Top 10 books of 2020 – Ria Kakkad

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Top 10 books of 2020 – Ria Kakkad

My top 10 books of 2020 don’t really reflect the literary trends of the year. Some books helped me understand my anxieties around the current climate, and the societal shift from what we called ‘normal’ to lockdown. Others allowed me to escape the difficult circumstances. These works have been listed in no particular order – I just couldn’t choose a favourite!


Love in the time of cholera – Gabriel García Márquez

This novel was published in 1985. It follows the story of Fermina, who separates from her true love, Florentino, after deciding to marry Dr Urbino. As you can predict from the title, there are many uncanny similarities between the novel and the current global pandemic.

Not only is cholera the disease, but Florentino experiences similar symptoms after being exposed to Fermina’s love. He experiences psychological and physical illnesses and has to be placed in quarantine.

Stepping away from the topic of illness, what most struck me was the theme of separation. Florentino and Fermina were separated for exactly 51 years, nine months and four days. However, they were able to resume their love for each other in old age. Florentino and Fermina’s relationship gives a beacon of hope to those separated due to lockdown.

It also celebrates old age. García Márquez highlights the realities of ageing in the novel: forgetfulness, fears of falling, balding etc. However, he doesn’t let old age stop the couple from being together. This was the first time I’ve seen old age presented in this way.


One Hundred Years of Solitude– Gabriel García Márquez

Another one of García Márquez’s classics. This novel follows the Buendía family over a period of 100 years. It is infused with one of García Márquez’s best writing features – magical realism.

The Buendías experienced a lot of what we’re currently dealing with in lockdown: an insomnia plague, which forces the residents of Macondo in lockdown.The characters were at first, grateful for the amount of time to get tasks done but then realise they are losing track of days and forgetting. They face lucid dreams, quarantine, days repeating on end.

This is a great novel and would recommend everyone to read it.


Love in Colour– Bolu Babalola

I’m not really the biggest fan of rom com/romantic literature. However, Babalola is one of my favourite people I follow on Twitter, and when I found out she was writing a book, I knew it would be amazing.

Love in Colour comprises of beautifully reimagined love stories from history and mythology. Whilst she focuses on tales from West Africa, Babalola also puts her own twist on Greek mythology and others.

I initially said that I wasn’t a fan of love stories, but the author’s twist on these stories reduces the corniness. It was so easy to connect to the characters, a couple of the stories actually made me cry. And I don’t cry like that.


Girl, Woman, Other– Bernardine Evaristo

This is one book I couldn’t put down. The novel follows the lives of 12 British Black women, from different generations and social classes. I loved the way that Evaristo individualised each character and their stories, but then showing the bigger picture as to how they’re all connected. You feel empathy for each character – I couldn’t pick a favourite.

I also loved Evaristo’s poetic writing style. The lack of full stops and capital letters really did make me feel like I was inside the mind of the characters, hearing their never-ending thoughts. It’s a super creative style writing, and definitely helped to connect to the women.


4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE– Poetry Collective (Roshni Goyate, Sharan Hunjan, Sheena Patel & Sunnah Khan)

This poetry collection is split into 4 different pamphlets by each poet. I don’t think I’ve read anything like this from the South Asian Diaspora literature genre before. It adds something different to the table: sex, love, politics.

The pamphlets showed off the individual writing style of the poets, and how they addressed their experiences of being a Brown woman in Britain. However, the four pamphlets harmonised so well into one collection; showed the importance of Brown girl support.


Home Body– Rupi Kaur

I’m a big fan of Rupi Kaur’s work. The simplicity of her writing heightens the emotions she is trying to convey. You can sense her grown and maturity in this collection. Whilst she still struggles with imposter syndrome, the honesty in her writing was so empowering.


The story of a brief marriage – Anuk Arudpragasam

This is a chilling novel about the Sri Lankan civil war. You’d assume it to be some-what a love story initially, with the marriage of Dinesh and Ganga. However, it is clear that Arudpragasam wanted to emphasis the human loss of this war. The events take place during a short period of time, just over a day. Some might complain that the novel doesn’t give any political context, but what it highlights was the loss of humanity. Arudpragasam’s precise writing highlights the nostalgia for pre-war times of the characters; the way Dinesh eats daal, images of his mother. It’s heart-breaking.


Americanah– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is one of my favourite authors of all time. Her characters just live with you forever. It was the same with this novel which follows the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze. Both are from Nigeria but face completely different experiences when they move to England and United States.

Both experience changes in their identity, and realise for the first time, what it means to be Black. Through racism, beauty standards, politics, nostalgia and so much more, Adichie highlights how complex the Black identity is across the Atlantic.


The Deep Rivers –Jose María Arguedas

This novel follows a Peruvian child, Ernesto. There is no way the reader cannot feel any sympathy for him. For a 14-year-old boy, Ernesto’s confusion in identity leaves an psychological impact. He’s torn between the Western, Catholic world, and his native Quechuan identity. The author highlights the difficulties of living in a Western and Indigenous world, emphasising how much of an impact Spanish colonialism still has on indigenous language, culture and religion.


Tomorrow in the battle think on me – Javier Marías

This novel follows Víctor. He attempts to have an affair with a married woman, Marta, who dies in his arms whilst her two-year old son is asleep across the hallway, and her husband is away in London for work.

This was a long-winded mystery but so worth reading. Marías drops so many hints throughout the novel about Marta’s husband, it’s impossible to put the book down! I love Marías’ writing style; he talks about death in such a matter-of-factly way. Dying is the same for everyone, no matter how glamour or rich you are.

By Ria Kakkad


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