Bookish Item | 2020 Favorite Reads: Backlist Books Edition

After our list of favorite graphic novels/manga and romances reads in 2020 it’s time to look at the backlist books we read in 2020. Both of us wanted to focus more on our backlists, so it’s a good time to talk about the ones we loved. Keep on reading for our 2020 favorite reads: backlist books edition! We’re talking about our top 15!


I did a lot better with backlist books in 2020 than I did in other years. Unfortunately, they weren’t all backlist books already on my shelves before the start of 2020. I’ll still include those if I really loved them though. Last year I read 110 backlist books and 96 were rated 4 stars and higher and 39 were 5 star reads. This is going to be interesting! In no particular order these were my favorites.

Slay – Brittney Morris

Isabelle and I read Slay and this book was so amazing! At first we only planned on reading a few chapters a day, but at a certain point we just couldn’t stop. The characters, plot, topics and so much more were just perfect! I can’t wait for this author’s next book.

The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn is a fantasy series you hear a lot about in the bookish world and I’ve been curious for awhile. This is a big book, but I loved the world building, the plot and the characters. I wish I could say I’d read more in this series already, but that’s a goal for 2021. I need more of this world.

Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire

I’ve seen these books everywhere and was always curious about them. All of these books are around 200 pages. I’m amazed by what Seanan McGuire fits into such a small book. The magic, the characters and so many amazing quotes. I’m glad I joined a group read of these books and I’ll be reading the next one releasing this week soon.

The Lovely and the Lost – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Jennifer Lynn Barnes writes amazing books and I’m slowly reading them. The Lovely and the Lost was a surprising book, but really good! The mystery element, but also how family and even connections with animals plays a big part in this book. I couldn’t put this one down.

A Girl Called Shameless – Laura Steven

If you’ve been following the blog for awhile you’ll know how much I loved the book The Exact Opposite of Okay. A Girl Called Shameless is the sequel and Laura Steven did it again. She tackles the harder subjects, but also adds some humor, friendship, romance and family into this story. I really hope we get more of this character, because she’s truly amazing.

Heartstopper Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 – Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is something I see everywhere online and it was time for me to find out what it was all about. This graphic novel/comic is just so cute and touching. I couldn’t put them down and the only reason I haven’t read vol. 3 yet is because I don’t want it to be over. I really enjoy these characters.

The How and the Why – Cynthia Hand

This was another book I saw everywhere and decided to listen to the audiobook on Storytel. I’m so glad I did. We get two storylines. Our main character Cassandra who is almost 18 and figuring things out and wants to know where she’s from. And also, Cassandra’s birth mother who’s writing letters while pregnant. The How and the Why is such a touching story and I know I will do a re-read in the future.

Spin the Dawn – Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn was a book I was curious about for awhile. It was pitched as Project Runway meets Mulan and that wasn’t far from the truth. I loved it a lot more than expected, but everything was just right: the characters, magic, story line and even a little romance. I’ll need to read the sequel soon.

The Bone Charmer – Breeana Shields

The Bone Charmer is a book that doesn’t get the hype it deserves. To start off it has an amazing cover and the story is definitely unique. Bones play a big part of this story and there are twists and turns I wasn’t quite expecting. If you haven’t read this one, I definitely recommend you pick it up!

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

This book was such a surprise. Isabelle was a big fan and after reading it I know why. There’s kind of a murder mystery, but it’s so much more. I can honestly say I never could’ve guessed how everything was going to end. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle keeps you on the edge of your seat until the last page.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson

I feel like a broken record, but another book I just couldn’t put down. I loved that this book is told through notes and documents as well as just following the main character. When reading books like this I love trying to solve it along with the characters. I didn’t guess this right at all. The sequel is also amazing and I’m looking forward to the next books as well.

The Diviners – Libba Bray

The Diviners takes place in the ’20s and I love that era. I loved that the author definitely looked up the language, outfits, settings and everything else. It felt like we were there. I loved the magic, mystery and how it was rather spooky. I’ll definitely be continuing with this series.

Jackaby – William Ritter

Another series that doesn’t get the hype it deserves. Jackaby is mysterious with lots of paranormal elements. This book made me laugh out loud and I was done before I realized it. I read all four books and they were all amazing. Humor, mystery, paranormal elements, romance and characters that you come to love.

The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh

I had this duology on my shelf for four years and I finally read them. The Wrath and the Dawn was inspired by 1001 Nights and I loved how the author wrote this. The world, romance, characters and romance were all balanced and just so good.

The Foxhole Court – Nora Sakavic

After seeing this everywhere, I knew I needed to read The Foxhole Court. Isabelle was pleasantly surprised and that got me curious. This book was nothing like I expected, but very addictive and a bit darker than I expected. I need to read the rest.


I read 28 books that were published before 2020 (and that weren’t rereads). 25 of those books I rated 4 stars or higher. So I had to make some tough choices in picking only 15 (of course Candyce had it a lot harder haha, but still!). I did make a numbered list but I’ll admit it could change if you’d ask me next week haha. Let’s see which books I ended up with on this list.

15. An Unkindness of Magicians – Kat Howard
4 stars

I’ve had this one on my to read list for quite a while before I found it on Storytel this year. Of course I decided to listen to it right away and I was not disappointed! This world is so cool and brutal and I love it. While this worked well as a standalone, I’m really happy there will be another book in this now duology. I just really liked the world and can’t wait to read more about it.

14. The Martian – Andy Weir
4 stars

This is another one I’ve been wanting to read for a long time! I still haven’t seen the movie because I wanted to read the book first (like a good bookworm haha) and I’m happy I can finally do it now. This book was so funny! I loved the main character and while some descriptions went a little over my non scientific head I did understand almost everything that was going on.

13. Vengeful – V.E. Schwab
4 stars

Victoria is one of my favorite authors ever and I’m so happy to add a book of hers on this list. Vengeful is the second book in the villains series and introducing some amazing new characters. It has what is probably my favorite opening chapter ever! And there were some twists I never saw coming.

12. The Cheerleaders – Kara Thomas
4,5 stars

This was one of my last reads of 2020 and I’m so happy I picked it up! Lately I’ve been in a YA mystery mood and I’ll admit that influenced my picks for this list as well haha. This was a really good mystery and I was trying to guess what happened throughout the book without being very successful haha. Definitely going to read more Kara Thomas books!

11. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson
4,5 stars

This is another YA mystery and possibly the reason I’m so into them again. I really enjoyed this one and it was such a fast read! The second book was released in 2020 and I already read that one as well. I’m looking forward to the third book in the series. Highly recommend this!

10. Sadie – Courtney Summers
4,5 stars

Like I said, I was on a YA mystery kick haha. I finally read this one and I decided to listen to the audiobook. And that was such a good decision! There is a podcast part to this story and that worked so so well with the audiobook. I’ll say this book gutted me, but it was also really good. You can bet I will read more Courtney Summers books after this.

9. Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
4,5 stars

This was supposed to be my Brandon Sanderson year with a yearlong read along haha. Unfortunately that did not happen as it was supposed to and I didn’t make it on my own haha. I did read 2 Brandon Sanderson books this year and one of them was Elantris. This was a big book but a really good one and it got me really excited to read more Brandon Sanderson. Hopefully in 2021 haha.

8. The Diviners – Libba Bray
4,5 stars

Another one I FINALLY picked up. I’ve owned this one for about 3 years before picking it up haha. And after finishing it I already bought the next book, which I plan on reading this year because the first book was really good! It was quite creepy and I loved the setting. The author really made it feel like I was in New York in the roaring 20’s.

7. All For the Game #1-#3 – Nora Sakavic
4-5 stars

I had my eyes on The Foxhole Court for a while now, I did hear a lot about it but never what it was actually about. So when I saw the audiobooks for the whole series were available to me I figured I would just give it a shot. And I never expected to enjoy it this much. Yes it is problematic but it also tells a very addictive story with intriguing characters. I had such a good time and I finished all three books in no time at all.

6. The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta
5 stars

This book was such a pleasant surprise! I listened to the audiobook for a buddyread with Candyce and I never expected to love it this much. But it was a definite 5 star read for me! This is written with an amazing writing style and the story was so captivating. I would highly recommend this contemporary novel.

5. The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson
5 stars

Another Brandon Sanderson in my list! This is also another buddyread I did with Candyce haha. Everyone seems to love this series and I was so happy to say I also loved the first book. I really want to read the rest of the series this year because this is such a cool world and I know Brandon expands on it even more later on. There are quite some books I have to read in this universe but I’m super excited about it.

4. The Test – Sylvain Neuvel
5 stars

This is a short read but it is incredible. I was shocked while reading it, some part are pretty brutal, but I also loved it so much. Even though I finished this quite a while ago, I still think about this story. It was very imaginative and I can’t wait to read my next Sylvain Neuvel.

3. The Lovely and the Lost – Jennifer Lynn Barnes
5 stars

I adore Jennifer Lynn Barnes so so much. She has written some of my favorite books ever and I still had this unread on my shelves. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to love this and thought it might be my least favorite JLB book. Turned out I was very wrong! This was so so good, I couldn’t put the book down. The first chapter had that JLB feel right away and I immediately loved the main characters. I can’t wait to read more Jennifer Lynn Barnes books this year!

2. A Dead Djinn in Cairo & The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djèlí Clark
5 stars

This was such a pleasant surprise! I found these short stories through and I’m so glad I did. A Dead Djinn In Cairo is really short but it introduces you to a very cool and imaginative alternate history with magical elements. I loved that world but I also loved the main character. The second story is a bit longer and has a different main character. But the world was still amazing and I liked the plot. There is going to be a full length novel next and I will definitely pick that up.

1.Slay – Brittney Morris
5 stars

My favorite backlist book of the year was another surprise! I won a book in a give-away and I decided to pick up Slay. A decision I will never regret. This was such a wonderfully written story. Like Candyce said, we planned on reading a couple chapter a day but I just couldn’t put it down and finishes it in no time. I cried at certain points while I yelled at others haha. This was an emotional, empowering read and I highly recommend it to everyone.

So these are the backlist books we read and loved in 2020! If we follow our goals it’s going to be really hard to write this list next year. What backlist books did you read and love? Let us know in the comments! We may have them as well and it’s good to know what we need to start with.

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