2020 Backlist TBR

Last year I challenged myself to read 12 specific books off my physical shelves throughout the year.  I failed spectacularly, reading only 4 and a half (I’m halfway through Cassandra) out of 12.  It’s not that I don’t want to pick up the remaining 7, it’s just that the timing never quite felt right for any of those.  So, I am officially relieving them of that pressure, by putting the pressure onto a different set of 12 books for 2020.  I’ll probably fail spectacularly at this too.  Who cares.

So, here are the 12 books that as of now, 12:50 pm on December 31, 2019, I have every intention of reading in 2020:


Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb.  I recently finished and really loved Royal Assassin (review to come), the second book in Hobb’s Farseer trilogy.  Unfortunately I’ve heard from numerous accounts that Assassin’s Quest is the weakest in this trilogy, and beyond that, it’s over 100 pages longer than Royal Assassin, which already took me six months to read.  However, I am vowing that I need to pick this up soon before I lose the momentum I was gaining with Royal Assassin toward the end; plus, it ended on a cliffhanger and I am dying to see what happens.


Regeneration by Pat Barker.  I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages and it recently got a rave review from Chelsea, meaning it’s been bumped up on my TBR.  I actually bought this entire trilogy earlier this year – something I rarely do, but the bookstore had them all used for $5 each so I couldn’t resist.  I hope I love this as much as I loved The Silence of the Girls (though I’m obviously expecting something quite different).


What Red Was by Rosie Price.  One from my Christmas haul.  I love the sound of this, and it’s been pitched as Sally Rooney meets Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, so, that sounds stupidly relevant to my interests.  Plus I know Callum loved this.


The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.  I’ve publicly announced that I’m going to read this book so many times that I think it’s lost all meaning.  But I swear to god, do not let me enter 2021 without having read this.  I love Donal Ryan and this is ridiculously short, so why on earth do I keep postponing this?!


Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.  I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what this is about, I just know that I’ve felt drawn to it for years and I’m ready to give it a go.


Solar Bones by Mike McCormack.  It’s Irish, it’s one sentence, it’s a literary fiction novel by a man that even Hannah likes.  So I just know I am going to love this.


The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon.  It’s about Alexander the Great.  Rick likes it.  That’s all I need to know.


A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  This is a modern classic that a lot of people have to read in high school and that a select number of my good friends hated, and I think it has to do with a boy falling out of a tree, or being pushed out of a tree?  I don’t know.  Don’t tell me.  I’m intrigued.


The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North.  I’ve had this on my shelf for years and I actually forgot about it entirely until it recently showed up on Laura Tisdall’s books of the decade list.  She then further sold it to me by saying there are traces of Lu Rile, the brilliant protagonist of one of my favorite books, Rachel Lyon’s Self-Portrait with Boy, in Sophie Stark.  That quickly made this one a priority for me.


A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard.  Poor Marija has been yelling at people to read this book for months and very few have taken up her call, so I decided to bite the bullet and I ordered this online the other day.  All I know is that it’s a short story collection inspired by mythology, and Goodreads tells me it’s adult even though I keep thinking it’s YA for some reason (I just realized it’s the ‘blank of blank and blank’ title), but anyway, this is a good sign.


Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated from the French by Tina Kover.  This is my pick for Women in Translation Month (August) if I don’t manage to read it sooner.  I don’t really know what this is – I think a family saga? – but I haven’t heard a single negative thing about it.  And I love Tina Kover on Twitter.  And Kristin has raved about it!


The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara.  It is time.  Despite proclaiming A Little Life my book of the decade, I still haven’t read Yanagihara’s debut.  I’ve heard it’s very different from A Little Life but still devastating, and frankly, after being so thoroughly destroyed by Yanagihara’s sophomore effort I haven’t felt up to it.  But I’m ready.  I think.

Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think?  What backlist books are at the top of your 2020 TBR?  Comment and let me know!


38 thoughts on “2020 Backlist TBR

    • Your new epithet until more people read this book 😂 I’m really looking forward to it though! Robin Hobb is SO GOOD, but you have to be down for a bit of dense fantasy, I hope that’s your sort of thing. (Dense more in terms of writing and level of detail, not world building, there actually isn’t much magic in her first series which is part of why I like it so much lol, I’m here for the characters and political intrigue.) 2020 is the year of The People in the Trees!!!


  1. I love A Separate Peace, but it is a really hard one to actually say what it’s about – ultimately I’d say it’s about friendship and youth, and the weird time between being nearly an adult but not quite (and also someone does fall out of a tree)?? I reread it this year and still loved it so I hope you enjoy it if you get to it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • All of that sounds great to me! Not the falling out of a tree part – I’m neutral on that bit 😂 But yes this is one of the ones I’m most determined to get to! Glad to have your stamp of approval.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh no, I really hope you enjoy Sophie Stark now!

    I’m afraid What Red Was fell flat for me. The People In the Trees is worth reading, but nowhere near as good as A Little Life.

    I’m going to focus on backlist authors this year – I want to read more Nicola Griffith and Karen Armstrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No pressure 😉 It’s all good though, it came to be on my shelf in the first place because of a very high recommendation from another friend, so if I hate it it’s ultimately her to blame.

      Bummer about What Red Was! And I’m definitely not expecting the greatness of A Little Life from The People in the Trees but I’m excited nonetheless.

      I haven’t read either of them, shamefully!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Every single time I see that Sophie Stark book I think of Sophie Turner and Sansa Stark and I get a weird jolt dljklajflkja

    omg, I also was under the impression that A Cathedral of Myth and Bone is YA! It’s odd, all of the author’s other books are adult too, but I always think she’s a YA writer! Maybe it is her book titles…

    You know what other backlist book on your shelf you should read? The New Jim Crow 👀

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL I actually think the same thing!

      I think it’s definitely the titles tbh?? What odd marketing unless they’re really trying to play her up as an author with crossover appeal??

      LMFAO OK LISTEN!!!!!!!!!! I came VERY CLOSE to adding that to this list, but like. Ok, so last year I picked 12 books that were kind of like ‘project books’ and I found it so difficult to find the motivation to pick them up. So this year I went with books that were like, safer and easier, just so I could cross off this goal more easily. But one of my other minor goals that I didn’t want to write down (because once I write things down I don’t want to do them, because my brain is insufferable) is to read all of the books that friends have lent me in the last couple of years. SO I AM PLANNING ON READING IT. Maybe I’ll read it in February for black history month???


  4. “A book by a man even Hannah likes” – I like that. I also do think that the book could work really, really well for you! I was afraid it would be gimmicky but god, I thought it was brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A literary fiction book by a man, I said! I know you occasionally like your genre men.

      And yes, I’m sure I’ll love it! It seems like such a me book, and I trust you if you think it wasn’t gimmicky.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooh I’m aiming to read more classics this year and I really want to try Brideshead Revisited so let me know if you want to buddy read!

    Obviously I’m so thrilled that Regeneration made your backlist TBR! I really need to get on The Iliad so I can read Silence of the Girls.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh I would LOVE to buddy read! Let me check on Goodreads to see if Steph has read it and if not I’ll propose a group read!

      The Silence of the Girls is brilliant and I would definitely recommend reading the Iliad first, however! What I would actually recommend more specifically is letting some time pass after reading the Iliad before picking it up. I know numerous people who picked up the Iliad specifically so they could read The Silence of the Girls right after, and all were a bit underwhelmed with TSOTG since it’s a VERY faithful adaptation and they felt like they were just reading the same exact story back to back. Not sure if this advice is as necessary for you since I know you already know the story of the Iliad from other books, so you pretty much know what to expect from TSOTG anyway, but still!


      • That’s actually really helpful advice! I’ll try to read The Iliad in the next few months and then maybe I can do Silence of the Girls towards the end of the year.

        Excellent! I am so excited about doing some buddy reading this year!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ooh, such an exciting list! I’m particularly looking forward to your thoughts on What Red Was, Solar Bones, and Disoriental, which are all on my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I decided to dive straight into What Red Was, so I’m already done that one – review is up on Goodreads and will be on the blog later this week!

      I’m SO excited for Solar Bones and Disoriental!

      Liked by 1 person

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