Savvy Recommendations: Hidden Gems of 2020

Happy Hump Day Savvy-readers! Our favourite time of the year is around the corner! As you prepare your shopping lists, decorate your trees, and choose a novel to curl up with over the holidays, check out our round-up of this year’s hidden gems. These are our Savvy Recommendations of 2020 that you do not want to miss!

Amaial’s Picks

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

If you could go back into the past – where would you go? Before the Coffee Gets Cold transports you into a quaint cafe in Tokya holding a bewildering secret. Through the eyes of four women whose lives are intertwined by their connection to the cafe, Kawaguchi explores the realities of love, loss, and time. Originally written as a single-location screenplay this novel is earnest in it’s reflection of human nature. The novel grows on you with every page and is the ideal holiday read.

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Loveboat, Taipei follows Chinese-American Ever who finds herself in Taiwan for the summer before college. What is meant to be a summer of cultural education becomes a life-changing and eye-opening journey full of passion, inhibition, and learning more about herself than she imagined. Ever’s story translates across the board – many of us face the same difficulties with self-discovery in our youth. This novel was addictive to say the least – I could not put it down.

Mother Land by Leah Franqui

Clash of cultures? Count me in every time. Mother Land is an introspective, humorous, and emotional novel about Rachel – an American woman who finds herself newly moved to Mumbai with her Indian-born husband. When Rachel’s mother in law Swati shows up at her doorstep, she is left to navigate this complicated relationship in a country as foreign to her as her mother in law’s values. As a South Asian woman who has spent quite a bit of time in the West I found myself resonating with both characters but most of all with the similarities they found in one another.

Jesse’s Picks

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

A novel about children who spontaneously combust when they get agitated (don’t worry, they’re okay) isn’t typically the first thing I would pick up, but this stunning cover and comps to Wes Anderson made me read it, and am I ever glad they did. This novel is uproariously funny and has a surprising amount of emotional depth as well. Technically it was released in hardcover in 2019, but it was re-released in paperback this year and I need more people to read it so I’m going to use that as an excuse to talk about it!

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that I thoroughly enjoy reading memoirs, a genre that I didn’t particularly enjoy all that much. The last memoir that I read before we went into quarantine was none other than Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey. When Natasha was nineteen, her mother was murdered by her former stepfather. That’s the basis for this stunningly beautiful novel that tackles issues like murder, racism, domestic abuse, and grief. In the hands of an expert writer like Trethewey, I’m comfortable saying Memorial Drive is the best memoir I have ever read, and more people need to know about it.

The Light at the End of the Day by Eleanor Wasserberg

My fiancée is Polish, so as soon as I heard that The Light at the End of the Day was set in Krakow, I knew I had to read it. I’ve always been fascinated by stories of civilians during WWII and I wanted to learn a bit more about the Polish experience in particular, and that’s exactly what I got from this beautifully written novel. Centring on a Jewish family forced to flee in the wake of the Polish invasion and a lost painting at the heart of the story, The Light at the End of the Day is a remarkable work of historical fiction that deserves a wider readership.

Marisol’s Picks

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

This is a tiny firecracker of a book and such a fun read! A contemporary classic in Bengali, The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is an entertaining story centred on three generations of Bengali women in the dynastic but declining Mitra family. Featuring a mischievous ghost (also known as the aunt who wouldn’t die) and an array of colourful characters, this is a great read and perfect for someone trying to squeeze in a few more books to meet their reading goals!

Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall

This is one YA book that didn’t receive enough hype but it is incredibly moving, I probably cried three times while reading it. The book follows Corinne Parker, an all-star runner who grieves the sudden loss of her girlfriend, Maggie. The only trouble is, no one knows Corinne is grieving because no one knew about her relationship with Maggie. This is a deeply layered novel that weaves between past and present and I found it to be an incredibly touching read. There aren’t enough books about grief out there and this one made it so relatable, especially for teens.

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan

I’ve mentioned this one on the blog before but it’s so good I really hope everyone will pick it up! Taking place in Iron Age Britain, this story is set in a remote settlement threatened by Roman invaders. Totally immersive and so fascinating in its portrayal of pagan traditions, this book blends magic and history and feels very timely in its portrayal of issues like progress, economic expansion, and humanity’s relationship with the natural world.

Alice’s Picks

Rabbit Foot Bill by Helen Humphreys

This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of family and friendship. It’s interesting and shocking. It’s also a quick read if you’re looking for something to devour in one sitting.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

One of my markers of a good book is if it makes me feel something I wasn’t expecting. This one made me feel frustrated and gave me tons of wanderlust. I recommend the audiobook as well!

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons

The reason this one was so brilliant (hehe) for me was how relatable it was. It confronts a tough topic that everyone has to death with regularly throughout their life: death and dignity in death. The characters were so real and delightful as well. Eudora is 99.9% the same person as my grandmother and I loved it.

There you have it Savvy Readers – the hidden gems of 2020! These novels moved us, made us laugh, and sent chills down our spines. With so much going on this year, it was super easy to miss some of these books, so we wanted to highlight them again and bring them back to your attention because they’re so, so good! We hope you give our picks a chance and let us know what was in your treasure trove of books for the year. Leave a comment below if you have read any of our lineup or tweet us @SavvyReader!

Happy Reading,
Amaial

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