I give out 5 stars very rarely and this year there were a lot of books that came close to being favorites but did not quite make my list (which was hard to come up with, but it will be here on January 1st). So I thought I’d share with you 10 of my almost-but-not-quite-there-yet favorite reads of 2020. I got this idea from Emily (who is wonderful and who you should all go follow immediately). And now let’s get into books!
7. The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire
I started the Wayward Children series this year and I have been enjoying it immensely. I really love the whole premise and concept of children who go to portal fantasies and then never quite fit in when they’re back, and I think all of the worlds that McGuire constructs are so intriguing. Plus I love all the characters, they are so fantastic and I love their friendships a lot. I’ve read the first three books, and it’s hard to say which one is my favorite (maybe Every Heart a Doorway?) but I am super excited to continue on with the series in 2021! I can’t say that I am super attached to the story or the characters, which is why this is not a top 10 of the year book, but I still really like the series.
6. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
This one was part of my Women’s Prize for fiction reading and I really loved it. I love the story of the Trojan War and I really enjoyed reading it from the women’s perspective. I loved the structure of the novel and the fact that this was not told chronologically. The inclusion of the goddesses’ PoV was also a great addition, I especially enjoyed that. Overall, I think this was a really great retelling and if you want to know more about it, you can find my full review HERE. This is not a top of the year because I do not think that this book did something revolutionary in terms of the retelling itself, nor did I get super attached to the characters, but it was really a great read overall.
5. Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
This one was such a surprise for me because I did not go in with any expectations, and yet I really enjoyed this and moreover, I kept thinking about it even after I finished it. This is a story about Franny who is following the final migration of the Arctic terns, one of the few birds that are left on the Earth in this near-future setting. Her journey is a mesmerizing look into both a planet that is on the brink of a catastrophe and her own mental and emotional turmoil. I found this to be incredibly compelling, and I really loved that the whole climate change angst parallels Franny’s own personal angst. It’s kind of what I wanted from Weather but did not get it. If you want to read more of my thoughts, you can find them HERE. This did not quite make the list of my faves because it tapered off a bit at the end, but still a really memorable read from this year.
4. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
I really really enjoyed this essay collection, and I especially loved Tolentino’s writing and narrative voice. There wasn’t a weak essay in here, and some of them really resonated with me. This was in my opinion insightful and intelligent, and I really enjoy the way Tolentino goes about constructing an argument. I read this as an audiobook, and that might have been the reason why it did not hit as much as to make my list of favorites. So maybe I will reread at some point and circle back but for now it sits pretty high on my almost favorites list.
3. How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee
I never expected to love How We Disappeared as much as I did, but it’s a book that definitely stuck with me throughout the year. This was a really vivid and immersive read, that handled the aftermath of war and its impact of the people surviving it in a really nuanced way. I also really enjoyed the shifting timelines, and overall the book deals with grief and shame in a way that feels quiet and grand at the same time, since it is rooted in this bigger narrative of comfort women during the war, and it worked really well. I would highly recommend and if you want to know more of my thoughts, they can be found HERE. This is not quite a favorite because it’s still historical fiction and we don’t like each other, and I do not think that both of the perspectives in here were realized equally well, but still, this was a really good book that WAS ROBBED BY THE WOMEN’S PRIZE.
2. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
One of my favorite almost-favorite book of the year is definitely Girl, Woman, Other. This was a really fantastic and remarkable novel. This was such a cleverly interwoven character study of 11 women and one non-binary person in Britain today and throughout history, and I really loved how Evaristo provides room for her characters to be flawed. The writing style is also really unique and it really worked well for me, so I cannot wait to read more from Evaristo. My full review is available HERE. This almost made my 2020 faves list, but I just think there were too many characters for me to get really attached to them. I still really enjoyed them and found this book to be brilliant, so highly recommend it.
1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune
This is a recent read for me, but it came at a perfect time because I was in a HUGE reading slump after The Burning God, and this book cured it! First of all, I love the premise of this orphanage for young children with magical abilities. It was utterly charming, but not only that. This was such an emotional sucker punch for me, and I really loved the found family vibes and the overall positivity and messages of this novel. I even cried a bit. It was such a heartwarming story and I really, really recommend it. It did not quite make my favorites list simply because it reads a bit like Middle Grade and I do not think that the characters were all that complex, but still really loved this one.
I would love to hear from you! Tell me what were your almost-favorite books of the year? Any that stood out but were not quite favorites? Let me know!
In the meantime, happy reading
* If you want to buy any of the books I talked about, you can use my Bookshop affiliate link if you’re in the USA! You buy a book and support local bookstores, and I get a small commission! Even if you do not want to use my own affiliate link, I would still recommend using Bookshop.org since a lot of independent bookstores are struggling and this is a nice way to help them out. You can even find your favorite local bookstore and support them directly!
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