Friday, January 1, 2021

2020 Book Lists! Second Flight of Great Reads!

Two days ago, I posted the first 10 of my favorite 2020 reads. Here are the second 10! Both lists are fabulous, and I like them each equally. I tried to balance the picks, so they'd be like flights of wine, except books. In this one, I tried to put the books in alphabetical order by author (as is my custom), but I became stymied by the formatting limitations of Blogger. I crashed around on the keyboard and considered moving the whole blog to SquareSpace or something, but that seemed like a lot of last-minute work. So, here you go, out of alphabetical order.

The Last Flight by Julie Clark.

Two desperate women, one the wife of a high-profile Manhattan politician and one trapped by crime, swap identities in the airport, boarding each other's flights. But can either of them truly escape the lives they're living? I inhaled this perfectly plotted thriller in a day. The writing is crisp and empathetic, and Clark expertly weaves backstory without disrupting the lightning-quick pace. I loved this a lot.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

Every year, I come across a few books that I call "like nothing I've read before." Memorable tomes in this category include all-time faves, A Tale for the Time Being and Dept. of Speculation. This year, My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is a contender. Told in tight, quick chapters, this is a slim novel about loyalty, sisterhood, jealously, and yes, bloody murder. I devoured it. The audio performed by Adepero Oduye is great.

The Talking Drum by Lisa Braxton.

In this historical novel, Braxton creates a satisfying arc for each character and also interweaves their stories. Black residents in two 1970s Boston neighborhoods, Petite Africa and Liberty Heights, are under siege by arsonists seeking to collect insurance money before the city claims the buildings via eminent domain and displaces the community. This is a story about gentrification and systemic racism, and Braxton pulls it off with spare, understated prose. 

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré.

I thoroughly enjoyed this engrossing novel about child marriage and female empowerment. The first-person narration sucked me right in. Adunni, a Nigerian teenager in search of her own voice, infuses her heartbreaking story with humor and hopefulness. As a reader, I rooted for her from sentence one. I could imagine reading this alongside A Woman Is No Man, which is also about child marriage and forced labor, but has an entirely different (and also affecting) tone.

You and Me and Us by Alison Hammer.

Alexis and CeCe have never been a close mother-daughter pair. Alexis works all hours and CeCe relies on her therapist father, Tommy, for emotional support. The family functions reasonably well, but when Tommy gets a terminal cancer diagnosis, the balance they've struck upends. Alexis gives up work, so the threesome can spend one last summer together in Tommy's favorite place, Destin, FL, which Hammer describes with loving detail. Her supporting cast charms and complicates, and amidst the sadness, Hammer produces pockets of transcendent joy and laughter. This book gave me serious Beaches vibes, and you know I watched that movie on repeat in the 80s. Plus, the author, Alison, is my friend, and she rocks.

Beach Read by Emily Henry.

Romance novelist January Andrews arrives heartbroken at her late father’s beach house. She's determined to pen another of her bestsellers despite every emotional obstacle. Little does she know that her college creative writing nemesis, Augustus Everett, has taken up residence next door. His heavy-duty literary fiction is renowned, and she’s sure he despises her happily-ever-afters. As they’re both struggling, they swap genres to reinvigorate their writing… and of course, fall in love. Loved this story, and also loved the commentary about what types of writing "count." (Spoiler: all of them!)

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby.

I laughed so hard while reading this essay collection that my child told me to "chill," and my husband asked incredulously whether each sentence was actaually individually funny. Yes, okay? YES. Irby is now one of my favorite humor essayists, and as she's also an early 40s woman with a collection of related troubling symptoms, I feel a kinship. I can't believe I hadn't read her work before, and I have another tome on my shelf ready to dig into early in the new year. 
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny.

I really feel that Louise Penny is a genius, and that this series--the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series--is genius. I love mysteries, you know. And, I love a great father figure. Armand Gamache is that, and this installment (the 6th in the series) drives that particular aspect of his personality home. While he investigates the murder of an amateur archeologist who's taken it upon himself to uncover the secrets of the founding of Quebec, Gamache also relives a failed investigation in which he's lost a young agent. Flashbacks reveal his sweetness and his regret. I always feel a little jealous when I read Louise Penny because she's such a great writer, and I am not yet as great. :) Start with Still Life. That's the first in the series.
Unscripted by Nicole Kronzer.

I'm cheating a little bit here because I definitely read this book in 2019, but it launched in to the world in 2020, at which point I couldn't stop talking about it. It's charming, delightful, relatable, and carries important messages for teenagers. Kronzer develops a winning and vulnerable protagonist, Zelda, who spends a summer at a male-dominated comedy camp in the Colorado Rockies. She adds in a supporting cast of hilarious and sympathetic kids, cultivates an important #MeToo girl power message, and sprinkles it all with funny improv jokes. I'm sorry, but who wouldn't give this book five stars?

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia.

Yes, astute and dedicated readers of my lists will remember a Kate Racculia novel in the other 2020 flight, as well. I was so delighted to discover Kate this year. She's a brilliant, funny writer, and her stories are filled with puzzles and surprises. Did you like The Westing Game as a kid? This author did, too, along with pop culture and words and riddles. In this book, an iconic Boston billionaire dies and leaves the city a treasure hunt. Tuesday Mooney, an prospect investigator for a nonprofit hospital, and a lovable supporting cast must face their demons to have a chance at the jackpot.

And that's it! I already finsihed my first book of 2021, and I know it's going to be a great reading year. Did I miss something great this year? Be sure to tell me. I'm always looking for reading suggestions.

1 comment:

LH said...

Why have I never read anything by Louise Penny?

Something's gone wrong there.