My Top 20 Books of 2020, Ranked

One of the side effects of being so chronically and debilitatingly indecisive is that I’m horrible with rankings.
I spent over a week writing this post because I kept rearranging the list, taking some books out, adding new ones in, and just overthinking the fact that I was overthinking. I reordered the top three countless times, because how can I possibly choose just one masterpiece to award the ever-coveted title of Best Book of the Year?


One of the side effects of being so chronically and debilitatingly indecisive is that I’m horrible with rankings.

I spent over a week writing this post because I kept rearranging the list, taking some books out, adding new ones in, and just overthinking the fact that I was overthinking. I reordered the top three countless times, because how can I possibly choose just one masterpiece to award the ever-coveted title of Best Book of the Year?

But alas, I promised a ranked list, and a ranked list I will deliver.

*I tend to write reviews for particularly great books, so most of these selections have my reviews linked. To save space, I didn’t write synopses for books I have reviewed elsewhere on this blog. All reviews are SPOILER-FREE.

** I spent a good hour trying to decide whether I would include non fiction in this ranking, and eventually I decided against it. I also didn’t include more than one book in the same series because they tend to be the same quality, and it would get redundant

***Context (and last disclaimer): I read 127 books this year with an average rating of 3.3 stars

Without further ado, here are the TOP 20 books I read this year, ranked from (relative) worst to best.

20. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein- 4/5 stars

Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, adventure

This book was really good, but Elizabeth Wein’s books tend to be really slow-paced and I wasn’t completely in the mood for something slow-paced when I read this in April. Review here!

19. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys– 4/5 stars

Genre: YA, historical fiction

This was the first book I ever read by Ruta Sepetys, but I knew I had to read more ASAP. Similar to Code Name Verity, though, it is a very character-driven story with a slow plot. Review here!

18. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds– 4/5 stars

Genre: YA, contemporary, poetry

Long Way Down was an extremely short book, but it had a profound message about cyclical violence. It follows a boy who must choose whether or not to avenge his brother’s death by shooting his killer, and the book takes place over the span of the 2 minutes during which he must make this decision. It was super unique concept.

The book was written in verse, but a lot of it was the kind of “verse” that’s just regular prose with some random line breaks. The reason this isn’t ranked more highly is mostly because I’m not the biggest poetry person anymore, and I also couldn’t decide whether I was a fan of the ending.

I’ve actually heard that the graphic novel version of this book is even better, so I may have to check that out in 2021!

17. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus- 4/5 stars

Genre: YA, mystery/thriller

This is an unpopular opinion, but I preferred McManus’s Two Can Kept a Secret to her more hyped One of Us is Lying. This one had a less transparent plot, and I was surprised by the ending. It was also (slightly) more realistic. I read it in one sitting!

Review (ish) is on my YA mystery recommendations post from last month

16. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson– 4/5 stars

Genre: YA, mystery/thriller

Truly Devious is a solid series, and the first book is probably the best. I loved the writing style, the characters and all their quirks, and the dual-perspective double mystery! Stevie was a great MC.

Again, I mini-reviewed this book on my YA mystery recommendations post.

15. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani– 4.5/5

Genre: MG, historical fiction

I picked up this book because two of my friends had given it 5 stars on Goodreads, it was about a topic I know very little about, and the synopsis compared it to The War That Saved My Life, which was one of my absolute favorite books in middle school.

The Night Diary follows 12-year-old Nisha and her family as they are forced to leave their home and make the harrowing trek as refugees across the India-Pakistan border after the partition of India. I knew almost nothing about this time in history before reading this. It was a really great book and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to fellow historical fiction fans. Don’t be turned off by the MG label!

14. Turtles all the Way Down by John Green- 4.5/5 stars

Genre: YA, contemporary

Another unpopular opinion: Turtles All the Way Down is definitely my favorite of John Green’s books. I related to Aza, the main character, and really enjoyed the writing.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this on here, but this book was one of the reasons I actually decide to create my blog. One of the characters has a poetry blog, and it was one of the things that inspired me to start Frappes and Fiction. Review here! (one of the first reviews I ever wrote)

13. The Real McCoys by Mathew Swanson and Robbi Behr– 4.5/5 stars

Genre: MG, mystery, humor

This book deserves way more hype. Way more. The writing is extremely clever, the characters are lovably memorable, and the plot is interesting. And the best part: every page is covered in illustrations. My younger sister also loves this book, and I highly recommend the series if you want to read something fun.

12. Tweet Cute by Cynthia Lord- 4.5/5 stars

Genre: YA, contemporary, romance

Tweet Cute is the only “romance” book on this entire list. I usually am not the biggest fan of romance (unless it’s summer), which you probably know if you spend time reading this blog, but I really enjoyed this book for three main reasons: 1) I saw myself both in Pepper, “the overachiever”, and in Jack for his interest in computer science 2) The writing was clever and relevant 3) The romance was not cringe-worthy (an impressive feat in my book) and it was also clean, which I prefer! Review here

11. A List of Cages by Robin Roe- 4.5/5 stars

Genre: YA, contemporary

Even though I’m usually more of a plot-driven reader, what made A List of Cages so good was the characterization. I could picture every character clearly in my imagination, and though I read the book a few months ago, I still remember them.

I reviewed A List of Cages in my Fall Book Haul!|Mini Book Reviews post

10. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- 4.5/5 stars

Genre: classics, holiday, fantasy

One of the happy ending outliers in this post. This was the first book I’d ever read by Charles Dickens, and it has definitely encouraged me to read more of his books. Next on my list is Great Expectations! Review here!

9. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson- 5/5 stars

Genre: YA, contemporary

I remember someone recommending this book to me years ago, but I didn’t get around to reading it until May. I kind of wish I’d read it when I was a freshman instead of at the end of sophomore year, but better late than never. Speak is commonly taught in schools, and for good reason. Review here!

8. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys- 5/5 stars

Genre: YA, historical fiction, survival

I still remember finishing Salt to the Sea on the beach and trying so hard not to tear up in public. I was so attached to (most of) the characters, and I could not believe I hadn’t ever learned about this part of WW2. Review here!

7. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins- 5/5 stars

Genre: YA, sci-fi, dystopia, survival

My favorite book out of the Hunger Games series, which I only just read last spring (I know, I know) Major factor in this rating: the plot twists. Main criticism: romance-takes-over-the-plot syndrome. Katniss should have stayed single, and I stand by that conviction. Review here!

(If I were to include multiple books from the same series, The Hunger Games and Mockingjay would both probably make this list. I love dystopian sci-fi in general, but THG is a legitimately great series. Don’t let the massive hype, the movies, or the YA-y YA association stop you from reading it)

6. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie- 5/5 stars

Genre: classics, mystery/thriller

(At this point in the list, it’s just a toss-up)

The best way to summarize the premise of And Then There Were None is that it’s basically the game Among Us, but creepier and better. Kudos to my mom for that comparison, which I can’t believe I missed considering how insanely popular Among Us was this fall. Review here!

5. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness- 5/5 stars

Genre: YA, contemporary, magical realism

I don’t consider myself a huge book crier. Some books can make me cry a little (a few on this list, in fact), but it takes a really good book to make it happen. I’ve never SOBBED because of a book (still don’t understand those people), but A Monster Calls made me cry at one in the morning after I finished the book in one sitting. My review!

4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys- 5/5 stars

Genre: YA, historical fiction, survival

My favorite book by one of my favorite authors.

I discovered Ruta Sepetys’ books this year, and I read all four of them in two months. Between Shades of Gray was the last one I read, and it was definitely the best. It’s probably the best historical fiction I have ever read, actually, and I would recommend it to everyone. Read my review here!

3. 1984 by George Orwell- 5/5 stars

Genre: classics, sci-fi, dystopia

One of the best books I’ve ever read. I read 1984 for school in the long-lost pre-corona era, before I started my blog, so unfortunately I don’t have a review to link.

I loved this book because of its huge influence on our culture, and its unnerving relevance to the real world. It was extremely disturbing and thought-provoking; I couldn’t sleep after finishing the end, and I still think about it today. That was a really bland description, but this post is already at almost 2000 words and I would need an entire separate post to explain all my thoughts on this one!

(One criticism, though: Part 2)

2. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson- 5/5 stars

Genre: YA, mystery/thriller

I’ve read a ton of YA murder mysteries in my day, and I usually (always) like them, but this one was by far the best. I loved Pip and appreciated the depiction of high school in a way that I could relate to, instead of the boyfriends/parties/cheerleading shebang over in most of YA, and the PLOT WAS AMAZING. I LOVED the way the mystery was set up, and I LOVED all of the plot twists. It was insane!

I usually strive for a balance of criticism and praise in my reviews, but I kid you not: I couldn’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book when I went to write the review. I will read anything Holly Jackson writes. Review here!

The second book in this series was also amazing; again, it would have made this list had I decided to include multiple books of the same series.

1. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes- 5/5 stars

Genre: classics, sci-fi, psychology

Where do I even begin with this book?

I read the short story of Flowers for Algernon in 8th grade, and finally got around to reading the full novel this year. This book is just great… like 1984, it’s one of those stories that makes its way into your head and won’t leave. So much to think about… My review here!

Well, those are the top 20 books I read in 2020. Have you read any of these? Did you like them? As always, thanks for stopping by my blog!

(and sorry for that abrupt post ending! This post sets the record for the longest post I have ever written on Frappes and Fiction, but it was so fun to write)

33 comments on “My Top 20 Books of 2020, Ranked”

  1. I love Ruta Sepetys! I think Salt to the Sea is my fav! But maybe because it was my first. Making these lists can be a daunting task! I think if I made mine again tomorrow it would be different! 😩 Happy New Year! 🥂🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those are some great picks! I agreed with you on all the ones I’ve read, so I’ll definitely be adding several of the others to my tbr (starting with Good Girl’s Guide to Murder… that sounds great).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. indeed, ranking books is such an impossible task! but congrats on being able to determine the exact positions of these 20 books… 😄i’m so happy to see a lot of ruta sepetys’ books throughout this list! i was a little disappointed by salt to the sea but loved between shades of gray, i’ll definitely be getting to the fountains of silence too! i loved a list of cages and speak as well, both super impactful books that spoke a lot. ☺️ lovely list emily and so glad to see you had so many good reads! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice list! I read The Fountains of Silence when it came out last year and absolutely adored it. I really need to read more of her books, and I’m glad to see that you enjoyed the others even more! Happy New Year! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Turtles All the Way Down is one of my ultimate favorites and I read it this year for the first time as well! I also read Truly Devious and loved it, and I’ve read Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Grey and want to read Fountains of Silence soon as well! I love hearing your thoughts and reviews on books, especially when you like a book I’ve read and liked (as anyone would) lol 🙂

    You saying And Then There Were None was like Among Us made me laugh out loud XD


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