• Gracie Carmichael

My Top 10 Reads from 2020

Well, friend, I'm not about to start this post by making a long-drawn sigh and cracking a wildly over-used joke with "2020" as the punchline. It's been a singular year, and you're not a stranger to that. It's been one for the books (or currently for the memes, which will run in endless supply for many moons to come, I'm afraid). As you've already seen too many, and will doubtless see too many more, I promise not to make a single joke about this peculiar little stretch of a year we've been throughwell, I promise I won't, after the following:

As we bid adieu to 2020 and step into 2021 with a seed of desperate hope in our hearts, I think I stand with Gandalf on this one.

"Farewell, my brave hobbits...I will not say 'do not weep': for not all tears are an evil."

At the end of the day (or year, literally), I feel unspeakably grateful that this year gave me you through this here blog, which continues to bless me and bring me so much joy! In the midst of isolation, I've met so many kindred spirits over on bookstagram that have inspired me and brought me encouragement and support at a time we've all needed it most.

So here's to you, for sticking it out with me and joining along on this journey of books and nooks and period dramas.

Overall it was a good reading year for me, and while I still enjoyed revisiting my beloved Austens and Alcotts (aha), I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried new things that ended up becoming life-long favorites (I'm looking at you, Charlotte Brontë).

So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 books of 2020, from classic rereads of a few familiar favorites to first-time discoveries across the board of literature!


#1: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

It won't come as a surprise to my readersJane Eyre is without a doubt the best book of the year for me. I headed into it in October knowing nothing more about it than the existence of a spooky mansion and a brooding hero by the name of Mr. Rochester. I certainly didn't expect to find a story that would touch my heart and speak to my soul on such a powerful, poignant level. Jane Eyre is unforgettable to me, which is why it is not only my number one of 2020, but I think it's also a major contender for my favorite book of all time. You can read my full review of the book here!


#2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The most thrilling, couldn't-put-it-down book of the year for me was undoubtedly Rebecca. My first du Maurier will forever be consecreated to sleepless nights reading "just-one-more chapter" and spending every waking moment apart from it suffering in withdrawal until I could pick it up again and find out what happens next. I adored every minute of it! A lot of readers joined the Rebecca train ahead of Netflix's film adaptation (which I personally thought was sourly disappointing, and I'll continue to stand by Alfred Hitchcock's untouchable 1940 version), and I'm so glad I jumped on the bandwagon and read it too!


#3. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

Early this year I had so much fun revisiting the Bhaers of Plumfield School, and I must confess, I don't know if I've ever enjoyed Little Men so much. It touched me with joy and comfort in a much-needed time, and seeing just how those March girls grew up into wise, wonderful women, and how the boys of Plumfield were guided into becoming loving, generous, open-herated men was so heart-warmingly beautiful. As untouchable as Little Women is, I can't help but love Little Men almost every bit as much. You can find my full review here!


#4. Emma by Jane Austen

It wouldn't be a proper reading year if I didn't reread a most-beloved Austen, now would it? I have such fond memories of revisiting Emma this year, particularly spending my birthday reading it by the lakeside in mid-summer, which was nothing short of delightful. I really fell back in love with Emma this time 'round, so much so that I think it's currently my very favorite Austen. I find that I have different favorites each year, but for 2020, it was Emma Woodhouse's mischievous match-making pitfalls that brought me joy and laughter above all others. I also loved seeing this year's film adaptation, which was superbly cast and utterly whimsical. I reviewed the film here! :)


#5. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I couldn't leave this one out—even if was my third time reading this epic masterpiece! The Lord of the Rings remains up there as one of my all-time favorite books, and coming back to it this autumn was such a special memory. I think I love it more and more every time I revisit it, and it never fails to bring me so much Middle-Earth-ian comfort in Tolkien's wonderful array of charcters and masterful writing, his landscapes and word detail, and all the uncomparable beauties this book brings to the table. It was especially delightful to begin on September 22nd after a Hobbit Day celebration, in which I recreated Bilbo and Frodo's birthday cake! Find more on that here. :)


#6. Poldark, Book 7: The Angry Tide by Winston Graham

At this point, Poldark is a part of the blood in my veins. I watch Poldark, I read Poldark, I listen to the Poldark soundtrack on repeat—I've even dreamed about Poldark! Ha! Journeying through Winston Graham's 12-book saga has been such a joy this year. While I've only reached the first eight books and have four left to go, I have to say, Book 7 was my very favorite so far. The drama, the emotion, the Cornish landscape—Ross and his recklessness, Drake and Morwenna and their bittersweet ending! The Angry Tide was a whilrwind, and absolutely un-put-down-able. Which is saying a lot for a 600 page book! You can find my review of Book 7 here.


#7. Heidi by Johanna Spyri

A childhood favorite revisited always feels a little threatening to me: there's always a chance that the once-beloved stories will look bland and faded in adulthood, which is a realization that always crushes me whenever I've experienced it. But Heidi was no such disappointment! I fell in love with this sweet, heartfelt story of Heidi's life with the goats and the mountains and Uncle Alp's heartwarming transformation from grumpy old bachelor to generous and adoring grandfather. From country delights to the distractions of the city, Heidi's story brought me so much joy that I confess I enjoyed it better now as an adult than I ever did in childhood!


#8. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Before this year, I had only read a couple of Agatha Christie books and it was a goal of mine to dive further into her works. Of all the Christie's I read this year, this first Poirot mystery was by far my favorite. It's a fantastic introduction to Poirot's genius, his Watson-like sidekick Captain Hastings, and the beginning of their mystery-solving adventures. Perfectly plotted and paced, this was, to me, a prime example of Christie at her finest. You can find my full reviews for every Christie I read in 2020 here!


#9. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I usually stay away from the new releases and plant my head in the classics, but The Hunger Games is a golden exception. The original trilogy was a vital part of my early teens, and I was, as many were, completely anxious to get my hands on a copy of this beguiling prequel. Though it was unhappily fated to many mixed reviews, I have to say, I adored this book. Collins plants so much imagery and philosophical challenges into her work almost effortlessly, and this prequel left me thinking about the messages and buried themes for weeks after I finished it. You can find my full review here!


#10. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

Last but certainly not least, this final book of the Anne of Green Gables saga touched me with tears and heartache, deep and poigniant emotions, and struck me with it's never-fading bittersweetness in a time of war and familial hardship. This was my second time reading Rilla, and I loved it better than ever. It will always remain one of the best books of the saga to me, and I've grown fond of saying "You can't always judge a book by its cover, but you can always judge a reader based on their opinion of Rilla of Ingleside."


Those are my top 10 books of the year! Thank you so much for joining along with me on this reading journey, and if you've been following Austens & Alcotts for a while now, your presence here has rewarded me so much and brought me the keenest joy. Thank you for inspiring me to keep doing what I love!

I wish you many blessings in 2021! Have a Happy New Year!

Until next time,