Top 10 Fiction Books I Read in 2020

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In 2020, I read 77 books. My goal was to read 48 books, but obviously… life changed dramatically in March. Like many people, I found more time to read.

At the start of 2020, most of the books I read were related to my MA thesis, all about Mithraism in Roman Britain. I tend to prefer reading non-fiction anyway, whether I’m studying or not.

2020 was a little different: I found myself needing to get lost in fiction sometimes. I even finally read Pride and Prejudice… feel free to judge me for not reading it until now! Oops. My reads were still overwhelmingly non-fiction, but I did enjoy getting back into fiction.

Today I’ve decided to share the top 10 fiction books I read in 2020. I’ll write another post featuring my top non-fiction favourites because that’s where my true loyalty lies. Anyhow, in no particular order…

Top 10 Fiction Books I Read in 2020

The Top 10 Fiction Books I Read in 2020

1. Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley.

This is one of those books you won’t be able to put down. I read it in one sitting, which is quite unusual for me.

Starve Acre is a sad thriller about loss, filled with gothic vibes and horror elements. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I found it terrifying. Although, I am known to be a bit of a wimp when it comes to scary stuff! I loved the dark folky aesthetic of the moor setting, it reminded me of my childhood.

I picked this up on a whim way back before the pandemic. The beautiful cover and a signed edition may have lured me in… judge me. I haven’t read anything else written by Andrew Michael Hurley, but his debut novel The Loney is now on my Goodreads to-be-read list.

2. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.

This one probably needs no introduction, unless you’ve lived in a cave for the past few years.

The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my all-time favourite Margaret Atwood books, narrowly beaten by The Penelopiad. I’m also a big fan of the Hulu television series.

The Testaments was Margaret’s long-awaited sequel to her famous dystopia of 1985, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t find The Testaments quite as gripping as The Handmaid’s Tale, but I’d still recommend reading it.

I listened to the Audible version, but I’m now waiting for a library ebook copy. That way I can read it again ahead of the new TV season.

good omens

3. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

This is another brilliant book with a corresponding TV series.

I shamefully had never read Good Omens until I watched the series on Amazon Prime Video. I fell in love, partially due to David Tennant and Michael Sheen, but also with the story.

This book is laugh-out-loud comedy, telling a story about the birth of Satan’s son. There’s drama between angels and demons, a terrible mix-up, then chaos ensues. Good Omens features several subplots, involving witches, prophecies and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I enjoyed each of the storylines, and loved the way they merged together.


4. Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver.

Like Starve Acre, Wakenhyrst is a creepy gothic thriller. Set in a big old house surrounded by fens, it’s a twisted story involving religion, secrets, and death.

If you’re into dark folklore and the concept of sin, I’d recommend it.

the secret history

5. The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Dark academia became a huge trend in 2020. It’s totally my vibe, as a Classics and Archaeology MA student graduate who loves vintage clothes and the colour brown. I may or may not have a blog post about dark academia coming up…

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is heralded as ‘creating’ dark academia. I’m not too sure about that to be honest, but I was persuaded by bookstagram to read it. Mainly due to the aesthetically-pleasing photos all over my timeline.

The Secret History follows a group of students under the tutelage of an eccentric Classics professor at an elite American college. I must admit that the professor did remind me of my Classics professors at times! Anyway, the students become enamoured with Ancient Greece (who can blame them?) and push the boundaries of morality… way too far.

Everything falls apart when one of their classmates dies. There’s a lot of sex, drugs, alcohol, smoking, violence and shady behaviour.

I listened to the Audible book and found that it dragged a little for me during the middle. Despite this, it still made the top 10 fiction books I read in 2020!

Perhaps I’ll pick up a physical copy to read, but I’m not in any rush to.

6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Do I need to give a description of Pride and Prejudice? Probably not.

I’m a huge fan of period dramas, so of course I’ve seen all the adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. I knew the story well, so I never really felt inspired to read it.

Surprisingly, I never read at school either, despite taking English Literature for A-Level. Anyway, it’s been sitting on my Kindle for a while, and I finally sat down to read it.

All I can say really is that Pride and Prejudice is definitely worth reading, even if you already know the story. It’s funny, dramatic, and I found it a great way to briefly take my mind off the pandemic.


7. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a beautiful and devastating story. It follows a beekeeper living peacefully with his family in Aleppo, Syria, until their country is torn apart by war.

They become refugees in Europe, trying to find a way to the UK. Nuri (the beekeeper) and his wife Afra are traumatised after suffering a horrific loss. The book follows their journey, trying desperately to move on and build a new life while struggling to cope with the past.

You will probably cry reading this. I did.

Christy Lefteri volunteered at a refugee centre in Athens, and this story was born from what she experienced there.

alice network

8. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.

The Alice Network is a historical fiction I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I got an ebook version via my library, and read it within two days. I couldn’t put it down!

The story follows two women from different eras: an English spy in France during WW1, and an American socialite searching for her missing cousin in 1947.

Their stories are intertwined and told in alternating chapters. Sometimes I find this style of writing frustrating to read, but not here. I enjoyed reading both time periods. I also felt that the intense (and often violent) scenes from WW1 were broken up well with the interspersed chapters from 1947.

I found some parts difficult to read as a sexual assault survivor, so keep this in mind if you struggle with traumatic scenes.

The craziest thing about The Alice Network is that it was based on real events and real women. It’s absolutely wild.

once and future witches

9. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow.

I received this one as a Netgalley review copy, and I absolutely loved it.

The Once and Future Witches is a story about feminism, the suffragist movement, witches, and sisters growing up. Witches don’t exist in New Salem, but they will. It’s magical, powerful, and includes LGBTQIA representation, which I loved!

I felt as though I could see parts of myself within each of the three sisters. Each of the women suffers in their own way, then finds the power within themselves and each other to rise up.

Look how beautiful the cover is too. If you’re on bookstagram, you’ve probably seen it!

I definitely recommend giving The Once and Future Witches a read.

10. Red Rising and Golden Son by Pierce Brown.

Red Rising is the first book in Pierce Brown’s fantasy series of the same name.

I also read the second book, Golden Son, and started the third, Morning Star. I haven’t read a fantasy series in a very long time, and really enjoyed getting into this one!

Red Rising is set in futuristic space, in which humans have colonised Mars. Humanity is split into a caste system, with Reds at the bottom of society, and Golds at the top. The story is a political dystopia all about revenge, deception, and competition.

It’s like Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games meets Star Wars.

If you’re into sci-fi/fantasy or dystopian books, you’ll like the Red Rising series. Honestly, I think this would make a brilliant TV drama or film!

divider gold

What were your top favourite fiction books of 2020?

I’m setting myself the ambitious goal of reading 100 books in 2021. Life for me won’t be too much different over the next few months, because I’m immunocompromised. Things are pretty bad here in London, so I’ll be hiding away reading books until the vaccine is widespread. 

Feel free to add me on Goodreads and join me on Bookstagram!

- Emily

I hope you enjoyed reading about the top 10 fiction books I read in 2020, and perhaps found something new for your TBR. Stay tuned for my top non-fiction reads! For now, here are some related blog posts:

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