The Best Books of 2020

I have been a member of Goodreads for over a decade now. I have been participating in the annual Reading Challenge. While I am usually a voracious reader, I’m not always the best about keeping up with my reviews.1 Last year, I did manage to keep up with my reading. I set my goal for 2020 at 80 books and managed to top it by five.

Each year I also compile a list my “best books” of the year. This does not mean the books that came out in 2020
2. In this case, I am referring to the book that I read in 2020. I could make a “Top Ten” list, but that seems like too much work. Instead, I just list the books that I gave top marks to.

Last year sucked in so so many ways, but it was a good year for my reading. I gave 5 out of 5 ratings to over twenty books.
3 What follows are the titles I gave top marks to and a little bit of the review. They are presented in not particular order.

The Invention of Ghosts by Gwendolyn Kiste4
The Invention of Ghosts is lyrical, sad, and beautiful. Gwendolyn Kiste's prose draws you in and holds you until the story is done. Luke Spooner's artwork adds to the sense of darkness invoked by Kiste's words.

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
On the surface, this is the story of a group of southern women who have to come together to protect their families from a supernatural threat. If it had been left there, it would have been a fun, scary book. Instead we have layers upon layers: southern manners, racial and socio-economic divides, gender inequalities…

The Library of the Unwritten (Hell's Library #1) by A.J. Hackwith5
This is going to sound weird, but if you are a reader or an author, you are going to love this book. Start with the basic premise that there is a library that contains all of the books that have never been finished. Add to this the possibility that sometimes these books come to life, often in the form of the protagonist. Now place this library in the Hell, a safe space outside the usual machinations of the underworld...and you have the starting point of this book.

And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste6
I loved being able to savor little bites of Kiste's fiction, but I will admit that I started to panic when I realized I was more than halfway through. The only thing which saved me from going into a complete panic was the knowledge that I can reread the book.

And I plan to.

The Others by Jeremy Robinson
PI's, aliens, cults, nano-tech augmentations, and a long history of abductions. Interest piqued? I should think so.

Second Hand Curses by Drew Hayes
Second Hand Curses is an exceptional new look into the world of fairy tales. The readers follow Marie -- a woman with a horrible curse, Frank -- an undead creature of exceedingly high intelligence from beyond the sea, and Jack -- yes, that Jack. The trio, known as the Bastard Champions, quest through stories that you are familiar with, but their not like the ones you remember from childhood.

This ain't no Disney movie!

Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste7
The Marys in question are the Marys of folk song and urban legend. Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary with her garden. Mary Mack, silver buttons and all. The Welsh Mari Lywd with her horse skull. Bloody Mary, trapped forever in her mirror. And our POV character -- Resurrection Mary, cursed to hitchhike the same stretch of highway forever.

These five spiritual sisters are trapped in a house together. Each night they go out into the world to round up the scares that they use as sustenance. However, it is getting harder for them to haunt people. Rhee -- Resurrection Mary -- becomes haunted by something else, a darkness which threatens to consume them all.

Not Pounded by Anything While I Practice Responsible Social Distancing by Chuck Tingle
This is exactly the manual for our current times that we need. Chuck Tingle provides perfect examples of how to practice social distancing in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic. Tingle not only illustrates how to avoid the possible spreading of the disease, but how difficult it is. Entertaining and educational, this should be required reading for the current times.

The Devil's Panties, Volume 11 by Jennie Breeden
I love The Devil's Panties. When I heard that there was a Kickstarter to support the publication of the 11th volume collecting the online comic strips, I jumped at the chance. This volume compiles the strips from 2016.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
I love a good mystery. I love a good ghost story. The Sun Down Motel is both.

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse8
Roanhorse expertly weaves bits of urban fantasy and apocalyptic fiction into a brilliant tale of humans, monsters, and gods set against the background of a post flood southwest.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Everyone should read this book.

Well, I think that just about says it, but I will discuss it further if that is needed. Ijeoma Oluo is an amazing writer who broaches serious topics with the occasional bit of humor to put the reader at ease. She is willing to discuss her own private experiences to illustrate aspects of our social life which needs to change.

The Devil's Panties: Volume 10 by Jennie Breeden
Another wonderful collection of comics from The Devil's Panties. As with the other collected volumes, this one has a selection of sketches, games, and other extra material for the fans. Funny and moving, highly recommended.

History of Bourbon by Ken Albala
A wonderful exploration of, well, the history of bourbon. Albala covers not only how bourbon is made and how it came to be, but also the affects that bourbon (and some of its distant relations) helped shape the history of the world and especially America. He covers taxation, the development of various areas of the United States, politics, advertising, and how the beverage itself has changed. A great book for anyone interested in the spirit of the US.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia9
Another fascinating and beautifully written book by Moreno-Garcia. The creep factor is slowly ramped up in what at first appears to be a haunted house story with the addition of a family full of horrible people, but it's so much more. Granted, there were times when I was frustrated by the position Noemí finds herself in and her inability to combat some of the antagonists, but this is a mark of the superior writing evidenced here.

White Anvil: Sasquatch Onslaught by Matt Betts
If this book does not get into a movie, or better yet a limited series event, there is no justice in the world.

Aliens: Phalanx by Scott Sigler
Ultimately, a good story relies not only on interesting ideas but also on good characters and Sigler has populated this planet with an amazing array of individuals, castes, and cultures.

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
I should start by saying that I am a sucker for a well written epistolary novel. I also enjoy a well casted audio recording. Devolution has both. The majority of the story comes to us from the journal of Kate Holland, a resident of a technical oasis in the middle of the WA woods. There is a volcanic eruption, but that is the least of the village occupants' worries. Soon they discover that they are in the path of something far worse than ash and early snowfall.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
This is not your father's zombie novel.

Cash Flow for Creators: How to Transform your Art into a Career by Michael W. Lucas
If you told me that I would not only enjoy a book about finances but actually laugh out loud (literally), I would have thought you had lost your mind. The fact that the book is designed specifically to help creatives learn how to run their finances? Super Bonus.

The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman
This is the perfect book for history buffs, those interested in medicine, and authors looking for knowledge of poisons. Herman's knowledge of not only poisons in general, but the machinations of the various royal courts, the deaths of famous people of antiquity, and recent examinations of historical deaths.

1 In 2020 I made a concerted effort to not only review books on Goodreads, but also on Amazon where they might boost sales for the author as well.

2 Although they could have come out in 2020.

3 So this post is going to be a little bit longer than usual.

4 I’ve noted on numerous occasions that I not only had the good fortune of meeting and reading with Ms. Kiste at the HWA convention a few years back, but also that she has made it to two important lists. One is the list of authors whose work I will automatically purchase. The other is the list of authors whose books contain ideas that I wish I had come up with.

5 I pre-ordered the sequel before I had finished reading the first, that’s how much I enjoyed it. It is currently sitting on my TBR pile.

6 The second book of this amazing author.

7 That’s three if you are counting.

8 Another author whose entire catalog I’m going to work through.

9 Yet another author added to the “Read Everything” list.