Like many others, this year I've yoyoed between a complete inability to concentrate while reading and an insatiable hunger for escapism, happily devouring two, three, four books at any one time. Nevertheless, when I look back on the year, most of my favourite memories revolve around reading; discovering new writers, finding comfort in childhood favourites, ignoring social media to try and figure out whodunnit.
The best book I read this year? Probably Frances Cha's brilliant debut If I Had Your Face. A riveting depiction of contemporary Seoul, primarily read in the garden during the long, sun-dappled hours of summer.
We asked our followers on social media to share their favourite books of 2020, too. Picking just one might seem a cruel task, but the response was resounding. From scandalous 19th-century literature to modern-day literary prize-winners, here are the books our readers discovered and loved this year.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Little, Brown)
We say: Published in the UK by Dialogue Books, Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half is set in the Deep South during the latter half of the 20th century, and follows two estranged twin sisters leading very different lives. A clever, engrossing novel, it tackles the American history of "passing" with fresh sensitivity, and has drawn lots of favourable comparisons to the work of the great Toni Morrison.
You say: Loved the writing and the ease with which the author explores the characters' inner landscape.
@VineethaMokkil on Twitter
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (April 2020, Faber)
We say: Shortlisted for the 2020 Costa First Novel Award, Ingrid Persaud’s beautiful debut, Love After Love, is one of publisher Mary Mount’s "books of the year". Published by Faber, it’s a powerful novel about family and forgiveness, offering hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back.
You say: It's a very strong debut novel, and I love the conversational tone of the book. It's as if you're hearing the story from a friend. Of course, any book that can bring out a wide range of emotions in me is definitely worth reading!
@KeishelNOTKesha on Twitter
House of Earth and Blood: Crescent City by Sarah J Maas (March 2020, Bloomsbury)
We say: Back in March, New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas released the first book in her highly-anticipated new fantasy series. At 816 pages long, House of Earth and Blood is a sweeping epic of romance, adventure, and revenge. We can't think of a more atmospheric – or seductive – world in which to escape.
You say: I have loved all of her books from both of her series and Crescent City was no disappointment. Bryce was a bloody badass queen and Hunt is an absolute beast!!
@sosa_with on Twitter
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (March 2020, Hachette)
We say: Abi Daré's moving debut was shortlisted for the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize. Travelling from a small village to the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, it's the story of Adunni, who despite horrific circumstances – forced into marriage and domestic slavery at the tender age of 14 – is determined to become a success and get an education. A vital, unforgettable tale of triumph over horrifying adversity.
You say: I loved the main character, Adunni, and loved her voice. The writing style was beautiful and exceptional. This is one of my absolute favourites!
@violetwoolwords on Twitter
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Feb 2020, Picador)
We say: Douglas Stuart's blistering debut explores poverty and addiction in 1980s Scotland, following a loving but tumultuous relationship between a mother and her son. Stuart became the second Scot to ever win The Booker Prize when the brilliant Shuggie Bain scooped the prestigious award earlier this year, in a decision the judges described as "unanimous".
You say: Shuggie Bain was incredible. Stuart's portrayal of Agnes Bain and her descent into alcoholism is particularly poignant. We read helplessly as she consumes both herself and those around her. Heart-breaking.
@CiJamesYT on Twitter
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (March 2020, HarperCollins)
We say: Eight years on from the publication of Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel concluded her Thomas Cromwell trilogy with The Mirror and the Light, a fittingly brilliant end to a staggering literary achievement.
You say: Hilary Mantel’s magnificent trilogy conclusion. Quality research, impeccable prose and a beautifully told ‘impending tragedy’ story.
@HeanorBaptist on Twitter
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Image: Alicia Fernandes / Penguin.