• Ellie

2020 Surprising/Favorite Books

Hey! Thanks for making it to part three! Today I will be sharing all my surprising and favorite reads of 2020! Unlike my disappointing and least favorite reads post, I will be splitting up the two categories. I will start with surprising and then move on to my favorites. I don't include a synopsis for the books, but instead at the end of each paragraph I have a few buzzwords with some basic information like genre and key elements of the plot. I would love to know your favorite book(s) of 2020 in the comments or if you have read any of these books!


Before we begin I just want to say

  1. All the surprising reads are favorite reads but not all the favorite reads were surprising. In other words, all these books are favorites but some of them are also surprising ones too.

  2. I know this list is pretty long, but 2020 was a really good reading year because I read lots of good books, but also I found new things I like as a reader. These things you will find out in the post.

  3. There is no order at all.

Surprising Reads

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber

This was such a pleasant surprise!!! I loved this book so much. I think what made this book such a surprise was that I found it completely out of the blue. I was just at a Barnes and Noble and found it in the bargain area. I picked it up just because it was cheap and I didn't have any Christmas books. I hadn't read or really heard anything from Debbie Macomber and to be totally frank with you, I thought she just wrote cheesy, afternoon romances. However, after I started and then finished this book, I started reading everything I could by her. I have now read 4 books by her and it has only been a month and a half. They just bring me so much joy. They are so much fun and leave me with such a warm fuzzy feeling. I am so happy she has such a big backlist because I have really enjoyed or loved everything I have read from her. (Adult, romance, hate to love, Christmas)


My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

I had this book on my radar for some time before getting my own copy. I didn't have very many expectations going into the book other than knowing many people really enjoyed it. When I started reading it I was really surprised by how suspenseful and gripping the book was. This suspense carried out through the entire novel and the big twist at the end I did not see coming. This one was such a unique, twisty book that I was just wowed by it. (Adult, thriller, marriage and murder)


Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Like Twelve Days of Christmas, I hadn't heard anything about it and bought it because of the cover as well as the plot. This I think makes a book even more special when you fall in love with it. I loved this book and basically everything about this book. I also have to credit this book for getting me back into historical fiction. I have now fallen back in love with the genre, and although it's not my go to genre, it is a genre I no longer avoid or dislike. I loved that this was a mix of so many things. It has some romance, mystery and history. I would highly recommend it to anyone, but also anyone who is not have a historical fiction reader. (Adult, historical fiction, Cuban Revolution, mini mystery and romance)


Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This was such a unique read! I have never read, heard of or even imagined a book like this before. It is really hard to describe or even wrap your heard around. But just imagine living in this giant house that is basically a labyrinth with practically endless halls and rooms. This is how I interpreted the setting, but some other reader may picture something different. The way the book is written is so unique. It takes a little bit to understand the style but it really makes the book that much more different from anything else. I would highly recommend you at least read a sample of this book because this one is such a special find. (Adult, mystery, fantasy -- only because of the setting being not like our world but no magic, an infinite labyrinth, a puzzle)


How to Make Friends with the Dark by Katherine Glasglow

I was completely taken aback by how powerful this book was when I read it. I did not expect it to pack such a punch. To be honest, I was just expecting an average hard-hitting YA contemporary about loss, but this book is definitely more than that. In the book she enters the foster care system and I learned so much about what living in the system is really like. I feel like I gained so much perspective on this topic and it really stuck with me after I finished. I just want to say the entire book is not about this, only a certain part. (YA, contemporary, emotional, hard-hitting, grief)


The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Oh my goodness, this book was just... speechless. I was so hooked reading this, someone could have been murdered in the room next to me and I wouldn't have noticed. I really didn't know much going into this book and honestly went in with no real expectations. I was shocked by how suspenseful and interesting this book was. I don't think any explanation I could give you would really give this book justice. This book is sci-fi which is one of my least read and probably one of my least favorite genres, but I loved the sci-fi elements in this book so much. There is an aspect of the book that deals with time and how time works in space and I was became so interested in thinking about this while I was reading. All the science elements really made this book interesting for me, on top of all the suspense. I would really recommend this book for fans of Interstellar because I think that you will have the same pit of dread reading this as you most likely did while watching the movie. I also just want to add, I wouldn't go into this book expecting a thriller. I think you may be a little let down. I would classify this more so as suspense sci-fi. (YA, Sci-fi, suspense, space ship setting, plot twists)


Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

This book is really special to me because it really showed me something I really like in thrillers, and that is children in the plot. This means a missing child, child kidnapping, saving a child or whatever other variation in the plot. This book is about trying to find a kidnapped child. However, it is more than this because while the main character is trying to find her child, she is also finding some very surprising secrets in her marriage. I would not have read this if it wasn't due at my library in a timely fashion and I am so happy I did. This book, though it is not 100% perfect, is still really special to me and I will always have positive thoughts about it. (Adult, mystery/thriller, kidnapped child, more than it appears on the surface)


Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

This is like a pandemic book but instead of a pandemic, it's a severe drought. This book left me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I had such a overlying sense of doom and dread reading this book. It was so suspenseful, interesting, and realistic. It was really interesting reading this one during the pandemic because there were lots of parallels between the book and reality. I don't know how to describe this book in a way that really explains what it has to offer. It is a perfect blend of realism, interesting plot, suspense, cast of characters and emotions. Even though this is a YA book I think it can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. I will just warn you, you will definitely need a nice glass of water while you read this book. (YA, realistic fiction, survival, who can you trust?, real world scenarios, many perspectives)


The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

This book has such a cool concept and synopsis. This is a legal thriller that takes place at a place like Disney World on steroids. This is such a unique book both in terms of plot but also format. The book is mostly told in normal text, but there is definitely a fair amount of mixed media content including actual photos. This book was so fun to read because of these added texts, but also of course the story was really gripping. It reads really fast. It brings up lots of interesting commentary on different ideas such as can a robot be accused of a crime. (YA, Sci-fi legal thriller, mixed media format, quick, Disney world like setting)


Favorite Reads


Verity by Colleen Hoover

I read this book in less than 24 hours. I had to for a certain event I was participating in, but I definitely would have regardless. Funny story, I actually was reading this book at night and accidentally fell asleep reading it. I then woke up around 1 am and proceeded to continue reading it until I finished at about 4 am. This book will make you question who is telling the truth and what is the truth in such as way that the book really stays with you long after you finish it. Although Colleen Hoover typically writes romance, this was her dipping her toes in the thriller genre and I have to say she did a fantastic job. There is some romance but only like 30 maybe 40 percent of the plot but, to me, this was a thriller.

(Adult, mystery/romance, suspenseful, unreliable narrator, secluded location)


No Exit by Taylor Adams

I had heard literally nothing but nonstop praise for this book and I have to say, it 100% lives up to the hype. Just think high action, suspense on a whole other level, gore that makes you nauseous in the best way possible, and overlying pit of dread throughout the entire story and that is what this book is. This is also a perfect winter book because it takes place during a blizzard. I could have easily read this in one sitting and if you have a free afternoon this would be a perfect book. The pages just fly by and the story is so suspenseful. I will say you should go into the story not expecting a very mysterious or clue-filled type of book. Instead, this book is more so just a high action roller coaster. (Adult, thriller, saving a kidnapped child, blizzard, who can you trust?)


The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

This doesn't require much of an explanation. This book is beautiful in every way possible: the story, illustrations, writing, idea, etc. I love how this book makes big topics simple. It is something that is like a keepsake and will stay with you through the years. (All ages, just read)


Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

If you know me, you knew this book would be on this list. I love Riley Sager's books and this one was no exception. Honestly, this was a perfect book. It has basically everything I love in a book so I am not surprised I absolutely loved this book. I am so happy this was everything I hoped it would be. This was utter perfection. (Adult, Mystery/thriller/horror(kinda), haunted house?, book inside a book, what is true?)


The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

I hate to admit I didn't read this book until 2020, but that's the truth. I am not hesitant to admit though that I absolutely LOVED this book. I loved everything about this book. Ruth Ware is one of my favorite authors. I love her books and writing style. I loved the premise of this book and the setting, which is a smart home with a poison garden. I loved that this book is actually a letter which makes the story even better, in my opinion. Overall, one of my new all time favorites. (Adult, mystery/thriller, did she murder her? isolated smart home setting, suspicious side characters)



Thank you so much for making it to the end of both this list but also the end of this 3 part mini series! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my 2020 reading went and I would love to hear how yours went in the comments or via email at riversofbooksblog@gmail.com.




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