It’s a new year and we’ve been looking back on all the books we read in 2020. With online literature festivals (including Richmond LitFest), a huge September-October publishing boom, a new digital reading platform and online book group for Richmond Libraries, it’s been a great year for readers. Our librarians have selected their favourite reads of 2020 to inspire you for 2021, and maybe give you a few new titles to add to your to-read pile!

All of the books can be found in our libraries. Many of them are also available from one or more of our eLibraries, so you can read them without having to leave your house.


Weather, Jenny Offill. 

This book is subtle, clever, and very funny. It’s also about a librarian, which is a great way to get me to love any book.

We Germans, Alexander Starritt.

An unflinching look at being on the wrong side of history, a man tells his grandson what it was like as a German on the Eastern Front in WWII. It takes a nuanced and careful approach to collective and individual responsibility, not hiding from the horrors of war and the Nazis while trying to piece together what it meant to survive, both as an individual and a country. Not an easy read, but beautifully written, and one that stayed with me.

Stranger Things Happen, Kelly Link.

I started reading this for the Richmond Read-along, and kept reading it because I was hooked. Link’s stories weave fantasy, sci-fi, fairytales, folklore, and modern life together and focus on grief and loss. Despite this, her stories are incredibly witty and often had me chortling to myself.

Axiom’s End, Lindsay Ellis.

Axiom’s End was just fun. A true sci-fi book, with aliens, shadowy government agencies and scattered references to Avril Lavigne and rickrolling, I really enjoyed this alternate history.

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke.

This book is gloriously weird. A mystery, a fantasy, a strange hypothesis, I couldn’t put this book down. It’s the most unique thing I’ve read all year and I loved every fascinating minute of it.



The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did), Philippa Perry.

I re-read this in week 3 of the first national lockdown! A fantastic book – it looks at how your childhood can affect your parenting and not just negatively. I’ll be keeping this for reference purposes for a long time.

The Twits, Roald Dahl.

My home school may have been pretty close to special measures at some points but my daughter loved this so much that she would read on her own after we had read it together. It was a book I loved when I was young too, made me feel that we did have some success with home education.

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time, Craig Brown.

I didn’t think there would be much in a new Beatles book that I didn’t already know, but this not a standard music biography. It explores the music, the band, the hangers-on and those who were tangential to the Beatles’ story.

In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, Lindsey Hilsum.

I found myself holding my breath listening to the final moments of Colvin’s life, even though I knew what was to happen. This was an extremely thorough biography of a complex and brave woman and an excellent audiobook.

Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams.

I walked into the library and picked this up from a display, and read it in two days such was the compulsion to find out what happens. I really found myself rooting for Queenie as she explores her identity and loved the humour in this book.



Pale Rider: The Spanish flu of 1918 and how it changed the world, Laura Spinney.

I read this book during lockdown in May this year. I thought it would be interesting to compare what we were/are going through with the flu pandemic of 1918-1920. I found the book fascinating and, as someone who doesn’t know much about science, learnt an enormous from it about how viruses work, etc. Although it’s a non-fiction book, in many sections it reads almost like a novel.

In the Woods, Tana French.

I liked this novel because it’s so beautifully written and because the characters are so skilfully drawn and developed.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt.

I read this book in 2020, but not for the first time! I love virtually everything about this unique novel which defies categorisation.

An Inconvenient Death: How the establishment covered up the David Kelly affair, Miles Goslett.

I came across this book in the library, quite by accident. I like it because it made me really think about an event which took place some years ago which I had not paid a great deal of attention to at the time.

Milkman, Anna Burns.

I liked this novel because, while not the easiest to read, being written largely as a ‘stream-of-consciousness’, it is a skilful depiction of Northern Ireland’s social landscape and it gets its key themes and ideas across very effectively.



Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield.

I love Once upon a River by Diane Setterfield, published in 2019 it’s a beautifully written gothic mystery set on the banks of the Thames – very atmospheric and timeless. It got me out of a reading slump earlier in the year as with everything going on in the world I struggled to concentrate on a novel for a time.

Good Talk, Mira Jacob.

Graphic novel memoir that I can’t recommend enough. This one brought me to tears more than once – from the incomprehension of seeing the 9/11 attacks in New York to the hilarious retelling of her parents first experiences of America on emigrating from India. It’s deeply personal, eye opening and genuinely laugh out loud and succeeds in depicting the emotional roller coaster of trying to raise an interracial son in an increasingly polarised America.

I also read the first 3 in The Witcher Series by Andrzei Sapkowski, after enjoying the recent Netflix adaptation – what can I say, if you’re already familiar with Geralt of Riveria and his escapades you’re bound to enjoy the books. If you aren’t but like the idea of a romping fantasy adventure this is a great series. Do check the suggested reading order first since it’s widely recommended to start with the short stories collections as they offer a richer introduction to key characters.



Voyage, Stephen Baxter.

The Golden House, Salman Rushdie.

Diary of an MP’s Wife: Inside and outside power, Sasha Swire.

Burn, Patrick Ness.

Wilder Girls, Rory Power.



Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns, Kerry Hudson.

Just One Damned Thing After Another, Jodi Taylor.

The Lantern Men, Elly Griffiths.

The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman.

False Value, Ben Aaronovitch.



Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart.

Educated, Tara Westover.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante.

Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez.

I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen.


We hope you find something in these titles that piques your interest! What were your top books of 2020?