Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! Like past years I won’t be including re-reads, and I also realized that sometimes my opinion of a book could change and evolve after I had read it, so some surprises may be up near the top. Boy let me tell you it was a HARD year to pick ten, as it was a year of HIGH quality books. And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway”! Today I’m going to countdown my favorite reads, ten to six.
10. “Superman Smashes the Klan” by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru (Ill.)
I love me some DC as you all know, and I am still super thrilled that Gene Luen Yang will take on various titles every one in awhile. But “Superman Smashes the Klan” is above and beyond his other Superman stories, if only because of how seamlessly he weaves in themes of social justice and anti-racism along with the Superman stuff. Not only do we have some well done and nuanced takes on the difficulties of immigrant families when it comes to dealing with racism and the expectations to assimilate, we get a fantastic juxtaposition with Superman, who has his own identity hurdles that he’s facing. And who doesn’t love seeing a stand in for the Klan get their asses handed to them by one of the most beloved superheroes of all time?
9. “The Return” by Rachel Harrison
Weird hotel? Check! A strained female friendship? Check! Creepy imagery and a totally unsettling horror undercurrent that ties these things together and more? Check mate! “The Return” is an unsettling horror story about a missing woman who suddenly reappears, and her closest (but waning) friend realizes that something about her is… off. But what “The Return” is really about is how sometimes friendships slowly melt away, and how we have to come to terms with letting go of something that is no longer giving us what we need, even though it brought us joy in the past. It’s a horror story that had the right amount of pathos, frustration, and bittersweetness to go with some really scary moments.
8. “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
A Gothic horror story set in the rural Mexican countryside, starring a Latina woman who is battling an unknown malevolent force that is inside the home of a white, Colonialist family? Hot damn, now THAT sounds interesting! And “Mexican Gothic” certainly was a wild and disturbing read that subverted a lot of Gothic tropes. Noemí enters the strange and dark setting of My Place and introduces us to some twisted body horror, a screed against colonialism, and a genuinely haunting and atmospheric tale of terror that continues the grand tradition of using horror to address issues of social justice. And now Silvia Moreno-Garcia is on my must read list of authors.
7. “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Holly Jackson
While sometimes popular YA thrillers don’t quite catch my attention as much as I want them to, “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” completely exceeded my expectations and became one of my favorite thrillers of 2020! Plucky teen Pip’s obsession with a local murder case sucks her into a tangled web of suspects, threats, and lies, and as she works to clear the name of a suspect whose family is still grieving, she finds twists, turns, and lots of surprises. I was completely enthralled by this book, and I cannot WAIT for the sequel, which will be arriving in April (and has already been pre-ordered from my favorite indie children’s book store)! “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” is a hoot and a half.
6. “The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones
2020 was the year I finally got in gear and read Stephen Graham Jones, and his newest horror novel “The Only Good Indians” was quite the story to start with. This folk horror tale about four Indigenous men who did something terrible on a hunting trip, and then become hunted themselves, burrowed into my brain and kept me thinking about it for days afterwards. But again, along with the horror comes a story about identity, tradition, grief, and trauma, and the heart and hope that glimmer amongst the despair and destruction was incredibly emotional and touching. A truly visceral and haunting horror tale that may not be for the faint of heart, but should be read by horror fans everywhere.
So that’s ten through six. Next time I will give a countdown of my top five. What have been some of your favorite reads of 2020?