Robin Camille Davis
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Books I read in 2020

January 10, 2021

I read 77 books in 2020, which is far and away my record high for books read for pleasure in one year. This was a completely bonkers year — the pandemic, the election — and I escaped into books for a lot of it. Some books were on the more serious side; some were sci-fi/speculative fiction; most were lightweight rom-coms with a happy ending. Once again, I read more books by women than by men.

The authors Jeff VanderMeer, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Ann Patchett had been on my to-read list for a while, and I immensely enjoyed reading some of their work. Exhalation by Ted Chiang was also on my to-read list, and it was the sort of book that made you stare into the middle distance after every short story — perfection.

Bold = faves (doesn’t include rereads)
* = rereads

  • Area X Trilogy (Jeff VanderMeer)
    • Annihilation
    • Authority
    • Acceptance
  • A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)*
  • A Woman is No Man (Etaf Rum)
  • Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
  • Born a Crime (Trevor Noah)
  • The Dutch House (Ann Patchett)
  • Exhalation (Ted Chiang)
  • The Incendiaries (R. O. Kwon)
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke, half-read)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin)
  • Lumberjanes (Noelle Stevenson)
  • The Mirror and the Light (Hilary Mantel)
  • My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferrante)*
  • Recursion (Blake Crouch)
  • The Searcher (Tana French)
  • Weather (Jenny Offill)
  • You’ll Grow Out of It (Jessi Klein)

I listened to Born a Crime on audiobook: highly recommended. It’s as good as everyone has said it is.

A highlight of the year was finally reaching the end of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell series, The Mirror and the Light, though it took me a while to finish it because my brain was so distracted by everything. It was a satisfying finale for the trilogy. And it was difficult not to see the parallels between that slice of history (Henry VIII, the plague) and today (Trump, coronavirus).

Romance & rom-com

Fifty of the year’s 77 books were firmly in the romance genre, which I’d first delved into last year. Last year’s reads were hit-or-miss as I figured out how the publishers and writers described the kind of books I liked — ones that had the feel of my favorite rom-com movies, where the main characters felt like real adults and the dialogue and plot didn’t make me roll my eyes.

I blazed through Mhairi McFarlane’s wonderful and hilarious books, instant favorites. And I was glad that I followed the American Library Association’s recommendation for their Best Romance of 2018, An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole, which was a perfect blend of historical fiction, spy novel, and romance. She is blessedly prolific, and I enjoyed a large portion of her oeuvre this year.

(Not all the books in this list were faves or near-faves. The Happy Ever After Playlist and Kind of Cursed have rave reviews but were just not for me — I kept saying to the protagonists in my head, “you’re making really bad choices.” Not the happy distraction I’d been looking for.)

  • Books by Mhairi McFarlane
    • Don’t You Forget About Me
    • Here’s Looking At You
    • If I Never Met You
    • It’s Not Me, It’s You
    • Who’s That Girl?
    • You Had Me At Hello
  • Books by Alyssa Cole
    • Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight
    • Be Not Afraid
    • Let Us Dream
    • Loyal League series
      • An Extraordinary Union
      • A Hope Divided
      • An Unconditional Freedom
    • Radio Silence
    • Reluctant Royals series
      • A Princess in Theory
      • A Duke by Default
      • A Prince on Paper
      • Can’t Escape Love
      • Once Ghosted, Twice Shy
    • The A.I. Who Loved Me
  • Books by Talia Hibbert
    • Brown Sisters series
      • Get a Life, Chloe Brown
      • Take a Hint, Dani Brown
    • Ravenswood series
      • That Kind of Guy
      • A Girl Like Her
      • Damaged Goods
      • Untouchable
    • Guarding Temptation
    • The Princess Trap
    • Wanna Bet?
  • Books by Christina Lauren
    • Dating You / Hating You
    • Love and Other Words
    • The Honey-Don’t List
    • Twice in a Blue Moon
  • Books by Rebekah Weatherspoon
    • A Cowboy to Remember
    • Fit #1
  • Beach Read (Emily Henry)
  • Boyfriend Material (Alexis Hall)
  • Bridgerton (Julia Quinn)
  • How to Walk Away (Katherine Center)
  • I Owe You One (Sophie Kinsella)
  • In Case You Missed It (Lindsey Kelk)
  • In Five Years (Rebecca Serle)
  • Kind of Cursed (Stephanie Fournet)
  • Party of Two (Jasmine Guillory)
  • Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (Sonali Dev)
  • Red, White, and Royal Blue (Casey McQuiston)*
  • Spoiler Alert (Olivia Dade)
  • The Happy Ever After Playlist (Abby Jimenez)
  • The Plus One (Sophia Money-Coutts)
  • The Worst Best Man (Mia Sosa)
  • Well Met (Jen DeLuca)

YA books

I think everyone has experienced their own set of personal phases of lockdown in 2020–21. One of my early phases was a deep nostalgia, clearly a desire for the comfort of the known. During it, I reread the “Mediator” series, which I’d last read in high school. It was just as funny and charming as I’d remembered, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the author had added two more books to the series since I’d last read it.

I also read the “Folk of the Air” series, an unusual read for me but highly enjoyable.

  • Mediator series (Meg Cabot)
    • Shadowland*
    • Ninth Key*
    • Reunion*
    • Darkest Hour*
    • Haunted*
    • Twilight*
    • Rememberance
    • Proposal
  • Folk of the Air series (Holly Black)
    • The Cruel Prince
    • The Wicked King
    • The Queen of Nothing

Previously: Books I read in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.