Best Books I read in 2020 | Nerdy Talks

I know I have been missing in action in the blogosphere but here I am making up for it. 2020 was hellishly crazy and I know everyone can agree with me on that, but despite the chaotic year I was able to read some amazing books, yes out of the 36 I have read hahah I was able to pick out some best ones. I hope it is not too late to share them with you guys. So without further ado, here are the 10 best books I have read in 2020.

1. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Reading this feels like watching a wreckage, logical thought would suggest you have to look away, but against all odds you just kept staring. 

My Dark Vanessa is the kind of read that will make your skin crawl. You will feel uncomfortable and bothered by what transpired between Vanessa and Strane. It has this inexplicable pull, its reader, dare I say, a willing victim. Its darkness is all consuming and powerful, like you’re under an immense grey cloud hovering above you for days. Reading this feels like watching a wreckage, logical thought would suggest you have to look away, but against all odds you just kept staring. It will leave you with unsettling feeling, a feeling you cannot simply shake off. A book that will stay with you for however long you like it.

Impactful and so beautifully written. A narrative that needs to be said no matter how ugly it was. I kept telling myself its fiction, but who am I kidding, these unspeakable things can happen or is happening to so many girls out there. That’s why it is so bothersome and depressing to read. I cannot in good conscience haphazardly recommend this book to whoever asks for literary fiction recommendation, I believe you have to set the trigger warnings first and always proceed with caution. It is a hard read, and I know not everyone would like it. A challenging read with sensitive topic but ultimately needed to be addressed. You have to have the proper mind set delving into this one. It will hit you differently, unpleasant at times, yet you will develop some profound understanding.

“I can’t lose the thing I’ve held onto for so long, you know?” My face twists up from the pain of pushing it out. “I just really need it to be a love story, you know? I really, really need it to be that.”

“I know,” she says.

“Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it”? I look to her glassy eyes, her face of wide open empathy. “It’s my life,” I say. “This has been my whole life.” 

― Kate Elizabeth Russell, My Dark Vanessa

2. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Complex and propulsive plotline with a surprising emotional depth. The Poppy War an adult fantasy that took me by surprise. It was gritty, dark, vicious and heart-stopping. RF Kuang explored politics, war, vengeance, prejudice, addiction and presented them without watering them down. It highlighted the bloody, gory and barbaric side of war without reservation. I truly commend Rin’s character development, from a lowly opium runner for her foster parents to possessing immense power. This book showed the ugly, vulnerable, resilient and dark side of Fang Runin – making her character not wholly likable but understandable.  The Poppy War is a celebration of fantasy that melds with historical events. It posits uncomfortable questions demanding clear cut answers. The Poppy War deserves all the hype.

“I have become something wonderful, she thought. I have become something terrible. Was she now a goddess or a monster? Perhaps neither. Perhaps both.” 

― R.F. Kuang, The Poppy War

3. The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

A heartbreaking tale spanning 60 years between two lovers separated by unfortunate circumstances leading them to different paths. Set in Iran during the 1953 coup against then Prime Minister Mossadegh, The Stationery Shop is equal parts poignant and beautiful, uniformly engaging from beginning to end. It’s the kind of book I wouldn’t immediately gravitate towards, but I am so glad I gave it a try. I found a new favorite book! The atmosphere set by the author is fully immersive. Marjan Kamali weaves a masterpiece imaginative novel that would leave unforgettable ache into the hearts of its readers, leaving a sense of hollowness in its wake. A well-paced book, with well-balanced atmospheric plot never overshadowing the intertwining events. This book tackles Iran’s culture taking good with the bad. The Stationery Shop is melancholic portrait of vanished time, of regrets, of a love so powerful it never leaves. I felt inexplicable sadness after listening to that epilogue, it was heart-wrenching to have learned that so much grief could have been avoided, but ultimately it was their fate that had ruled. The first chapter juxtaposed to the epilogue only solidified the beauty of this book, and if readers pay enough attention they’ll learn that the characters weren’t bound for a happy ending and that thought crushed me more. I appreciate the backstory that accompanied Roya and Bahman’s love story giving depth to what had they become. I don’t want to divulge so much, I want everyone to appreciate the book without too much preconceived notions, so I will stop here. All I can say is this beautifully written book is worthy of your time, definitely recommend!

“She would not have understood, then, that time is not linear but circular. There is no past, present, future. Roya was the woman she was today and the seventeen-year-old girl in the Stationery Shop, always. She and Bahman were one, and she and Walter were united. Kyle was her soul and Marigold would never die.” 

― Marjan Kamali, The Stationery Shop

4. Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown

Its voice added to the crescendo of all the voices seeking for justice and change, and I heard it, louder than ever.  What an amazing read. This part autobiography narrated by the author herself chronicles her experiences as a Black girl from childhood to teenage years. Black Girl Unlimited tackles the heavy issues of racism, rape, drug addiction, sexual abuse, discrimination, sexism and depression with a twist of magical realism. This heartbreaking and chilling novel is a lot to take in, but the narrator found an approach that are equal parts thought provoking, illuminating and hopeful. It is going to break your heart a thousand times over but will heal it a thousand times more. Black Girl Unlimited is more than a small contribution in raising awareness and educating people about racism and oppression. I love how the author uses her trauma as a source of power — an inextinguishable fire. Black Girl Unlimited is not just a recount of awful, unspeakable and terrible things, but also a celebration of resilience and hope.

“I begin to wonder if white is the color of things to be worshipped in this world. If it’s the only color to be worshipped in this world.” 

― Echo Brown, Black Girl Unlimited

5. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land adds a soul-searing voice to string of amazing diverse YA contemporary.  . Clap When You Land started with a tragedy that would unravel secrets and unite two girls in the most unconventional circumstance. Camino and Yahaira’s lives coalesce tenderly into a story of understanding and acceptance, a tribute to what it means to be a family despite the newness with a realization that there are things far bigger than their own selves. Elizabeth Acevedo’s literary style is precise and lyrical. Listening to this one on audio highlighted the beauty of the book even more. If you enjoy spoken word/slam poetry you will definitely enjoy the audio book of Clap When You Land. It was narrated by the author herself and Melania-Luisa Marte. This book is definitely something that hits home, having lost my father too, I couldn’t help but cry towards the end. With a prose so visceral and a narrative that is equally heartbreaking yet optimistic, Clap When You Land deserves all the hype it is getting. The book will make its reader appreciate the healing power of human connection. The heartfelt conclusion will tug at every heart strings. Elizabeth Acevedo definitely gained a fan in me. 

“Fight until you can’t breathe, & if you have to forfeit, you forfeit smiling, make them think you let them win.” 

― Elizabeth Acevedo, Clap When You Land

6. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek explores themes of motherhood, immigrant, disability and patriarchal masculinity. I appreciate that the author drew from her personal experience as an immigrant, a lawyer and parent of a real-life “submarine” patient. Miracle Creek weaves too many complexities that are hard to fully grasp and decipher from a certain perspective. It’s as if every little aspect can mean differently depends on who’s looking.  And though I gave this one 4 stars, I can still consider it as one of my reads last 2020.

“But that was the way life worked. Every human being was the result of a million different factors mixing together — one of a million sperm arriving at the egg at exactly a certain time; even a millisecond off, and another entirely different person would result. Good things and bad–every friendship and romance formed, every accident, every illness–resulted from the conspiracy of hundreds of little things, in and of themselves inconsequential.” 

― Angie Kim, Miracle Creek

7. Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Delicious and swoony!  Hell’s bells! This book was just sooooo goooood! Such a satisfying read from the first page up to the very last. It was hard to put down. A romance set during the Suffragettes Movement with a determined heroine and a duke with different political stance. A sure recipe for some good opposites-attract trope. I was wary to start a historical romance, let alone to read it during a readathon. This is my first historical romance, doesn’t come as a shocker since historical fiction has always been outside of my comfort zone. But boy oh boy oh boy, upon reading Bringing Down The Duke I am now a convert. I have been missing quite a whole lot from this genre, and now I need to get my hands on as much historical romance as I can!  Annabelle Archer is the heroine we needed, she is smart, has conviction, a feminist through and through. I love how she voices out her thoughts and stands for what she believes in. (I love love the convo between Lord Marsden). Sebastian Montgomery, the duke with certain ideologies and political stance that quite doesn’t match Annabelle’s. Their romance is just what I needed this time, a bit of a slow-burn, with few misunderstandings here and there, plus the palpable sexual tension that oozes out of them whenever they are in each other’ presence. It was the kind of romance I have been craving for!  Reading this is truly a breath of fresh air, I love the atmosphere it created, I love to be transported back in time, ultimately I love how the author strung those beautiful words without overdoing them and definitely without sounding pretentious – and for a non-historical fiction reader, that means whole lot! 

“The world of men is a brutal place. And yet women visit our offices, approach us in the streets, and send us petitions with tens of thousands more signatures every year to ask for more freedom. They feel their safety comes at the expense of their freedom. And, gentlemen, the trouble with freedom is it isn’t just an empty phrase that serves well in a speech. The desire to be free is an instinct deeply ingrained in every living thing. Trap any wild animal, and it will bite off its own paw to be free again. Capture a man, and breaking free will become his sole mission. Te only way to dissuade a creature from striving for its freedom is to break it … I, for my part, am not prepared to break half the population of Britain. I am, in fact, unprepared to see single woman harmed because of her desire for some liberty.” 

― Evie Dunmore, Bringing Down the Duke

8. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

I loved it! This book will hold a special place in my heart for it anchored me down and got me through the bad days. I have read it in a span of one month, only picking it up whenever I feel like I am going to lose myself to sadness, and boy it was such a beautiful thing! It was played right, the characters were amazing! Especially Leon, oh my he’s so precious and pure! I want a Leon for myself! 🤍 It was light, fun and such a cute read. And you know how much of a sucker I am for this kind of books. It will make you laugh, swoon and will just leave you with that happy fluffy feeling. I forgot how much happiness a book can give you. I hope this will be the restart of my reading streak! I miss reading so much I could actually cry after finishing The Flatshare! I can’t say enough good words about it. Just please please read it!

“Remind myself that there is no saving of people —people can only save themselves. The best you can do is help when they’re ready.” 

― Beth O’Leary, The Flatshare

9. Confessions by Kanae Minato

Twisted, dark and gripping psychological mind game.  This book is utter brilliance. I am certain I wouldn’t give it justice through this review, but I will try. Confessions is just pure perfection. Japanese literature can be so dark without even trying, Confessions is the very testament to that. I have to admit this is my first Japanese thriller and I am in awe. There’s such a stark contrast between how it was done and with how thrillers generally pan out in western books. The very first chapter clearly sets the mood of the whole book, that inexplicable feeling of being constantly on the edge, of constantly seeking what other surprises are there in between the lines. And though it is a bit repetitive, each chapter had something different to offer. I love the varied perspectives, giving the readers the full extent of the book, why the characters are the way they are. In Confessions, there’s subtlety yet alarming cunningness to it all. I am in awe how every action produces ripple of effects that are ultimately connected to each other. A clever story-telling. The characters are flawed, some may say deranged, which makes it more gripping and sinister. Deft characterization, solid plot, impossible to put down. Unsettling as it is intriguing, Confessions is a perfect depiction of human frailty and the depths and complexities of human mind. Definitely a book you wouldn’t come across often. This crime fiction thriller is a very welcome diversion from the awful reality we are in. 

“The world you live in is much bigger than that. If the place in which you find yourself is too painful, I say you should be free to seek another, less painful place of refuge. There is no shame in seeking a safe place. I want you to believe that somewhere in this wide world there is a place for you, a safe haven.” 

― Kanae Minato, Confessions

10. Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read is so much more than what its gorgeous cover lets on. It is just everything I wanted in a book: 1) book about writers 2) playful and funny banters; 3) characters that are relatable and realistic (not the God-like, drop-dead gorgeous with ripped abs characters often described in romance books); 4) great family dynamic; 5) depth and character development and 6) lastly amazing plot line. This book isn’t just your ordinary summer read. While it has the quality of a feel good book, it also gives off maturity and depth, focusing on dealing with grief and coming to terms with it while also discovering one’s self in the process. Beach Read offers its readers an escape from their own heads while imparting a lesson or two. I love that in a book, the way that it is not just a book but a depiction, an understanding, a realization. It deals with different kinds of grief but contain universal pain. I love how a book speaks in volumes.

“And that was the moment I realized: when the world felt dark and scary, love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away; beauty could punch holes in your fear. I decided then that my life would be full of all three.” 

― Emily Henry, Beach Read

So there you have it! I really hope that 2021 will let me discover new authors and new books to love and rave about. 2020 really took a toll on my reading and I am planning to regain that gusto to just read and read and read. I just have to make a conscious effort to do it this time, wish me luck!

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