Yep, you read that right. TWENTY five-star predictions! I’m sure there will be plenty of readers doing various “20 in ’20” challenges next year, so I doubt I need to explain what I mean there. Since 2019 was a subpar reading year for me in terms of not loving what I was reading, and not feeling like I was making any headway in any of my longer-term reading goals (2019 wrap-up and 2020 goals coming soon), I decided to theme my 20 in ’20 list around books that I think have a good chance of being 5-star reads for me. Since this is going to fit in with some of my other 2020 reading goals as well, it’s doubling as a list of backlist books that I already own, some of which have been sitting on my shelves for YEARS, and quite a variety of genres and topics. Essentially, these are popular books I feel like I’ve been missing out on even though I already own them and expect to love them!
Disclaimer: I have never done a 5-star predictions post before, so I have no idea how I’ll turn out with accuracy, but this seemed like a fun way to try and improve my reading experience for the new year, so here we go!
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – Literary fiction about a woman who endeavors to escape her life and hibernate for a year with the help of prescription drugs. I think this is the most recent addition to my shelves from this list, and it’s also the book I’m most confident about being a 5-star read for me.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman – Literary fiction about a young woman from a family of Turkish immigrants embarking on the US College Experience at Harvard. This was a 2018 shortlister for the Women’s Prize that has been on my TBR since about that time. It seems like a hit-or-miss book, but I’m guessing it will be a hit for me!
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – Contemporary/literary fiction (with an LGBTQ+ element) about a group of friends through the ages, one of whom is holding on to a tragic past he can’t let go. I wasn’t interested in a long sob-fest when this first came out, but have a better sense of my reading taste now and think I’ll actually really appreciate it, even (especially) if it makes me cry.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado – Short story collection that seems to stray into a wealth of different genres, including fantasy, magical realism, and horror. It’s been nominated (and won!) quite a few prizes and awards, and looks very up-my-alley.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – Horror about a house that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. This one’s also won quite a few awards. I love weird and creepy books, so this seems like it’ll be an obvious win for me.
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison – Horror about a garden of kidnapped women tattooed with butterflies- one survivor is discovered. I bought this because it seems to be a horror staple, though I’m leaning toward reading it as a standalone because it sounds like the rest of the series is less impressive. Nevertheless, I have a good feeling about this first book!
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – Horror and fantasy elements in a novel featuring a secret library and a missing god. This sounds like a wild ride, bookish but not too bookish (exactly my taste), and just my brand of bizarre. I hope!
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – A YA fantasy about a slave and a soldier, inspired by ancient Rome. I used to love YA fantasy but lately have been reading a lot less of it. However, there are still a few titles firmly on my TBR, and this is one of them. It’s got great ratings, which hopefully bodes well for me.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake – YA contemporary about a set of twins; the boy has been accused of raping a friend of the girl’s, and so the girl must decide whom she believes and where her loyalties lie. When I make the occasional dip into YA contemporary, I want it to be hard-hitting, the only kind that seems to work for me now that I’m beyond the target age for YA lit. This sounds like it’ll fit the bill perfectly.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Myth retelling of the Trojan War, featuring a strong m/m relationship between two of the main characters. Though I didn’t love Circe quite as much as expected, I did love Miller’s writing and am fond of The Iliad, so I think this story will ultimately work better for me. It also won the Women’s Prize a few years ago, which seems like a good sign!
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – Classic romance about a set of sisters in early 1800s England who must learn to balance societal expectations and love. I’ve been slowly making my way through Austen’s novels and mostly loving them; I only have two novels left to read, and of those I think this is the one I’ll like the most. (The other is Mansfield Park.) I did see the film a while back, but I only remember broad strokes of the plot now and expect I’ll enjoy rediscovering the story.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck – A classic family saga that’s a sort of reimagining of the Adam and Eve biblical narrative. I liked the only other Steinbeck book I’ve read so far (Of Mice and Men) and feel like my failure to read more of his work is a hole in my reading life. I’ve also been recommended The Grapes of Wrath, but East of Eden is the one that I think I have the best shot at loving.
Dracula by Bram Stoker – Classic supernatural vampire narrative. Vampires are my favorite supernatural creature to read about- there’s usually plenty of plot, and complicated morals! And usually weird romance as well. What’s not to love? I’m already somewhat familiar with the story so I’m fairly confident about this being a 5-star read as well.
Vicious by V. E. Schwab – Science fiction about a couple of college roommates who turn a research project into super powers. I think this is supposed to be like a comic in novel form, which sounds excellent, and I already know I like Schwab’s writing- I’ve been meaning to read several of her books, and this is the one that appeals most at the moment.
The Martian by Andy Weir – Science fiction set on Mars, when one member of an exploratory team is left behind in a storm. I’ve already seen and loved the film and have been waiting to forget enough of it, because I hear the novel is fantastic as well. I think now’s a good time to return to this story!
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – Back to Earth with an investigative nonfiction account of one woman’s chase after a California serial killer. I like true crime and this one’s held up as one of the best, so I’m assuming I’ll love it as well!
Columbine by Dave Cullen – More nonfiction true crime, this one an exploration of the infamous school shooting in 1999. I was too young them to have much of an idea about what was going on when this actually happened, but as school shootings seems to be tragically rising as an occurrence I think I’ll appreciate this look back at the beginning of the phenomenon.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – Historical fiction about the life of an adopted Irish boy beginning in the 1940’s (with an LGBTQ+ element). I liked but didn’t love Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky last year, though I appreciated his writing enough that I’ve been wanting to give him another try. This was also the BOTM book of the year winner in 2018, so I’m hoping I’ll be among the many who love this one!
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Historical fiction with SFF elements (time travel / reliving a life). This seems so much to my taste: reality with a twist; I bought it back in 2016 when I started blogging (I think), and I don’t think my chances of loving it have decreased even though other aspects of my reading taste have definitely changed in that time.
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – Historical mystery revolving around the Paris Opera. This sounds like a longer, updated Phantom of the Opera, which is a story I love. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Chee’s writing, so I don’t know why I wouldn’t love this!
And that’s all twenty! All cover images reflect the editions on my shelf that I’ll be reading from. I hope to get to them all, but honestly the main goal is just to find more 5-star reads and make my reading more enjoyable in 2020, so as long as that’s happening I’m not going to be heartbroken if I don’t complete the entire list.
Let me know which of these titles you’ve already read and loved!
And of course, merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a great end of the year to all! 🙂
The Literary Elephant