5th Annual Book Oscars! (My “Best Of” List)


These are the best books I read in 2020 for seven different categories, including Best Setting, Best Dialogue, Best Hero, and more! I’m handing out awards to my favourites!

book covers on a red background

Each year when I’m reading, I keep an eye out for the “best of” in various categories. The best heroines I encounter, the best heroes, the best book settings, etc. And then at the beginning of a new reading year, I look back at the old one to see which books took the award in each category.

I call it “Book Oscars.” Now that I’ve created The Book Lover’s Companion to track my reading habits, I’ll be listing these awards in the “yearly summary” section.

As is tradition, I’m also listing them here for you(: Please share your personal “Book Oscars” for your 2020 reading year in the comments below! (Yes, these Oscars are for books I read last year…I’m just a bit late in getting this post out!) You’ll find links to previous Book Oscar Awards at the end of this post.

Best Heroine: Francie Nolan

From A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Ever since I read that Francie Nolan and I share a Myers-Briggs personality type (INFJ), I was curious to read her story. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a bildungsroman, a story type I love because I find it fascinating to watch the protagonist grow up when their author ages them skillfully and believably. Through the eyes of her thoughtful, resilient heroine, Betty Smith showed me the tenement communities of early-1900s Brooklyn, and I was totally hooked on every page of this American classic.

Sidenote: I forget who suggested this, but someone recently mentioned that Netflix should’ve done Brooklyn for their darker, exploring-“issues,” girl-coming-of-age story instead of Anne with an E. Smart. I think that would’ve been a much better fit than contorting Anne of Green Gables to fit all the themes on their wish list.

Best Hero: Arthur Clennam

From Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Many of Dickens’s male protagonists are young men, but Clennam is a bit different since he’s already 40 when we meet him. His youth was bleak and he struggles to find his place after distancing himself from it. Nevertheless, he’s hopeful, kind-hearted, and humble–traits that make for a strong man, even though they aren’t the traits that typically get the most attention.

Best Villain: The Villain in One By One

By Ruth Ware

Ware is gifted at a couple of things, and one of them is her ability to create varied casts of characters. Her villains aren’t exactly hard to spot (I’m not sure if they’re meant to be), but it doesn’t make the story any less compelling. The villain in One By One feels very human and real, but you still get glimpses of “cold-hearted killer” peeking through which are appropriately chilling.

Note: Like other Ruth Ware books, this does contain foul language.

Best Romantic Storyline: A Girl of the Limberlost

By Gene Stratton Porter

Porter’s novel is much more than a romance, but the love story does dominate the second half of the book. The interactions of Elnora and her love interest reminded me of the movie Ever After, where the heroine knows herself and knows her values, while the hero has a lot of maturing to do to catch up to her! I loved the backdrop for their unfolding story, too, with the lush Limberlost swamp of Indiana and the final scenes that play out at Mackinac Island in Michigan.

Best Dialogue: My Cousin Rachel

By Daphne du Maurier

There’s a lot of conversation in this book, and at first glance it’s pretty ordinary. But, in her signature style, du Maurier sets up a situation where there’s more to the story than meets the eye. As the reader, you listen in on conversations and you’re not sure what–or whom–to believe. Whose motivations do you trust? Who’s in charge and who’s being manipulated? I had great fun sifting through the dialogue in this story looking for [potential] double meanings.

Best Setting and Descriptions: The Long Earth

By Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Although I don’t read much sci-fi, my husband has been urging me to read this one for years, based on its premise. Our favourite thing about it is the setting. Have you ever held two mirrors up to each other and looked inside? What you find is an infinite corridor as the mirrors endlessly reflect each other. It’s rather haunting. The Long Earth captures that feeling, with a string of infinite parallel Earths that you can access by a “stepping” device. Much of the novel–which is the first in a series–plays out as a travelogue, as the protagonists explore the limitless possibilities of a million new worlds.

Best Middle Grade: The Saturdays

By Elizabeth Enright

Since I read a number of middle grade novels in 2020, I decided to give this its own award category again! The one that gets the Oscar is The Saturdays, which is just a fun, old-fashioned story with delightful characters and adventures. Enright has a knack for making her child characters three-dimensional and each unique from the other. This story is the first in her Melendy quartet which center around four siblings raised by their single dad.

Now I’d love to know: what books did you read last year that deserve Oscars?

red rose on top of a stack of books

Here are the other years’ Book Oscars:

5th Annual Book Oscars! (My \

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    1. That’s a good question! For me, it’s a mixture of sporadic (whatever excites me from my TBR when I scan it), and a list of “need to read” books that I’m reading intentionally to prepare for a book list on the blog, or to read for my local book club. At the beginning of the year I try to map out a guideline of what I’m going to get through and set a few themes. In the past my themes have been things like “more books by authors I already know,” “books on my shelf I haven’t read yet,” “books on subject X” etc. And then I reevaluate those themes and guidelines throughout the year to see if they’re still a good fit and keeping my reading life lively!

  1. This is so fun! I love Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy quartet. I’ve listened to them all on audio numerous times. My best heroine of the year is tied between Della Miles from Jack by Marilynne Robinson and Caroline Helstone from Shirley by Charlotte Bronte. They both have quiet strength, sensitivity, and graciousness. My best hero was hands down Count Alexander Rostov from A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. He reminds me of Lord Peter Wimsey: smart, sociable, loves the fine things in life, and yet also loves and cares well for people regardless of social class. The best romantic storyline is definitely between Anna and Rupert in A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson. So many great swoon-worthy moments. 🙂

    1. Ooh, thank you for sharing your Oscars! A Gentleman in Moscow was already on my TBR, but now that I hear he’s reminiscent of Lord Peter I’m moving it up higher on the list!

  2. I adore your Book Oscar posts! The book with the best setting/descriptions I read were the Caraval series by Stephanie Garber. She uses adjectives and descriptions that bring not only the setting clearly to mind, but also the mood and emotions of the characters. Some of them I can still vividly recall, months afterward!

  3. Here to find a book to take with me to my Florida beach vacation! Thanks for the ideas here (and skimming older posts).
    I just have to say I love the Arthur Clennam won your best hero award. Isn’t he the best? Little Dorrit is one of my favorite Dickens books. I also adore anything by Gene Stratton Porter!

  4. I didn’t write up a Favorite Awards for 2020 because I didn’t read as many as I usually do, but I’ll comment here with my favorites. I have similar categories, and some different… 🙂
    -Most Thought Provoking; Best Non-Fiction: “Becoming Worldly Saints,” by Michael Wittmer
    -Most Beautifully Written; Best Drama: “The Divine Symphony,” by Calvin Miller
    -Best Atmosphere: “A.D. 30,” by Ted Dekker
    -Most Resonated With; Most Fun Read: “Rainbow Valley,” by L.M. Montgomery
    -Most Admirable Heroine: Una Meredith from “Rainbow Valley,” by L.M. Montgomery
    -Best Romance; Best Humor: “Dear Enemy,” by Jean Webster
    -Most Admirable Hero: Will McCabe from “Glamorous Illusions,” by Lisa T. Bergren
    -Best Villain: Karl Litt from “Germ,” by Robert Liparulo
    -Best Story Plot: “Germ,” by Robert Liparulo

    …FAVORITE READ FROM 2020: “Rainbow Valley,” by L.M. Montgomery

    1. I know I’m ages late in replying, but thank you for sharing your awards!! Loved reading these. I agree that Una Meredith is an amazing heroine. Nice choice!

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