Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. In the final Top Ten Tuesday for the year, participants needed to list their favourite books of 2020. This is a bit of a continuation of a series of lists I have been doing over the last month which highlighted some of the authors and books I have been most impressed with this year, including my favourite audiobooks and my top pre-2020 books I read this year. However, I am extremely excited to showcase my absolute favourite releases of the year, of which there are quite a few.
While most of 2020 has been absolutely shitty, I think we all got a little bit of solace out of the fact that it was a pretty amazing year for books, with a huge range of incredible releases coming out across the genres. I have had the great pleasure of reading or listening to so many outstanding books this year, and quite a few of this year’s releases have become instant favourites of mine. I must admit that I somewhat struggled to pull this list together, as there were so many books that deserved to be mentioned. Therefore, because I am a soft touch, and because the quality of the books I read this year is so impressive, I have decided to expand this list out to 20 entries. These 20 books are my absolute favourites from 2020, and I would strongly recommend every one of them to anyone who is interested.
Now, I should mention that there is going to be a bit of a crossover between the below entries and some other previous lists I have done before. In particular, several of these novels appeared on my Top Ten Favourite Audiobooks of 2020 list and my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2020 list which I ran back in July. To make it onto this list, a book needed to be released here in Australia during 2020 and had to be a top quality read. I have not included any novels that I have not read this year, even they sounded awesome, and I am sure that several, such as The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso, would have made the cut. I have also excluded Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker, as I am only partway through it at the moment. I decided to leave off my usual Honourable Mentions section, as the extra 10 entries kind of make it unnecessary. Overall, though, I have fairly happy with how this Top 20 list turned out and I think it contains a pretty good range of novels that really showcases the different types of books I chose to read this year. So without further ado, here is the list:
Top 20 List (no particular order):
Let us start of this list with the masterclass in dark fantasy fiction that was The Trouble With Peace by the always awesome Joe Abercrombie. The sequel to last year’s A Little Hatred (which also made last year’s Top 20 Favourites list), The Trouble With Peace presents the reader with another exceptional and deeply entertaining read that places its damaged protagonists onto a whole new battlefield. Easily one of the best books I read all year, I have no doubt that the final book in this trilogy is going to top all my 2021 favourites lists.
The moment I heard that a new Ken Follett book was coming out in 2020 I knew that it was going to be one of the best historical fiction reads of the year, and boy was I right. The Evening and the Morning is an addictive and deeply compelling read that serves as a clever prequel to Follet’s iconic The Pillars of the Earth. Featuring an impressive historical backdrop and some great point-of-view characters, The Evening and the Morning was an exceptional novel that is really worth checking out.
There was no way that I could exclude the latest Usagi Yojimbo from this list. Readers of this blog know I am a major fan of the awesome and criminally under-read Usagi Yojimbo comic series by the masterful Stan Sakai, which follows a rabbit samurai in an alternate version of Feudal Japan. 2020’s entry, Bunraku and Other Stories, was another impressive entry in the series which easily made it onto this list due to its fun collection of stories, including one great entry that re-imagines the original Usagi Yojimbo comic (as seen in Volume One: The Ronin). This was a great read, and I cannot wait to get my next fix of Usagi Yojimbo.
I have long meant to check out the highly acclaimed Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, and 2020 was the year that I finally did, with the action-packed Battle Ground. Battle Ground was an exceptionally fun and exciting read that puts the protagonist in the middle of a massive supernatural war to decide the fate of Chicago. Epic in every sense of the word, I powered through Battle Ground in extremely short order and had an outstanding time listening to it. I am now a mega fan of this series and I plan to go back and listen to some of the older novels in the series next year.
Next we have one of the best debuts of 2020, The Thursday Murder Club by comedian Richard Osman. The Thursday Murder Club was a captivating and awesome murder mystery novel with strong comedic elements that sees a group of retirees attempt to solve a series of murders taking place around their retirement village. Funny, sweet, and containing an impressive mystery, this was a fantastic book from a great new author.
After writing one of my favourite debuts of 2019, Gideon the Ninth, up and coming author Tamsyn Muir, rockets her way onto my favourite reads of 2020 list with Harrow the Ninth. Harrow the Ninth is an exceptional read that follows a group of half-insane necromancers deep in space. Containing an extremely complex but ultimately exceptional narrative, this second book in the series proves to be an amazing read that I deeply enjoyed.
You have no idea how excited I was when I heard that bestselling author K. J. Parker was releasing a sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, which was one of my favourite books of 2019. This sequel is an awesome and entertaining continuation of the first book’s story, and this time it follows an actor who attempts to con everyone to save his city. Easily one of the funniest books I read all year, How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It was an automatic inclusion on this list, and I cannot wait to see if Parker is going to continue this fantastic series in the future.
Another great read from one of my favourite historical fiction authors, Lindsey Davis, The Grove of the Caesars was a compelling historical murder mystery which sees a sassy private investigator hunt a serial killer in ancient Rome. Highly recommended.
For the third year in a row, science fiction supernova Christopher Ruocchio makes his way onto my favourite books of the year list with the epic and impressive Demon in White. Serving as the third entry in his Sun Eater Sequence (which has also featured Empire of Silence and Howling Dark), this was an expansive and powerful science fiction novel that follows a doomed protagonist across a dark gothic universe. An absolute masterpiece, I guarantee that the next book in the series will be one of my top books of 2021.
Another new author I decided to check out this year was Sarah Beth Durst and her standalone fantasy novel, Race the Sands. This was an incredibly fun and intriguing read that sees the future of a distinctive fantasy realm decided with monster racing. I had a great time reading this fast-paced and exceptional book and I cannot wait to see how Durst’s next novel, The Bone Maker, turns out.
I do not think anyone is surprised that I included the latest Jonathan Maberry novel on this list. Ink was another captivating, if disturbing, novel from Maberry, who provides a more horror based read about a memory-stealing, tattoo-absorbing vampire who is hunting the haunted town of Pine Deep. I really enjoyed this book, and it proved to be another exceptional release from this clever author. Make sure to keep an eye out for Maberry’s next novel, Relentless, which will serve as the second entry in the Rogue Team International series (the first entry, Rage, was one of the best books of 2019), which will no doubt appear on this list next year.
What is an Unseen Library Top Ten list without a piece of Star Wars tie-in fiction on it? While there were some great Star Wars novels and comics this year (Doctor Aphra and Shadow Fall come to mind), this first volume of the new Darth Vader comic book series was easily the best piece of Star Wars fiction I read all year. Diving into the psyche of Darth Vader right after he reveals his identity to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, Dark Heart of the Sith is a deep and rich Star Wars tale that was one of the best comics of 2020.
Another great debut from 2020, The Kingdom of Liars was an impressive and inventive fantasy novel that sets a traitor’s son on a journey of redemption. Loaded with a compelling story and set in a great new fantasy setting, The Kingdom of Liars was an addictive read, and I think Nick Martell has a very bright future indeed.
I read quite a few good murder mysteries this year, but one of my favourites was Fair Warning by the always amazing Michael Connelly. Featuring his journalist protagonist Jack McEvoy, Fair Warning features a superb mystery that I had a wonderful time unravelling. While I did also enjoy Connelly’s other novel of 2020, The Law of Innocence, I think Fair Warning had the stronger story and it was another classic from Connelly.
If you are need of a laugh after 2020, do yourself a favour and check out this wacky and weird new novel from Jasper Fforde. Set in an alternate Britain where rabbits have become anthropomorphised and are now demanding equal rights, The Constant Rabbit is a wildly entertaining and amazingly clever read that contains some comedy gold. While I am a big fan of Fforde’s unusual novels (such as his last book, Early Riser), I was surprised by how funny I found The Constant Rabbit to be, and I honestly could not stop laughing as I read my way through it.
One of my favourite thrillers of the year was this latest entry in the Gray Man series by veteran author Mark Greaney (who made last year’s list with his military thriller Red Metal). One Minute Out sees Greaney’s assassin protagonist hunt down a group of human traffickers and engage them in all out war. An enjoyable, action-packed read, One Minute Out is an amazing novel and I cannot wait to read Greaney’s next book, Relentless.
An extremely fun fantasy novel set in a deadly magical school where everything tries to kill the students, need I say more? This was an epic and captivating novel that I ended up reading in a single night.
One of the top authors of historical fiction, Conn Iggulden, returned in 2020 with a brand-new series that chronicles the various wars the plagued ancient Athens. The first book in this series, The Gates of Athens, was an exceptional read that showed a whole angle to war against the Persians and which was an absolute treat to read. Highly recommended.
Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke
While I still have to pull a review together for this book, I had to include Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke on my favourites list. The sequel to one of my favourite books of 2018, City of Lies, Hollow Empire is loaded with intrigue, assassinations, and poison eaters in this great fantasy thriller.
The final entry on this list is the deeply thrilling horror novel, Devolution, which sees a small community cut-off from the rest of America attempt to survive an ancient terror, Sasquatches. Devolution was a fantastic novel from Max Brooks, author of World War Z, and it was another fun book that I smashed out in a day. I loved the action-packed and extremely clever narrative that Brooks cooked up for this novel and it was one of the most exciting and enjoyable books of the year.
Well, those are my 20 favourite books of 2020. It turned out to be quite a good list in the end, and I am very glad that I was able to highlight so many fantastic books. 2021 is set to be another excellent year for amazing reads (and let us face it, we all want out of 2020), and I will be examining some of my most anticipated books for the first half of the year next week. In the meantime, let me know what your favourite books of 2020 were in the comments below, and make sure you all have a happy and safe New Years.