My Reading List for 2020

My Reading List for 2020

It’s no secret 2020 has been a challenging year. While upon reflection, I found it to be surprisingly full, like many of us, I still spent the majority of my time at home. One benefit of our new socially-distant stay-at-home culture was the amount of reading I managed to accomplish. Just like previous years, I’ve compiled a list of the books I’ve read over the last three hundred and sixty-six days, and as always, I want to share them with everyone.

This year was hit-or-miss for me reading-wise. There were books I loved and many books I ended up loathing. I found books I know I will re-read and proselytize, but they were often mirrored by other books I hate-read. I also found myself reading a few histories for pleasure, not something I normally do, and I dipped into science fiction much more than in previous years. Audiobooks (🎧) used to be the mainstay of my daily commute, and this year they became the soundtrack to housework. Not a bad tradeoff. Oh, and as always, I beta-read a couple of great books, and I’m excited to see where those go in the future.

This list correlates with my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge, but it always includes a few extra since Goodreads doesn’t let me count beta reading, and I don’t list comics or short stories or poetry (new this year!) over there. Remember, this is all strictly reading for pleasure—I typically forgo listing any research/history books I’ve read for a project as I read those differently than I do fiction. This list is always enormous, so l skip reviews except for my favorites in each category. However, I’d invite you to follow me on Goodreads, where I occasionally leave other reviews.

New for this year: with a few exceptions, most links now go to IndieBound instead of Amazon—2020 has been rough on small businesses, and now more than ever, be sure to support your local bookstore. When possible, I am now linking to each author’s personal website—if you’re on the list and I didn’t find your website, please let me know about it. (I won’t link to social media, sorry.)


📚 Novels & Novellas

  1. Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1)
    by Rebecca Roanhorse
  2. Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1)
    by Tamsyn Muir
  3. City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)
    by Cassandra Clare
  4. Prosper’s Demon
    by K.J. Parker
  5. The Crimson Campaign (The Powder Mage Trilogy #2) 🎧
    by Brian McClellan
  6. Jade War (Green Bone Saga #2)
    by Fonda Lee
  7. Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)
    by Martha Wells
  8. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland 🎧
    by Patrick Radden Keefe
  9. The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War 🎧
    by Joanne B. Freeman
  10. They Mostly Come Out at Night (Yarnsworld, #1) (Link goes to Amazon)
    by Benedict Patrick
  11. Frank on a Gun-Boat
    by Harry Castlemon
  12. A Head Full of Ghosts
    by Paul Tremblay
  13. On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)
    by David Weber
  14. The Reign of the Kingfisher 🎧
    by T.J. Martinson
  15. RADIO
    by J. Rushing
  16. Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)
    by William Gibson
  17. The Fireman 🎧
    by Joe Hill
  18. The Cipher
    by Kathe Koja
  19. The Mist
    by Stephen King
  20. Control Point (Shadow Ops #1)
    by Myke Cole
  21. Blood Standard (Isaiah Coleridge #1)
    by Laird Barron
  22. City of Miracles (The Divine Cities #3)
    by Robert Jackson Bennett
  23. The Iron Ship (The Gates of the World #1)
    by K.M. McKinley
  24. Vita Nostra (Metamorphosis Cycle #1) 🎧
    by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko
  25. Thieftaker (The Thieftaker Chronicles #1)
    by D. B. Jackson
  26. BETA READING (Literature)
    by REDACTED
  27. Circe
    by Madeline Miller
  28. Terrier (The Legend of Beka Cooper #1)
    by Tamora Pierce
  29. Red Storm Rising 🎧…. again.
    by Tom Clancy
  30. The Only Good Indians
    by Stephen Graham Jones
  31. Clutter: An Untidy History
    by Jennifer Howard
  32. The Half Killed
    by Quenby Olson
  33. The Toll
    by Cherie Priest
  34. Jurassic Park …again.
    by Michael Crichton
  35. Seveneves  🎧
    by Neil Stephenson
  36. Night of the Mannequins
    by Stephen Graham Jones
  37. In the Valley of the Sun
    by Andy Davidson
  38. Foundation (Foundation #1)
    by Issac Asimov
  39. Consider Phlebas (Culture #1) 🎧
    by Iain M. Banks
  40. BETA READING (Historical Horror)
    by REDACTED
  41. The Worm and His Kings
    by Hailey Piper
  42. Wake of Vultures
    by Lila Bowen
  43. Metro 2033 🎧
    by Dmitry Glukhovsky

🏆 Favorite Novel of 2020

In the Valley of the Sun

by Andy Davidson

This sun-baked vampire horror set in Texas unexpectedly became a new favorite. A surprisingly tense, character-focused narrative. Brutal. Anguished. Tormented. Bloody. Lyrical in ways that remind me of Cormac McCarthy without the weight. It’s not shy of confronting the cracked ugliness of humanity and finding the beauty between the fissures. Davidson is an incredible writer, and I immediately purchased his more recent novel after finishing In the Valley of the Sun. We need more horror like this.


🏅 Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2020

RADIO by J. Rushing

RADIO

by J. Rushing

A jazz-infused, opium-soaked, historical fantasy that explodes from the opening chapter and never relents until its final pages. A thoroughly fresh debut that’s unlike anything I’ve read before. Rushing brings his unique, well-researched world of 1920s Paris to life with a captivating voice. Don’t expect a saccharine overly-romantic version of Paris; this is a stained, broken, and bloody place—a welcome addition to modern fantasy literature. Jim’s a friend of mine, so be sure to read my interview with him.


City of Miracles

by Robert Jackson Bennett

In recent years, the Divine Cities have become one of my favorite urban fantasy series, mostly for its fresh approach to the genre, atypical characters, and serious exploration of themes oft-ignored within mainstream fantasy. With City of Miracles, Bennett wrapped up the trilogy with a heartbreaking yet thoroughly satisfying ending. This story is a bit tighter and more focused than the previous two while wrapping up various loose ends rather nicely. It’s rare to find a final book in a series that resonates with me as much as City of Miracles did—it’s easily my favorite book in the trilogy.


🎈 Honorable Mentions of 2020

I started doing Honorable Mentions in 2018 so I could highlight some of the other standout novels from my year of reading. Below you’ll find many more excellent books, I’ve listed them in order of reading.


📜 Short Stories

  1. An Inhabitant of Carcosa …again.
    by Ambrose Bierce
  2. And Now His Lordship is Laughing
    by Shiv Ramdas
  3. How the Trick is Done
    by A.C. Wise
  4. The Yellow Sign …again.
    by Robert W. Chambers
  5. Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the
    Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island

    by Nibedita Sen
  6. Give the Family My Love
    by A. T. Greenblatt
  7. The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power
    by Karen Osborne
  8. The Masque of the Red Death …again.
    by Edgar Allen Poe
  9. The Repairer of Reputations …again.
    by Robert W. Chambers
  10. Paper Menagerie
    by Ken Liu
  11. Seasons of Glass and Iron
    by Amal El-Mohtar
  12. Tideline
    by Elizabeth Bear

🏆 Favorite Short Stories of 2020

The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power

by Karen Osborne

Generation ship! Class struggle! Religious ritual! Rebellion! Murder! Control! The complexity told within this genre-mashup was astounding. Such a rich world crafted in a way that feels effortless while maintaining a rich narrative was impressive. It’s no secret I’m drawn to stories that are hard to pigeon-hole into a specific genre, and that is fully represented here. Well worth a read.


🏅 Favorite Short Story Runners-up

Paper Menagerie

by Ken Liu

This heartbreaking story about magical origami, cultural identity, and family was the first piece of fiction to win a Hugo, a Nebula, and a World Fantasy Award. And after reading it, it was easy to see why. Touching and reflective. A masterwork of speculative short fiction.


💥 Graphic Novels

  1. Preacher: Book One
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  2. Saga, Vol. 8
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author) & Fiona Staples (Artist)
  3. Preacher: Book Two
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  4. Once & Future, Vol. 1
    by Kieron Gillen (Author), Tamra Bonvillain (Artist), & Dan Mora (Artist)
  5. American Vampire, Vol. 2
    by Scott Snyder (Author) & Rafael Albuquerque (Artist)
  6. Paper Girls, Vol. 2
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Cliff Chiang (Artist)
  7. Preacher: Book Three
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  8. Die, Vol. 2
    by Kieron Gillen (Author) & Stephanie Hans (Artist)

🏆 Favorite Graphic Novel of 2020:

Preacher: Book One

by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)

I didn’t expect to like Preacher. I bounced off the series hard when I was younger, writing off Ennis as a “blasphemous shock jock” and nothing more. But revisiting it as a middle-aged adult revealed a different sort of comic. The offensive transgressive material is still there, but beneath it is something much more—a book with more heart and humanity than one would be able to judge by its surface and laced with merciless satire that still rings relevant twenty-five years later.


🏅 Favorite Graphic Novel Runner-up of 2020:

Paper Girls, Volume 2

by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Cliff Chiang (Artist)

Volume 1 nearly made my runner-up list last year. On the surface, it’s a time-jumping story about a group of friends caught in the middle of a future war. But beneath those sci-fi trappings, there is so much more here. It’s a book about being a kid and the expectations therein, complications with friendship, and the complexities of growing up. The characters are fantastic, and the story moves along at a clip, making it impossible to put the trade down. I’m ready for volume 3.


🎭 Poems

So this year, I’m including some of the poems I read in 2020. I hinted at doing this last year. But this is really a trial run. In reality, I read more poems than listed below, but I didn’t do an outstanding job keeping track of them. Because this is the first time for poetry on this list, I’m going to skip picking a favorite. Hopefully, I’ll be back on track next year.

  1. Small Kindnesses
    by Danusha Laméris
  2. The Peace of Wild Things
    by Wendel Berry
  3. Beneath the Sweater and the Skin
    by Jeannette Encinias
  4. The Woods
    by Melanie Batista
  5. I Confess
    by Alison Luterman
  6. The Waste Land …again.
    by T. S. Eliot
  7. Near a Raven
    by Mike Keith
  8. Insha’Allah
    by Danusha Laméris
  9. We Lived Happily During the War …again.
    by Ilya Kaminsky
  10. Christmas Greetings to Felis …again
    by H. P. Lovecraft …again.
  11. Passing Solstice
    by Ken Hada
  12. Winter Solstice
    by Hilda Morley
  13. Childhood Memory from the Old Victorian House on Warner
    by Beth Cato
  14. Raw With Love
    by Charles Bukowski

So that’s my reading list for 2020. It’s been an interesting year in reading for me. As promised, we now have a poetry section, and I hope to expand that in the future. There are some great poems there, so be sure to explore them further. Despite my ups and downs, I’m overall quite happy with the books, stories, graphic novels, and poetry I read over the last twelve months. They were excellent distractions from the chaos of the year, and it was refreshing to lose myself in other worlds. 2020 will be behind us soon, and I am looking forward to the worlds I’ll discover in 2021.

How about you? What were the standout books, graphic novels, short stories, or poems you read this year? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know!


Are you looking for a good book? Want to see my reading lists from previous years? Check any of the links below and see what I was reading in the bygone days of old.

 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 20182019

Next year, why not join me? Goodreads does a reading challenge every year, and I am an active participant. First, follow me on Goodreads (leave me a review while you’re there), and once the New Year arrives, participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2021.


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2020 in Ten Significant Photos

2020 in Ten Significant Photos

Today is December 19th, also known as March 294th, around our house. 2020, man. 2020. I think we can all agree it’s been a terrible year. If not personally, then nationally and globally. And we still have twelve days left. Feels like it’s been forever and yet, somehow, no time at all.

The tradition around here dictates I need to assemble a post wherein I share ten photos from the year representing the most significant moments of my personal past 365-ish days. Normally, I look forward to this, but 2020 was tougher than most. This time around, I wasn’t so eager to ponder how the year went. I didn’t want to dwell on the events that have unfolded. But I did. And below is the culmination of that effort, for better or worse.

The rules are simple but firm, pick ten photos from your past year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more, it can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—and that’s intentional—culling is essential. It’ll help create a more realistic picture of your year. Some years will be harder than others, and sometimes you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller, quieter moments. The ten are irascible, and they’re relentless. It is the way.

So, enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2020 distilled into ten significant photos.


The Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland

We began our 2020 by going on a trip to celebrate Kari-Lise’s birthday. Ah, those carefree halcyon days. Feels like a lifetime ago. This time we took an extensive food-focused trip to Portland and Hood River, Oregon. It was easily one of the best trips we’ve taken together and a wonderful way to celebrate Kari-Lise’s birthday. We ate and drank and tasted so many incredible things. I had planned to put together one of my standard travel posts a few months after we returned, but 2020 had other plans. It’s odd to looking back. It feels like a different era.


Amberlynn being cozy. (Photo by my brother, Nick Alexander.)

Not long after our return from Portland, my brother Nick and my sister-in-law Hallie welcomed their second child, Amberlynn, into the world in February. With Liesel and Blakely arriving last year and Amberlynn this year, I now have three nieces that have all shown up in a very short time. Can’t wait to watch them grow up and spoil them rotten. I’ve yet to meet Amberlynn. (Details why in the next photo. You can probably guess.) But, I’m looking forward to the day I do.


Pandemic hair. Pandemic mask. Pandemic isolation.

So, the obvious one—the COVID-19 pandemic. I could wax poetic about everything that’s happened in the last ten months, but we’ve all been dealing with this. What can I say that hasn’t been said already by a thousand other folks? I am tired of staying at home. I miss my family and friends. At the same time, I know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m blessed that I have a job that allows me to do it. Please do what you can to stay safe and healthy. Be kind. Wear a mask. Social distance. Avoid groups. Get your vaccine when you can. All that stuff.


Not where you want to find yourself at 3AM

2020 was the gift that keeps on giving. Early in the pandemic Tyrant, one of our two old dogs (he’s fifteen!) started having breathing issues one Saturday morning, and we had to take him to an emergency vet. That turned into early morning calls and early morning trips to the pharmacy. The same weekend our other old dog, Suge (she’s fourteen!), had a cyst that burst on her back leg, so she ended up in the doggie hospital for minor surgery. Two dogs. Two hospitals. Many vets. All in the middle of a pandemic. It was an exhaustive and stress-filled four days. Thankfully, both dogs are doing well. Suge is back to her rambunctious self. Tyrant is still sleepy and lazy and gets to take doggy pills three times a day.


Welcome to the CHAZ

Black Lives Matter. I don’t know why that’s a difficult concept for some people to grasp. This summer was similar to summers in other parts of the country. Protests. Marches. Police action. Bits of violence. For a brief moment, Seattle had the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone and offshoot of the protests, which drew most of the country’s attention. The outgoing President might have declared Seattle an “Anarchist Jurisdiction” (whatever that means,) but the tales of chaos were greatly exaggerated and largely overblown. Ignore your weird uncle on Facebook. The CHAZ only lasted for a few weeks. Demonstrations there have largely faded away. But the BLM movement rightfully continues, and I don’t think it’ll stop until we see systematic change.


Kari-Lise in front of the titular Night Garden

Kari-Lise revealed Night Garden, her latest solo show at Roq La Rue, and it was wildly successful! It’s strange to have a gallery show in the middle of a pandemic. There was no official opening. No opening night crowds. No afterparty. But the show premiered online and ended up selling out. I feel like I broken record repeating the same thing I do every show, but I think this series was her best work ever. I’m incredibly proud to see how she continues to evolve as an artist. Can’t wait to see what she does next.


Pork chop sandwiches! (Technically pork butt, but references.)

So, I’ve always liked cooking, and this year was no different. If anything, this year I cooked even more, since I had more time at home. I feel like I dialed in my meat-smoking game and got a little better at baking (like everyone else, but I’m still not great.) This little BBQ sandwich was 100% made from scratch. Smoke pork butt. Steamed/Fried sourdough half-way buns. Homemade dill pickles. Homemade pickled onions. Stone ground mustard. Yes, it was delicious. Yes, I made it more than once.


Sunset on the Colvos Passage

In October, we briefly escaped one house to retreat to another. We rented an incredible cabin on Vashon Island, only a ferry ride away from Seattle. We spent a week on the island. We hiked, explored, cooked, relaxed, read a ton, soaked in a huge bathtub, took showers in an outdoor shower. I also took the time to revamp this website. And we were able to do it with proper social distancing! It was a chill and relaxing week away from the world and unplugged from a stressful news cycle. We loved it so much we are planning a return visit in January. So don’t be shocked if a similar photo appears in next year’s list.


I voted! You voted! A lot of us voted!

One of the wildest and most important elections in my lifetime happened, and what an election it was. Records were smashed. Norms were abandoned. Lawsuits were filed and quickly tossed out when no evidence could be presented except for wishes, hopes, and dreams. (Turns out wanting something to be true won’t make it true.) It was great to see so many Americans actively involved in the civic process. King County, Washington (where I live) had an 85% turnout, which I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It made me really proud of my city, county, state, and country. Nice work, America. Let’s keep this trend of civic involvement going.


New floors and a fantastic built in room divider bookcase built by my pal Steve.

It’s hard to encapsulate this in a single image. Like much of the world, 2020 became the “Year of the House” for the Alexanders. This had been the plan for us before the pandemic set in, and we had been saving toward it for a while. We bought this place in 2010, which means we’ve been living in our house for a decade, and it was past time to put a little love back into the place. That means, among other things, new paint, new roof, new floors in several rooms, lots of love pour into the garden, new countertops, that fantastic bookcase in the picture above, and we’re in the middle of a bathroom remodel. It’s been awkward, stressful, and a bit odd at times juggling all this work with the pandemic, but we think it’ll be worth it.


In Conclusion

Looking back at everything that happened in 2020, I was surprised to find how much significance happened even while I spent most of my time here at home. The ten photos above don’t begin to cover everything that happened. My sister-in-law’s father, Tom, passed away, a dear man, and we could only send condolences from afar. Friends and family got sick, and not just from COVID. Pets passed away. People lost jobs. There were the forest fires and the awful weeks of smoke that blanketed much of the PNW. MURDER HORNETS.

But it wasn’t all awful events. New hobbies were found. New skills explored. Moth & Myth continued its wild growth and is leaping into a new phase of business. Friends published books. Friends made art. Friends had shows. Friends wrote new books and game systems. We all learned how to video conference (for better or worse.) There was good to be found even among the muck. I’m not going to miss 2020. It might have been an awful year, but it’s probably been one of the most notable years of my life.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2020? What are your ten? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


Want to revisit my photos of past years? The experiences then seem almost charming now. Just click on any of the links below and check out my pictures from that specific year. I find it fascinating to watch subtle changes year over year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 20182019


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Happy 2020

Happy 2020

A new decade dawns, which makes this year more conspicuous than standard new years. With the passing of the old year and the last decade comes reflection, and that reflection has me thinking about life and legacy and what we choose to do with our short time here on earth.

In her poem Good Bones after lamenting on the shortness of life and the state of the world and the people therein, the poet Maggie Smith ends with this reflection:

“Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.”

No doubt, you’ve heard me harp on “making the world a better place.” (I’ve mentioned it in some of my map posts.) It’s been a personal goal of mine for the last few years, and one I try to apply in everything I do. Sometimes those efforts are merely humble, and that’s okay. The key is to try—I might not always be successful, but at least I’m moving forward.

I’m carrying that mantra into 2020. This world is a rough place enough place, and it can often be terrible. But there are good bones here. So, I continue to persist. Throughout 2020 and beyond, I’ll do my part and work to make this place beautiful.

Happy New Year, folks. Happy New Decade.