2020 has been… a year (we all know it, yet we all also feel obligated to say it). A devastating bushfire season and global pandemic aside, I figured out some things about myself personally (bringing some much needed clarity), strengthened some friendships even during lockdown, and was also lucky enough to have several exciting opportunities professionally. I launched a book blog (this one!). Oh, and I worked from home for more than six months without enacting any brutal revenge fantasies on my noisy neighbours.
I also got in a lot of extra reading time at home, as well as several extra audiobooks on those long evening walks around the neighbourhood while the gym was closed.
Without further ado, my top 10 SFF reads for 2020 (in the order I read them because I’m on holidays and this post has taken long enough without the stress of ranking them).
- The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker | 13-16 Feb | A update on the old-school nautical genre, with unique world-building and characters that slowly grow on you. I can’t wait to see where things go in the sequels.
- The Girl in the Tower / The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden | April | This series feels exactly like someone telling you a story in front of the fireplace. Gorgeous prose with a spirited heroine (and an adorable horse).
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune | 14 June | Reading this book is like floating in a cloud made of marshmallows, except there’s also a biting critique of bureaucracy.
- The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty | Feb-Aug | An immerse, expansive Arabic fantasy world, with characters you love and hate at the same time and complicated family politics (to say the least).
- A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine | 31 Aug-2 Sep | A incredibly clever sci-fi novel with a lot to say about colonialism and the power of language, along with a sweet f/f romance (I adored Three Seagrass). A well-deserved Hugo winner.
- Blackbirds Sing by Aiki Flinthart | 22-27 Oct | A beautifully written collection of short stories, showcasing the diversity of women’s experiences in medieval England. Also one of the best audio performances of the year, bringing life to twenty-five (!!) different narrators.
- Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke | 8-9 Nov | Incredibly intricate plotting and world-building, as well as a nuanced portrayal of mental illness and invisible disabilities. Also features one of my favourite sibling relationships in fantasy, and
- The Philosophers series by Tom Miller | Oct-Dec | A well-thought out World War I fantasy novel with well-rounded characters and a unique, witty take on the magic school genre. Also one of the best uses of an author’s professional career I’ve seen (Miller is a former ER doctor writing about a team of flying paramedics).
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke | 3-4 Dec | The best kind of mind-fuck, with one of the kindest portrayals of a damaged soul I’ve seen. The less you know going into this one, the better.
- Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan | 18-19 Dec | Nuanced discussions of racism and sexism in science. The epistolary format is used to great effect to develop distinctive, well-rounded characters.
Goals for 2021
Firstly, to get through the large pile of ARCs I’ve accumulated (happily!) that are all scheduled for release in the first half of 2021. Secondly, to start making my way through the teetering pile of books I own but haven’t read yet. Beyond that, who knows… but if some of the books I read in 2021 are as good as this top 10 then I’ll be satisfied.