Well. 2021 approaches, finally. Coming to the end of 2020 means a vast number of things, but for today, it means I’m posting the official list of all the books I’ve read this year. Also to be discussed: unsurprising reading trends, a few fanfic recs, upcoming SF/F novels I’m looking forward to, shameless promotion for my super talented friends, and of course, ALL THE QUOTES.
Shall we get started?
(A guide to font colors: novels are in black, novellas are in purple, comics are in green, and non-fiction is in blue. Blue and green, I’m afraid, were not exactly used often.)
THE 2020 READING LIST
The Marrow Thieves – Cherie Dimaline
All I know is that when I threw myself to the ground and into the circle of his arms I was small again: no baggage, no years in the bush, no murder. I was small and he was huge and everything was okay.
Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
She had a knack for quiet insurrection.
This Is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Sometimes you have to hold a person, though they’ll mistake embrace for strangulation.
Come Tumbling Down – Seanan McGuire
Sumi was Sumi. Spending time with her was like trying to form a close personal relationship with a cloud of butterflies. Pretty—dazzling, even—but not exactly companionable. And some of the butterflies had knives, and that was where the metaphor collapsed.
Afterlives of the Saints – Colin Dickey
The saints belong to both worlds, but in occupying that strange halfway position, they belong to neither. Unlike angels, their home is not in heaven; unlike Jesus, they are not on loan. They are Earth’s rejects; they have no real place here and so spend their time with their eyes watching God.
Silver in the Wood – Emily Tesh
“Poor lad meant no harm.”
“A young man who means no harm should not be firing pistols,” said Silver.
Velocity Weapon – Megan O’Keefe
How greedy she was, to keep that blood inside her when the others had spilled so much.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics – Olivia Waite
“It’s much easier to leave the past behind when you can leave the place it happened in.”
The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow
Something about having a child bends you back to your beginnings, as if you have been drawing a circle all your life and now are compelled to close it.
Exit Strategy – Martha Wells
The ship’s feed led me to the cabin and I saw only four humans in the corridor and heard five others as I passed a lounge. My goal was to not see them again the rest of the seven-cycle trip.
Riverland – Fran Wilde
Wanting something made it easier to lose it.
Storm of Locusts – Rebecca Roanhorse
“So, uh, you know that cat?”
“She’s with us,” I admit. “Marginally.”
Murder on the Red River – Marcie Rendon
“The only job of big people is to protect the little people.”
Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions – Henry Lien
“Although . . . I can’t be certain it’s not something more serious unless I remove his nose for study. It’s always safest for the patient’s health to remove the nose for study.”
Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra – Kevin Panetta & Paulina Ganucheau
“I can’t believe you told Lilly our secret identities without asking us first.”
“It’s no biggie. I told Josh. As long as we only tell cool people, it’s fine.”
A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine
It would be exactly like Yskandr to have slept with a woman who called herself the Edgeshine of a Knife.
When We Were Magic – Sarah Gailey
“I’ve been into you for a really long time. And I know that we’ve missed each other a lot. I know that we’ve both done the whole ‘there’s no way she likes me back’ thing for like a hundred years. But I’m done with that, okay? We hid body parts together. If we can figure that out, we can figure this out, too.”
The Broken Girls – Simone St. James
‘At least I still have all my teeth.’ They’d looked away then, these Americans who didn’t understand what an achievement it was to keep all your teeth.
Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo
The wound in Alex’s side was a deep divot, crusted black. The bite had left a visible curve that she knew would heal badly, if it healed at all. Her map had been changed. Her coastline altered. ‘Mors irrumate omnia.’ Death fucks us all.
The Skull Beneath the Skin – P.D. James
She guarded her privacy. None of her friends and no one from the agency had ever been in the flat. Adventures occurred elsewhere.
The Bone Houses – Emily Lloyd-Jones
There was something about siblings—a language that was half memory and half glance.
A Morbid Taste for Bones – Ellis Peters
He prayed as he breathed, forming no words and making no specific requests, only holding in his heart, like broken birds in cupped hands, all those people who were in stress or in grief because of this little saint, for if he suffered like this for their sake, how much more must she feel for them?
City of Lies – Sam Hawke
He had a good heart and an entirely unrealistic picture of dear, sweet Kalina, fancying himself heroically caring for such a frail little thing as me. I wished him all the best, but there were only so many times I could take people trying to thrust him into my bed.
The Library of the Unwritten – A.J. Hackwith
She’d never had much use for humans beyond what function they had to please her Creator. For Uriel, humans were cut flowers for a lover’s bouquet, nothing more.
The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi
In the normal course of things, she did not care for punctuality. Punctuality, with its unseemly whiff of eagerness, was for peasants.
Because You’ll Never Meet Me – Leah Thomas
Despite your depressing response to my awesome I-Died-Once teaser, I’ll attach Part One of my autobiography.
Proper English – KJ Charles
“You may think servants spend all day as idle as you, but I can assure you, we are not,” Travers said crushingly. “Nobody had the time to sneak off, steal a knife, murder a man, clean up, and get back to work, not with lunch for ten to put on the table and this house understaffed as it is, so that all visiting staff have to pitch in.”
The Labyrinth’s Archivist – Day Al-Mohamed
They didn’t know how to handle her blindness. They equally didn’t know how to handle her competence
The Only Good Indians – Stephen Graham Jones
“Something Peta said last night,” Lewis lies, always trying to be sure to remind Shaney about his wife, and then say something about her again, just to be sure. Not because he’s the ladies’ man of the USPS—there isn’t one—but because him and Shaney are the only two Indians at this station, and for the last week, ever since Shaney passed the background check and hired on, everybody’s been doing that thing they do with armchairs and end tables when they match: trying to push him and her together over in the corner, leave them there to be this perfect set.
Blanca y Roja – Anna-Marie McLemore
Her eyes would be brown, the same as the rest of us, and that was something our mother would consider a great misfortune. But they were brown as light as acacia honey, like amber. A brown that could be forgiven.
The Golden Age of Murder – Martin Edwards
At one point he demonstrated his credentials as a common man by dropping the hyphen from his surname, although he soon repented of his daring and reinstated the controversial bit of punctuation.
Pet – Akwaeke Emezi
“Good and innocent, they not the same thing; they don’t wear the same face.”
The Dry – Jane Harper
“I loved her.”
“Since when,” Falk said, “has that ever stopped anybody from hurting someone?”
Goddess of the North – Georgina Kamsika
He annoys me, always smiling, always cheery. There’s no need for it.
A Song Below Water – Bethany C. Morrow
Any time hands dart into the air I keep mine clutched in my lap just in case it’s contagious.
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking – T. Kingfisher
“My dear, I am certain that you can go on about how unworthy and incapable you are for hours yet, but we have very little time. Let us pretend that we have done all that and that I have nodded correctly and made the proper noises, and skip to the part where you say, “I don’t know what I can do, but I’ll try.”
Starfang: Rise of the Clan – Joyce Chng
Wolves should not be in space, but here we were, a clan of wolves and merchants.
Drowned Country – Emily Tesh
He wanted to make a grammar and a dictionary of her terrible earth-shaking language.
The City We Became – N.K. Jemisin
The Woman then takes Aislyn’s hand and pumps it, too virogously.
“Yes. Pleasedtomeetyou is appropriate, yes? We’re both composite entites for whom the boundaries of space, time, and flesh have meaning! Let’s be besties.”
Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
“You have always suffered from a want of duty, Nav. You can’t argue that. You couldn’t spell ‘obligation’ if I shoved the letters up your ass.”
“I gotta say, I don’t think that would help,” said Gideon. “God, I’m glad you didn’t teach me my spelling.”
Cemetery Boys – Aiden Thomas
“Remember why we’re doing this.”
Yadriel steeled himself and spoke with as much courage as he could muster. “So they’ll see that I’m a brujo.”
“Well, yeah, but other than that.”
“Spite?” Yadriel guessed.
“Spite!” Maritza agreed enthusiastically.
Ring Shout – P. Djèlí Clark
It’s raining the Sunday night we make our way up Stone Mountain. Not no Presbyterian rain neither. I’m talking a shaking and hollerin’ Baptist downpour.
My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
I close the notebook. It is small, smaller than the palm of my hand. I watched a TEDx video once where the man said that carrying around a notebook and penning one happy moment each day had changed his life. That is why I bought the notebook. On the first page, I wrote, I saw a white owl through my bedroom window. The notebook has been mostly empty since.
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock – Paul Tremblay
She’s tall, angular, all arms and legs, and built like a scarecrow that’s low on straw.
The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell
Poor Rupert, trapped forever in this dismal place. Overlooked for eternity by that abysmal church with only half a steeple. When they married, Elsie had never doubted they would spend eternity buried side by side. She might have to review that plan.
The House with a Clock In Its Walls – John Bellairs
“And bring out another plate of chocolate chip cookies.”
Mrs. Zimmerman stood up and clasped her hands subserviently in front of her. “How would you like your cookies, sir? Stuffed down your throat one by one, or crumbled up and sifted into your shirt collar?”
Circe – Madeline Miller
“You have always been the worst of my children,” he said. “Be sure you do not dishonor me.”
“I have a better idea. I will do as I please, and when you count your children, leave me out.”
Made Things – Adrian Tchaikovsky
All of which was surely very wicked, but Coppelia found that, in Loretz, sympathy was like water: you couldn’t push it uphill very easily.
Velvet, Vol 2: The Secret Lives of Dead Men – Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting
“I was trying to be nice. But you assholes made me hurt a dog . . . so you can fuck right off.”
Velvet, Vol. 3: The Man Who Stole the World – Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting
A spy tells so many lies that they can get lost inside them.
The Luminous Dead – Caitlin Starling
She reached Camp Three after a long day’s hike and was relieved to find that it had zero dead bodies.
The Santa Klaus Murder – Mavis Doriel Hay
Witcombe was moving here and there, with the air of a man who will not recognize that he is being ignored.
The Christmas Crimes at Puzzel Manor – Simon Brett
If he was enjoying the benefits of cocaine, he did not allow it to affect his natural decorum.
The Game – Linsey Miller
11. And the most important rule of all—have fun!
12. We’re kidding. Murder is a necessity. Fun is optional.
Monster, She Wrote – Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson
If the horror genre had a mascot, it would be the serial killer.
Horrid – Katrina Leno
“I know what it’s like to love something so much you have to eat it.”
Going over the list . . . well, per usual, I can’t pretend there are a lot of surprises here. Primarily, I read fantasy: historical fantasy, modern fantasy, 2nd world fantasy, a few SFF mashups, etc. Otherwise, I mostly read mystery, horror, and SF, with the very occasional side venture into romance and non-fiction.
What I really read, though, was fanfic because fanfic has been my obsessive comfort hobby since high school, and 2020 very obviously required some serious comfort reading. This year was almost entirely dominated by one fandom: The Untamed, and I couldn’t even begin to contemplate a list of all the works I read. However, I thought I might start sharing a handful of favorites here, mostly going by the sheer number of times I’ve reread them:
the only way out – cafecliche
The Simplest Way Forward – harriet_vane
all your life you’ll dream of this – Attila
what else is there? – mme_anxious
get bolder – plonk
this river runs to you – sundiscus
My Heart is a Saber – peskyjellyfish
While I’m recommending stuff, let me shoutout two specific books from my 2020 Reading List: Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions by Henry Lien and Goddess of the North by Georgina Kamsika. Henry and George are friends from Clarion West, and they’ve both written fantastic novels here: Battle of Champions is the followup to Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword (nominated for an Andre Norton award, BTW), and features figure skating, martial arts, politics, and battle bands, like, JFC, that combo is to die for. Meanwhile, Goddess of the North is an immensely fun British urban fantasy, with a wide array of characters from various pantheons. Our heroine is a Hindu goddess working as a detective in Sheffield. Mythology and mystery nerds, take note, because this is a book you need in your lives.
Some Favorite New-to-Me Authors: Emily Tesh, Megan O’Keefe, Arkady Martine, AJ Hackwith, Akwaeke Emezi, and P. Djèlí Clark.
Some Books I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2021:
Wendy, Darling – A.C. Wise
A Desolation Called Peace – Arkady Martine
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – Becky Chambers
The All-Consuming World – Cassandra Khaw
The Conductors – Nicole Glover
Also, to keep shamelessly plugging my CW crew–look, I have too many super talented friends, what do you want from me–The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville and The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick both come out next year. (Disclaimer: M.A. Carrick is actually a writing duo: I’m specifically friends with Alyc Helms, though Marie Brennan was very nice when I met her!) I cannot wait to get my hands on The Memory Collectors because Kim’s writing is straight up beautiful, and because I’m an absolute sucker for this kind of quiet magic. Meanwhile, I actually got the opportunity to read a draft of The Mask of Mirrors (not to mention its sequel), and it is absolutely delightful, the first in a trilogy with capers, con artists, fencing, fortune telling, politics, and masked vigilantes. People. It is SO GOOD.
Most Quotable Books From The 2020 Reading List: The Afterlives of Saints, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Ninth House, The Gilded Wolves, The Only Good Indians, and Blanca y Roja. Choosing just one quote from these books? A goddamn nightmare.
And finally . . .
FAVORITE OPENING QUOTE
I didn’t mean to kill Josh Harper.
Really, I didn’t. It’s just that I was nervous, and condoms are more complicated than I was expecting, and one thing led to another and—well.
Now there’s blood everywhere and he’s dead.
When We Were Magic – Sarah Gailey
Holy Jesus, now THAT is the way to start a book. Nothing this year has hooked me as fast as the intro to this YA novel about friendship, insecurity, magic, and body disposal. This is great stuff.
Books ran when they grew reckless, when they grew unruly, or when they grew real. Regardless of the reason, when books ran, it was a librarian’s duty to catch them. – The Library of the Unwritten
By the time Alex managed to get the blood out of her good wool coat, it was too warm to wear it. – Ninth House
The gravedigger’s children were troublemakers. – The Bone Houses
“Once upon a time . . . “
“Why do you always start like that? Why not someday, or tomorrow?”
“Because that’s how stories start, Mike. They’re already over when you tell them. They’re safer that way.” – Riverland
She couldn’t remember the first book she had eaten. – Horrid
That’s it for now, but I’ll be back soon with my 2020 Best Of List, including my top ten favorite novels of the year!