If I have accomplished anything during quarantine, it’s been surpassing my reading goals two-fold. I mean, really, what better time to bury your head in a stack full of books than in a global pandemic. 2020 introduced me to a plethora of fantastic stories that I can’t help but share with everyone I know (friends of mine know this all too well). Here were some of my favorites. Leave your favorites in the comments below!
Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman
“We have all of this in common, yet most of us remain strangers, we never know what we do to each other, how your life is affected by mine. Perhaps we hurried past each other in a crowd today, and neither of us noticed, and the fibers of your coat brushed against mine for single moment and then we were gone.”
At the core of it, Anxious People is about human connection. The story revolves around a bank robber who, in a failed attempt to rob a bank, accidentally takes a group of eight strangers hostage. The captives are an eclectic bunch, each with a lifetime of grievances, secrets, and passions ready to boil over. None of them (including the bank robber) are actually what they appear to be. As the media and police interrogate them on the hostage situation, they begin to reveal truths about themselves that culminate into a completely unexpected chain of events. Anxious People tells a rather ridiculous story while capturing the human spirit in such a beautiful and relatable way.
Fredrik Bachman is a fantastic writer. For those who have read his other novels, he has a very unique and quirky writing style. Yet, he constructs such a clever story here that is sarcastic and witty yet compassionate and thought-provoking. Even though the book is comprised of many characters, Bachman gives us a deep dive in each and every one of their lives – their secrets, their grievances, and, most of all, their anxieties. By the end of the story, I felt like I knew all of the characters on a personal level. It was not like anything I’ve ever read, and I think that’s what made it such a fascinating story. The narrative touches upon all different types of relationships – parental love and the anxiety they have over their children, relationships between spouses, and even relationships between acquaintances. This story is very special to me and one of my favorite reads of 2020.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
“One should only walk away from an autobiography with, at best, an uncomfortable distaste for its author.“
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin. But her luck changes when she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: ghostwriting for Verity Crawford, a best-selling author who needs helps to finish up her popular book series. Verity’s husband, Jeremy, commissions Lowen to finish the series at the family’s home since his wife is injured and unable to do the work herself. Lowen arrives at the Crawford’s home, prepared to do research and sort through notes to get herself started. But while searching through old outlines, she finds the manuscript of Verity’s unfinished autobiography and bone-chilling secrets about the Crawford family she never thought possible. This creepy yet captivating read will keep you page-turning until you’re finished in one sitting.
I think the best way to describe this book is: “a total mind-fuck.” For those familiar with Colleen Hoover, this book is nothing like her other romance novels. Verity is thrilling yet disturbing and just completely unexpected in so many ways. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers (or in need of a story for book club that will allow for a great deal of discussion), I would highly recommend grabbing a copy of this book. The ending is so shocking and twisted – I still don’t know how to feel about it. I give five mind-blowing stars to Colleen Hoover and this incredibly written novel.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
“’Nothing is all good or all bad,’ she says. ‘Life is so much messier than that.’ And there in the dark, he asks if it was really worth it. Were the instants of joy worth the stretches of sorrow? Were the moments of beauty worth the years of pain? And she turns her head, and looks at him, and says, ‘Always.‘”
In an attempt to claim her own independence, Addie LaRue makes a deal with the Devil to become immortal. But no bargain this grand comes without paying a price. Addie gains her freedom at the expense of being forgotten by every person she meets. That is, until 300 years later when she meets a man who remembers her name. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue tells the incredible story of a woman who will do anything she can to learn, grow, and ultimately survive, despite living a life of solitude and loneliness. The story goes back and forth from past to present and takes place in a myriad of cities all inhabited by Addie over the course of her 300+ year life.
V.E. Schwab is a fantastic storyteller and an even better writer. The characters are complex – particularly Addie, who we see develop over the course of 300 years, starting in 1714 France through 2014 New York. There were so many times throughout this story where I genuinely felt her pain, her longing for love, desire for knowledge, and, most of all, her yearning for a life worth remembering. I don’t think I have ever cried reading a book and I ended this story in tears. If you are a fan of magical-realism or fantasy, I’d highly recommend you pick up a copy of this book.