Well, I know you’ve been eagerly looking forward to this since my last installment in October.
Oh…no? Not really? Forgot? Don’t care about reading?
Ah well, skim it anyway! Maybe reading more is on your list of things to do in 2021, and I’ve got 21 excellent options for you from Q4 – plus a few more in the 2020 best reads round-up, in case you missed those earlier.
This quarter saw another diverse batch of authors, stories, styles, and genres, and I’m pretty happy looking at this list. I think I’m realizing that my taste in books is similar to my taste in music. Like, if you look at my playlists you’ll be all like WTF? She’s all over the place! Same with my book lists. But I also think that just signals that I’m not afraid to explore, to learn, to widen my perspectives, and absolutely, to find joy and good, wisdom and knowledge in pretty much everything.
Books are doors to other worlds that always lead back to making this one just a little bit better. It pays to explore.
So: 21 books to explore in 2021!
Pizza Girl Jean Kyoung Frazier (This book was chock full of humanity. If you ever need a reminder, and we all do from time to time, that people are often going through shit, take a little time for these 200 pages. This was a great book. Tender is used in the book blurb, and I think that’s appropriate.)
Fortune Favors the Dead: A Novel (A Pentecost and Parker Mystery Book 1) Stephen Spotswood (This book was so good! In a similar vein to Agatha Christie mysteries, but with a modern twist of all-female leads. Highly enjoyable.)
Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper: A Novel Hilary Liftin (OK, so this book was intriguing as hell. It’s basically a fictionalized account of the real-life marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. But it’s written by a Hollywood ghostwriter, so you be the judge of just how much is fictional. Juicy stuff.)
Squeeze Me: A novel Carl Hiaasen (Oh my God, this book was HILARIOUS. What’s an amped up word for hilarious, actually, because that’s what this would be. It’s a very, very current take on the wild and in-your-face, hardly believable antics of the Trump presidency, mixed in with murder and South Florida hijinks. Read this now.)
Bunny: A Novel Mona Awad (Holy shit, this book was weird. Honestly, it was easily one of the most fucked up books I have ever read. Ever. If you are into twisted reads that continually surprise you and leave you fairly speechless, this is one for you.)
Next Year in Havana Chanel Cleeton (Really lovely historical fiction taking place in Cuba, that also incorporates a parallel storyline about present-day Cuba. I found it interesting and enlightening and sad and beautiful. Looking forward to reading the other books in the series.)
In a Holidaze Christina Lauren (Christina Lauren delivers again! This satisfying romcom incorporated a fun time travel element, and ended just as happily as you would want a holiday romance to do.)
Sometimes I Lie: A Novel Alice Feeney (Pretty good little psychological thriller. Yikes.)
One to Watch: A Novel Kate Stayman-London (Ah, this book was phenomenal! It was so, so smart and accurate and timely at addressing fatphobia and body positivity and self-love and love in general in both a sensitive and a fun way. If you’ve ever watched The Bachelor franchise – whether you enjoyed it or not! – this is a must-read.)
Exciting Times: A Novel Naoise Dolan (Another one in the style of Sally Rooney, which I’m continually confused about as to its popularity. This one was OK for me.)
Crazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club 3) Lyssa Kay Adams (Loved it! If you haven’t started reading this series yet, exactly what are you waiting for? Seriously, every one of these books make me laugh OUT LOUD.)
Where Dreams Descend: A Novel (Kingdom of Cards Book 1) Janella Angeles (Fantasy magical romance stuff of dreams. Apparently this is categorized as YA, but I didn’t necessarily read it that way. It was actually kinda dark, but in a good way. Great cliffhanger at the end, and looking forward to the next installment.)
The Happy Ever After Playlist (The Friend Zone Book 2) Abby Jimenez (I went back and re-read the last three chapters of this book, like, three times. It was that good. This book is everything you want in a heartbreaker that actually turns HEA.)
Caste (Oprah’s Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents Isabel Wilkerson (Oooooo-wee, this one lived up to the hype. Every American needs to read this book as a history lesson. Truly. Don’t shy away from this one because you’re uncomfortable talking race or class or caste. It’s objective, and it sheds a TON of light on where we’re at as a society, how we got there, how status plays a huge role in our choices and interactions – consciously and subconsciously. You want this information in your head. I’ll admit the structure was a bit all over the place, but what I learned was worth putting up with that. Read this one if you haven’t yet.)
Sebastian Anne Bishop (Sexy, heart-centered, fantasy world? Yes, please! This book was super sweet, and I loved the themes around what the heart wants. Good stuff.)
Dune Frank Herbert (Ah, the classic! I finally got to it, after also finally committing to the perpetual 8-week library waitlist! And it absolutely delivered. I can hardly believe this book was written in the 1960s! 50 years later, relevant in so many ways. Currently on the waitlist for the second book, and counting down to the release of the new movie version next year! If you like sci-fi and haven’t read this yet, go ahead and do it.)
Gods of Jade and Shadow Silvia Moreno-Garcia (This one was a beauty. Really, really cool story incorporating Mexican folklore, turning it into a cool combination of adventure and love story. Definitely recommend this one.)
A Rogue of One’s Own (A League of Extraordinary Women Book 2) Evie Dunmore (Loved it! Evie Dunmore delivers again.)
Take a Hint, Dani Brown: A Novel (The Brown Sisters Book 2) Talia Hibbert (This sister’s story was equally as sweet as Chloe’s. These books have so much heart, their characters are so real, with so much depth. Highly enjoyable.)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January Alix E. Harrow (This one was such a magical, fairytale adventure! But, like, with teeth. So, so good. A definite page turner.)
God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships Matthew Vines (Continually trying to up my game at scripture study and common arguments that come up around Christianity. I’m lucky lucky lucky to have found a church that’s truly inclusive and shares resources like this.)
Whew, it was a good quarter for reading! I’m kind of surprised at myself that I kept up with this quantity of books since there were a few super-long ones in there (I’m looking at you, Dune!). But I’m glad I did. This quarter brought my total for the year to 81 books! Nice.
I really do feel like I read a ton of quality books this year, which made it much more difficult for me to choose the top reads. Last year, there were five easy standouts, but I just couldn’t make it happen this year.
So, in no particular order, my Top 15 Best Books of 2020!
One to Watch.
The Happy Ever After Playlist.
Nine Perfect Strangers.
The Paragon Hotel.
Fearing the Black Body.
The Book of Life (actually the whole Discovery of Witches series).
The Lager Queen of Minnesota.
And aren’t you proud of me that a solid third of those are non-fiction? Ha.
As always, read your heart out, but do it through your favorite local bookstore (they can usually order stuff for you), indie bookseller, or library. Also, you can connect with me on Goodreads to follow my list in real time throughout the year. And if you’ve got any stellar recommendations for me, email me and share, please!
Here’s to a snuggly winter nest and a good book!
For more talk of books and self-care and life, sign up for weekly emails.