Books of the year 2020

At my work book club this week, we are to bring along our favourite book of the year. Not an easy decision to make, I thought I might write a ‘favourite of the year’ blog post to help me decide what to take along to Monday afternoon’s meeting. So…here we go…the categories are totally random!

Favourite non-fiction: Ruth Reichl Save me the plums. The latest in her series of memoirs, this focuses on her time as editor of Gourmet magazine. It is a really good read if you are interested in food writing.

Favourite new cookbook: Diana Henry From the Oven to the Table. I have used this book a lot since I bought it, and have a whole lot of new favourites taken from it. I loved her earlier book How to Eat a Peach too.

Favourite detective novel: Donna Leon Trace Elements. I didn’t read a lot of detective fiction this year for some reason. Tana French’s The Wych Elm was certainly powerful, and Lilian Jackson Braun’s cat detective books always charm, but Donna Leon’s latest wins this year’s prize for me.

Favourite beach read: Kevin Kwan Sex and Vanity. I read this in the spring (October), but if you are looking for a summer beach read in the next couple of months, this is a good option (or if it is winter where you are, a Boxing Day cosy sofa read). An honourable mention goes to RWR McDonald’s The Nancys, a lighthearted family dynamic/detective novel, the name being a reference to the Nancy Drew Mysteries.

Favourite re-read: Barbara Pym Less Than Angels. If you are a Barbara Pym fan, you know how glorious it is to pick up one of her books when in need of a comfort read.

Favourite by a New Zealand author: Laurence Fearnley Scented. One of my favourite books of the year, this ‘search for identity’ book tells the tale of an academic who is made redundant from her job and who rediscovers herself through the creation of perfumes.

Favourite book of poetry: Anne Kennedy Moth Hour. A collection of poems in memory of the writer’s brother, this is a poignant collection I picked up after the death of my own brother earlier this year.

Favourite novels other than those mentioned above:

  • Zadie Smith Swingtime
  • Curtis Sittenfeld Rodham
  • Anne Patchett The Dutch House
  • Barbara Kingsolver Unsheltered

I loved the family drama played out over a number of decades in Anne Patchett’s latest novel, The Dutch House, and enjoyed the story of two families, living in the same house a century and a half apart in Barbara Kingsolver’s most recent book Unsheltered. They both come highly recommended.

In the end though it was a choice of Zadie Smith’s novel book Swing Time and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham. Swing Time tells the story of two girls growing up on neighbouring housing estates in London. The pair meet at a community dance class, become friends…and well you have to read it to see what happens. I loved this book for all sorts of reasons, but primarily because you really felt you got to know the characters and what they were going through. Zadie Smith is such a fantastic writer. The other book to make it to the final two, was a complete surprise. I had seen it in the bookshop, and was intrigued, but didn’t pick it up until a return visit when I saw only one copy left. As it states on the cover, it is a fictional account of what might have happened to Hillary Rodham Clinton if she hadn’t married Bill. One review I read noted “the first surprise of the novel is how gripping it is; the second is how worthy its protagonist is as a subject for fiction”, and I couldn’t agree more.

In the end I decided that my Book of the Year 2020 is…..Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham. It was a very tough choice, but I decided to plump for a book that had also been published this year. Well, I had to have some sort of criterion to help me make my final choice!

What was your favourite book this year?

PS – only one book above was written by a man. This is purely unintentional!

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on


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