FictionFan Awards – Book of the Year 2020

Drum roll, please…

Due to having read hardly any new releases this year, I’ve decided not to do my usual elaborate FictionFan Awards. Not that I didn’t have plenty of great reads – between 1st November 2019 and 31st October 2020 (my usual bookish “year”), I gave a total of 59 books five-star reviews. The majority of them were vintage crime and classics, though, and many of them were comfort re-reads of old favourites, and I never count re-reads when giving out awards.

So I’ve decided to simply pick the best book of each genre (with a few honourable mentions along the way), and then an overall winner. Ready? Here goes…

* * * * *

Classics have been the backbone of my reading and listening this year. Fifteen of them got the full galaxy of stars, including three re-reads. Loads of highlights here – The Go-Between review-along which several of us did together was great fun, and Joseph Conrad became a surprise star of the year. Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock blew me away and was a strong contender for the award. I loved some of the lighter ones, like Around the World in Eighty Days and The Prisoner of Zenda. And I found a couple of Scottish greats – The New Road and The White Bird Passes. But two books were so far ahead of all the rest I can’t choose between them, so…

Joint Best Classic Fiction 2020

For Whom the Bell Tolls
by Ernest Hemingway

and

Nostromo
by Joseph Conrad

* * * * *

My contemporary crime reading was way down in terms of quantity, with me largely sticking to favourite authors. So there were only ten five-star reads in this category, of which very few were brand new releases and several were re-reads. I loved Val McDermid’s A Darker Domain, Jane Casey’s The Cutting Place and Stuart MacBride’s All That’s Dead. But one stood out clearly above the rest…

Best Crime Fiction 2020

The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau
by Graeme Macrae Burnet

* * * * *

My factual reading took a complete dive with the result that only four books made the five-star list. I very much enjoyed Paul Corthorn’s Enoch Powell, but I do feel it would probably only be of interest to British political nerds like me. This one would have a much wider appeal, I think…

Best Factual Book 2020

The Spanish Civil War
by Stanley G Payne

* * * * *

My fiction reading was extremely limited and shockingly I only awarded nine five-star reviews, and four of those were re-reads. A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth delighted me as a homage to the science fiction greats, and I found a soulmate in Serenata, the grumpy older heroine of Lionel Shriver’s The Motion of the Body Through Space. However, the standout book in this category isn’t a new release but isn’t old enough to be a classic yet, though it will be…

Best Fiction 2020

I Married A Communist
by Philip Roth

* * * * *

Vintage crime has been my major form of comfort reading this year. A massive fifteen achieved the full galaxy, though three of them were re-reads – all three by Agatha Christie, of course. I continued my love affairs with ECR Lorac and George Bellairs, started a new one with John Dickson Carr, and flirted outrageously with John Bude. But in the end they were all also-rans…

Best Vintage Crime 2020

The Spoilt Kill
by Mary Kelly

* * * * *

And that only leaves the almost impossible task of picking just one of these. While For Whom the Bell Tolls is equally good, this turned out to be the year when, after decades of avoidance, I finally became a confirmed Joseph Conrad fan. So he has to win the ultimate prize…

FictionFan’s Book of the Year 2020

Nostromo
by Joseph Conrad

* * * * *

Thanks for joining me on my reading journey 😀

62 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards – Book of the Year 2020

  1. Very worthy winners, FictionFan! I’m so glad you had some good reads this year, despite the year we’ve had. It’s been a comfort – well at least for me – to have some good books right now. I’m very pleased to see the Burnet on your list; I thoroughly enjoyed The Accident on the A35, and I’m cross with myself for not (yet) reading this one. I will – I really will. The rest are great choices, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’ll enjoy Adele Bedeau too – they work very well as a duo. Yes, I was pleased when I saw how many good reads I’d managed to have despite everything – sometimes retreating to favourites genres and re-reads for a bit can be quite comforting, and I was surprised at just how many classics I’d read! Still, Brexit deal done, vaccine on the way and Trump gone – 2021 is looking hopeful! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. This list really says it all for how the reading year went. I’m surprised you didn’t add a second book to the vintage crime list since that category was one that seemed to give the most enjoyment.

    The winners are all worthy though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, an odd reading year, especially the number of classics I seem to have got through! They’re obviously what I must turn to when times are bad, and the vintage crime has been great for comfort reading! Yeah, I didn’t list too many of the vintage ones since I did a Top Ten of them just a couple of months ago.

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    • Yes, I must say that the classics have been a real comfort this year, not to mention the vintage stuff – clearly my subconscious just wanted to get out of this horrible year and back to a gentler past, when all there was to worry about was a world war or two… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You still seem to have had a productive reading year despite reading slumps and more 1 star and DNF’s than usual. I need to get on to Conrad as you speak so highly of him, I have Heart of Darkness in my TBR somewhere, but is Nostromo a better place to start?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was actually surprised to discover I’d given so many books five stars – clearly the classics and vintage stuff were just what I needed this year! I found Nostromo easier to read – it’s written in a more standard format, and doesn’t have the feverish hallucinatory aspects of Heart of Darkness. On the other hand, Heart of Darkness is much shorter! But I had to read it three full times before I fully appreciated it, whereas I was able to understand Nostromo straight off. Both are excellent though.

      Merry Christmas, Alyson – hope you have a good one! 🎅

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  4. As I scrolled through my tagged books in my library app yesterday, I noticed The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau and couldn’t remember why I added it. Now I know!! (and now I’m anxious to read it in the coming year!)

    I think your scaled back awards ceremony is appropriate for the times. I enjoyed attending. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adèle Bedeau is excellent – Burnet is probably my favourite Scottish living author at the moment! If you manage to get to it, I hope you enjoy it! 😀

      Thank you – hopefully 2021 will be brighter and I’ll be able to have a full scale ceremony again next year! Merry Christmas, Kelly! 🎅

      Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly has! I was actually surprised at how many five star reviews I’d given, despite everything! But now the Brexit deal is done, the vaccine is on its way and Trump will soon disappear – 2021 is looking hopeful! 😀 Merry Christmas, Jilanne – have a good one! 🎅

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I hope you enjoy it! I really like her writing style and her stories are interesting. The BL also published another of hers a year or two ago – The Christmas Egg – which was also very good and very seasonal! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I still have nightmares about all those nested quotation marks in Lord Jim! I don’t know how he finally got through my defences, but suddenly he seemed to click into place in my brain this year – he’s hard work, though! 😀

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  5. I always look forward to this post, FF and while it is a little more simple this year, for very understandable reasons, I was not disappointed. Great to see Around the World in Eighty Days get a mention and that you have enjoyed so many vintage crimes and comforting re-reads. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Adele Bedeau was one of my best reads of the year, and I thank you for it, FF. My best literary fiction of the year might well be another Roth, The Plot Against America. And the Best Book Ever Written could well be Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s gotta go on my list for rereading and reviewing early next year.

    It’s been a very good year, and I look forward to the one around the corner. Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the Burnet, Matt – he’s probably my favourite living Scottish author at the moment. Just wish he was more prolific! I’ve just acquired The Plot Against America so will hopefully read it sometime in the New Year, though I’d also like to finish the American trilogy by re-reading The Human Stain. Hmm… the Best Book Ever Written is definitely Bleak House, but I’ll admit FWTBT comes close… 😉

      2021 has to be better than this year – Brexit deal done, vaccine coming soon, Trump going soon! Merry Christmas! 🎅

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very best seasonal wishes FF and hoping for a better 2021 for us all. I’ve been caught up in seasonal busyness (and now Boxing Day, for us, sloth) and I am looking forward to reading the abundance of postings you’ve made since your return to the blog. However, today I wanted to pop in and wish you the warmest greetings. Acknowledging the NZ position of privilege, I think often of you and others in more stringent circumstances. Have a good day! 🎄 💐🥂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christine! How lovely to hear from you! What with me going awol and then you being busy it feels like a long time! 😀

      Yes, things are an odd mix here at the moment – misery about what’s happening but lots of optimism about the vaccines getting us out of this mess in the hopefully not too distant future. And Brexit is done at last! Things are looking up… 🤞

      Hope you had a lovely Christmas, and didn’t acquire tooooo many books! 🎅

      Liked by 1 person

        • Happily Santa got it just about right – enough to tempt, not enough to overload! 😀 Just woke up to the great news that the Oxford AstraZenica vaccine has been approved – game-changing for the world, I think, since it’s so cheap and easy to distribute.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, I was a little concerned myself that Hemingway and Conrad were at the top of my list… I seem to have regressed into a world of colonialists and misogynists! My only defence is that even that is better than the real world… 😉

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  8. Well Joseph Conrad as the best author of the best book of the year! Not too shabby. I’m not surprised you didn’t find too many 5-star non-fiction reads. I’m currently slogging my way through a bunch of non-fiction books for my January radio column, and I really don’t like reading non-fiction consecutively. Sometimes I feel like it, but that rarely happens twice in a row. I only have a few left and then I’m jumping right back into fiction, probably a mystery to get things rolling 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Re-reads are great for comfort reading – like putting on comfy slippers! And the classics and vintage books are one way of escaping form this horrible year back to “the good old days” when all people had to worry about was war and starvation… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s great how good books can be found and enjoyed even in hard times. After your reviews this year, I read The Go-Between, Brighton Rock and White Bird Passes, and I’d already read Adèle Bedeau a couple of years ago – I too would love it if this author would write another book! Several of your other mentions are on my list, and thank you for the reminder about The Spoilt Kill which is now on my Kindle. I’m waiting for the right time to pick up Nostromo and For Whom the Bell Tolls.
    As always, thank you for your shared reviews, FF, especially as this year’s writing took some real dedication. You have given me some great reads, something to think about and some big smiles over the year. All the best for the New Year and hopefully a clearer path to reading and writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent choices – what did you think of Brighton Rock and The White Bird Passes? After I reviewed it, Jessie Kesson’s great-niece (I think) saw the review and tweeted it out – I was so glad I’d been able to praise it so highly! I’m going to read another of her books although I get the impression this one is considered her best by some margin. I’m sure you’ll love The Spoilt Kill – it’s the setting that makes it special. Nostromo and FWTBT are both books that I can imagine it would be as easy to hate as love – hope you love them!

      Aw, thank you! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the reviews, and our bookish conversations always add to the pleasure I get from reading and blogging, so thank you too! Yes, I’m feeling the slump is passing with all the more positive news this last few weeks – fingers crossed! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I loved The White Bird Passes – such an evocative depiction of a troubled but full-of-life childhood. I appreciated the writing and the intensity (almost claustrophobic) of Brighton Rock along with Greene’s well drawn characters. Both great reads.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hear, hear! I never would have read Adèle Bedeau but for you and your work in this space, FF. I’m sure there are several others, and thanks for all of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thank you, Matt! The conversations, shared opinions and occasional heated disagreements(!) that I get through the blog all enhance my enjoyment of reading, so it’s a win-win! 😀

      Like

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