Every year, I track my reading, keeping a list of books I finish, books I put down unfinished, what I liked, and what I didn’t.
Normally, when I share favorite books, I share them a handful at a time in list of my best-of-the-best picks. This year, I decided to do something different. I’m going to do two big reading update posts – one for the first half of the year, the other for the second. Instead of just sharing my absolute favorites, I’m going to share everything I read. Because, who knows? Maybe a book that didn’t make my favorite list will end up being your next best read.
And so, without further ado, here is what I read January – June 2020, with some questions stolen from a survey my colleague Candice fills out every year.
Books I finished January – June 2020 (in alphabetical order)
- A Song Below Water (YA fantasy)
- Big Little Lies (adult mystery)
- Blacktop Wasteland (adult thriller)
- Call Down the Hawk (YA fantasy)
- Dear Daughter (adult mystery)
- Eloquent Rage (non-fiction)
- Hollywood Homicide (adult cozy mystery)
- The Hunger Games (YA fantasy)
- Hunting Annabelle (adult thriller)
- The Kill Club (adult thriller)
- My Lady Jane (YA humorous historical fantasy)
- One by One (adult mystery)
- Pretty as a Picture (adult mystery)
- Pride and Prejudice (classic)
- Rejected Princesses (non-fiction)
- Save the Cat Writes a Novel (non-fiction)
- Save Me the Plums (memoir)
- Slay (YA contemporary)
- The Story that Cannot be Told (MG historical fiction)
- They All Fall Down (adult mystery)
- They Never Learn (adult thriller)
- Tough Mothers (non-fiction)
- Undead Girl Gang (YA contemporary fantasy)
- Uprooted (YA fantasy)
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle (YA mystery)
- The Wolf Wilder (MG historical fiction)
- Woman 99 (adult historical fiction)
I also read 5+ manuscripts that are not yet published (but hopefully will be and I can scream about them in the coming years), read/skimmed two history books for research, and DNFed (Did Not Finish) 39 books, of which I read anywhere from one chapter to half the book before putting it down (for a wide variety of reasons). I also re-read two Harry Potter books early in the year, but have taken them off the above list because of her extremely harmful rants toward the trans community.
Best book you read?
Now, a number of the books above are comfort re-reads I already know I love (for example: Big Little Lies and The Hunger Games). And it’s impossible to pick just one favorite new read, so instead I’ll give you my favorite in several categories:
Favorite adult novel: They Never Learn was dark and intense in just the right way. It’s basically Dexter, but with a female lead. 100% up my alley. (It comes out this fall, but you can pre-order now!)
Favorite YA novel: Slay gave me all the feels! If you want to cry and laugh and cheer some characters on, this is the book for that.
Favorite MG (middle grade) novel: I haven’t stopped thinking about The Story That Cannot Be Told since I read it early in the year. The story is compelling and magical. The writing is a breath of fresh air. And the historical context is fascinating.
Favorite non-fiction book: Rejected Princesses has my heart. The blog of the same name is where I first found Jeanne de Clisson – the lady pirate I’ve spent the last few years researching and writing about – and the book is every ounce as good as the blog, with page after page after page of incredible historical women.
Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
I’ll give you two:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I think people love it for its twist, but I guessed the twist on like page two, so the whole book felt predictable.
One by One. I really liked one of Ruth Ware’s previous books, so I was deeply disappointed that this one had horrible mental health representation and relied on the lazy writing trope of making the oddball character who reads as mentally ill into a sociopathic killer for no good reason.
Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read?
I rarely read a book that truly surprises me with its twists, but I absolutely did not see any of the twists in They Never Learn coming. This book is truly a masterclass in twist-building.
Favorite new author you discovered?
Zoe Wallbrook (writer of smart mysteries) and Elizabeth Brookbank (crafter of heart-wrenching Jane Austen-inspired stories) are going to blow you away with their talent once their books are out. As for already-published authors, I’m now deeply committed to reading anything Elizabeth Little writes. I read two of her books this year (Dear Daughter and Pretty as a Picture) and wish there was a third out already.
Best book from a genre you don’t typically read?
Elizabeth Brookbank’s not-yet-published manuscript. I don’t read many books where the romance is at the center of the plot, but I couldn’t put down the book she’s been describing as Jane Austen with lesbians. Like Jane Austen, Elizabeth merges a romantic story with a nuanced critique on societal norms. If that sounds like your thing, you should follow her.
Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
I stayed up far too late reading Slay, They Never Learn, Blacktop Wasteland, and The Kill Club. All were page-turners.
Which book would you be most likely to re-read?
Pretty as a Picture. That book is a master-class on descriptions and the main character resonated deeply with me.
Most memorable character?
Marissa Dahl from Pretty as a Picture resonated most with me. I rarely see mentally ill characters done so well. Marissa is me. I’m Marissa.
And then there’s Kiera and Claire from Slay. They both rooted right down in my heart from the start.
Most beautifully written book?
Call Down the Hawk. The Raven Boys is one of my all-time favorite series and this book is a spin-off from those. It was every bit as gorgeously written as I expected and I can’t wait for the sequel.
Which book was most fun to read/put a smile on your face?
This probably says something dark about my own psyche, but the lady serial killer novel They Never Learn had me grinning like a madwoman.
Book you’re most excited to read later this year?
There are so many! I just purchased Dark and Deepest Red, which is a historical fantasy novel based on the dancing plagues. I nearly cried with joy when I saw the description, as I find the dancing plagues utterly fascinating. Also LOOK AT THAT COVER (below). How could I not want to read?
American Spy is also high up on my list. It’s an ownvoices story inspired by true events and set during the cold war, which is all very much my jam.
Finally, I don’t know how I’ve managed to not read The Magnolia Sword yet. It’s the real story of Mulan! And it’s ownvoices!
Also high up on my list are Mexican Gothic (historical fantasy), This is My America (YA contemporary), The Life and Medieval Times of Kit Sweetly (YA contemporary), and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (historical fantasy).
What have been your favorite reads so far this year?
Thanks for some great suggestions. I love the format you used, and smiled when I read “grinning like a madwoman”. Sounds like I really need to read “They Never Learn”‘!