2020 has been a long, challenging year and filled with sadness and rage and strains. It has also been a year filled for me with reading. I read 36 books this year, 4 short of my target. Here are my 2020 books:
1) The Poppy War by @kuangrf The 1st of 3. I loved this book, steeped in historical research but set in a time of magic and change. The moral and personal stories are fantastic, and the writing amazing. I loved this book and plan to start 2021 with the finale.
2) Snowcrash by @nealstephenson - I wanted to love this book but think it would have been better if I read it when it came out. Issues of the virtual and real world's colliding would have been newer, and clearly the author was ahead of his time. It was a bit of a slog.
3) Exhilation - by Ted Chiang - This book was widely acclaimed, and it was fun but ultimately disappointed. Maybe it was setting the bar too high? These were interesting, a little like Black Mirror episodes but I think I wanted more than short stories.
4) The Dragon Republic by @kuangrf - The second of the Poppy War trilogy. If possible even better than the first. Amazing product weaving history and fantasy.
5) Never Let Me Go - @vinelandenergy Haunting and sad, and scary. The writing matches the dark and ominous content of this book. Deep, thoughtful emotional book with calm almost placid prose. Real dystopian and dark. Perfect for 2020.
6) City of Blades - second of trilogy from Robert Jackson Bennett. I enjoyed the first (City of Stairs) but the second a little less. Interesting and inventive but ultimately this one left me eh and I did not move on to the third.
7) Raven Tower by @ann_leckie - Author of the Ancillary trilogy (which I loved). This was a departure and very good. Crisp, interesting, compelling drama and good world building. One of my fav writers.
8) Norse Mythology - @neilhimself - Such a good book. A modern retelling of Norse myths. Interesting, funny, accessible. I am trying to get my kids to read and yet such great imagery.
9) Child of Blood and Bone - @tomi_adeyemi I wanted to enjoy this more than I did. I think it is a terrific book. But I think the target audience is much more YA and I did not connect with it as I can with other YA novels. Wonderful writing.
10) Zone One by @colsonwhitehead - Read this just as Pandemic/CoViD hit. Maybe a mistake but then again, this writing here is so good I really enjoyed this. My home town is a zombie zone, and it really stuck with me. Food scary fiction from a terrific author.
11) Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury - If there is a classic science fiction novel, this or Foundation by Azimov is it. Read this as a kid and it remains wonderful. It is about humanity, but set on Mars. Just great, inventive story telling at its finest. Holds up very well.
12) Reincarnation Blues - @mikepoore227 Perhaps my favorite book of 2020. Smart, funny, creative, good writing, compelling. Just an amazing book that left me happy, sad and thinking for weeks. So good. How is this not a top best seller?
13) Good Omens - @neilhimself and Terri Pratchett - Funny and inventive, but I did not love this. They clearly had fun writing this story, and it was inventive. I'd rather go back and watch Dogma, however (no insult - that movie is awesome).
14) An Unkindness of Ghosts - @cyborgyndroid - This was a top pick from my sensei @keithlaw and I enjoyed this book. Thoughtful, provocative, imaginative, good science fiction with a purpose. Keith may have loved it more than I did, but still really enjoyable and worth the read.
15) Empire City - @MattGallagher0 - This book touched on my professional world and I really enjoyed this book and where it came from. It reminded me of Starship Troopers meets Fantastic 4. Well crafted and good story telling.
16) Book of Joan - @LidiaYuknavitch I was disappointed in this book. I think the writing was not to my preferred style, and I found parts harsh for harshness sake. There is good writing here and some good ideas too, but this was not right for me.
17) Asymmetry - Lisa Halliday - I enjoyed this book but admit that I had to read a review afterwards to get the deeper point. Once I did I loved it even more. There is wonderful writing here, and bravery. Writing a book is a courageous act, and some more than others.
18) Empire of Gold - @SAChakrabooks - I loved the first 2 books of this series. Epic writing and story telling interwoven with history. The 3rd book zipped it all up really well, even if I enjoyed the beginnings and journey more than the end. Wonder what she will dive into next!
19) Altered Carbon - @Morgan_Writer - I did not love this book but that is my fault, not the author's. This is a crime novel done in future tech style - think Bladerunner. I am not a major crime/film noir fan. This is entertaining but not my cup of tea.
20) Rogue Protocol - @marthawells1 - IYKYK. The Murder Bot is back, pissed, capable and trying not to care. Really good, detailed, these books flow from start to finish. You can see his gears turn.
21) Watchmen - Alan Moore - I wanted to love this, and in the end it was ok. Terrific graphics, interesting story but maybe I am just too old. Too busy, convoluted and mutli-faceted. I wanted the plot to develop more crisply perhaps. Too many things going on for these eyes.
22) Exit Strategy - Another Murder Bot action packed romp-o-rama.
23) Engines of God - Jack McDevitt - This is good old fashioned science fiction. Solid, interesting, detailed. But somehow it left me a little flat. Maybe it was the book, maybe it was me. I think this is a good solid book but did not wow me.
24) Scythe - @NealShusterman - I am a big fan of this author and thought this was a terrific YA novel that reaches all ages. Interesting, creative, good writing, and carries it all through. I really enjoyed this and am looking forward to reading more of his work in 2021.
25) Artemis - @andyweirauthor - From the author of the Martian, another deeply researched, detailed engineering work of wonder. Terrific work, imaginative and the details and snarky dialogue zip the book alone. Really good work.
26) The Martian - @andyweirauthor All of the fun dialogue that makes the Martian so fun? Weir wrote almost all of it, The science? Yeah, him too. A fantastic piece of work. IN some ways better than the movie because it was original!
27) Dune - Frank Herbert - Getting ready for the new version of the movie, I returned to one of my first written loves. Holds up, and gets better as I get older and see things from a different POV. I hope the movie can live up to the book.
28) A Dead Djinn in Cairo - P. Djeli Clark - Recommended by my friend @BishopGarrison and worth the read. A short story more than a book. I am eager to find more. Well written and imaginative. A bit more crime oriented that i like, but good writing and story telling here.
29) Unwind - @NealShusterman - After reading Scythe, I was drawn to this and can see why. An even deeper, more important work that helps discuss the nature of worth, how society sees people and how the vulnerable see themselves. A top 2020 read for me.
30) Grace of Kings - Ken Lui - After Reincarnation Blues, my favorite of 2020. Incredible story telling, creative, funny, compelling, well written, deep, informed. I loved everything about this book from start to finish.
31) The Red - @LindaNagata - I remain torn on this book. It is well done, includes some good technology and warfare but in the end is more of a battlefield novel than a sci-fi novel. It was good, but I wanted more on the personal and the deeper level, if that makes sense?
32) Pantheon - @AuthorKRPaul - First novel. Great writing. Great characters. Brave writing and content. The book is raw, fun, mixes tech and battle and emotions. Creative and filled with real world details. Congrats to my friend for their great work. What's next?!
33) The City We Became - @nkjemisin I am from NYC. I loved Broken Earth. I have the greatest respect and admiration for the author. I should have been all in. Maybe expected too much? But this book disappointed me. Imaginative, for sure. In the end, did not resonate with me.
34) The Giver - @LoisLowryWriter - So poignant, emotional, creative and fluid. I can see why this is am important work for middle/high school and so well regarded. Heart wrenching. And valuable.
35) Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clark - A modern epic. Incredible in every respect. Writing, story, world building, mood, details, humor, context. This is a masterpiece. Just a massive piece of work. 10 years, first novel? WOW. Just blown away.
36) Between the World and Me - @ta-Nehisi Coates - My only non-fiction this year. Important to read this in 2020, and to read it. I powerful, passionate piece of work. I'd give a lot to discuss with the author and dive deeper. So much energy, passion, anger, sadness here.
So, my top picks for 2020 - Reincarnation Blues, Grace of Kings and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. So many great books, so little time. Thanks to @keithlaw @whatwouldDOOdo @RichardMNephew @BishopGarrison @kuangrf for guiding and engaging me on my 2020 books. What's next?
And of course thanks to my book buddy and informed insider @amystolls
You can follow @JBWolfsthal.
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