Top 5 of 2020

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Top 5 of 2020

Edited: Dec 16, 2020, 2:47pm

LibraryThing Staffers have compiled our list of our top reads of 2020.

What were your top reads? Share them in our 2020 list.

Dec 16, 2020, 12:34pm

>1 megbmore: The link doesn't work.

Edited: Dec 16, 2020, 11:06pm

^Most likely that one

Edit: Decided mine are The Crab Flower Club, The Outlaws of the Marsh, Hysteria, Weeds, and Nepali Visions, Nepali Dreams - the poetry of Laxmiprasad Devkota.

Here's to reading something better in the next 2 weeks though. :D

Dec 16, 2020, 1:03pm

>1 megbmore: Thank you! In my enthusiasm to post it, I neglected to check the link. Always grateful for folks to bring things like that to my attention.

Dec 16, 2020, 8:48pm

>3 Settings:

You read cool stuff.

This year was a tough one for me. I didn't read much of anything for several months there, it was so stressful and depressing! But, hey, there's light at the end of the tunnel. The long, dark, cold tunnel…

Dec 16, 2020, 10:22pm

>3 Settings: Did you read Weeds by Alexander C. Martin, or Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley? I read the latter this year and I think it was in my top 5.

Dec 16, 2020, 11:06pm

>6 NinieB:
Weeds by Lu Xun, oops. The Kelley looks intriguing.

Dec 16, 2020, 11:33pm

A difficult choice. I selected 5 and then saw someone else had picked one of the ones I had reluctantly not chosen, so I added that to my list, too, as #6. A top 10 list would have been easier.

I've read A LOT this year - heading for 300 books - for two reasons: 1. All my usual fun things were cancelled so I had extra time, and 2. When I'm reading, I'm not thinking about current events.

Edited: Dec 20, 2020, 1:40pm

Wow, it takes real ruthlessness to cut it down to 5 -- so many great books left off.

Here're my 5

Sub Rosa, Amber Dawn
The Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin
A Meal in Winter, Hubert Mingarelli
Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, Aime Cesaire
The Breakbeat Poets, Volume 4, LatiNext

(Yes, I cheated by including a trilogy)
(I included all the brackets for touchstones but they aren't working)

Edited: Dec 17, 2020, 6:40pm

Really enchanted me, which reminds me I should dig up more books by MacDonald from somewhere

The Lathe Of Heaven
Vonnegut and LeGuin would probably star any of my reading lists no matter how long. Simply marvelous writing

Never Let Me Go
Steps to an Ecology of Mind

Edited: Dec 17, 2020, 4:36pm

Looking at the books I gave 4 1/2 stars to and trying to pick out the stand outs among the stand outs:

One by One by one
Some assembly required, Neil Shubin
Das Haus der Frauen (Les victorieuses) No idea why this doesn't seem to be out in English yet.
Die Verzauberung der Welt : eine Kulturgeschichte des Christentums Actually, I'm just over halfway through, but this will probably get 5 stars. I bought the hardcover because the paperback had such small print. The actual text goes over 600 pages. But I love the way Lauster makes church history fit with general history, art history, ... to make it all make a lot more sense.

Dec 17, 2020, 4:29pm

>10 SandraArdnas: Nice picks!

Edited: Dec 17, 2020, 5:06pm

Of the 163 books I have read so far this year none were given 5 stars. But of the ones with 4 stars I found 5 to list.

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Past Caring by Robert Goddard
Never Walk Back by Adam J. Shafer
This Tender Land: A Novel by William Kent Krueger
The Hawk & the Dove Series by Penelope Wilcock (Can't decide which one I liked the best)

I normally don't read this many books a year, but you know Covid. A lot of mindless reading going on here.

Dec 17, 2020, 6:12pm

>10 SandraArdnas: Never Let Me Go! Even though I didn't read it this year it's so good it feels like it should be honorary mention on every list of my faves every year. Have you read Ishiguro's The Buried Giant? Just as exquisite. And check out Ninni Holmqvist's The Unit which is like & unlike Never Let Me Go & marvelous in its own right. It would've been on last year's top 5.

Dec 17, 2020, 6:34pm

This is a fun thing to do. I am interested to see what everyone shares. I narrowed down my 5 star reads to a top five and posted them. None of mine were already on the list, but that's ok.

Dec 17, 2020, 6:35pm

>13 perennialreader: This Tender Land is on my list to read soon. I've heard great things about it. I have the e-book and the audio.

Dec 17, 2020, 6:40pm

>14 susanbooks: I was wandering whether I should upvote some of the amazing books listed I read in previous years, but decided we should all stick to our five for the list to make sense.

Thanks for the recs.

Dec 17, 2020, 6:44pm

Question about the list. How do the books get a Score?

Dec 17, 2020, 7:10pm

>18 sdbookhound: Each book you list gets some points depending on how you ordered them, the first one I think 4, than less down the line.

Dec 18, 2020, 8:57am

This is such a great idea, Tim! So many great recs in that list (tho I think I'll skip all the Holocaust denial). Thanks for doing this.

Dec 18, 2020, 10:09am

My five -

Night for Day by Patrick Flanery
The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
All the Little Live Things by Wallace Stegner
Dread Journey by Dorothy B. Hughes
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

A pretty nice mix of new and older books, modern settings and historical fiction and women and men. All reviewed except for the Hughes...not sure why because it's a stunner of a novel. Not so much in how it wraps or who the killer is, but because of the overall execution and perfection of setting.

Dec 18, 2020, 10:36am

Fun! I ended up with:

Summer (last in Ali Smith's wonderful Seasonal Quartet)
The Cone-Gatherers
Down Second Avenue

...but, like >8 tardis: I've read a ridiculous quantity of books this year, so it's a rather arbitrary selection. There were a lot of other books I could just as well have picked if I'd done the selection five minutes earlier or five minutes later. Interesting that the first one in the current overall list that I've read is only No.15, Drive your plow, which I read last year. I should read newer books occasionally, obviously!

Dec 18, 2020, 10:58am

>21 susanbooks: In skimming the list, I didn't see anything that jumped out to me as Holocaust denial. Would you mind sharing which books in particular I should skip for that reason?

Dec 18, 2020, 11:04am

>21 susanbooks: Fortunately, they've disappeared, but one person's entire list was that muck.

Dec 18, 2020, 11:18am

>25 susanbooks: Thanks! (I was worried for a minute that I was just really bad at identifying antisemitism.)

Dec 18, 2020, 11:25am

Oh and thanks for calling the list the top five BOOKS and not reads.

Dec 18, 2020, 12:19pm

Ancestral Night White Space #1 Elizabeth Bear
The City of Brass Daevabad #1 S.A. Chakraborty
Network Effect Murderbot #5 Martha Wells
Strong Poison Lord Peter #6 Dorothy L. Sayers
A Pale Light in the Black NeoG #1 K.B. Wagers

Edited: Dec 27, 2020, 2:02am

Still need to add links, I suppose: homework!

First pass at my list I put them in order of a guess at how far down they would appear in the master list, and came pretty close. (Clued in by Mirror and the Light at no. 1).

Disappointed that Barry Lopez's Horizon is only on my list -- I got it after reading about in NYRB in 2020 and it was far and away my favorite.

"Mirror and the Light" was impressive but I was less in love than for Bring Up the Bodies -- hard to say why. Knowing the end was coming...

I chose Dawn over Lilith's Brood even though I read all three (Imago and Adulthood Rites). For two reasons: it was higher up the popularity list, and I hadn't run into the Lilith's Brood name until after finishing all of them.

Catch and Kill led me to read She Said as I rooted for Harvey Weinstein's downfall...

And River Town led me to read three more by Peter Hessler: still producing at the New Yorker.

Other titles for my top 10:
Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson
Station Eleven
Just Kids by Patty Smith
Rewrite by Gregory Benford
Homeland by Cory Doctorow

Dec 19, 2020, 4:47pm

>29 dhm: I debated putting Catch and Kill on my list but it didn’t quite make it. It would make my top ten for sure. Farrow did an amazing job narrating the audiobook - accents included!

Dec 20, 2020, 3:21pm

Although this wasn't one of my more prolific or diverse reading years, here is my top five books list.

1. The Mirror and the Light
I am a historical fiction fan and feel Mantel is a brilliant writer who does her research.
2. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death
A difficult and morbid subject that Doughty actually managed to make humorous.
3. The Poet X
This was out of my usual reading comfort zone but I was especially impressed by the writing style, often in verse.
4. The Darwin Affair: A Novel
A nice mix of historical figures, mystery and fiction.
5. The Exiles
I appreciated a historical fiction book set in Australia, rather than the usual more popular settings. It was also refreshing to read a novel with a single timeline, versus the dual timelines that current HF authors often use.

Edited: Dec 20, 2020, 4:23pm

>30 raidergirl3: Yes! The accents were just great! Great reading job.

Dec 21, 2020, 4:10am

Without attempting to order them among themselves, my top reads of 2020 might include:

Drifting on Alien Winds
The Invention of Morel
The Cambridge History of China, volume 9 The Ch'ing Dynasty to 1800, Parts 1 and 2
The Sounds of the World's Languages
Messel: An Ancient Greenhouse Ecosystem

Dec 21, 2020, 5:04am

From those I've tagged ( tops hits were most of Foreigner by my longtime favouritist CJ Cherryh
Spinning silver by Naomi Novik
Victory Day the conclusion to my friend's incredibly well done series
the priory of the orange really clever fantasy
and Equations of life physics SF and gangs.

Many possible honorable mentions. 5* didn't hit that many, but 4.5 did quite well.

Edited: Dec 21, 2020, 1:23pm

Damn, I just finished Elizabeth Bear's Machine and now I need to go revise my list.

Dec 21, 2020, 1:23pm

>35 tardis:

Fabulous luck!

Dec 21, 2020, 1:28pm

Are the threads for previous years collected somewhere?

Dec 21, 2020, 2:16pm

>37 LolaWalser: Here are a few:

If you do a site search for "top five" and then click on "Lists" you can find more.

Dec 21, 2020, 2:26pm

>38 megbmore:

Thanks--just thought they might be all parked somewhere together.

Dec 22, 2020, 4:53am

>37 LolaWalser: >38 megbmore: >39 LolaWalser:

We need to lobby Tim for a Metalist feature, or maybe Listmash! :-)

Dec 22, 2020, 8:56am

>40 thorold: 'like'!

Dec 22, 2020, 9:46am

Actually, I wasn't even aware there were lists, I only recalled there being threads... Clearly they are not overlapping (seems not everyone who posted in threads also added their titles to the lists).

Dec 22, 2020, 2:48pm

I find this list fascinating and I check it at least once a day to see what has been added. I have a question, though.

Can someone explain to me why anyone would use the "thumbs down" option? Any crowd-sourced Top 5 list is going to have books on it that I don't think are worthy, but if it's on the list then at least one person loved it. It seems to me that clicking "thumbs down" is like saying their opinion is worth less than someone else's.

Edited: Dec 22, 2020, 2:59pm

>43 tardis: If anybody (and sometimes several of them) thinks that a book is one of the five best books that person read in 2020, then the book belongs on the list. It seems to me that clicking thumbs down is trying to deny that. I also thought it was weird seeing the thumbs downs.

I keep thinking it would be nice if someone else picked one of mine, but it's probably not going to happen. Let's just start with the little issue that two aren't available in English, as far as I know.

Dec 22, 2020, 3:11pm

>44 MarthaJeanne: I'm glad I'm not the only one :)
And to your point about someone else picking the same books as you - I think that too, and all of mine are in English. My problem is the 5 book limit - if I could have 10 books, there'd be a lot more overlap. I have one overlap, which was picked by someone else before me. I had another but then I had to edit my list to accommodate another excellent book :)

Dec 22, 2020, 3:11pm

>43 tardis: I'm irked both by the thumbs down and by the people adding more than five books. But mostly by the people who are thumbing down the favourites of other members. Perhaps they don't understand how the list is supposed to work?

Dec 22, 2020, 3:13pm

>44 MarthaJeanne: >45 tardis: Since I read The mirror and the light this year I have plenty of people agreeing with me about a book. But that's the only one to have garnered more than one vote.

Dec 22, 2020, 3:21pm

>44 MarthaJeanne: It looks as though the average at the moment is 3.5 unique books per person, so anyone who hasn’t been reading Hilary Mantel this year is unlikely to get all that much overlap.

But I put both Les Victorieuses and Die Verzauberung der Welt on my wish list after you mentioned them, FWIW.

Dec 22, 2020, 4:03pm

I'm confused why the list wasn't set to limit each member to five works. Why allow 12 books, or however is being added by one person?

Edited: Dec 22, 2020, 4:07pm

>48 thorold: Oh, that's encouraging. I have to admit that the last few bits of Verzauberung have gone slowly. 19th century German theology and philosophy are not the subjects I'm most comfortable in. Nor is a lot of 20th century physics. I will finish it on Christmas if not before. Do get the hardback. The print is still small, but not miniscule. Or eBook. It would actually be useful for looking up references, or larger versions of pictures.

I put Dishoom higher, and gave my mother a copy, but that comes from having lived in Maharashtra as a child. It's not going to hit others like it does us. The two you mention are the ones I feel others should know about.

Dec 23, 2020, 10:37am

I was bothered by the posters who went over the 5 book limit but then one of them listed such interesting books that I stopped worrying about it.

Edited: Dec 24, 2020, 4:42pm

I only had about 10 favorites for this year, so I simply cut out any that had plenty of press this past year (sorry, Murderbot), or whose author would not benefit from gaining new readers (although Audre Lorde was fantastic and you should absolutely read her if you haven't).

In no particular order:
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti
Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
This Place: 150 Years Retold (this has a long author list, appropriately defying Western tradition to attribute credit to a single editor)

Incidentally, since I have no income, I couldn't drop a dollar or three to Alison Evans for the wonderful little novella, which is available as a "pay what you want" download. If anyone here opts to have a read and has a buck to spare, please throw it their way. The book is one of the victims of the closure of LT3 Press.

Edited: Dec 24, 2020, 4:54pm

>52 Faranae: Touchstones
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti
Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
This Place: 150 Years Retold

Dec 24, 2020, 5:08pm

>53 MarthaJeanne: Lazy me would love a pointer from someone on how to do that (get the LT link to insert).

Dec 24, 2020, 5:19pm

>54 dhm: Read the text to the right of the message box.

Dec 25, 2020, 5:10am

Dec 25, 2020, 12:03pm

>53 MarthaJeanne: Shoot, I knew I'd forgotten something! Thank you kindly! :)

Dec 25, 2020, 12:18pm

Took me awhile to decide which of my top 6 won't make the list and finally added 5:

The Disoriented by Amin Maalouf
The Divide by Alan Ayckbourn
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga
Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand

The one that did not make it was Garry Disher's Under the Cold Bright Lights

Dec 25, 2020, 12:35pm

>59 AnnieMod:

lol, clev-err! :)

Dec 25, 2020, 1:23pm

>60 LolaWalser:

Well, even some of the stuff had honorable mentions in the blog so I figured that 5 in the List and 6 here is ok. :)

Dec 27, 2020, 8:45pm

My top 5 reads of the year:

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Trickster Drift by Eden Robinson
This Little Light by Lori Lansens
Nine Pints: a Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood by Rose George
Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks

Dec 28, 2020, 1:23am

1) The Bhagavad Gita (translations by Sir Edwin Arnold, Paramhansa Yogananda, and Wintrhop Sargeant)

2) The Science of Religion

3) The Devil's Delusion

4) Discrimination and Disparities

5) Algebra

Edited: Dec 31, 2020, 4:00am

>29 dhm: Just finished Never Let Me Go and it's one of the more affecting books I've every read: clearly a top 5 for 2020, but I don't know what to bump! (And so far haven't.) Might have to become one of those dread sixers...

Jan 1, 5:48am

I am somewhat intimidated by the very erudite titles I have seen here but here goes with mine anyway in no particular order.

a Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Edited: Jan 1, 6:28am

>67 Maura49: If the titles look erudite I suspect two things are at work:

The more erudite titles, if they are good, are more likely to stay in our memories longer. Even quite good popular fiction read in January will have faded in our memories by December.

You are more likely to recognize the erudite titles. There's plenty of non-erudite books up there, but they don't catch the eye.

I admit, 4 of my five are nonfiction, although I probably read more fiction. But I deliberately choose mostly light fiction. These books are not intended to be my top reads.

I have read two of your picks in previous years. One of my exciting events on 2020, before the year went totally crazy, was actually seeing 'the hare with amber eyes' on exhibit in Vienna's Jewish Museum. Totally wonderful object. I so wanted to pick it up and handle it.

Jan 1, 11:42am

>68 MarthaJeanne: How wonderful to have seen Edmund De Waal's Hare. Before I read his books I knew nothing about netsukes, and found this unique family history to be such an absorbing book that I have recommended it to several friends.
I usually read quite a lot of non-fiction but have found it more difficult this year- with the exception of travel books which have whisked me off to far off places and times.

Jan 2, 8:14pm

It was a typical-by-recent-standards year for me in that I read 50-60 books, but atypical in that there were fewer standouts. That said, my first picks would be top-5 contenders even in a strong year: A tour-de-force of American political history (Richardson), and a meticulously documented deep dive into a fascinating, untold story (Finley).

My top 5, in descending order:

Heather Cox Richardson, How the South Won the Civil War
Skip Finley, Whaling Captains of Color: America's First Meritocracy
Timothy Egan, The Big Burn
Loren Estleman, Whiskey River
John Harris, Ride Out the Storm: A Novel of Dunkirk

Jan 3, 1:23pm

I read How the South Won the War years ago. It was my first experience with alternate history. Blew my mind!! (In my defense, I was pretty young!)

I have also read The Big Burn. An excellent account of a little known time in our history. Bonus: I learned all about the man who invented the Pulaski tool.

Jan 7, 6:50pm

My top 5 from 2020:

1 Menselijke voorwaarden by Junpei Gomikawa (translated from Japanese, sadly no English translation)
2 Tot in de hemel by Richard Powers (Dutch translation of The Overstory)
3 De geschikte jongen by Vikram Seth (Dutch translation of A Suitable Boy)
4 De pest by Abert Camus (Dutch translation of The Plague)
5 Wij slaven van Suriname by Anton the Kom (The history of Surinam from black pespective, first published in 1934)

Jan 7, 7:13pm

Liam's 14?!?! I remember when he was born!

Jan 8, 1:13am

>74 etrainer: me too. His driver's license soon to arrive :-)

Jan 11, 2:38pm

i keep getting the same 76 as new the last 4 or 5 times i look at this. it's not clearing the unread items. Any ideas?