• Rory Michaelson

The Year in a Book-Shelf (2020)

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

If 2020 were one of the Marvel Chris’s, we all know which one it would be. That aside, some great things have come of this dreadful year. I have read so many amazing books and bought even more, and I want to tell you all about them!

We all know I hate star systems, so there will be none of that, I won’t even be ranking them, but I will say my favourite book of the year. That’s not to say I didn’t love all of these books, but one definitely dragged me in kicking and screaming more than any book has in a while. I’m not separating trad-pub and indie, these are just all great books!

That said, to combine the words of dads after paying the dinner bill all over the world, lets rock this show on the roll.

Starting in the fantasy realm, I discovered THE GREEN BONE SAGA which is just *chef’s kiss*; Fonda Lee totally stormed in with this incredible story mixing the Godfather with magic fuelled Kungfu, full of complex characters that I just couldn’t get enough of. I also found R.F. Kuang’s THE POPPY WAR, which is a masterclass in blending historical and fantastical elements into a thrilling and devastating shamanic wartime tale. HER NAME IS MURDER by A.C. Merkel was a fun stylish caper style fantasy with twists and turns, and THE ROOTS THAT CLUTCH by A.E. Bross which is a story of magic, love, and trauma with so much heart and hope that I still keep thinking about it, and is surely a great sign of an author who will do wonderful things in the fantasy genre. I finished up Jay Kristoff’s NEVERNIGHT series, which was a dark and gritty fare, and in that same dark vein, EDGE OF THE BREACH and ECHOES OF BLOOD from Halo Scot were possibly the grimmest sci-fi/fantasy stories I’ve ever read – fortunately they coax you along with compelling characters and flashes of wild glee throughout the breakneck rollercoaster. Sticking with the darkness, WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power was a compelling post-apocalyptic style body horror that I just couldn’t stop reading. Holden Sheppard's INVISIBLE BOYS was a great end to my reading year, a turbulent coming of age/identity YA book set in small-town Australia that screams movie adaptation and was equal parts brilliant and distressing.

Much of my fantasy, including those mentioned, has a heavy dose of rainbow pride within it. This includes more contemporary and urban LGBTQ+ fantasy stories like WHITE TRASH WARLOCK by David R. Slayton – a great book that I can almost see as a Netflix series already, with elves and magic mixing in with the mundane world. BLOOD DRIVE by Daniel Aegan gave me all the nineties road trip vibes, except the buddies were vampires and they were being chased by a kinda scary kinda sexy priest and getting into all kinds of shenanigans. REVERIE by Ryan La Sala was a bright explosion of dreams and imagination and as delightfully queer as they come and CEMETERY BOYS from Aiden Thomas was of course a charming delight and a wonderful celebration of identity with heavy doses of magic and adventure. In this category too is of course my book LESSER KNOWN MONSTERS, which is a fun and spooky urban fantasy, and I ended up having to read more than any other book I’ve read in my life and has carved a special place in my heart. On the subject of spooky queer romance, CHASING GHOSTS from Dean Cole was a modernisation of old ghost stories, and the beginning of an exciting and sensitively crafted series that I can’t wait to read more of.

Edging more into the romance world, I read STAY by Ash Knight, a sweet and heart wrenching story that definitely seduced me deeper into the genre. This led me to RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston, which strangely caused me a new political obsession leading into the election period and was great fun to boot and made me wish that a presidential family and royal family member really would hook up. WHAT IF IT’S US by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera was a sweet story with lovable leads that also gave me a burning desire to suddenly move to New York.

I’m not usually much of a reader of thrillers, but I couldn’t help but get drawn into SURRENDER YOUR SONS by Adam Sass, the story of teens taken to a conversion camp fighting back. This book filled me with fear, joy, horror, and sadness. This book made me cry so ugly I couldn’t use face recognition to open my phone after. I loved all of the books I’ve mentioned here, but this one is my favourite book of the year, and if you haven’t read it yet – definitely find a quiet safe place and get to reading!

Special mention to some of the beautiful books that I’ve read before that I picked up in collectors or limited-edition hardcovers. THE SIX OF CROWS and its sequel by Leigh Bardugo have gorgeous shiny covered, coloured edge pages editions that I adore seeing on my bookshelf. The SHADES OF MAGIC series by V.E. Schwab also came in an incredible hardback box set with artwork that make me stare at them on my shelf thinking about cradling in my arms and telling them how pretty they are.

So as shitty as 2020 has been, books have filled me with hope and joy (and disgust, horror, sadness, fear, excitement, and concern). I don’t know what 2021 holds, but if it’s more books like this, I think I can handle some more social distancing yet. What were your favourite books of the year? Do we have any in common, or maybe mine was one of them...let me know, because it might be that they become one of my own favourites on next year’s list!


SURRENDER YOUR SONS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45154800-surrender-your-sons?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=WxbMHkmRB3&rank=5

LESSER KNOWN MONSTERS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55374322-lesser-known-monsters?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=XVy8IwinAI&rank=1

CHASING GHOSTS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53805065-chasing-ghosts?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=qmNqDsjbAB&rank=4

STAY: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50399721-stay?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=wHSgjEzzcB&rank=1

THE ROOTS THAT CLUTCH: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52620852-the-roots-that-clutch?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=45dcqfpsZ5&rank=1

EDGE OF THE BREACH: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49211278-edge-of-the-breach?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=qWXsI7KSYv&rank=1

HER NAME IS MURDER: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50416051-her-name-is-murder?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=eCMcAJgUeI&rank=1

WHITE TRASH WARLOCK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53255694-white-trash-warlock?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=ISTzAX3HkH&rank=1

BLOOD DRIVE: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44125475-blood-drive?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=G0GLnKStqJ&rank=10

THE GREEN BONE SAGA, BOOK 1 JADE CITY: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43587154-jade-city

THE POPPY WAR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35068705-the-poppy-war?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=HCpp8cEfkM&rank=1

WILDER GIRLS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42505366-wilder-girls?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=xDzBPP4Yyl&rank=1

REVERIE: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52061964-reverie?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=5WqvDn8LUS&rank=1

CEMETERY BOYS : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52339313-cemetery-boys?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=z9hEOgQXc8&rank=3

RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41150487-red-white-royal-blue?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=wBNDOkJnVS&rank=1

WHAT IF IT’S US: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36341204-what-if-it-s-us?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=vOzbHq27a2&rank=1

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