I’m on track to finish 100 books in 2020. 🤩 I still have 2 more books to read, but I’m in the mood to look back on the year in books this weekend, so here we go: my favorite reads of the year by genre.
Childrens / Young Adult Fiction
Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan – An easy to read story about a middle schooler with a little brother being raised by their grandmother after being abandonded by their mother. Mom randomly shows up with her new boyfriend wanting to take her daughter off to live with her (but not her special needs son!), prompting grandma and the kids to go on a hunt for their father in Mexico.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera – Coming of age story about a queer Latina lady who gets her dream job working with her hero, who turns out to be more of an actual human being than a hero. Juliet’s experience with crappy white allies prompted me to think about how I support people without centralizing myself.
If liking girls is a phase, so what? If it’s your whole life, who cares? You’re destined to evolve and understand yourself in ways you never imagined before. – Juliet Takes a Breath, Gabby Rivera
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson – Gorgeous little story about teenage romance between a white Jewish gal and a black guy. It’s hard and heart warming.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan – I’ve heard about this novel for years and, in my opinion, it was worth all of the praise and fame. This is a story about Chinese American mothers and daugthers and how they make different choices and live different lives.
Science Fiction / Dystopian
The Power by Naomi Alderman – What if women were in charge instead of men? The premise of this story is that one day all of the young women in the world can suddenly cause great physical pain and death just with their hands. So the power balance shifts… and it doesn’t go well.
Gender is a shell game. What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not. Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there. – The Power, Naomi Alderman
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – One of my favorite books I’ve ever read. So fun and magical. I love a journey story, and this is about a young boy’s magical journey to find a wordly treasure.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – This was another of my top books of the year (yay fantasy!). In this world, one race of people (magical people) is taken advantage of and uber controlled by others. There are casual queer characters and a successful ployamorous relationship. It’s powerful and interesting and different and a reflection of race relations in the United States.
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore – Oooo I loved this one. This story is romantic with very little actual romance. There is a family of Latina women who have the power to make things grow. They maintain this gorgeous garden on property that isn’t theirs but they cannot leave. All the men they love eventually do leave and they are stuck there, growing gorgeous things. Until one day, instead of prodding flowers out of the ground, they pull out a boy.
He smiled, and it looked so true she wanted to take it apart and see how it worked. How she could draw that smile out of him again. – Wild Beauty, Anna-Marie McLemore
The Between by Tananarive Due – This was my favorite horror read of the year because it was the scariest. Black House by Stephen King was also a great one, but it was more gross and yucky than scary. The Between is spooky and blurry and otherworldly. I’ve been getting more into spooky and creepy things this year, including some stories from the Radio Rental podcast that suggest the actual reality of parallel universes, which is probably why this book stood out to me. I also read The Good House by Tananarive Due, which was good, but went on a little long for me.
Mystery / Thriller
Penance by Kanae Minato – One little girl is plucked from a group of friends and is raped and murdered. The surviving girls saw their friend’s killer and find their friend’s dead body. Obviously they are traumatized for life, as is the dead girl’s family. Penance follows how that trauma is lived out in each of their different lives.
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan – This was kind of a different mystery / thriller for me. First of all, is it a murder or a suicide or an accident? Second of all, there is a history lesson about the 1990’s Bosnian War, which I would usually tune out and be not at all interested in (just being honest). This author does such an amazing job about developing characters that draw you in.
The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller – Quick, nice little read. It was a touch predictable (small town woman who inherited the town’s diner from her parents meets fancy out of town business man…) but also had a lot of fun surprises and discoveries.
In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow – This is not a story that is told very often. Turns out in North Carolina from 1941 to 1987 there was a (fictional) woman who gave no effs. She drinks, she sleeps with who she wants, and she is not here for your assumptions about what a woman should be or do.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – I saw this book quite a bit this year and was so grateful to get my hands on it. This story deals with nature versus nurture, race, and the relationship between two sisters who are unbelievably close and then make big different decisions that lead them on unbelievably different paths.
Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder – The only graphic novel I read this year. I love this woman’s illustrations (I own some!) and this was a powerful and vulnerable memoir about the death of her mother.
Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist by Franchesca Ramsey – Basically read or listen to this book (I believe I listened to the audiobook) if you’re interested in being a decent person. Franchesca Ramsey is a very good accidental activist.
Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness – I laughed, I cried, I had no idea JVN has been through so much. If you loved him before, listen to him tell you his story and you’ll love him even more. I am so proud of him and I don’t even know him. This person is an inspiration.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle – I put off reading Glennon’s first book for weeks because I was so nervous that her radical ideas would change me. I’m dying. Her radical ideas have helped to SET ME FREE. This little diddy is actually Glennon’s love story – with her wife and her self. I probably cried through the whole thing.
I looked hard at my faith, my friendships, my work, my sexuality, my entire life and asked: How much of this was my idea? Do I truly want any of this, or is this what I was conditioned to want? – Untamed, Glennon Doyle
Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans – First I read The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns and Inspired had the same kind of information but with more heart (no shade to Peter). I haven’t made my way back to loving the bible again (not sure if I will), but this was important information for me to know.
Faithful engagement with Scripture isn’t about uncovering a singular, moralistic point to every text and then sticking to it. Rather, the very nature of the biblical text invites us to consider the possibilities. – Inspired, Rachel Held Evans