The new year has finally come but my brain still can’t comprehend how 2020 lasted for a decade. Yes, 2020 sure was hellish but one good thing that came out from all the chaos is that I read a lot more than usual. Can you believe that I read more than 200 books in 2020?? I couldn’t believe it at first but then I looked back on how the year went and realized that it actually makes a lot of sense. Reading is my coping mechanism so it’s only natural that the amount of reading I did in 2020 was directly proportional to all the suffering I incurred.
Anyway, this is not the right post to go off in tangents about my 2020 reflections (watch out for my 2020 wrap up post I still need to gather more brainpower to write it) because I’m here to list my best reads of the year! To be honest, I kind of had a hard time choosing books for this post. Although I had a lot of great reads last year, not all of them delivered the right punch and gave me brainrot for days (yes this is a requirement). So out of the 206 books that I read in 2020, today I give you my top 15 (sort of) picks.
Let’s get started!
BEST 2020 RELEASES
I’m starting with an obvious choice because WHY NOT. Let’s kick off this list with the book that destroyed me the most. The feelings that The Burning God gave me are unparalleled and it’s undoubtedly my most highlighted book of all time. R.F. Kuang ended my favorite series with a bang + a truckload of tears and I applaud her for that. I really spent about three years of my life screaming about this series and I have no regrets. It’s sad knowing that this is the end of a fantasy masterpiece but clearly I’m not over this series yet because I’m rereading it first thing this year with May @foreverandeverly. We love pain and pain loves us 😌 Read my full review of The Burning God here.
This is the kind of book that will grab you by the ankles and never let you go until you finish it. Cemetery Boys is festive, funny, and emotional at the same time. It was easy falling in love with the characters here and I found myself rooting for Yadriel and Julian in no time. Aside from being a brilliantly-written contemporary fantasy, at its core, Cemetery Boys is a story about acceptance and identity. This standalone truly deserves all the love and attention it’s getting. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?
Believe me when I say that this is one of the best debuts I have ever read in my entire bookdragon life. It has all the makings of a masterpiece: lush world-building, interesting premise, great execution, beautiful prose, admirable characters, and fantastic pacing. To put it simply, Raybearer deserves all the positive adjectives in the world. Not only does it highlight both platonic and romantic love in such a brilliant way but it also makes use of a lot of tropes in a refreshing light. It’s an immersive read that will surely enthrall you. My birthday is coming up and it would be enough of a gift if you pick this book up. Trust me, you’re not going to regret it.
Set in a world inspired from Pre-Colombian Americas, Black Sun reminded me of how much I love fantasy in more ways than one. The rich prose transported me into a lush world of magic, myth, political intrigue, and religion. I loved every little bit of it all. Although I expected more from the climax and wanted more page time for some of the characters, reading this book was still a great experience. My favorite characters from this book were definitely brooding god vessel Serapio and disaster bisexual captain Xiala. The yearning had me biting my nails in frustration. I’m still thinking of Chapter 36 and I am not okay. I highly recommend this book to lovers of fantasy, especially those who are looking for adult fantasy books to read!
Speaking of yearning, this childhood-friends-to-lovers-to-enemies story set in 1920s Shanghai has it in spades. Juliette and Roma destroyed me in the best possible way. I also went through a rollercoaster of emotions while reading this because there are so many layers to this story. It’s not surprising that my mouth was hanging open by the time I finished it. Charged with elements of history and politics, These Violent Delights is a Romeo and Juliet retelling you don’t want to miss.
I did not expect I would love this book at first because of its slow pacing. However, when it finally picked up pace, I was deeply captivated by Kallia’s tale of magic and mystery. I especially loved Kallia as a protagonist because she’s determined to show what she’s capable of despite all of the men telling her to give up. Where Dreams Descend is a heart-racing book that will give you a magical tournament, swoony romance, and a gripping mystery. I can’t wait to read the sequel that is pitched as Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge meets Hadestown. As a Hadestown trash, I’m visibly shaking in anticipation.
Every single word that Elizabeth Acevedo writes is gold. I’m so glad that I finally picked up her works this year because they’re some of the most heart-achingly beautiful stories I have ever read. Clap When You Land is a story about two sisters coming to terms with their family’s secrets while dealing with grief. It’s a story that squeezed my heart and singlehandedly made me fall in love with contemporary books once again. This is a must read for fans of poetry and emotional stories.
BEST FROM THE BACKLIST
My brain refuses to believe that I read this in 2020. It seems like I’ve been screaming about this book for SO LONG already and goodreads is just playing tricks on me. Faulty memory aside, The Sword of Kaigen is another book that I now consider as one of my all-time favorites. It reads like anime, is brutal and bloody, but also has a lot of heart in it. It’s a story of war but at its core, it’s a tale of bravery, acceptance, and love. This book made me cry so hard and to this day I’m still reeling from all the things that I’ve read. I don’t have enough words to articulate how good this was I JUST WANT YALL TO PICK IT UP. Consider it as a new year or a birthday gift I just want this book to get the recognition it deserves 😭
The Ghost Bride took me by surprise because I really thought it was a horror novel with scary ghosts and the like. I didn’t expect it to be a heady mix of paranormal, adventure, fantasy, mystery, romance, and folklore. Reading this book felt like I was assembling a monstrous puzzle. I didn’t know where the story was leading but I was compelled by it all the same. So many things happened in just one book and I found myself staring at the wall with my earphones in place while listening to the audiobook because I wanted to know more of what was going to happen. I was completely put under some sort of spell by Yangsze Choo and I loved every second of it. I can’t sing enough praises for this book.
It’s not often that I get to read a book that can strike the soul so deeply but If We Were Villains gave me that and more. The sense of anticipation and suspense that I felt while reading this book kept me at the edge of my seat. There’s so much drama here and I was hooked from page one until the end. If We Were Villains is a harrowing tale of emotions and mystery, with a lot of Shakespeare sprinkled everywhere. I have no interest in poetry or plays whatsoever but reading this book was both gratifying and haunting—an experience I will never forget.
Thinking about this duology makes me want to sob in the corner. Laini Taylor never fails to take my breath away which is why I’m always gasping for oxygen every time I pick up one of her books. Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares effortlessly stole my heart and soul. The beautiful writing, the interesting characters, and the surprising yet painful plot twists broke me and pieced me back together. Lazlo Strange is the soulmate I will never meet. I still haven’t gotten over this duology please hold my hand while I try (and fail) to move on from these emotions. Manifesting a DOSAB/Strange the Dreamer crossover series because it’s what I deserve 😔
Technically this should be counted as three books but I read the thicc tie-in so I’m counting them as one just so I can say I read one book with more than 1000 pages in 2020 😌 (I don’t know why I’m like this pls don’t ask). Anyway, I can say that N.K. Jemisin has a galaxy brain because how else did she write this beast of a trilogy otherwise? I will always be amazed by the details in this series that make it unique and entrancing. One of my most favorite aspects of this trilogy was the pantheon of gods that Jemisin created. She perfectly captured what gods could be if they were real. I also love how all the three books were woven together, especially because each book has a different protagonist. If you’re looking for an immersive adult fantasy to read, I recommend you pick this up.
First of all, my two brain cells weren’t smart enough to fully comprehend everything that was happening in this book. Second of all, I don’t care because I liked this book all the same. Listening to the audiobook felt like an out-of-body experience because I was just staring at nothing while marveling at the abstract yet gorgeous writing. Without a doubt, this is one of the most unique stories I have ever read. Even though I wasn’t smart enough to understand this in full, I stayed for the writing and the sapphic yearning. This Is How You Lose the Time War will make you think long after you’ve finished reading it and that’s exactly why it’s so magical and unforgettable.
Well, that’s it! I’m really proud of myself for reading this much in 2020. For this year, I only set my Goodreads goal to 50 books because I’m allergic to failure. However, I’m hoping to read more and discover new books to scream about in 2021. Happy new year to everyone! I’m proud of you for surviving 2020 and here’s hoping that this year is going to be kinder to all of us. Cheers to more reading this year and thank you to all the authors who made my 2020 more bearable!