Top Ten Tuesday: best of 2020

Text only: top ten TUESDAY

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. Today, it’s time to look back at our favourite reads of the year… and with three days left to go, I’m not expecting to finish any more so it’s time to call it**.

It’s been a funny old year. I started it with lots of work travel and long hours; we all segued into lockdown (and in my case working from home); and, well, nothing much has changed since. Between the pandemic and a parade of political own goals, it’s been a tough year, and my reading has certainly suffered for it: my attention span has been poor, my patience short, and it’s been far too easy to be judgemental.

However, my ratings indicate that it has still been a more successful year’s reading than 2019. I never awarded under 2.5 stars (and while this isn’t a great rating, at 50% it indicates redeeming features even if the book wasn’t for me) – and I only did that 4 times. By contrast, I dished out twice as many 5 star ratings (although half of those were to rereads), and the same again for 4.5 stars – so it’s been a good year (my average rating boosted in part by a number of abrupt DNFs, to be sure).

So, what reads make my best of the year?

Book cover: Sisters of the Vast Black - Lina Rather

Sisters of the Vast Black – Lina Rather

I read several of my favourites at the very start of the year, including Lina Rather’s brilliant novella of spacefaring nuns facing up their pasts, their desires and their duty in the face of a terrible disease. It has stayed with me ever since.

Book cover: Silver in the Wood - Emily Tesh (a bearded man's face depicted in organic leafy fashion)

Silver in the Wood – Emily Tesh

The wood must have a Green Man to tend it, and summer’s prince will take a lover. Add one measure of simmering attraction, two measures of folklore and stir in a secret history for a resonant tale of longing and sacrifice. Delicious.

Book cover: The Thousand Doors of January - Alix E Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E Harrow

As usual, the Subjective Chaos shortlist has a lot to answer for. I thoroughly enjoyed Alix E Harrow’s gorgeously-crafted ode to the power of words; temerarious January is my kind of heroine.

Book cover: The Library of the Unwritten - AJ Hackwith - Titan Books UK edition

The Library of the Unwritten – AJ Hackwith

A library of books that were never finished, and a librarian tasked with keeping the characters safely within their pages? Even before the glorious afterlife-hopping tome-retrieval plot, I was in my element.

Book cover: To Be Taught, If Fortunate - Becky Chambers

To Be Taught If Fortunate – Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers gives us crowd-funded space exploration, a found family of scientists and the searing gut punch of relativity. It’s a quiet, contemplative novella that says much with few words, rich in atmosphere and – of course – FEELINGS.

Book cover: Mexican Gothic - Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia proves once again that she’s at home in every genre, dishing up a delightfully disturbing tale saturated in a Gothic tropes as a fiercely modern 50s debutante takes on a toxic patriarchy.

Book cover: Realm of Ash - Tasha Suri

Realm of Ash – Tasha Suri

The sequel to Empire of Sand is even more thoughtful and heart-wrenching than Suri’s gorgeous debut. We awarded this the Subjective Chaos Best Fantasy rock for how thoroughly it wrecked us all, and Tasha Suri is firmly on my MUST BUY NOW list.

Book cover: Hold Back The Tide - Melinda Salisbury

Hold Back The Tide – Melinda Salisbury

What’s this, two horror titles in my top ten? Absolutely. Melinda Salisbury’s atmospheric YA fantasy horror swept me away with its tale of deadly secrets, stored up bitterness and Scottish monsters. Highly recommended.

Book cover: Gideon the Ninth - Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir

They promised me the most fun I’d ever had with a skeleton, and Gideon delivered. Foul-mouthed, vicious, extravagantly Gothic and downright hilarious, Tamsyn Muir’s scifantasy murder mystery is brilliantly bonkers.

Book cover: Rogue Protocol - Martha Wells

Rogue Protocol – Martha Wells

My favourite introvert has learned to do eye contact, but Murderbot still can’t resist adopting humans in need of a rescue. I know exactly what I’m going to get with The Murderbot Diaries and I’m perfectly happy that Martha Wells delivers every time.

…and yes, this post counts towards my Twelve Days of Bookmas, because while I have MOAR REVIEWS I could write, I also have blogging limits. I’m happy to consider a post a day an achievement.

** Soooo that brave statement about not finishing any more books? Well, I’ve picked up The Empress of Salt and Fortune this morning and AAAAAH Imma need to make this a top 11 I can tell. What have I learned from this? Never call it until the year is truly over; and 2020 has been another fine year in novellas – this takes them to nearly half my favorite reads. And no, I won’t be bumping anything from the top ten so far. Instead, I’m gearing up to read more novellas before year end and contemplating further belated edits if required. Maybe this was always a top twelve I just hadn’t caught up with yet.

What books have you enjoyed most this year?