We have finally waved goodbye to 2020. After filling in 366 pages, a fresh set of 365 days has been given to us. With the conclusion of a year is the commencement of a new one. 2020 has been eventful and filled with uncertainty. The future is also filled with uncertainty but hope still springs eternal. Staying true to what has become my annual tradition, I am kicking off the new year by looking back to the previous year, its hits, and of course, its mishits. It is also an opportunity to take a glimpse on how the coming year is going to shape up.
This book wrap up is a part of a mini-series which will feature the following:
- 2020 Top Ten Not-So Favorite Reads
- 2020 Top Ten Favorite Books
- 2020 Book Wrap Up
- 2020 20 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part I)
- 2020 20 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part II)
- 2020 New Favorite Authors
- 2021 Books I Look Forward To List
- 2021 Top 21 Reading List
In 2020, I was able to complete reading 93 books, from 88 different authors. This is the most number of authors I read in year since I started reading. Of these 88 authors, 71 are authors whose works I am reading for the very first time. My venture into “new books” greatly contributed into this landmark achievement. To be honest, I am the type of reader who prefers the comfort of reading an author whose works I am familiar with which makes this number even more meaningful.
From these 88 new authors, there were those who truly made a deep impression on me. Here are these authors who impressed me with their works. I am looking forward to reading more of their works.
Works read: A Man Called Ove, Anxious People
I am kicking off this list with the writer whose works have made the biggest impression on me this year. As I have previously mentioned, Swedish novelist Fredrik Backman’s exponential rise to the pedestal of international literature made me reluctant. Thankfully, I managed to get over this reluctance for both A Man Called Ove and Anxious People resonated on me on a deeper level.
Work read: Stay With Me
Nigerian writer Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s Stay With Me is a book that will remain with me for a very long time. It is a book that I will keep on singing songs of praise. It is a vivid, and riveting tale about modern Nigeria. Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ also conjured a new voice that is compelling, powerful, and imaginative. I can’t wait to experience more of Adébáyọ̀’s narrative.
Phan Qué̂ Mai Nguyẽ̂n
Work read: The Mountains Sing
From Sweden, to Nigeria, and to Vietnam, it is undeniable that my 2020 reading journey has transported me to various parts of the world. Vietnamese writer’s Phan Qué̂ Mai Nguyẽ̂n’s The Mountains Sing hits closer to home for it about our South East Asian neighbors. Phan Qué̂ Mai Nguyẽ̂n’s narrative is raw and appeals to the heart. Vietnamese writers have certainly gained my interest and I can’t wait to explore more literary pieces they have written.
Works read: Homegoing, Transcendent Kingdom
Even before 2020 started, I resolved to do an African literature month, a part of the literary world that I rarely ventured upon. It was a great experience as it introduced me to various voices such as American-Ghanaian writer Yaa Gyasi. Her debut novel, Homegoing ‘s exploration of Ghana’s history was simply outstanding, and poignant. I was deeply impressed that when I learned about her new work released later in the year, Transcendent Kingdom, I didn’t hesitate about buying and reading it, a deviation from the backlist reader that is me.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Work read: The Shadow of the Wind
I admit that I was hesitant to read Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind. It took me nearly three years and some positive recommendations to finally overcome that reluctance. In the end, I was hitting myself for missing out on Ruiz Zafón. I liked how atmospheric and descriptive his brand of storytelling is. I was really impressed and I can’t wait to read more of his works. I was saddened when I heard of his passing last year.
Work read: Behold the Dreamers
As I have mentioned, African writers have left a deep impression on me and one of those who left an indelible mark was Imbolo Mbue. Born in Cameroon, her debut novel, Behold the Dreamers, is a grand exploration of the American dream and the African migrant narrative, both timely and seminal subjects. Mbue is releasing a new work in 2021 and I can’t wait to be transported yet again.
C Pam Zhang
Work read: How Much of These Hills is Gold
Speaking of the American dream and the migrant narrative, C Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills is Gold is a powerful and evocative exploration of the same subjects. Longlisted for the 2020 Man Booker Prize, it is a debut novel that introduced a new and budding literary voice, a voice that I can’t wait to hear more of in the coming years.
Work read: Freshwater, The Death of Vivek Oji
So yes, another African writer. Speaking of emerging voices, Nigerian writer Akwaeke Emezi is certainly making waves around the world. Their powerful debut novel, Freshwater was evocative and compelling, a fresh voice that is waiting to be heard. Their writing was both raw and powerful, promising even. Whilst The Death of Vivek Oji didn’t live up to its predecessor, it nevertheless underlined the emergence of a new riveting voice.
Work read: The Housekeeper and the Professor
Of the Japanese writers I had this year, it was Yoko Ogawa who left a great impression with her novel The Housekeeper and the Professor. Although this slice-of-life tale was cut from the same cloth, it was a heartwarming story about the people we meet and the influences and impressions they leave on us. It is a familiar trope but because of Ogawa’s vivid portrayal, it became an effective literary device. I am already lining up some of Ogawa’s newly translated work, such as the 2020 Man Booker International Prize-nominee The Memory Police.
Work read: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
I wasn’t totally persuaded by Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. However, it held such promise (and yes, Shafak is rather a controversial writer in her native Turkey) that I was compelled to immerse more into her other writings. Just like Ruiz Zafon, she has the uncanny ability of capturing the spirit of a city; Ruiz Zafon painted Barcelona while Istanbul came alive through Shafak’s descriptive prose. The Bastard of Istanbul sounds like a promising book to carry on with this journey.
With the number of writers whose works I have read in the past year, it was difficult choosing authors for this list. To recognize them, here are the special mentions.
Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown
Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet
Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate
Colum McCann, Apeirogon
Anchee Min, Empress Orchid
Olga Tokarczuk, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four
Abi Dare, The Girl With the Louding Voice
How about you fellow reader, which authors impressed you in 2020? I hope you get to share it in the comment box as I am more than interested in knowing your answers.
Happy reading everyone!