20 books of 2020
First of all, 2020 is a garbage year. I'm not gonna dispute that. It's also been twenty years long, so remembering back to June, let alone January, is hard.
Okay, this is gonna be a complicated list. I'm putting it in groups of five. * Books Published in the US in 2020 * Books That I Keep Thinking About * Books That Gave Me Strength * Underappreciated Books
Books Published in the US in 2020
To be clear, that means if I found a publishing date that said 2020, even if it's the Paperback, it's eligible. This also means, because I am inept and can't find publishing dates for titles I purchased directly from Kobo, everything is traditionally published.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
You want fantasy with black girls, have some fantasy with black girls. This is a contemporary fantasy with mythical creatures. Also as becomes abundantly clear this is about the policing of black people by white supremacy. Also one of the characters is a literal black siren girl, which is how the book presents this issue.
Dear Justyce by Nic Stone
If Dear Martin was about how being the literal perfect black boy wasn't enough, this is about the non-perfect black boys. It's about why people enter gangs, how policing systems do people wrong. There's an afterword I recommend reading about the ways that this book is fictionalized which makes it more crushing.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
I could write a lot about this book. One, it uses the usually screen-reader unfriendly non-gendered x-ending, like in latinx. Except for the word brujo / bruja. I didn't listen to the audiobook, but I assume this is done not just because it's the most familiar to people in the United States, but because it wouldn't be that out there to pronounce “brujx” like “Bru-hex”. Two, it stars a trans boy who just wants to prove he's a brujo, and how a very gendered society doesn't know how to deal with him. Three, it discusses the issue of gender in gendered languages. Always something I want to read about.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
It's part-catfishing, part-romance, part-discovering which label fits you best. Felix has already told his father before the book starts, but Felix suddenly finds that the label of “Man” doesn't fit quite right. I don't want to be like “good representation” and leave it at that. It's also a comfort to know other people struggle with this.
Ruinsong by Julia Ember
First of all, I love when music is used as magic. Secondly, I love queer fantasy, and I feel like we don't get enough of it. This is a sapphic fantasy that talks about cultural norms in their stratified society.
Books That I Keep Thinking About
You know what I mean. You finished the book, put it back on your shelf or returned it to the library, and you keep thinking about it, days or months later.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
It's a good experience no matter what, but I'm near positive since it's part-podcast that it's best as an audiobook. Even if you don't like thrillers (I don't particularly like them myself) I still recommend giving this one a try, but if you have triggers, look those up the book first.
We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding
I should probably revisit this one, to be honest. It's exactly what it sounds like, the death of a friendship. And as someone who has had several friendships just... end, with it being nobody's fault, it's a comfort to read. It helped me come to terms with some of these friendship endings.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
This book is shorter than it seems, because it's the same book, twice, just one half is in Italian and the other is translated to English. It's about the romance of learning a language, and being seen as an outsider to it. It also has a reference to Ágota Kristóf so I was pretty stoked.
The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert
This is a book that deals with addiction, sobriety, and strict parents. You can probably guess the plot twist part-way through, but even if you know the premise, it's very much worth reading. I have yet to read a Brandy Colbert book I don't love.
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Another one in the Police-brutality-fiction-micro-genre. I think everything in that genre is worth reading, but as a white person, I would especially recommend this one for white people, because while all the books have to consider the white segment of their audience, I feel like this one considers it the best. It teaches you valuable lessons as it makes you cry.
Books That Gave Me Strength
The year has sucked for virtually everyone, though to different degrees. This doesn't mean a book has to be meant to be inspiring, or to renew my hope.
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
I was devastated during the wait for this book. I had loved Hyperbole and a Half and I wanted more. But she stopped blogging, and internet detectives uncovered a death in her family, and general suggestions she had become a different person and moved on with her life. Then seven years later this pops up, and I am filled with glee. It's actually real!
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
I don't know what it is about this book, I think about it a lot, especially in the sense of creating something. Not that I'm internet-famous or anything. But I really relate to the sense of “Why talk to any family member about what I do because they won't get it!”
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
To be clear, I don't really like running. I just like sports books (especially mountineering) for some reason. But reading about Murakami's marathons makes me feel good.
Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan
Once again, it made me feel seen, from a mental health perspective. I even wrote to Jennifer Dugan about how special the book was to me. I haven't read any of Dugan's other material, but I really want to now.
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
I know I'm not thirty yet, but I can relate to an old, graying lady through the power of fiction. This is a great book for reaffirming you have value as a human being.
I think this is pretty clear. It's books I haven't heard much buzz about or virtually no one has read (yet).
Yesterday by Ágota Kristóf
I have been a pretty big Kristóf fan for over a decade (thanks to Mother 3). While this one isn't my literal favorite, it's an excellent novella and it's now available legally again. I paid 40 bucks for a used copy from Canada originally, and believe me, that was a steal since it was going for 60 usually, and it's like 12 bucks digitally now. I want everyone to read this book, especially if that will get me more Ágota Kristóf books. Not many have been translated into English.
The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi
This is the sequel to The Beast Player, basically dealing with the consequences and fallout of the first book. If the Beast Player was too slow for you, this one has more explicit consequences for actions every 100 or so pages. I didn't believe Shit Could Get Realer and it did! Anyway, this came out this year and no one has read it. Please read it, so maybe one day I can read the rest of Moribito.
Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram
This is the sequel to Darius the Great is Not Okay. I like both books, they feel a little Aristotle and Dante-esque. Just a gentle story of a queer boy of color, dealing with depression and acceptance. I will say that in the first book, Darius is only confirmed gay by an afterword, but you can definitely notice it in the book.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
I learned this year that reading horror helps with my anxiety. Yes, this title helped with that. It's not just about horror though, it's about grief and being afraid to get attached to someone. I really want to read the sequel!
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
Is it any surprise I want everyone to read this book? While it literally Cannot be a perfect portrayal of disability, due to the range of experiences, it still is worth reading if only to talk about inner ableism, and doctors gaslighting you.
Well, that's it, all 20. Sorry for putting ones I've talked about previously on this list, but I felt really strongly about them! I'd love to hear what you think, your notable reads of the year, or how you coped with the year at all, just talk to me: @firstname.lastname@example.org