My favorite reads of 2020

I know I’m not the only person who struggled to read in 2020. I also struggled to write about my reading here. But I’m not here today, as the year comes to an end, to dwell on that! I did read some excellent books this year, and in this brief post I want to highlight them.

In no particular order, here are five books that I loved (and reviewed) in 2020:

Artforum, by César Aira (my review here)

Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell (my review here)

A Wreath for the Enemy, by Pamela Frankau (my review here)

São Bernardo, by Graciliano Ramos (my review here)

Jack, by Marilynne Robinson (my review here)

The book of 2002 for me, though, has to be Malicroix, by Henri Bosco, translated from the French by Joyce Zonana (my review here). I was reading it for much of the winter, and as things got darker outside and our world shrunk a bit to our homes it was surreal. But the book is not just about loneliness and isolation; there’s a lot going on within, and it’s one I’d like to reread soon, hopefully when things are bit better outside!

I also read several books that I did not review here. Some of these will be coming in 2021, but some I read with my kids or for pure escapism, and I don’t quite know what to say about them here. I enjoyed these too!

A few months ago, following a recommendation, I started The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I would never have picked these books up on my own. The premise just doesn’t appeal — a crime series with a wizard PI, essentially — but I have found these to be fun and exciting and deeper than the premise led me to believe. The world (the Nevernever is awesome) grows as well in ways that entice me to keep going with the series. The first book is Storm Front, if you’re interested.

I’ve also been reading more books by Brandon Sanderson. Book four of his Stormlight Archive — Rhythm of War — came out in November, and I’ve been making my way through it. I finished book three — Oathbringer — in September, and again I’m always thrilled to be in that world. But I also read a novella he wrote, The Emperor’s Soul, that won the Hugo a few years ago. I thought it was exceptional.

Earlier in the year I read The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, a young adult novel that I gobbled down in a couple of days. Its connection to Shakespeare was compelling, but really what kept me going was the book’s large heart for its characters’ travails. I’ve heard the follow-up, Okay for Now, is even better.

And I’ve mentioned these a few times in the past, but I finished the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. These were among my favorite reads ever, so I strongly recommend them to folks looking for a fun, well-written, ghostly adventure. The Screaming Staircase is the start of the series, and it keeps going strong through the five books that end with The Empty Grave. I’d reread Robinson’s Jack right now, but first in line for a reread would be Lockwood and Co.

I do have goals and hopes for next year which I’ll be posting on tomorrow, but for now, maybe I can slip in another book or story for 2020. Happy New Year!

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