Cultural Wednesday’s Best Books 2020

I love a good book. Fact or fiction it doesn’t matter. One of my great blogging joys in my summer and best book lists. So here we are Cultural Wednesday’s Best Books 2020 book reviews of best titles I have read this year, well these and the ones in my summer list. Perfect present inspiration for bookworm in your life.

Cultural Wednesday's Best Books 2020 round up of best books to read this year
Disclosure: Contains Affiliate Links if you buy a book from Waterstones I will get a tiny bit of money. Some books were given to me by publishers, others via NetGalley and others I paid good money for. Books which I don't enjoy, don't get reviewed.

Best Fiction Books 2020

This year I have been to sunny Greece, a dark Netherlands, Stratford upon Avon, Manchester, Bath and Borneo all without leaving my sofa. Thank goodness for imaginary travel in a year that has barely seen me leave home!

One August Night by Victoria Hislop

The Island took the world by storm when it was published in 2007, it sold millions, won lots of awards and introduced the world to the Spinalonga leprosy colony in Cyprus.  Thirteen years later Victoria Hislop has come up with a sequal, One August Night picks up where The Island finishes as Spinalonga closes.  If you have been longing to know what happens next, or are simply longing for some Greek sunshine then One August Night is for you.

Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijnveld 

Discomfort of Evening is a book like no other I have ever read.  Discomfort is the key word here.  We see the world through the eyes of 10 year old Jas who is growing up in strict religious home in The Netherlands.  It is cold and bleak and yet somehow compelling.  So compelling that it won the International Booker Prize this year, not bad for a debut.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I wept buckets when reading Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.  She tells the tale of Shakespeare’s wife and children, especially Hamnet.  You are transported back to Elizabethan Stratford upon Avon.  Most fittingly Hamnet is set in a time of plague.  Maggie O’Farrell always writes beautifully but for me Hamnet is her best book so far.  Evocative, timely and intensely moving.  One of the best books I have read, ever.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Richard Osman the tall lovely man from the telly has written a whodunnit.  Our team of detectives are all residents in a retirement village.  They like to mull over old cases in weekly meetings when suddenly a murder happens in their own backyard and they set about solving it.  Every bit as warm and lovely as Richard Osman is on the TV.

The Secrets of the Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas

The Railway Girls are a group of women who are working on the Railway in Manchester during World War 2.  The Secrets of the Railway Girls is the second book in the series by Maisie Thomas now we discover the secrets that the girls have that would be better shared with friends.

Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain

Every time a new Rose Tremain book comes out my heart does a little leap.  She had written some of my favourite books over years, even better each one is totally different to the last.  This time we are in the Victorian era switching back and forth between Bath, London and Borneo in a complex love triangle.  Every bit as good as all her others and a hymn to joys of being a tall woman.

Six Tudor Queens: Katheryn Howard : The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir

Alison Weir is writing a novel a year about each of Henry VIII wives this year it is the turn of Katheryn Howard.  Katheryn was a motherless young girl, it was her curse to be attractive and in the King’s orbit with power hungry relatives.  Alison Weir manages to inhabit each successive wive and tell their stories in a vivid, compelling way.  Roll on Katherine Parr next year.

Best Non Fiction Books 2020

Whilst I love a good story, it is facts that I really love (indeed for me the best fiction is laced with facts).

Sybille Bedford : An Appetite for Life by Selina Hastings

Sybille Bedford wrote one of my favourite books Jigsaw, I read it many years ago and knew nothing of the author other than the glimpses she offers in Jigsaw.  Now Selina Hastings has written a biography of Sybille who lived a fascinating life, she was born a German aristocrat, left Germany as Nazism rose, lived in the South of France surrounded by artists, came to London, Paris, California and Rome.  She pinged between lovers, lived mainly on the generosity of friends until late in life she started to write.

The Museum Makers by Rachel Morris

If you love museums and family histories then The Museum Makers is for you.  Morris starts with a trunk full of family secrets and weaves the story she finds in with her work in and love for museums.  

A Tomb with a View: Stories and Glories of Graveyards by Peter Ross

When lockdown is over and we are allowed to travel more freely I am going to explore graveyards.  A Tomb with a View explores the stories both of graveyards and the fascinating tales of the people buried in them.  What sounds as if it could be gloomy book is in fact fantastically uplifting.  A book for the incurably curious.

  • A Tomb with a View by Peter Ross
  • Published by Headline
  • Hardback £20

Secret Life of the Savoy by Olivia Williams

Mr CW worked just over the road from the Savoy when we first met and we often used to meet for cocktails in the American Bar.  The Savoy is a beautiful glamorous place and story behind it is every bit as interesting as the people you see wafting across the lobby.  Inextricably linked to the Savoy Hotel is D’Oyly Carte Opera company and Gilbert and Sullivan operas.  

These are Cultural Wednesday’s Best Books 2020, what have been your favourite books of the year?



  1. December 19, 2019 / 9:08 am

    Nice collection Catherine, my favourite book this year has been The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa that I discovered this month, but aware that’s been published few years ago! Festive greetings, hope France treats you well! X

    • Catherine
      December 19, 2019 / 9:10 am

      Now you mention it I bought this for Mr CW for Christmas a few years ago, time to raid his bookshelves

  2. November 26, 2020 / 5:13 am

    So many good books here, Catherine. I I didn’t know that Maggie O’Farrell had written one about Shakespeare. I like the sound of the Alison Weir and Savoy one too. I thoroughly enjoyed the Richard Osram book, thank you for the excellent recommendation.

    • Catherine
      November 26, 2020 / 7:48 am

      The Savoy one has your name written all over it!

  3. December 7, 2020 / 8:16 pm

    That Savoy one looks great – it’s on my list #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      December 7, 2020 / 8:17 pm

      Such an interesting tale

  4. December 7, 2020 / 8:43 pm

    I have NOT read enough books this year (does a re-read of Bridget Jones Diary count?!) Adding these to my reading wishlist. I love Maggie Farrell – I Am, I Am, I Am was my favourite book of last year, so if this is better still I really need to read it. Thanks for the inspiration, and for joining in with #CulturedKids

  5. January 4, 2021 / 3:07 pm

    I recently bought a Victoria Hislop book in a charity shop and forgotten how much I like her writing, so here’s another for list! Happy new year, Catherine #culturedkids

  6. January 5, 2021 / 9:30 am

    As we head into lockdown 3.0 in 2021 I’m way too late commenting on your post, apologies for not getting my act together sooner! This is a great list for lockdown reading though! #culturedkids!

    • Catherine
      January 5, 2021 / 10:21 am

      Maybe I need to change the title!

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