2020 was a strange year. Here are my favorite books I read this year. They helped me get through this cluster of a year.
10. The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths – Starting off my list is The Stranger Diaries. It’s the first book in the Harbinder Kaur series and I will definitely be picking up the next book. This book’s atmosphere is just fantastic. It’s set in a boarding school that used to be the house of an old gothic horror writer. It’s creepy at points, but has a really intriguing murder mystery at the center.
9. Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray – I had to pick a Star Wars book, I had to. Bloodline (not to be confused with Bloodlines, book two of the Legacy of the Force series) is one of the first books in the new canon. And it’s honestly one of the best. This outlines a lot of things that fans were wanting after The Force Awakens. It goes a lot into the structure of the New Republic and gives us the origin of the Resistance. Leia takes center stage in this one. Gray knows how to write Leia, so fans of any era will enjoy her portrayal in this book.
8. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James – This was my favorite book that the Freking Book Club did this past year. It’s the perfect blend of spooky, intriguing, moody, and atmospheric. It’s a ghost story wrapped up in a town mystery wrapped in a murder mystery. I really don’t have a whole lot to say about it. It kept me guessing the whole time. Also, I love spooky books. This really scratched the spooky itch during the Halloween season.
7. Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – I wrote about this book in my December write-up, but I’m going to just talk a bit more about it. I loved this book so much. The way it accurately represents LGBT+ people, especially Bisexuals, is incredibly well done and deserves some recognition. Honestly, this is what has helped me get into romance novels as a whole. Really glad I picked it up. The only reason it isn’t higher is because of how long it is. It’s 400+ pages and it doesn’t need to be longer than 300 pages. But, honestly, that’s it.
6. Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey – I didn’t really have any expectations when I picked this book up. It was cheap on Kindle, and it had the word “Magic” so I gave it a shot. It ended up being one of my favorite books of the year. It combines a murder mystery and a school of magic, a la Harry Potter and I AM HERE FOR IT. The story revolves around a pair of sisters who are trying to reconnect after one is summoned to a school of magic to solve a murder. I haven’t read any Gailey, but I definitely will in the future. She is an incredible author. The amount of world-building that is done in this short book is perfect. It’s really difficult to pull off literary fiction disguised as fantasy, but Gailey nails it. Also, JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER.
5. Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes – BB,BB is written by the same author of Ghost Boys, one of my favorite books, well, ever. So, I had really high expectations for this book and it delivered and then some. These two brothers are from a mixed race family. One is darker than the other. They also go to a very exclusive (read: mostly white) school where Donte feels he doesn’t fit in. He finds out that he is incredibly good at fencing (another very white institution) and begins to find himself thanks to the sport. Rhodes is another amazing author and I highly recommend picking this up.
4. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas – I had a hard time choosing between Concrete Rose and this one, but On the Come Up won out. It’s an incredible look at hip hop culture and what it means to go viral in the modern era. It’s believable, as well. A lot of authors can’t really write an internet savvy teen without it sounding forced and, well, stupid, but Thomas can do it flawlessly. That’s one of those things that can really take you out of a book and she just nails it. The thing I loved most about this book was seeing the effects of the events of The Hate U Give on Garden Heights. Angie Thomas is such a great writer and I really look forward to reading more of her books (when she, you know, publishes them). You also should pick up Concrete Rose. It’s excellent.
3. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – Whew, doggy, this book. It was one of the earlier books I read this year and it has stuck with me. It’s been one of my go-to recommendations all year. This is another book that deals with the consequences of going viral although for a completely different reason than On the Come Up. The main characters are so well done and they don’t feel like stereotypes. With this book, it would have been easy to just have the characters be caricatures: the “white savior”, the victim of an unjust crime, etc. Reid effortlessly makes these tropes into characters we haven’t seen before. It’s just so freaking good.
2. I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal – When I was going through my books of the year, I was looking for books that had an effect on me, books that still resonate with me after reading them. INDWYT was one of the few books that I could still vividly recall reading and what I felt when reading it. This book, as I wrote about in my October Digest, is almost a study in the implicit biases that white people have against POCs, specifically Black people. I’m what I would consider woke. But, I’m not perfect. This book was a good reminder of those biases that I may still have and that I need to continue to be better, continue to grow.
1. One Piece by Eiichiro Oda – I’m cheating with this one, I know, but COME ON. I started One Piece this year and it has become my absolute favorite manga. I’m only on chapter 670 (out of, at time of publication, 1000), but this has been the most consistently great manga I have read. The adventures of Monkey D. Luffy are a blast to read and I can’t wait to catch up and see how it ends! Of course, there are issues. The way Oda draws women is INCREDIBLY PROBLEMATIC. His grasp on non-heteronormative people is INCREDIBLY PROBLEMATIC. Most people would write this off because it’s different in Japan. That may be true, but it’s definitely worth pointing out and talking about. Now, why is it number one on my list? Because it has everything I’m looking for in books. Adventure, humor, tragedy, joy, anything you could want in within the pages of One Piece. Do I even need to mention how powerful Marineford was? No, but I will anyway. The biggest factor in making this decision was the bomb-ass first theme of the anime. COME ABOARD AND BRING ALOOOOONG ALL YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS.
In case anyone cares, I read 119 books in 2020. However, I didn’t include One Piece or My Hero Academia volumes in that, so, honestly, just double that amount and that’s my true book count.
All images are from Goodreads.