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 favorites reads, five to one.
5. “This Is My America” by Kim Johnson
This YA thriller/mystery took a hard look at the racial disparities in the American Justice System and threw in a suspenseful mystery as well. I devoured this debut novel from Kim Johnson, in which Tracy, a Black teenage girl whose father is on Death Row for a murder he didn’t commit, now has to contend with her brother being accused of a murder he didn’t commit. As Tracy tries to find evidence to clear her brother’s name as well as bringing light to the miscarriage of justice regarding her father, she uncovers a corrupt and racist sector of her community that puts her and her family in danger. This book was fast paced, timely, and thought provoking, and I greatly enjoyed it.
4. “Grown” by Tiffany D. Jackson
Tiffany D. Jackson is one of my favorite YA thriller authors writing right now, and “Grown” is probably her best book yet. This gripping and raw look into misogynoir, rape culture, and sexual exploitation is a hard read, but again, necessary as well. Teenage Enchanted Jones has dreams of stardom, and when R and B megastar Korey Fields notices her talents and offers to make her a star, she jumps at the chance. When he romances her she thinks it’s too good to be true, but their ‘romance’ turns abusive, controlling, and dangerous. When Korey ends up dead, Enchanted has to clear her name. Inspired by true events, “Grown” shows how Black girls have to grow up too fast, and how society doesn’t protect them the way that it should. Again, hard to read. But necessary.
3. “The Glass Hotel” by Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. Mandel follows up her plague tale “Station Eleven” with a story about Ponzi Schemes, responsibility, and power. Lives intersect and weave in and out, as one man scams a number of people into financial ruin, another man makes a decision that costs him a job and a relationship, and a woman, before she disappears, has to confront the part she played in wrecking others lives by standing by in silence. St. Mandel pulls together a tragic yet hopeful and very haunting tale that finds the little things that keep people resilient, and how resilience can sometimes come at a terrible cost. Her writing style is lyrical and beautiful, and as a friend of mine once joked, ‘can make Ponzi Schemes seem interesting and gripping!’ What a beautiful literary tale.
2. “The Last Book on the Left” by Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel, and Henry Zebrowski
My favorite podcast turned into a book, and boy was it worth the wait and the hype in my mind. Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel, and Henry Zebrowski bring deep dive research, non fiction narration, and witty (and sometimes stupid) commentary to a number of stories of notorious serial killers. They manage to bring the best elements of their podcast to book form, and while I had been expecting the research and actual story aspects to translate just fine, it was the hilarious commentary that caught be my surprise in how well it worked. I would absolutely love it if these guys would do what “Lore” did and write more books within the other realms of their podcasts, and to do what “Lore” didn’t do and to continue making original and new content regarding these stories. Hail Yourselves, guys! This book was fantastic!!
1. “The Year of the Witching” by Alexis Henderson
My number one pick of 2020 eked out “Last Book on the Left” because of the timeliness and cathartic nature of the story, as well was the theme: motherfucking witches, baby. Feminist witches at that. The story of Immanuelle Moore, a teenager in a puritanical society of zealotry and misogyny, is an outcast from society because of her mother, who ran into the woods where witches dwelled, and came back to give birth to a baby out of wedlock. Immanuelle has been drawn to the Darkwood, and after getting lost inside she encounters the dark things that live there, who give her her mother’s diary. As Immanuelle reads the diary, something inside of her starts to arise, and the hypocrisy of the Church and its leaders may not be able to silence her. The feminism! The witch lore! The damning of the Patriarchy! “The Year of the Witching” is scary, empowering, powerful, and my favorite read of 2020, a year where it was very hard to feel powerful sometimes.
So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2020?