We all know that 2020 was not the best year. For anyone. But it was a good year for reading, what with all the quarantine and wanting to escape from reality.
Just a note: most of these books did not come out in 2020. Instead, these are the best of all the books that I personally read in 2020, not including re-reads. As usual, these picks are big on diversity, as well as quality. Out of a total of 25 reads, these are my favorite:
Witchmark by C. L. Polk (and its sequel, Stormsong)
New Adult, Epic Fantasy
In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.
Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.
When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Young Adult, Mystery
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon is dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died, but on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates. Which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
Young Adult, Science Fiction
Humanity clings to life on January―a colonized planet divided between permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other.
Two cities, built long ago in the meager temperate zone, serve as the last bastions of civilization―but life inside them is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.
Sophie, a young student from the wrong side of Xiosphant city, is exiled into the dark after being part of a failed revolution. But she survives―with the help of a mysterious savior from beneath the ice.
Burdened with a dangerous, painful secret, Sophie and her ragtag group of exiles face the ultimate challenge―and they are running out of time.
Welcome to the City in the Middle of the Night.
Mermaids of Eriana Kwai Trilogy by Tiana Warner
Young Adult, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.
The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.
Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.
For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.
The Diviners Series by Libba Bray
Young/New Adult, Historical Fantasy
Evangeline O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and sent off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.
When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened….
Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan
Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
This is the end of Riordan’s Trials of Apollo series (and, if he’s to be believed, the last book of the Percy Jackson saga overall). And damn, did he do a great job.
Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera
Young Adult, Dystopian Science Fiction
At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.
Sixteen-year-old Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That role brings with it violent throwdowns and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but Nala quickly grows weary of her questionable lifestyle. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega Towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search of the mysterious gang, the Ashé Riders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles crews and her own doubts but the closer she gets to her goal the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone—she cares about.
Nalah must choose whether or not she’s willing to do the unspeakable to get what she wants. Can she discover that home is not where you live but whom you chose to protect, before she loses the family she’s created for good?
What are your favorite books from this year? Tell us in the comments!