The Best Books of 2020 (Must-Read Books This Year)

As 2020 comes to a close, I have a chance now to sit down and reflect on the books I read this year. With all the year’s craziness and spending all the extra time at home, I ended up having a chance to read more books than usual this year.  Silver lining! 

So here I am sharing some of the top books I read this year, in no particular order: all different topics, some novels, some non-fiction, a truly random selection. I thoroughly enjoyed each one.

True Crime Book Recommendations 2020

The Best Books of 2020

In The Night Swim, a new thriller from Megan Goldin, author of the “gripping and unforgettable” (Harlan Coben) The Escape Room, a true-crime podcast host covering a controversial trial finds herself drawn deep into a small town’s dark past and a brutal crime that took place there years before.

Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name―and the last hope for people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The new season of Rachel’s podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season 3 a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation―but the mysterious letters keep coming. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insist she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody in town wants to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases―and a revelation that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the Academy Award®–winning actor, an unconventional memoir filled with raucous stories, outlaw wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN

“Unflinchingly honest and remarkably candid, Matthew McConaughey’s book invites us to grapple with the lessons of his life as he did—and to see that the point was never to win, but to understand.”—Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

(I listened to this one as an AudioBook and I highly recommend it in audio edition if possible!)

“It took me a lifetime to have the courage and the clarity to write my memoir. I want to tell the story of the moments – the ups and downs, the triumphs and traumas, the debacles and the dreams – that contributed to the person I am today. Though there have been countless stories about me throughout my career and very public personal life, it’s been impossible to communicate the complexities and depths of my experience in any single magazine article or a 10-minute television interview. And even then, my words were filtered through someone else’s lens, largely satisfying someone else’s assignment to define me. 

This book is composed of my memories, my mishaps, my struggles, my survival, and my songs. Unfiltered. I went deep into my childhood and gave the scared little girl inside of me a big voice. I let the abandoned and ambitious adolescent have her say, and the betrayed and triumphant woman I became tell her side. 

Writing this memoir was incredibly hard, humbling and healing. My sincere hope is that you are moved to a new understanding, not only about me, but also about the resilience of the human spirit. 

Love,

Mariah”   

A heart-stopping emotional thriller with a breathtaking twist from the best-selling author of The Happy Couple Samantha Hayes.

January 1992. A baby girl is left alone for a moment. Long enough for a mother to dash into a shop. Long enough for a child to be taken. 

Thirteen years later, solicitor Robert Knight’s stepdaughter wins a place at a prestigious London school for the gifted. The only puzzle is his wife Erin’s reaction. Why is she so reluctant to let Ruby go? Doesn’t she want what’s best for her? As Erin grows more evasive, Robert can’t help but feel she has something to hide and when he stumbles on mysterious letters, he discovers she has been lying to him. Somewhere in his wife’s past lies a secret; a shocking secret that threatens to destroy everything….

Thrilling and gripping, Blood Ties will make you ask what dark secrets lie behind your neighbours’ closed doors. Perfect listening for anyone who loved The Wife Between Us, The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl.

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect….

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, pause-resisting novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge…and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of 30-something friends from Oxford meets to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students 10 years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands – the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves. 

They arrive on December 30, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now, one of them is dead…and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs – a real-life Tony Stark – and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new makers.

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’ life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: Can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk – one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history – is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.

The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband – and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive. 

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening, her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face and then never speaks another word.  

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. 

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations – a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

From the number one New York Times best-selling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, and The Death of Mrs. Westaway comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fifth novel.

When Rowan stumbles across an ad for a live-in nanny, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss – with a staggeringly generous salary. And when she arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten – by the luxurious “smart” house fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What Rowan doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare – one that will end with a child dead and Rowan in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, Rowan struggles to explain the unravelling events that have led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the children, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

Rowan knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty – at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

A dark, compelling new thriller from best-selling authors Sarah A. Denzil and Anni Taylor  

Young backpackers Gemma and Hayley arrive at a remote fruit farm in Australia’s Northern Territory, out of money and desperate for work. 

The weeks go on, a blur of fruit picking, parties, campfires and wading beneath waterfalls in the nearby hot springs. Until the night the girls find themselves on a dark highway, bruised and bloodied.  

Senior Detective Bronwen McKay and psychologist Megan Arlotti question the terrified girls. But Hayley and Gemma are telling two very different stories of what happened to them over the past three months.  

Which story is the truth, and what are the girls covering up? A suspenseful thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mum Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, 21-year-old Lily Monrose has been married for only three weeks. When her husband fails to come home from work one night, she is left alone in a place where she knows no one and with the police telling her that her husband never existed.

In this suspenseful drama, both women must sort through the secrets surrounding men neither of them knows if they can trust.

Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked. Put together the pieces. Identify the suspect. 

Journalist Billy Jensen spent 15 years investigating unsolved murders, fighting for the families of victims. Every story he wrote had one thing in common – it didn’t have an ending. The killer was still out there. 

But after the sudden death of a friend, crime writer Michelle McNamara, Billy became fed up. Following a dark night, he came up with a plan. A plan to investigate past the point when the cops have given up. A plan to solve the murders himself. 

In Chase Darkness with Me, you’ll ride shotgun as Billy identifies the Halloween Mask Murderer, finds a missing girl in the California Redwoods, and investigates the only other murder in New York City on 9/11. You’ll hear intimate details of the hunts for two of the most terrifying serial killers in history: his friend Michelle’s pursuit of the Golden State Killer which is chronicled in I’ll Be Gone In The Darkwhich Billy helped finish after Michelle’s passing, and his own quest to find the murderer of the Allenstown 4 family. 

And Billy gives you the tools – and the rules – to help solve murders yourself. 

Gripping, complex, unforgettable, Chase Darkness with Me is an examination of the evil forces that walk among us, illustrating a novel way to catch those killers, and a true crime narrative unlike any you’ve listened to before. 

With a foreword by Karen Kilgariff of My Favorite Murder

For twelve years, Cadence Davidson has dreaded her daughter’s twelfth birthday, for that is the day she will tell Sophie who her true father really is.

Sophie’s world is turned upside down when she learns that her biological father is really Richard White, the man who abducted her mother twelve years earlier. She wonders if she will ever meet the elusive billionaire, only to find herself suddenly abducted into the life that he has carefully crafted for her and her mother. She begs to be free from this man who has torn apart her family, yet struggles with her emotions as she finds herself softening towards her father and abductor.

Richard White must fight to salvage his dream of finally having the love of his life, Cadence, and his daughter, Sophie, together. Despite his carefully orchestrated plan, he’s faced with unexpected events that threaten to wreck his dream forever. As his inner voice taunts him, Richard strives to preserve his family and come to know his beautiful daughter. Will Richard be able to find peace and hold on to the family he has fought for a lifetime to bring together?

In this psychological thriller, an obsession that spans decades comes to its ultimate test. Love, loss and courage coalesce on the great Pacific Ocean as Richard faces his demons and makes one final choice to find peace and love.

(This one I just started reading this week and I can already tell it will make my favourite list as well).

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility, a novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel—a beautifully transporting novel. 

The mega-bestseller with more than 2 million readers, soon to be a major television series

“Perhaps the ultimate quarantine read . . . A Gentleman in Moscow is about the importance of community; the distance of a kind act; and resilience. It’s a manual for getting through the days to come.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

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.


 

Have you read any good books this year? I am always looking for my next book to read. Share your favourites from the year below!

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Angela V

Founder and Writer at One Smiley Monkey blog
Hi, my name is Angela van Tijn and I live in Vancouver, Canada with my wonderful husband, our two boys and our puppy. I am the founder and primary contributor behind One Smiley Monkey. Welcome to my blog!

1 responses to “The Best Books of 2020 (Must-Read Books This Year)”

  1. Love a good list of books to read. Thank you for putting it together.

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