My Top 11 Books of 2020

It’s list time again!! I’m not going to go into 2020 but despite everything, a ton of quality books were published. In fact I compiled a top 11 instead of my usual top 10 – there was one book I couldn’t leave out.

saying that the list is a bit compromised. Due to our awful post system, there are a handful of books which still have not arrived despite being dispatched in July. Thus, Ali Smith’s Summer, amongst others, will not make an appearance into this list. I also will be compiling a separate list for the books that were not published in 2020.

11. Raven Leilani – Luster

Inevitably there had to be a book on this list which has a female narrator who spares no details about herself. Luster is that novel. The main protagonist, Afro-American Edie hates her job, lives in a dump and wants a steady relationship. One day she meets Eric, a man with an open marriage and she ends up living with him, his wife and adopted Afro-American daughter. Together this trio face the challenges of contemporary U.S. society. Witty, funny, bawdy and poignant. An unforgettable novel. My review

10. Maggie O’ Farrell – Hamnet

Is it just a coincidence that the name Agnes cropped up in A LOT of books I read in 2020? In theory I should have disliked Hamnet. I don’t really like historical novels plus I dislike the robotic type of writing style, that seems to be connected to historical novels. Hamnet utilises both and I didn’t mind one bit.

Hamnet is about Shakespeare’s deceased son. However the book is from his wife’s perspective. As you can guess this is a book about the psychological effects of loss but it’s also a powerful tale about motherhood. There are many beautiful emotionally laden passages that will open the tear ducts. Ironically the best passage is the one devoted to the development of black death. My review

9. Pilar Quintana , Lisa Dillman (trans) – The Bitch

The theme of Motherhood dominated my reading in 2020 but The Bitch took it to new levels; A childless mother adopts a dog and treats it as a baby. Unfortunately this does not work out and things go awry. By the end of the book you’re not sure if the title refers to a female dog. My review

8. Avni Doshi – Burnt Sugar

In her debut novel, Burnt Sugar, Avni Doshi poses the question whether a daughter can still love her mother, despite a lot of personal history between them. Especially if said mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s. A complex exploration into mother/daughter relationships, Burnt Sugar contains passages will stay imprinted in your mind. One of the three gems from, what I thought was, a disappointing Booker Longlist. My review

7. Sayaka Murata, Ginn Tapley Takemori (trans) – Earthlings

When is comes to describing misfits and social outsiders, Sayaka Murata is THE champ. Murata’s tale of abuse will guarantee uneasy shiftings in your chair but, really, it’s the ending which will make you faint or grab a bucket. My review

6. Fernanda Melchor, Sophie Hughes(trans) – Hurricane Season

What a book!! A witch in a small town has been murdered and Hurricane Season , traces this murder in a non-chronological manner. The end result: sex, machismo and cruelty. In this book Melchor is depicting a type of mentality. One filled with animal instincts and superstition. A riveting, and, shocking read. My review

5. Monique Roffey – The Mermaid of Black Conch

Maybe I’m biased but mermaids in literature fascinate me. So no surprises for this showing up on the list. The Mermaid of Black Conch starts off with a fisherman fidning a mermiad but from there is takes off turning into a parable about gender, race, greed, mythology and… love. Wow! My review

4. Rachel Mann – The Gospel of Eve

To give away the plot of Rachel Mann’s debut novel would be disrespectful of me. I would rather you pick up the book and get caught up in a twisty tale of a student studying for the pristhood becoming caught up in a rather fiendish plot. Mann follows the tradition of Donna Tartt, Iris Murdoch and Daphne du Maurier in mixing the sacred and the profane exquisitely. My review

3. Craig Jordan-Baker – The Nacullians

I have stated on the blog that it is difficult for a book to make me laugh but The Nacullians did. Many times. This multi-generational tale about a working class family had me in fits. Saying that, the topics Craig Jordan-Baker focuses on are serious, ranging from death, toxic-masculinty and racism. There’s a lot to admire in this novel : the language, the social commentary, not to mention the poignant interludes. I’ve always maintained that humor is the best way to get a message across and that works here to the fullest. My review

2. Elisa Shua Dusapin, Aneesa Abbas Higgins (trans) – Winter in Sokcho

I love a subtle novel and Winter in Sokcho is preisely that. Sokcho is a tourist area in South Korea and is near the North Korean border. One day in the off peak season, a French cartoonist shows up in a guesthouse. His appearance creates a change in the novel’s narrator.

Despite it’s brevity, Winter in Sokcho is quite a complex novel. Politics and relationships figure but there’s much more going on. There are good number of moments that will induce pauses for reflection while scratching your chin. There’s also the ending, which will raise an eyebrow. My review

  1. The First Woman – Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

The First Woman is a powerhouse of a book. The writing is superb, the multi-layered plot just ensnares the reader, the characters are realistic. There’s elements of mythology and a strong social message.

The book is about an Ugandan girl who is on a mission : to find out who her mother is. On the way she learns about feminism, how to counteract the male orientated Ugandan society and stand up for her rights. Her journey is one with challenges and us readers get to experience them as well.

The First Woman is an eye-opener of a book. It makes the reader aware of what certain attitudes are like, there’s moments where one emotes with the characters and where one is amazed at how deftly the author mixes mythology with tribal customs. When a novel manages to enlighten a reader, then that’s a surefire sign that it’s something very special. Definitely derserving of the number one position of my fave 2020 books. My review

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