I’ve read a lot this year. To escape from the madness of reality? Yes, absolutely.
So, in no particular order, here are my favorite books that were released in 2020.
Things in Jars – Jess Kidd
A strong central female character, a strange kidnapping, and a thoroughly entertaining ghost? Sign me up! Also, a love story that genuinely made me weep. Jess Kidd’s writing is beautiful, even if the content of her books is somewhat disturbing. A rollicking adventure story with a supernatural twist.
The Hollow Places – T. Kingfisher
I find it hard to think about this book without smiling to myself. Which is so strange, because this book is one of the few that genuinely horrified me this year. But the narrator is so charming and funny, that you often forget what a nightmare journey they are on. An unexpected delight.
The Bass Rock – Evie Wyld
I loved this book is much. I am a total Evie Wyld stan. One location, three different storylines, and lots of horrible men ruining the lives of amazing women. Nothing I can say can truly convey how amazing this book is. Please read it.
Tender is the Flesh – Agustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses
Now THIS is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. Basically, it’s set in a world where people can no longer eat animals for meat, so they move onto the next best thing. Yup, that’s it. There is enough graphic detail in this book to make a person turn vegan. But the story itself is incredible, and when it became clear what was happening, I genuinely gasped. Brace yourself.
Pew – Catherine Lacey
Have you read Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas? Go read it now, I’ll wait. Because I feel that story is an absolute pre-requisite to Pew, Lacey’s story of a genderless, silent, and nameless figure who disrupts a small town with their ambiguity. Brief and mysterious, this one has re-read written all over it.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line – Deepa Anappara
I’m genuinely surprised this book didn’t get more attention in 2020. There was so much buzz about it before it was released. Anyway, this tale of disappearing children in India was fantastic. I thought I knew where it was going, but the gritty realism of this book was truly shocking. The young characters are engaging, and funny. The writing is vivid. What more could you ask for?
Wonderland – Zoje Stage
I’m pretty sure I said this in summer, but I loved that female authors were releasing absolutely batshit books this year (see also Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic). Stage’s debut, Baby Teeth, was entertaining, but Wonderland is something else. Ignore the comparisons to Shirley Jackson, Stage creates a world that is completely her own, and is absolutely bonkers.
You Let Me In – Camilla Bruce
Bizarrely, this book was marketed at the Gillian Flynn crowd, when it is absolutely more for the aforementioned T. Kingfisher set. Domestic thriller this is not; it’s about a woman and her lifelong relationship with her imaginary friend, Pepper Man, who is also a fairy. It really is bananas, and I got through it in about three days.
Little Eyes – Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
Schweblin is great, and this was something completely new from her. A tale of voyeurs, exhibitionists, technology, and mystery. Told through many different characters, Schweblin has created a completely believable, twisted world.
Flyaway – Kathleen Jennings
I saved this for last because I think this may be my favorite of the year. It ticks all my boxes: misfits coming of age, supernatural elements, and terrors alluded to but not seen or acknowledged. There’s one specific part involving a school, that gives me “girl stuck in the painting in The Witches” shivers. I’m so delighted that this has appeared on other “best of 2020” lists, because it deserves so much attention. It’s fantastic.
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