Annual Roundup: My Books of 2020

2020 may not yet be over but, as in previous years, I’ve chosen to put out my annual roundup before Christmas. Books make the perfect gifts, especially as they are easy to wrap and mostly not too pricey. These are my personal recommendations from the titles I’ve reviewed over the past 12 months. It’s not a ‘best of’ list – who am I to judge what is best when so many titles exist and I have only managed to read a few? Rather, this selection highlights some of my favourites – books that I enjoyed reading and that continue to resonate. I hope those who share my literary tastes may find it useful, or at least of some interest.

I posted reviews for just over 100 books on my blog in 2020. Since Robyn took on the role of my intern in June, she has contributed many more. Robyn’s recommendations will be listed in a separate post to be published next weekend.

As with my monthly roundups, click on the title below to read my review and on the cover to learn more about the book.


Let’s start with fiction. These first two books tell compelling stories that bite.

The Mating Habits of Stags by Roy Robinson, published by Lightning Books
The Nacullians by Craig Jordan-Baker, published by époque press


The next two selected are, on the surface, more everyday tales but contain pleasing depth.

Cat Step by Alison Irvine, published by Dead Ink
The Blackbird by Claire Allen, published by Henningham Family Press


Two that hold a darkness within their pages but not one that overshadows the fine storytelling.

The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes, published by oneworld
How Pale the Winter Has Made Us by Adam Scovell, published by Influx


For those who want straightforward but still fully rounded stories that are both engaging and entertaining (also proof that I do not only read books from my beloved independent presses!)

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce, published by Doubleday
V for Victory by Lissa Evans, published by Doubleday


More challenging to read but well worth considering.

Lake of Urine by Guillermo Stitch, published by Sagging Meniscus
Beastings by Benjamin Myers, originally released by Bluemoose Books, now published by Bloomsbury


I also enjoy short stories and these two collections delivered plenty of food to satisfy a variety of literary appetites.

London Gothic by Nicholas Royle, published by Cōnfingō
She-Clown and Other Stories by Hannah Vincent, published by Myriad Editions


Micro story collections offering short tales that are cleverly complete – they also contain a generous dollop of humour.

Postcard Stories 2 by Jan Carson, published by The Emma Press
You Ruin It When You Talk by Sarah Manvel, published by Open Pen


Single story chapbooks that pack a punch – so much conveyed in just a few pages.

A Stone Statue in the Future by Benjamin Myers, jointly published by Bluemoose and Little Toller
Signal by Michael Walters, published by Nightjar


Poetry with the potential to appeal to all readers.

Vertigo to Go by Brendon Booth-Jones, published by The Hedgehog Press
London Undercurrents by Joolz Sparks and Hilaire, published by Holland Park Press


On then to non fiction. Two books that encourage the reader to look at our world anew.

The Secret Life of Fungi by Aliya Whiteley, published by Elliott & Thompson
Unofficial Britain by Gareth E. Rees, published by Elliott & Thompson


Proving that non fiction prose can be piercing yet written with poetic beauty.

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, published by Tramp Press
My Second Home by Dave Haslam, published by Cōnfingō


This illustrated book has been widely publicised with captions quoted as offering help in adversity – something that can put me off a title – but was exactly what I needed in this difficult year.

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, published by Ebury Press


23 books that particularly impressed me – all but 3 published by small, independent presses. Whatever your choice of literature over the festive season and coming year, I wish you many hours of satisfying reading.


6 comments on “Annual Roundup: My Books of 2020

  1. thetorzorean says:

    Congratulations on such a wonderful collection of reviews in this very unusual year. Wishing you all the best for another year of reviews in 2021.

  2. Obviously all of these are going on my TBR apart from the one’s already on there of course 😂 fantastic selection there Jackie, off to Goodreads to log em all 😉

  3. What a great list Jackie – I loved The Wild Laughter so good to see it included and I was really pleased to see A Ghost in the Throat win the Irish book of the Year Award this week.

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