While I am a writer, I am also an avid reader. As a child, I maintained a diary where I recorded every book I read. Of course, this was before the time of spreadsheets and Goodreads.
Once I discovered Goodreads, I was a convert. It was the best place for me to maintain a list of my readings. I love setting annual targets every year and seeing how many books I end up reading that year.
The year I took a break from my career, I read 85 books in a single year! It was crazy, but awesome ???? In the years after that, it has been a more moderate 35-40 books a year.
In 2020, I read 36 books, totaling 12,125 pages (yes, Goodreads can crunch a lot of data!) I read a lot of historical fiction, which is slowly emerging as one of my favourite genres.
Below is a list of my top reads from the year, and I hope you will find something in it for you!
The year is 1957. A Scottish hero, Lymond, has been branded a traitor by his countrymen. Leading a band of outlaws, Lymond embarks on a series of adventures that lead to a nail-biting and dramatic end.
Complex, lyrical, engrossing. It takes a while to follow the storyline, historical events and myriad characters in The Game of Kings, but as you progress in the book, it becomes more and more captivating. Lymond is a charismatic protagonist, dangerous, funny and heroic, all at the same time. I would recommend this book to those who like historical fiction. Piece of advice: skim through the quotes and references that you don’t understand and push through with the story. It will be worth the effort!
The Game of Kings is the first in a series of books. I did read the second one too, Queen’s Play, but I would recommend you read the first one, to begin with, and then decide if the style is to your liking.
I read 6 of Georgette Heyer’s books this year and I am an ardent fan. I think if I were to pinpoint my favourite author of all times, it would be Georgette Heyer. She is witty, her characters are fun, and her plots are hilarious. For a Regency-era writer, her books were way ahead of her time.
In The Faro’s Daughter, the eponymous heroine, Deb takes offense from the rich and proud Max Ravenscar (in a Pride and Prejudice kind of way) and what follows is an entertaining battle of wits between the two, ranging from masquerades and kidnappings to letters and races. The drama leads to the development of an unwilling respect for each other’s intelligence, and bit by bit, they go from locking horns to falling in love. Full of drama, action, romance and confusion (typical Heyer), this book is supremely entertaining.
After being introduced to Afghanistan through Khaled Hosseini’s books, I could not have imagined another author taking me through a profound journey to Afghanistan. Nadia Hashimi, a pediatrician based in the States, writes a remarkable tale of Afghani refugees- the risks they run, the little victories they achieve and the challenges they overcome and sometimes succumb to.
What I loved the most about ‘When the Moon is Low’ was the dual narrative. The events are described from Fereiba, a woman’s perspective and also from Saleem, her son’s perspective. Both sides of the narrative are equally important. After having read this moving tale, I know that I will look at refugees in a new light from now, being able to appreciate a portion of the hardships and challenges they may have gone through to reach where they have reached. Definitely an eye-opening book, profound, tragic and yet full of hope.
I already warned you about my Georgette Heyer obsession this year.
Devil’s Cub was one of the best. If you like the genre, start with ‘These Old Shades’, which is the story of Dominic’s parents, and another delightful read. But if you were to read just one of the two, skip directly to Devil’s Cub. The stories are not related and if you love it as much as I did, you may even go back and read ‘These Old Shades’.
Dominic, the hero of Devil’s Cub, is in the need of being ‘rescued’. He is throwing away his life, until he runs into Mary. As cliched as it may sound, the rest of the story is anything but cliched. What follows is a pell-mell typical of Heyer’s books that sent me in splits, melted my heart and just blew me apart 😀
Now if one is reading Georgette Heyer, you also have to go back to the original classic, Jane Austen. While I had read all her books back in University (I am an English Literature graduate!), I happened to chance upon a movie based on ‘Emma’ (available on Prime). While Emma is not one of Austen’s most well-known books, the movie brought the book alive for me.
I went back and re-read the book (after almost a decade) and because of the brilliant acting by Gwyneth Paltrow who plays Emma, I could visualize the whole book and enjoyed the story so much more than I had done in my first read.
Sarah Adams may not be a very well-known writer, but personally, I feel she is an undiscovered jewel.
Of all the unusual Regency romance storylines I have read, never have I read one in which the heroine is a con woman! Rose’s plot to con an Earl into believing she is carrying his child goes awry when instead of paying her off, he kidnaps her, offers to marry her and take her to his family! It doesn’t help that Rose starts to suspect that Carver is aware of her dupe and is merely having fun at her cost. The story follows a series of hilarious escapades, but despite the humour, Rose and Carver’s chemistry is undeniable. If you like Regency romance, this one will bowl you over.
Now this one may seem obvious, given that I am one of the contributing writers in this collection of tales from the early days of COVID, but I kid you not, the stories in this collection are amazing. One woman discovers her husband has been unfaithful, but she is stuck with him in the lockdown. Another woman finds herself on the famous (notorious?) Diamond Princess when COVID hits. A travel agent’s world is rocked when all her clients start calling her regarding cancellations after all travel is suspended. A social worker finds herself in a retirement home in a COVID hotspot. One self-employed mother finds herself at home with two energetic kids. And my contribution is light-hearted checklist for anyone heading into the next lockdown- grab those hobby bags, get a partner and stock up on the wine!
If you lived through COVID, this book will surely strike a chord with you.
You may have seen this on Netflix (I haven’t), but the book was truly interesting. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a unique take on the Second World War, in which we see Guernsey, an island that was under German Occupation, through the memories of the residents. What is even more unique is that the entire book is in the form of letters. It is almost like getting pieces to a puzzle and little by little, you connect things and make the story. A remarkable and creative style of story-telling!
If you like trying new genres, you must pick up this highly rated book.
Okay, you know by now that I am partial to historical romance. If you were one of those who was bowled over by ‘Bridgerton’ on Netflix, expect to love ‘The Fall of Lord Drayson’.
Colin, the Earl of Cavendish, means to turn Lucy and her mother out of the house they live on. But when he falls and loses his memory, Lucy takes the opportunity to pretend he is their servant to avoid being kicked out of the house. It is a funny, romantic story with happy endings, of course. A perfect romance!
Delightful read – ‘Sprig Muslin’ is one of Georgette Heyer’s best works. Sir Gareth is the epitome of poise and elegance. He plans to propose to Lady Hester, a sensible woman who would make a good companion. On the way to her house, he runs into saucy Amanda who turns his life into a wild mess with her imaginative antics. Meanwhile, young Hildebrand decides to play knight-in-shining-armour towards the damsel-in-distress, Amanda, who is running away from her grandfather and her sweetheart, and now from Sir Gareth too.
This book is hilarious and reminiscent of a Shakespearean comedy. I adored Sir Gareth’s composure and good spirits. I enjoyed Amanda’s haughty tantrums. I admired Lady Hesther’s equilibrium and hidden sense of wit. I chuckled at Hildebrand’s antics. Such fun- I could barely put the book down!
I truly enjoyed reading through 2020 and am already excited about my new reads in 2021. There are so many incredible books out there, waiting to be discovered. I hope you find something in this list that is of interest to you.
If you are looking for book recommendations, you may like reading:
In Search of Love... a sweet love story!
Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.