My Favorite Books of 2020

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A stack of 2020 books: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, Cover Your Tracks by Daco Auffenorde, Columbine by Dave Cullen, A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler, Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling, A Beautifully Foo…

Best Books 2020

Like most other things in 2020, my reading life sucked. I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life where I have been as distracted as this past year, but I’m trying to remind myself that this is okay, that it’s likely a coping mechanism born from all of the instability around us.

I read 46 books. Not even half of what I intended to, a number I previously thought I would surpass with ease. What kind of a book blogger only reads 46 books? A shitty one, right?

I know I’m being hard on myself, and I know for a fact that a good number of my blogging/reading friends feel the same way. I’ve reminded myself time and time again that everyone a little out of wack right now, but there’s also a bitter part of me that thinks this has just been an easy way to excuse my failures. Our minds are fun, right?

Regardless, I did read some truly wonderful books in 2020. As you might know if you’ve read any of my other reading wrap-ups, I’m not a big fan of numerical ranking or stars or anything like that. I think that kind of box-filling is both far too difficult and dismissive of a complex reading experience. (In my opinion, anyways. Maybe I’m just too indecisive.) So, I’m just going to create some vague categories and blurbs.

Books that made me think

Don’t Believe A Word by David Shariatmadari

I’ve always been fascinated by how language can be manipulated and used, and this book didn’t disappoint. In fact, there were a few bits that stuck in my mind and had me obsessing over them for the next couple of days. A super interesting read, but not too intimidating if you’re looking to branch out a little and learn something. The audio, too, was excellent.

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling

I believe this one had a blurb from the creator/writer of Silicon Valley on it, and I immediately moved it up my to-read list. Qualityland is a bit Black-Mirrorish, but with perhaps a little more levity to it. It is at once a satire and an engaging piece of fiction. Definitely want to go back and reread.


The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

A collection of short stories that is just stunning. Made me think a lot about our current political climate, the ways we go about discussing nuanced topics, and measuring the usefulness of it all.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Another very timely one — have you noticed I’m on a bit of a futuristic-societal-commentary kind of bend? A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor was the only sequel I read this year, and was a highly-anticipated one for me. Hank’s first book set him up to fall a little on this one, but it was as sharp and insightful as ever. I discuss it a little more over in this post. (It includes spoilers, so do watch out.)


Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

I mean, any book on women’s studies is bound to make you think, and this was no exception.

Books that surprised me

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune

I know Klune’s other book, The House in the Cerulean Sea, is getting a lot of hype, but people really seem to be overlooking The Extraordinaries. My affinity for this one is a little difficult to describe. Klune walks a fine line in which I sorta hate his main character, and find a bunch of things eye-roll-inducing, and yet I still thought it all absolutely charming.

Although the book is written with a fan fiction focus, Klune managed to give me that same easy enjoyment I do from the earlier Marvel movies. I don’t know about anyone else, but those films still carry the nostalgia of a sick day when I was younger and would rent as many superhero movies as I could. They’ve always held a chicken-soup magic for me. I’m definitely going to be looking out for the next one.

Skyhunter by Marie Lu

This was my first Marie Lu book! As I read, I had quite a few critiques — I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten a little more particular with my YA novels recently — but by the end, I was easily able to overlook them. It was a fun book, plain and simple.


Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

This book is wild in the best possible way. Magical realism is my weakness, and Sia Martinez was it, but with sci-fi. You at once get the levity and plot lines of a contemporary YA, but with action and a discussion on being Latinx in the US. Beautifully done and fun — I hope the next one comes soon.

Books that inspired me

The Multi-Hyphen Life by Emma Gannon

If you’re a creator/writer/artist person like me and are trying to figure out careers in an already-difficult job market, 2020 has really been a double whammy. I’m not at all where I expected or hoped I would be by now, but Gannon’s insightful and encouraging observations of a rapidly-changing job market was soothing to hear. (I listened on audio, and she reads it herself.) The idea of a multi-hyphen life, as she calls it, puts into words exactly what I’ve struggled with over the past few years and made me want to immediately sit down with my to-do list and journal.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

This might sound like sort of an odd one for this category, but every so often there are those books that come around and remind me why I write and what I want my own fiction to make others feel. Ninth House is one of those books that sucks you in and adds a whole new story to your life. Which leads to my next category . . .

 

Books that provided an escape

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

. . . see above.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up a Fredrik Backman book (I’ll be honest — I think it might have been a case of judging a book by its cover, oops!). This man is funny. Yes, there are definitely some heavy topics in here, but Anxious People’s depiction of a bank heist gone wrong is ridiculously fun and balances out the emotions. This one deserved the hype.

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune

Again? Yes. See prior note.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Really, it was as delightful a read as Hank is a person.

Sia Marinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

No, I’m not taking the easy way out! This also deserved a second mention!!

Books that didn’t live up to the hype

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This was my last book of the year, and yes, it was a beautiful read, but too slow-moving for my tastes. Plus, the twist at the end just didn’t do it for me.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Okay, yes, I was probably setting myself up for a failure with this one, but the buzz and overall lovely reviews convinced me to give it a shot. It wasn’t a bad book by any means — just nothing too special for me.

 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dang it, I was supposed to like this one. Instead, I found that it was predictable, engaged in harmful tropes, and had a bit of a sexist undertone to it.

Beautiful books

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

This was one complex beast of a book, and Danforth clearly had control the entire time. The imagery. The vivid aesthetic. I loved it — and yet it isn’t one of those “literary” books you might put off for another time because you need some action.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Yes, I didn’t like the story too much, but you can’t deny that Owens is a true crafter of words. There were more than a few passages that just took my breath away.

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

Listen, a collection of short stories almost seems trickier to pull off than a novel to me, and she did a fabulous job. I also just think Evans is a beautiful person and thinker. Seriously, check out some of her interviews.

Incarnadine by Mary Szybist

Incarnadine is a poetry collection I read while working on my senior thesis (in poetry, would you believe it?) and it stunned me. Szybist is one of those writers who doesn’t seem to waste a word, and creates wonderfully tangible verses.

Also worth mentioning that out of curiosity, I did the math on where I stood in reading diversely, and found that only about 25% of my reads were by non-white authors. LGBTQ+ representation was less at 13%. I didn’t have a particular method of choosing books this year, instead just sorta going with whatever ended up in my hands when the mood struck. In 2021, however, I’m going to be changing things in terms of how I track my reading, and intend to do better when it comes to supporting authors who aren’t white and cis.

Whew! Okay, that’s probably it! There are also a few reads that I found to be fantastic, but just didn’t make it onto this list. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with my reading year. But here’s to 2021 being a lot better.

Lots of love,

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