The Best Books I Read, 2020-2021

These are my favorite reads of last year, in no particular order:

The List, 2020-2021

My reading pace still hasn’t recovered from the big dip it took when the world went haywire in the spring of 2020. My life has gotten back to normal (except for a lot of mask-wearing), but I still find myself more easily distracted by the news, by social media, an by video games. My to-read schedule is lightening up, though. I’m hoping having more room to choose books based on what I’m in the mood for—rather than which had the most pressing deadlines—will help me get back on my game.

Here’s the complete list of books I read: Reading Log, 2020-2021

And here are my stats:

And the tiny darkest blue strip is Alternate History

The Best Books I Read This Year, 2019-2020

In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of the last twelve months:

The List, 2019-2020: The Year of the Giant Asterisk

I feel like I’ve neglected my blog since, well, March. While I’ve been posting regularly, I haven’t read as much this year as I normally do. I finished 208 books between September 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020. Last year, I finished 249. The 41 books I might have read evaporated into hours spent checking Twitter for news, watching COVID-19 numbers rise and rise. I, like a lot of people I expect, thought that I would be able to turn my commute time into reading time. That clearly didn’t happen. In fact, I also spent a lot more time playing computer games with my family, to take the edge off of self-isolating for months.

So, this year is going to have a big ol’ asterisk by it to explain why my numbers and blog posts went down.

The Best of 2018-2019

It was a very good year if books for me. Here are my favorites from the last twelve months, in no particular order:

The Best of 2017-2018

Here are my favorite books that I’ve read over the last twelve months, in no particular order:

  1. Happiness, by Aminatta Forna
  2. Space Opera, by Catherynne Valente
  3. Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
  4. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton
  5. Verdict of Twelve, by Raymond Postgate
  6. The City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty
  7. Narrow Road to the Deep Northby Richard Flanagan
  8. The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey
  9. Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
  10. Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn
  11. Woman at 1,000 Degrees, by Hallgrímur Helgason
  12. Me, Myself, and Them, by Dan Mooney
  13. Confessions of the Fox, by Jordy Rosenberg
  14. Atonement, by Ian McEwan
  15. Ohioby Stephan Markley
  16. The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert
  17. Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory
  18. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
  19. The Book Smugglers, by David E. Fishman
  20. Ivan’s War, by Catherine Merridale

Books for Bookish People: Books that Feature Authors with Secrets

Last night, I finished reading In the Distance with You, by Carla Guelfenbein (review pending) and it set me to thinking about books in which the protagonists dig up the buried secrets of authors they love. The more I think about it, the fact that I really enjoy books about people diving into authors’ lives to understand this books is odd. When I read, I deliberately try not to learn about authors’ lives or processes because I feel like a book needs to stand on its own. But that’s literary criticism and this is reading books with layers of bookishness.

If you’re looking for booky books about people who write books, here are my favorites:

40440The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

This one was really popular when it came out and, every time I talk to someone who’s read it, readers gush about this disturbing Gothic tale. I’ve read this book several times and I still get sucked into the twists and turns. In this book, a biographer is summoned to the remote home of an enigmatic author. This author has told a bunch of different stories about her past as a smoke screen, but now that she’s gotten very old, she’s finally going to tell the truth.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society, by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

This thriller gets more sinister by the chapter. It blows the cover off a bunch of authors’ secrets by following a group of Finnish writers as their circle disintegrates after their mentor disappears. The plot revolves around the question of where authors get their ideas and turns it into a deliciously brutal tale.

1232The Shadow of the Windby Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is another classic pick. It’s the first literary novel that I can remember reading that was as engrossing as genre fiction. Within chapters, I felt like I was racing around Barcelona with the protagonist as he tried to find more books by an author who seemed to vanish into thin air. The best part of this book, which is the first in a loose series, is the Cemetery of Lost books—a place so magical and full of gravitas that I wish I could be buried there when I shuffle off*.

Bonus book! 

Crossing the Lines, by Sulari Gentil

This one isn’t exactly a book about authors with secrets, but it is one of my favorite books about writers. It’s hard to tell who is the real author in this book because the two protagonists appear to be writing each other into existence. Crossing the Lines is beautifully creative and original. I wish it got more attention.


* Here’s a bad joke: old librarians don’t die, they’re just deaccessioned.

Bookishly Delicious; Or, Fiction Featuring Food

paintings-family-food-tables-thanksgiving-norman-rockwell-turkey-bird-_472406-32.jpg

Norman Rockwell

In honor of Thanksgiving, I rounded up some of my favorite books that have food heavy plots and/or settings:

The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones

The plot of this book is decent, but it’s mostly a vehicle for the main character to explore the world of haute Chinese cooking.

Tomorrow There Will be Apricots, by Jessica Soffer

This novel is a story of developing self-acceptance through exploring a family’s culinary heritage.

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris

Because this is one is not only delicious to read, but also because it’s about food and the importance of self-indulgence. I frequently re-read Chocolat just because of the descriptions of the confections.

Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King

This book would be great for food and history lovers. It tells the story of a Roman aristocrat’s chef, whose recipes ended up in one of the oldest known cookbooks in the world.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown

Pirates and food! The main character has to create great food everyday, or the captain will kill him.

Household Gods, by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove

Nicole is magically transported to ancient Rome. There, she learns to take charge of her life and her tavern. This features less cooking than Feast of Sorrow, but it’s still historically interesting.

Bon appétit and happy reading!