Best Books of 2020
Well, friends, it’s been a year! I don’t know about you, but my reading habits really changed in 2020. I started off reading a lot, as I was travelling and researching a novel, and then – well, you know what happened. For a few months I found it hard to focus on reading at all, and then I flipped around and was entirely losing myself in books, chain-reading novels as a way to escape from reality. That settled down as winter set in, and I enjoyed slowing my pace and getting absorbed in some longer books.
In total I read 242 books this year, which is about the same as last year. But unlike last year, it was over half novels (123), with a little more non-fiction (41), and significantly fewer short story collections and anthologies (25), young adult/kids’ books (37), and almost no poetry or graphic novels (8 of each). I also read a lot of genre novels, largely horror and romance, and also a good chunk of fantasy/sci-fi at the start of the year when reading for the Kitschies award. I think this heavy emphasis on novels is because this year, not surprisingly, I just wanted escapism. I wanted horror and romance because I wanted to feel something other than low-level anxiety and worry. For me, novels provided a much-needed escape from the real world. Thank you to every writer who worked hard to create other worlds for readers who needed them in 2020.
I don’t know what 2021’s reading will look like, because there’s no way to know what 2021 will bring. I can say that there’s some good reading ahead of us, though, as I read several books this year that will be on next year’s best-of list.
So in no particular order, here is my Top 25 of the year:
Books out in 2020:
Best Dark (And I Mean Really Dark) Fairytale: You Let Me In, Camilla Bruce
Best Historical Queer Romance: Spirited, Julie Cohen
Best Retro Horror: Harrow Lake, Kat Ellis
Best Haunting Exploration of the Aftermath of a Murder: Nothing Can Hurt You, Nicola Maye Goldberg
Best Mystery at a Claustrophobic Girls’ School: The Temple House Vanishing, Rachel Donohue
Best Black Queer Ghost Novella: The Silence of the Wilting Skin, Tlotlo Tsamaase
Best Analysis of Masculinity: I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya
Best Poetry Collection From a Poet Who’s Brilliant Both on the Page and Performing: My Darling From the Lions, Rachel Long
Best Poetry Collection That I Got Because it’s About Wrestling and Found it Was About So Much More: Tapping Out, Nandi Comer
Best Book That’s Kind of a Cheat Because I’m in it But Also All the Other Stories Are Too Brilliant Not to Include It: Outsiders, Alice Slater (editor)
Best Deeply Unsettling Story Anthology: The New Abject, Sarah Eyre & Ra Page (editors)
Best Queer Feminist Horror Graphic Novel: The Low, Low Woods, Carmen Maria Machado & Dani
Books Out Before 2020:
Best Book That You Don’t Need Me to Tell You is Great: Misery, Stephen King
Best Book About Delightfully Monstrous Teenage Girls: Wilder Girls, Rory Power
Best Deep-Sea Horror: Ningen, Laura Mauro
Best Short Stories That Make Me Wildly Envious as a Writer: Dark Tales, Shirley Jackson
Best Wholesome Historical Poly Romance: The Threefold Tie, Aster Glenn Gray
Best Lesbian Romance Novella That’s Also Spot-on About the Life of a Writer: A Perfect Balance, Laura Ambrose
Best Book Read for Teenage Scream Podcast: The Forbidden Game trilogy, LJ Smith
Best Kids’ Book About a Bitter, Rage-Filled Goddess: The Monstrous Child, Francesca Simon
Best Poetry I Read Aloud to My Wife in the Sunshine While Sitting on Our Windowsill: The Emma Press Anthology of Love
Best Graphic Novel That Made Me Laugh Out Loud: Dungeon Fun, Colin Bell & Neil Slorance
Best Essay Collection About Blackness, Whiteness and the Gothic: Darkly, Leila Taylor
Best Book About Writing: The Science of Storytelling, Will Storr
Best Book I Read as Novel Research But Then Found Applicable to Most of My Life and Friends and Family: Surviving Survival, Laurence Gonzalez
What were your favourite books of 2020?
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