In 2020, I tried to broaden the authors that I read. In the past, I have read books mostly by white male authors. For 2020, I wanted to read books by female authors, authors of color, and books by independent and emerging authors.
Overall, I guess that I partially achieved by goals. In terms of author gender, I did pretty well. Twenty of the 27 books that I read in 2020 were written by women. In terms of books by authors of color, I didn’t do so well. I only read 7 books by non-white authors. I did read several books by independent and emerging authors.
Below are my favorite books of the ones that I read in the past year.
My top 5 books of 2020
1. Crooked Hallelujah, by Kelli Jo Ford was my favorite book that I read in 2020. I learned about the author, and the book, from a Zoom talk that she gave through The Writer’s Center (www.writer.org). Crooked Hallelujah is a collection of short stories intended as a novel about a Native American family in the Oklahoma/Texas border area. Ford, a Native American, tells the saga through the eyes of 4 generations of women.
2. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I read one of Lahiri’s short stories in The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates. I was drawn to Lahiri’s work by her straightforward, terse prose and her perspective as a second generation American from the Indian subcontinent. The stories take place in both the USA and on the Indian subcontinent. One of my favorite stories was about a family of second and third generation Indian-Americans visiting their parents’ homeland as tourists.
3. Other People’s Pets: A Novel by R.L. Maizes. I had previously read, and loved, Maizes’ We Love Anderson Cooper short story collection, and when I heard about Other’s People’s Pets on Twitter, I had to order it. Other People’s Pets is driven by quirky characters, as were the stories in Anderson Cooper. La La Fine, who is seemingly abandoned by everyone she ever loved, including pets. But in the end, La La does manage to survive on her own. Maizes’ writing is compelling and moves along at a good clip. But, as in Anderson Cooper, it’s the quirky characters that drive Other People’s Pets.
4. It’s Not All Downhill From Here: A Novel, by Terry McMillan. This was one of the first books that I read in 2020. It’s the first work of McMillan’s that I’ve read. Downhill tells the story of Loretha Curry, a sixty-eight year old woman who is coming to grips with aging. I am a white male, just a year younger than Loretha, I found that I had a lot in common with her, and could really identify with what she was dealing with.
5. The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner. I’m a big fan of Lerner. Lerner is a young highly regarded poet and novelist. I really liked his previous novels and found them “meta-literary”. The books were as much about language as characters and life. Even though Adam Gordon, the main character of Topeka, is a gifted debater, I found Topeka to be not quite as intellectual, or meta-literary, as his previous novels. Once I got past my expectations, I found the book to be very entertaining.
Others in my Top 10 Books of 2020
6. Utopia Avenue: A Novel, by David Mitchell – having come of age listening to late 1960’s and early 1970’s rock music, I couldn’t pass up this novel, based in the mid-1960’s rock scene in London.
7. Preacher Sam: A Sam Geisler, Murder Whisperer Prequel, by Cassondra Windwalker – as a big fan of British “cozy mysteries”, I found this book wonderfully entertaining, with a great main character in Sam Geisler.
8. Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover – I don’t often read non-fiction, but this book about a young woman who overcomes being raised by an abusive, mentally disturbed father in a closed fundamentalist environment is shocking and inspiring.
9. Idle Hands, by Cassondra Windwalker – The narration by the devil makes this a very thought provoking book
10. Faithful Place, by Tana French – book three in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series tells the backstory of Detective Frank Mackey and is easily my favorite of the series.