The pandemic changed most of our lives in 2020, but it also provided ample time to read books. Below is a list of some of my favorites that I read in 2020. Some of them were new releases, others were books I finally got to after years of having them on my shelves. All of them are worth picking up and spending some time with.
The Vanishing Half / Brit Bennett
The book of the year if I had any say in the matter. A story of two sisters, their divergent paths, and the role race plays in every facet of life in our country. Believe the hype on this one.
Interior Chinatown / Charles Yu
An inventive little gem, written in screenplay format, that unpacks the representation and stereotypes of Asian characters in Western media. A fast and thought-provoking read, and winner of the 2020 National Book Award.
The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories / Danielle Evans
Story collections tend to be a weak spot for me, but Evans knocks this one out of the park. A no-skips collection, and at times it completely took my breath away. A stunning achievement.
Writers & Lovers / Lily King
Most novels about writing novels are, to put it bluntly, self-indulgently bad. That’s what makes what King pulls off here so mesmerizing. Grief, love, and writer’s block come together in this lovely – and funny – novel.
The Only Good Indians / Stephen Graham Jones
With horror’s resurgence, it’s been great to see writers like Jones bring their cultural perspective to the genre, and this deeply unsettling novel enjoyed a lot of mainstream buzz this year. It’s bleak as hell, but also wildly smart, and with an ending that might just inspire some hope.
The House in the Cerulean Sea / TJ Klune
When friends have said they need a pick-me-up, I point them towards Klune’s light-fantasy. A queer narrative that shows the importance of a found-family, I wanted to live in this world.
The City We Became / N. K. Jemisin
Jemisin in a modern master of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and in this novel she seamlessly blends those genres with a premise that is almost exactly what I want from the genre. A wild ride, and I can’t wait for what’s next.
Mexican Gothic / Sylvia Moreno Garcia
In the middle of the darkest summer in a long time, this novel came out of nowhere and provided exactly what was needed: a fuck-load of fun. Genre tropes abound, but it manages to feel inventive instead of reductive. Wonderful.
Young Adult/Middle Grade
Cemetery Boys / Aiden Thomas
Queer as hell, and deeply romantic, Thomas nailed it all with their debut, a wonderful love story about a trans boy and a ghost. I had a smile on my face while reading this whole thing.
Darius the Great is Not Okay / Adib Khorram
My first great read of the year. I’ve rarely seen platonic male friendship written so tenderly and true-to-life. A story about finding your place in the world, even when it feels like nothing fits.
The List of Things That Will Not Change / Rebecca Stead
Stead is a master at inhabiting the mind of her child characters, and taking as much care with the inner lives of the adults that surround them. A story about how messy family can be, and how we all get through it together.
How it All Blew Up / Arvin Ahmadi
As queer stories become a staple in modern-YA, it’s refreshing to still discover stories that feel authentic. In Ahmadi’s best book to date, the coming out narrative is upended to fun effect. Sometimes running away from your problems can be a good thing.
How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir / Saeed Jones
A blistering memoir about growing up gay and black in America. Jones’ writing is immaculate. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this book since I put it down.
Solutions and Other Problems / Allie Brosh
In her follow up to Hyperbole and a Half, Brosh has gone through it. This collection of graphic essays continues her journey with grief and mental health, and it’s one of the funniest books of the year. No joke.
How to Be an Antiracist / Ibram X. Kendi
Kendi’s bestseller rose in the cultural consciousness during a tumultuous summer. Part memoir, part manifesto, it’s a powerful thesis statement for what our country needs to do to address the racism that is so ingrained in our society.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel / Alexander Chee
Its title may mislead a bit, but Chee’s essays are filled with so much life. Chee details his coming of age and coming into writing so naturally, and with such passion. It’s clear that there’s nothing else he should be doing.