At the end of each year I take a look back on the books that I’ve read and try to determine the best books I’ve read in each category and the best book I read during the year. This is a best of those I’ve read and reviewed in 2020, not necessarily the best books published in 2020.
I read more books in 2020 than I expected or intended to read. This is a result of the COVID pandemic. My summer job was cancelled, which left me with a bunch of time and a bunch of books queued in my Kindle.
There were some consistently good mystery writers that were a part of my reading this past year. David Housewright is always reliable for a good hard-boiled detective mystery and I read two of his McKenzie Mysteries this year.
I also read two novels and one collection of short stories by one of my new favorites, Gigi Pandian. I’m always eager to open a new Pandian book.
2020 saw a new arrival on the mystery scene – possibly over-looked by most mystery readers because here books are also science fiction – Amanda Bridgeman. As I look back, I think the two books in Bridgeman’s Salvi Brentt series stand out the most to me.
But only one mystery got a full five stars and so I think it’s appropriate to award it the best of 2020…
BEST MYSTERY 2020 – Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig should be a household name because everything I’ve read of his, has stood out as tremendously powerful.
I don’t typically read a lot of Historical Fiction so there aren’t a lot of books in this category to choose from, making it an easy call.
BEST HISTORICAL FICTION 2020 – THE PARISIANS by Marius Gabriel
Last year I struggled to find some worthy children’s books and YA books. That wasn’t a problem this year. It seemed as though everywhere I looked I found some worthy reading in these categories. That Best Mystery could just as easily be the Best YA. 2020 saw the return of Bruce Coville – one of my favorite children’s book authors.
“Children’s Book” covers a lot of ground, and if I broke the category down more to include a specific “Middle Grade Reader” I think Coville would be a shoo-in, but for 2020 I think I have to award the Best Children’s Book to another perennial favorite – someone whose art is quickly recognizable.
BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK 2020 – COZY by Jan Brett
There were a lot of good Young Adult books read in 2020 but one of my newer favorite authors – someone I don’t usually think of as a YA author, but it definitely fits for this book. You just can’t go wrong with Seanan McGuire.
BEST YA BOOK 2020 – ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELDS by Seanan McGuire
I like reading Westerns, but those typically fall into a good-but-not-great category for me. This year I read a couple of ‘new’ authors (for me anyway) in this category, and I enjoyed them. And while I will read a Craig Johnson “Walt Longmire” any time, any where, the latest didn’t really stand out. This year’s best western book goes to one of my ‘new’ authors.
BEST WESTERN 2020 – DARK TERRITORY by Terrence McCauley
Non-Fiction books have typically done pretty well on my blog here – I think they typically get better ratings than any other category. Of the 17 books I logged into this category in 2020, only three or four were rated less than 4 stars.
Normally, any book that gets 5 stars will be higher in line than a book with 4 and a half (or four and three-quarter as in this case), and while John Cleese’s Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide is deserving of 5 stars, Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five sticks with me as a much more memorable book.
BEST NON-FICTION 2020 – THE FIVE: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold
I have listed a Best Romance in previous years, but other than The Parisians, which I awarded Best Historical Fiction, I didn’t read anything worthy of awarding in 2020.
I’ve cut back on my Graphic Novel reading over the past few years but I did read a few this past year and I really enjoyed reading the reissue of Asterix, but one graphic novel really blew me away with its simplicity and power. And it was a biography!
BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL – BIX by Scott Chantler
And so we come down to the two categories that I might still consider my favorites … Fantasy and Science Fiction. I enjoy a lot of different genres, but these are the types of books that first got me reading and continue to thrill me. These two categories also have a fair amount of crossover and my selection for Fantasy could easily be considered Science Fiction.
In Fantasy books, it would be easy to award Seanan McGuire again for Across the Green Grass Fields. It’s such a good book! But my Fantasy award goes to an author whose work defines the field and should be studied in schools.
BEST FANTASY 2020 – FOUNDRYSIDE by Robert Jackson Bennett
And for Science Fiction there are some giants in the field – established and new – I read Jeff Noon, John Scalzi, Christopher Paolini, Amanda Bridgeman, Jim Butcher, Kim Stanley Robinson, to name just a few. John P. Murphy’s Red Noise came out of nowhere, was terrific, and I look forward to more in that series. But the best book in the category is easy to name. This book won’t be published until 2021 and it is one you won’t want to miss. I hope they print enough first editions!
BEST SCIENCE FICTION 2020 – PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir
There was one other book that I read in 2020 that I still think about. It’s hard to define a category for it. Science Fiction? Fantasy? Alternate History? I’ll call it Speculative Fiction (a term used back in the 1970’s for authors like Harlan Ellison and Thomas Disch) and call a special award this year. Read this book.
BEST SPECULATIVE FICTION 2020 – CORPORATE GUNSLINGER by Doug Engstrom
And so it comes down to The Best of the Best! Some years it is difficult to choose the best of the best, but this year was pretty easy, despite some really fantastic reads. This is a highly anticipated book to be published in early 2021 and it is very easily the most exciting, riveting book I read in 2020.
THE BEST OF THE BEST 2020 – PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir
It was definitely a good year, and I look forward to 2021!