We polled our writers on their favourite books of the year and got almost as many suggestions as we had respondents. But there were a handful which met with multiple approvals, thus qualifying them as one of our Top Books of 2020…
“Mike Gayle’s latest novel is ultimately the story of everyone; of children growing up and leaving home; of hopes and dreams for them and the sorrow when it doesn’t turn out how we had hoped. It is beautifully written but tear-jerking. There is a character everyone can identify with and Gayle underlines that people matter, all people, even the ones we don’t find particularly likeable. There is loneliness everywhere, in all walks of life, no matter where you live and what ethnic group you identify with.”
4. Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club
It wasn’t reviewed on these pages but the quiz host turned crime writer’s debut was well-received elsewhere and hugely popular with the public. “What marks it out is the originality of the setting, inspired by a visit Osman paid to an affluent retirement village boasting a full range of recreational and medical facilities,” said one critic. “Osman’s plotting is both deft and daft in equal measure; and the key members of the over-60s murder squad are distinctly drawn.”
3. Douglas Stuart – Shuggie Bain
The Booker Prize winner has been called “a transcendent portrait of alcoholism, poverty and desperate filial love in 1980s Glasgow” (Telegraph) and a “neo-Dickensian debut [that] might be the best-reviewed book you’ve not yet read” (Vulture). “The book would be just about unbearable,” concluded the New York Times, “were it not for the author’s astonishing capacity for love.”
“Innes’ novel tracks the tension between people and state from the time of the miners’ strikes, the poll tax protests, the demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq through to Scotland’s Independence Referendum and finally, bumps up against Brexit without ever feeling like a history lesson.
Scabby Queen – and the clue’s in the title – is also a thoughtful exploration of whether women can really make the life they’d like to in a world still too often weighted against them.
It’s a phenomenal tribute to the deftness of Innes’ prose that she packages up such weighty themes into such an artfully told story that first and foremost, is a brilliant read.”
“Typically, Haig manages to weave powerful messages into his fictional setting and gives the reader plenty of food for thought about their own lives with neat little pearls of wisdom. And it is these which make Haig such a unique and prized writer. He speaks to the soul and although the book is all too easy to second guess (even more so if readers are familiar with Haig’s other work) and may be over all too quickly, the sentiments will resonate far beyond the closing of the book’s pages.”