book recommendations from 2020

 



This post probably should have gone up for 2020 ended, but honestly I kind of forgot about the books I read this year! Thanks to quarantining for a good part of the year, I got more invested in reading and also discovered Book of the Month, where I ordered a new book (or two, or three!) every month. Towards the end of the year I definitely fell off the reading grind, but I am hoping this post will get me back into one of my favorite hobbies.

A little bit about my reading preferences: I love sci-fi, historical fiction, and thrillers/crime. I will read just about anything, but those are the genres I am pulled towards. I love to re-read some of my old favorites (especially young-adults books I binged in middle and high school). I also obsessively scroll through Goodreads when I am in a reading mood, so be sure to check me out on there to see what books I've read throughout my time on the app as well as see what's on my to-be-read shelf. I think I got a good variety of books read in the year, and I hope you consider checking them out!



// A Gentleman in Moscow //

Synopsis: In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

Genre: historical fiction 

MY TAKE: I've had a few friends read this book, but I seem to be the one who loves it the most. It's slow- I'll admit. This novel does not have a super exciting plot line, but to me that's the entire point. It's beautifully written and helps you reflect on what it means to live a purposeful life even with the circumstances you have been given. I loved the historical Russian elements too, and I think this book is perfect for anyone looking for a deep and elegant historical fiction novel! 



// Leave the World Behind //

Synopsis: Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe. Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple—and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another? Suspenseful and provocative, Rumaan Alam’s third novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped—and unexpected new ones are forged—in moments of crisis.

Genre: thriller/suspense 

MY TAKE: WOW! This novel made me so uncomfortable and I loved every second of it. It's one of those books that just keeps getting weirder and weirder and you are left with so many questions. I always say that a book that keeps you reeling for a few days after is always a good read. It's short and quick, so if you are looking for a book to get you back in the reading spirit this is definitely it. But be careful reading at night- if you get creeped out easily it might keep you up at night! 



// The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo //

Synopsis: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Genre: historical fiction, contemporary

MY TAKE: My absolute favorite book of the year. I ate this up and didn't want to finish it. The story follows an Old Hollywood movie star being interviewed for a biography on her life. At first you think it's all about her multiple marriages, but it goes much deeper than that and you truly get a glimpse of who this pretend movie star was. Highly recommend for anyone! 



// The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes //

Synopsis: Cassidy Holmes isn't just a celebrity. She is “Sassy Gloss,” the fourth member of the hottest pop group America has ever seen. Hotter than Britney dancing with a snake, hotter than Christina getting dirrty, Gloss was the pop act that everyone idolized. Fans couldn't get enough of them, their music, and the drama that followed them like moths to a flame—until the group’s sudden implosion in 2002. And at the center of it all was Sassy Cassy, the Texan with a signature smirk that had everyone falling for her. But now she's dead. Suicide. The world is reeling from this unexpected news, but no one is more shocked than the three remaining Glossies. Fifteen years ago, Rose, Merry, and Yumi had been the closest to Cassidy, and this loss is hitting them hard. Before the group split, they each had a special bond with Cassidy—truths they told, secrets they shared. But after years apart, each of them is wondering: what could they have done? Told in multiple perspectives—including Cassidy herself—and different timelines, this is a behind-the-scenes look into the rise and fall of a pop icon, and a penetrating examination of the dark side of celebrity and the industry that profits from it.

Genre: contemporary fiction 

MY TAKE: This book is hard to read but it's good. It follows the unraveling of a teen music star, and I found it so interesting reading this author's take of the entertainment industry and how it can send people into decline. I will say this book deserves a trigger-warning: it's really heartbreaking to see the decline of this character, but I think the author does a great job of telling the story. 



// The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes //

Synopsis: It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute. The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined -- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Genre: young adult, dystopian (prequel to The Hunger Games series) 

MY TAKE: For any Hunger Games fans out there, this one is for you! I saw a lot of mixed reviews on it not being as action-packed as other novels, but I think that is kind of the point. It builds the world of Panem and The Hunger Games up, and I loved seeing Snow's villain origin story. It felt so realistic, and I think the entire story added so much to my appreciation of the world Suzanne Collins created. 



// The Last Mrs. Parrish //

Synopsis: Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted. To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale. Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces. With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

Genre: fiction, thriller 

MY TAKE: You will never want to put this down. It's intense, vindictive, and straight up crazy! I don't even know what else to say! 


// The Host // 

Synopsis: Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.

Genre: sci-fi/dystopian 

MY TAKE: So this is actually a re-read, but I wanted a long and hefty book to read back during the height of quarantine. Many people shy away from this book because the author wrote the Twilight series, but honestly this novel is so poignant and beautiful and much more favorable than the Twilight novels. The storyline is immaculate- there is action, romance, friendship, and more. Definitely for anyone who loves sci-fi/dystopian and wants to read one novel over a series! 


// Sharp Objects //

Synopsis: Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the unsolved murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

Genre: thriller/crime 

MY TAKE: A LOT TO HANDLE. Anything by Gillian Flynn is phenomenal and Sharp Objects is no different. There are so many twists and turns you literally never see coming. She writes with such an edge that I just love! This book is not for everyone- there is a lot of creepy and honestly wrong things that happen (it wouldn't be a crime/thriller novel without it!) but if you are into that, definitely check this one out or one of her other novels. 


Let me know what books you enjoyed in 2020! I am always looking for new book recommendations. Be sure to follow me on Goodreads too if you want to follow my reading progress (I believe my account is madisonreads17)

xoxo,

Madison 

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