I read so many books this year and although most of my 310 reads were romance, 61 books this year were not! So, I wanted to share my top ten of those books. This list was actually really tough to put together because I read a lot of incredibly nonfiction books, some really amazing thrillers, a couple of excellent literary fiction, and Susanna Kearsley books. However, we are, because I am extra, still focusing solely on 2020 releases, which admittedly knocks us from 61 down to many fewer. Anyway, let’s dive into my top ten!
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
“Usually,” Xiala said carefully, “when someone describes a man as harmless, he ends up being a villain.”
I think about Serapio and Xiala all the time. All. The. Time. I thought this epic fantasy was absolutely brilliant. It’s inspired by Indigenous cultures and is such an inclusive world. I have no idea how to describe it really, but I do highly recommend the audiobook and joining me in impatiently waiting for book two to be announced. Here’s my ARC review in case you would like something slightly more articulate from me.
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
“They can break, but they can’t erase,” Gracie says. “They can build but they can’t bury us.”
I will follow Alyssa Cole anywhere. She is so talented and this thriller from her was extremely engaging. It’s got such a creepy vibe and it moves slowly but surely through this unraveling of a gentrification… plot. I was intrigued by the romance between Sydney and Theo, but I really do think the suspense element was the strongest parts. I don’t really want to spoil anything, but here is my ARC review if you want more thoughts.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
“You can live a long life never being hurt—and never quite being happy. If that’s what you want.”
I really loved this book, problems and all, because messiness is where I thrive sometimes. This book is inspired by The Bachelor franchise, which I love, and features a plus-size main character who is the lead for the show. There are a multitude of problems with this book and at times it was really hard to read, but I absolutely loved it despite the flaws. Here’s my ARC review for more information.
The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
“It’s unrealistic to expect to find peace in the arms of someone else if you can’t find it within yourself.”
Speaking of mess, I absolutely adored all of the mess in The Heir Affair. It’s very important that you think of this book as more along the lines of Crazy Rich Asians or something where you might be engaged in the romance, but you’re really there for the rich people drama. That is The Heir Affair. All of these characters are messy af. There are really weird and really questionable plot points here and I just did not care. I love this book and the first book. But definitely check other people’s reviews to help you decide if it’s the book for you. For my full thoughts, here’s my ARC review.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
“She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”
I really loved this book, which was honestly a bit of a surprise because of how hesitant I always am to pick up literary fiction novels. But Brit Bennett’s writing style was accessible and also her writing was really pretty. But, as we’ve clearly established, I love messy characters and these characters are definitely messy. They are so flawed. The Vanishing Half follows two light-skinned Black sisters who run away from their town where people are prized based on how light they are. They go to New Orleans and then one day Stella just disappears. Desiree lives her life, but eventually winds up going back home with her very dark-skinned daughter, Jude. There are time jumps that I thought were sometimes a little confusing, but mostly I followed it well. There are a lot of thoughts about this book and I encourage you to check out Own Voices reviews.
Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha
I almost included this book in my non-contemporary romance favorites list because I think it definitely could have gone there, but numbers wise, it worked out better for me to include it here. I’m cheating so hard at the concept of a top ten. But anyway, Deal with the Devil really worked for me because, I think, of how much I adore the found family trope. It’s a dystopian adventure story and the world set up was really interesting and I cannot wait to see where they go in the next book! Here is my ARC Review if you want to see more about what I loved.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
“You’re the person I don’t need to explain things to – not when it matters. You see everything I am and you don’t run away from it.”
I just love Sarah J. Maas and this book was too long and still perfect for me. I just really love Sarah’s characters and while I think that most criticism of her books has a grain of truth, it really just cannot change the fact that I love them. This is the start of a new series and it made me cry! I was having some incredible physical reactions to this book, which I really don’t know how to describe at all. But if you like urban fantasy and/or you like Sarah J. Maas, this book might be worth checking out.
Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo
“How often have you heard the argument that we have to slowly implement gender and racial equality in order to not “shock” society? Who is the “society” that people are talking about? I can guarantee that women would be able to handle equal pay or a harassment-free work environment right now, with no ramp-up. I’m certain that people of color would be able to deal with equal political representation and economic opportunity if they were made available today. So for whose benefit do we need to go so slowly? How can white men be our born leaders and at the same time so fragile that they cannot handle social progress?”
My ARC review of this book contains the most articulate description of this book I can manage because mostly I’m just over here still amazed by how well Oluo’s writing works with my brain and how fantastic it is. This book is well-organized and makes it fairly easy to pick up and sit down, whether because of time or because you just need a break to seethe about how you didn’t know all of this horrible stuff about President Theodore Roosevelt. You know, whatever you need. I’m still mad about some of the things I learned in this book and I’m so grateful for how Oluo deepened my understanding of things I thought I sort of knew about. If you read and loved The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai, Fumbled or Snapped by Alexa Martin, the chapter in here about athletes and the NFL will have you ready to fight Roger Goodell. I thought I knew about CTE and the unfortunate realities a lot of NFL players face. I did not know the full reality and I’m so grateful for how Oluo provided me with a greater insight. Anyway, I loved this book. It was a really fantastic read.
Open Book by Jessica Simpson
“I’ve come to recognize fear when I see it. It may show itself in different ways, but it’s a familiar face, isn’t it? I have a different relationship to fear now. I’ve learned that we grow from walking through it, and a lot of people don’t even know they have that option. You either conquer it, or you let it destroy you.“
It’s no secret that I loved Open Book since I really haven’t stopped talking about it since I read it and loved it so much. I cried a million times. I realized how little I knew about Jessica Simpson even though I watched The Newlyweds and stayed relatively updated on the tabloids. Oh, high school me. Anyway, I love this book. I actually read three celebrity memoirs just so I could tell you more about Open Book.
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
“No woman has to be respectable to be valuable.”
Now for arguably the best book I read in all of 2020, Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall is such a powerfully impactful book that I have similarly not shut up about. This book has so impacted how I think of feminism and feminist issues and I really just cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m actually still in the middle of my reread because I got sidetracked and never finished it in 2020. I should return to that… Anyway, if you’ve not yet read Hood Feminism, please allow me to gently encourage you to do so!
And there you have my favorite non-romance releases of 2020! I hope you enjoyed seeing these books. Please let me know what you have read and loved this year.