Oh, 2020. What. A. Year. It’s been really exciting in a lot of ways (I got married, I wrote a whole book and revised another, I saw the launch of Rural Voices), but also, you know, a global pandemic happened. Kind of a suckfest. We are luckier than most, and I’m glad for that, but there were times when I really wasn’t feeling like myself and my reading definitely suffered. I also took on more tasks and responsibilities over at Book Riot, including joining the All the Books! team on a monthly rotation, which meant I read way more brand-new releases that come out on the third Tuesday of the month than I ever have before. And…I also DNF’d a lot of books. I thought my stats would shake out to be a bit disappointing, so I was a bit shocked when I realized I’m on track to have finished 110 books this year, the same number that I accomplished last year!
I know that surviving this year intact is an accomplishment in and of itself, and I shouldn’t try to compare myself to years previous, but I am such a stats nerd! I use a Sheet-based log (you can get the reading log, which I built and shared on Book Riot), and it keeps track of lots of stats! It’s not quite the end of the year yet and I hope to squeeze in at least five more books, but here are some cool numbers from my year in reading!
I read a ton in audio–the most audiobooks I’ve read in any year since I started tracking that in 2018! I still prefer print, but because of my work reading, which is mostly of ARCs, I have to read a lot digitally and on audio. I sometimes daydream of running away to a cute little AirBnb or cabin in the woods with nothing but a box of books to get through my spectacular print backlog.
Fun fact, I used to be afraid of nonfiction! I thought it was boring! I’ve been reading way more nonfiction (this is up from 13% in 2019, and 9% in 2018!) and this year I read a lot of great true crime, some amazing memoirs, and even some science books, which surprised even me!
My genre break down is really interesting to me–general fiction has always been my biggest pie slice, followed by mystery/crime, so no surprises there. I read a little less sci-fi and fantasy this year–I don’t know what it is, but I found myself being really picky about about my world building, although some of my faves are sci-fi/fantasy! The biggest increase is in romance (6% last year, and 3% the year before) because I found some really delightful and lovely romance novels I L-O-V-E. And then my biggest surprise of 2020 is that apparently I like horror novels??!?!?! WHO KNEW!
I always strive to read diversely and outside of my comfort zone, because I think it helps me be a better writer and person. Tracking my reading helps me stay focused on those goals, and I’m excited to see what 2021 looks like! It also helps give me perspective, because despite feeling mehhhh about my reading life in general this year, I read a lot of great books that I’m excited to shout about! As always, keep in mind these are faves I read in 2020, not necessarily “best of” the year. They’re a mix of 2020 releases and backlist books I read for the first time, and they aren’t the only ones I loved, just the top 20 that stood out! Also, the links take you to Bookshop.org because they support Indies, but I highly recommend checking out your local indie store’s website if you want to buy them! Here we go!
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Okay, but this book might actually be my most favorite book of the year? It’s queer and it’s full of so! many! twists! and it has a fascinating world, plus multiverse travel. I loved everything about it, from the characters to the voice to the multi-world stakes. It’s a standalone, but this debut novel has made Micaiah Johnson an auto-buy author for me!
Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen
This is one of my favorite LGBTQ+ YA reads of the year because it’s about friendships and identity beyond the coming out narrative! Codi is a teen with two amazing best friends, but she accidentally falls into a new friend group that she loves…and she doesn’t tell her friends about it. I love a good friendship story, and I love how casually queer and accepting everyone in this book was!
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
I know this is one seriously hyped fantasy and I wasn’t sure if it could possibly live up to everyone’s love for it and it did! Like, I felt all the feelings and laughed and maybe almost cried five times. It’s the most wholesome and hilarious fantasy novel, and it doesn’t feel like anything else I’ve read!
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Look, if you tell me about a lesbian romance set in Regency times, I’m going to have to read it. Not only is this just a good romance (queer or straight), it’s also a really great Regency-era novel that explores women who are active in both science and art, and the struggles they faced to be acknowledged. And the romance–swoon. Spoiler alert, the second book in this series is also a delight.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Okay, look if you tell me about any lesbian romance novels…I’m going to read them. This one is notable because it’s the first f/f romance put out by Berkley, a big romance publisher, and like, wow, yay, and more, please! I don’t normally love Hollywood-set romances but this one worked for me on so many levels. Fair warning it is a slooooow burn, but totally worth it!
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
I read Melissa Bashardoust’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass last year, and it’s one of the best Snow White retellings I’ve ever read. In this book she takes on a Persian myth, and as a standalone fantasy, it’s absolutely excellent. The writing is beautiful, the plot unfolds wonderfully, and I loved the (queer!) romance. Bashardoust is an auto-buy author for me!
Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Crosby
I had the privilege of appearing in Rural Voices alongside Crosby, and I loved his story so much I immediately checked out this book from the library and I LOVED IT. It’s a very gritty, action-packed thriller and let’s just say that I had no idea that a car chase scene could be as riveting on the page as it could be on a screen! Crosby is so talented!
The Twisted Ones by T Kingfisher
This is my spouse’s favorite book of the year, so naturally I wanted to read it so we could talk about it. It’s a really great, funny/spooky about a young woman and her dog, and the dog DOES NOT DIE, which is important. I immediately downloaded Kingfisher’s newest 2020 release, which I’ve not read yet but definitely plan to!
Beach Read by Emily Henry
There is so much I love about this book–dueling writers! Small towns! Lake Michigan beaches! Romance! Family complications! For real, this is one of the most delightful books I read all year, and it came to me during a truly meh month and I am forever grateful for that.
Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner
This book is very excellent and very hilarious, and it will totally make you so angry because sexism! It’s not cool! But Adrienne Kisner is so cool because she’s created these amazing characters who decide they won’t put up with any bullshit, and they fight tooth and nail against the system and entitled boys, and they rock. Pick this up for amazing representation, two very funny voices, and a fight against injustice.
Goodbye From Nowhere by Sara Zarr
I’m a huge Zarr fan, but even so I was not prepared for this book to totally capture my attention and my heart. It’s about Kyle, a teen boy who is dealing with the fact that his family isn’t who he thought they were, and what that means for him and his relationship with them. It’s a book that’s admittedly light on plot but big on nuance and emotion, and I can’t stop recommending it.
Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisely
I love graphic novels that capture the “ughhhhh” feeling of being a kid, but also the joy. This book, loosely based on Lucy’s childhood when she was abruptly moved from the city to a farm with her mom and her new boyfriend, totally nails it! The art is so fun and playful, and I was with Jen all the way.
Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht
Vera is back, and I’m so happy! This is a sequel to Who Is Vera Kelly?, which follows Vera, a twenty-something woman having very interesting adventures in and out of the CIA’s employ in the 1960’s. This book finds her setting up her own detective agency and maybe finding a good girlfriend? I just want all good things for Vera, even when she’s making questionable decisions. I’m fervently hoping for a third book!
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
This is another delightful LGBTQ+ YA novel that explores the drag scene and can I say, I love that it gives equal spotlight to drag kings as well as queens! It’s also a painfully realistic novel about feeling awkward and saying the wrong things, and trying anyway, and I would like to hug all the characters and tell them it’s gonna be okay.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
I bought this book because I’m on a mission to own all of the gorgeous Sourcebooks Fire editions of Montgomery’s work, but I’d never actually read this book before! It’s an adult novel about Valancy Stirling and her misadventures when she stops letting her odious family control her and it was an utter delight, plus surprisingly relevant for a book written nearly 100 years ago!
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Are we surprised that Acevedo’s latest novel is on this list? I mean, she’s incredible. And this novel-in-verse about two half-sisters who discover each other’s existence when their dad dies in a tragic plane crash had me hooked from the very beginning. I will read anything Acevedo writes–or narrates!
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Okay, just know that this is quite a heavy but incredibly beautiful memoir written by Chanel Miller, who might be better known as Emily Doe in the Brock Turner case. Miller is an incredible writer, and her memoir had me in tears multiple times. Read it, because this is an important story about healing, reclaiming one’s voice, and speaking the truth.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Miller
I started thus book on audio one evening and didn’t look up until it was midnight and it was sadly done. This is a bizarre but endearing story of someone without a purpose finding her place with two very unexpected people. It’s hilarious and heartfelt, and I’ve not read anything else like it.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This was probably my first really great read of 2020, and it’s really stuck with me all year long. It’s about the pitfalls of performative allyship, navigating those weird years between college and feeling like a “real” adult, and the messiness of class. It can be satirical, but it absolutely packs a punch.
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, because who doesn’t love the idea of time travelers going back in time to meet Jane Austen…and then grappling with whether or not to save her life from an illness that modern medicine could definitely treat? I liked the moral and philosophical questions this book raises, and how it handles questions of an author’s legacy and what parts of them readers are entitled to.
What are some of your favorite reads of 2020? I can’t wait to hear about them!