Favorite Fiction Reads of 2020

In 2020 I read over 160 books. Most of them were of the nonfiction variety, so picking my favorite fiction reads was a lot easier this year than in 2019. Here they are from least to greatest, my top 10 fiction reads from 2020.

Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

I read a lot of Jules Verne this year. His books are a confusing amalgam of excitement and mind-numbing extraneous detail. Yes, I understand that the flora and fauna, genus and species of the sea would be fascinating to a world that did not have access to National Geographic, but to me, it droned like a bad sermon. A bad sermon that ends with a sudden volcanic eruption or an attack by a ravenous beast. And Captain Nemo is a pretty awesome character.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I’ve read many of Holmes’ adventures over the years, but I never sat down and read the whole of the Sherlock cannon from cover to cover. I found quite a few short stories that I had never read. It was also delightful to revisit A Study in Scarlet, one of my favorite childhood reads. I will never forget the way 12-year-old me felt when Holmes and Watson saw “rache” smeared in blood on the wall.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I am rather fond of the gothic genre, and this horror novel did not disappoint me. Noemí’s adventure at mist-shrouded High Place was spine-tingling and fascinating. The characters in this book are fantastic, and the prose is deliciously grotesque.

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

I really enjoy H. G. Wells’ stories. He’s the perfect place to turn when I’m looking for a fast, exciting read. This classic, creepy novel about a scientist gone mad, moved at Wells’ typical galloping pace.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

This book was perfect satire. It made the horrors of war hilarious. I laughed at the mayhem for pages and pages until it suddenly dawned on me that the exploits and endless frustrations of the characters were not actually funny at all. The moment I stopped laughing, the book became tremendously poignant. 

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

This collection of interwoven short stories was a blast to read. You raced along the timeline of technology in an alternate future where artificial intelligence is so humanoid it begins competing with humanity. I tensed up at the beginning of each successive chapter thinking, “oh gosh what’s going to happen now?”

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is a genius. This short novel illuminates the lonely lives of wandering laborers in California during the Dust Bowl. The story was so real and so sad.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Why did it take me so long to read this? (It was because zombies.) I grabbed it for one of my spooky October reads. It’s beautiful. The grizzly, gore bleeding its way through Jane Austen’s snappy prose? Yes. And Grahame-Smith’s wry asides amidst eighteenth-century-novel-speak violence? Yes. Now I wish somebody would vampire up Jane Eyre because seriously, Edward Rochester is just begging to be a glitter-goth.

Watership Down by Richard Adams

This book was so beautiful. It grew out of Adams’ experiences as a soldier to become a long and lush tale of friendship, faith, and the hope we find in stories. And all told through rabbits, in such a way that it feels so real. The poetry of the prose and the lovely literary illusions put this on my list of all-time favorite reads.

And number one…

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Major book hangover from this one. No, I have not seen the movie, and from what I’ve read, they’re quite different. This fantasy novel about feuding wizards and witches was hilarious. I loved all the characters, plus Sophie’s cantankerous moods and Howl’s childish tantrums, and just the general hullabaloo… it was perfect. Please, please, do yourself a favor and read lovely this book. 

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