Friday, December 25, 2020

Jenny's Best Reads of 2020

Every year I do a round-up of my 5-star reads. For the podcast's sake, these date from December 2019 through November 2020. On December 29th, the Best of 2020 podcast will post, featuring highlights from my list along with multiple guests sharing their top reads of the year. After December 31, I'll post my stats for the full actual calendar year. I love looking at those, but I could still read 10 books between now and then.

Unlike most book lists, these books are not necessarily published in 2020, simply read in that year.

Cover images are not the same order as below, apologies. If you are interested in my thoughts on any of these specific titles, your best bet is to find it on my Goodreads account - this list is Read2020 and sorted by rating.

Around the World - Middle East focus (plus one that snuck in from Asia 2019)

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth
Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vadney Rattner
Our Women on the Ground by Zahra Hankir, ed.
Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy, narrated by Mona Eltahawy
Beirut Won't Cry by Mazen Kerbaj
Home by Various, translated by Various (Two Lines Arabic poetry)

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
How Long 'Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice, narrated by Billy Merasty
Homesick by Nino Cipri


The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones


Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert


Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Literary Fiction in Translation

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead
A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, translated by Ann Goldstein
The Eighth Life by Nino Harataschwili, translated by Charlotte Collins & Ruth Martin
That We May Live by Various, translated by Various
Spring by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Ingvild Burkey
The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld; translated by Michele Hutchison
The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, translated by Jamie Bulloch
Farewell, Ghosts by Nadia Terranova, translated by Ann Goldstein

Literary Fiction - Backlist

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson, also narrated by Claire Danes
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin, narrated by Bahni Turpin
Mountolive by Lawrence Durrell
Fair Play by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal
Clea by Lawrence Durrell
Tracks by Louise Erdrich
Four Souls by Louise Erdrich
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

Literary Fiction - Current

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Hex by Lauren Dinerstein Knight
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo
What Happens at Night by Peter Cameron
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
Memorial by Bryan Washington


Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash
Normal People by Sally Rooney

Graphic Novels and Comics

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, illustrated by Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker
Apsara Engine by Bishakh Kumar Som

Nonfiction- Memoir

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Eat a Peach by David Chang and Gabe Ulla, narrated by David Chang
My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland

Nonfiction - Other

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto
On Lighthouses by Jazmine Barrera, translated by Christine MacSweeney
My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem
Tides by Jonathan White
The Selected Works of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde
Just Us by Claudia Rankine
Oak Flat by Lauren Redniss; narrated by Lauren Redniss, Darrell Dennis, Kyla Garcia, Kimberly Guerrero, Hillary Huber, Ann Marie Lee, Elizabeth Liang, Crystie Lightning


Postcolonial Love Poem
by Natalie Diaz
An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo
13th Balloon by Mark Bibbins
Homie by Danez Smith
Junebat by John Elizabeth Stintzi
How to Fly (in Ten Thousand Easy Lessons) by Barbara Kingsolver
Blizzard: Poems by Henri Cole
Together in a Sudden Strangeness Alice Quinn, ed.


  1. Thanks a lot for including my debut novel DAUGHTERS OF SMOKE AND FIRE in your list. I have read and loved several other books on this list. I am in great company :)

    1. Thank you for writing it! I even bought a copy for one of my podcast listeners as a prize.


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