winch, winner of the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award and a very creative novel that tackles the intergenerational trauma of colonialism and the Stolen Generation policy, and “Stone Sky Gold Mountain” by Mirandi Riwoe, a historical fiction novel about two Chinese siblings seeking their fortune in Far North Queensland’s gold rush.
Joint winner of the 2019 Booker Prize “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo was a fantastic novel that had me in tears. I still think it was a cop-out not to award the Booker Prize to Evaristo outright.
Despite not being able to make it to the gym for a significant part of the year, I did get through quite a few audiobooks while participating in my new hobby: mowing the lawn. Something I have learned is that a good narrator really makes the audiobook, and Aoife McMahon’s narration of “Normal People” by Sally Rooney was just superb. This book generated a lot of discussion, controversy and even a TV series, and I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook. Hazem Shammas’ narration of “The Lebs” by Michael Mohammed Ahmad was also excellent and brought the world of teenage boys in early 2000s Sydney to life.
Juliet Marillier continues to impress me with her “Warrior Bards” series and both “The Harp of Kings” and “A Dance with Fate” got glowing reviews from me. Marillier continues to tackle difficult issues and write beautiful romance against a magical medieval Irish backdrop.
Newcomer Emily Tesh had me hooked on her queer fantasy novella “Silver in the Wood” and I absolutely cannot wait to read the next one.
Some very well-known authors have come back in full force: Philip Pullman’s second “The Book of Dust” novel “The Secret Commonwealth” was a textbook example of how to pace a novel well and Susanna Clarke has returned from a prolonged hiatus with the eerie and beautiful novel “Piranesi” which had me hooked from start to finish.
I read an array of non-fiction books this year, and one of my favourites was “Queerberra“, a photobook produced and edited by Victoria Firth-Smith with photography by Jane Duong showcasing the divere LGBTIQA+ people of Canberra.
I rarely go in for self-help books, but Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever” has had a lasting impact on me and I cannot recommend it enough as a starting point if you want to get your home in order.
Another book that has shifted my world-view for the better is “Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism” by Aileen Moreton-Robinson. This incredibly important text on (the lack of) intersectionalism in Australian feminism has been re-released this year in a special 20th edition with a new foreword by Moreton-Robinson and it is an absolute must-read.
While overseas travel is unfortunately off the table for the foreseeable future, “Singapore, very old tree” curated by Zhao Renhui was a great way to explore Singapore’s arboreal heritage from the comfort of my own home. A beautiful collection of stories and photographs about what the trees of Singapore mean to the people who love them.
Jasper Fforde continues to amuse and delight in his fascinating speculative fiction novel “The Constant Rabbit” about state-sanctioned discrimination which felt like it was written for me personally, and which had me laughing aloud during a time where laughter was in dire need.
Most Popular Reviews of 2020
Fantasy, children’s books, non-fiction and (surprisingly, given how infrequently I review it!) erotica were among the most popular genres I reviewed this year, and the top 10 most viewed reviews were:
- “The Harp of Kings” by Juliet Marillier
- (Adults Only) “The Veiled Woman” by Anaïs Nin
- “Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow” by Jessica Townsend
- (Adults Only) “My Monster Boyfriend” edited by C. Spike Trotman
- “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley
- “A Dance with Fate” by Juliet Marillier
- “No Friend But the Mountains” by Behrouz Boochani
- Guest review by Julia Clark of “Beauty” by Bri Lee
- “The Magic Pudding: The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum” by Norman Lindsay, and
- “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan, my all-time most popular review.
2020 Reading Challenges
I took part in 3 reading challenges this year:
- the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge
- the #StartOnYourShelfathon Challenge, and
- the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge.
I read 19 books by Australian women, which is actually a lot more than I had expected!
I wasn’t very good at keeping up with my little star chart throughout the year, but I chipped away at my to-read shelves this year and churned through 21 books. I set my goal as one blue star for every 10 books read, and a red star for every new favourite.
Finally, I did the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge. My goal was to get to the Malayan Tapir level (my favourite animal!) which was to read between 21 – 30 books by Asian authors. I am thrilled to have made 22 books, and to proudly display the Malayan Tapir badge.
Finally, I reached my goal of 80 books for the Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge!!
So that is 2020 in books for me! Thanks so much to everyone who has visited the blog and left comments. I can’t wait to see what 2021 brings us to read. I hope you all have a safe and happy new year and I will see you soon with plenty more book reviews.