2020 is finally almost over. For many, this year will be remembered as the year of COVID-19. Despite the pandemic, lockdowns, and quarantines, one of my silver linings for 2020 was the opportunity to do a lot of reading. In today’s post, I am going to list my top 5 favorite books that I read in 2020. This is a list of books that I read in 2020, regardless of their original release dates and regardless of genre. I am not limiting this list to science fiction and fantasy. Although, there will be some fantasy on the list.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Lonesome Dove was released in 1985 and is considered by some to be the quintessential Western novel. The story follows two retired Texas Rangers, Captain Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Captain Woodrow F. Call, who have settled down in the quiet Texas town of Lonesome Dove on the Rio Grande river. The story takes place in the 1870s. McCrae and Call own and run the Hat Creek Cattle Company and Livery Emporium, and somewhat out of the blue, Call decides to put together a cattle drive to Montana. The Hat Creek group hire several cowboys, acquire some other interesting help, steal some cattle from a Mexican bandit, and make there way north to Montana. The story has everything you would want in a Western–gunfights, cowboys and Indians, saloons, and prostitutes. Despite covering all the tropes, the book explores much deeper themes of duty, friendship, love, and regret. Lonesome Dove is a fun read with depth.
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
Do you ever pick up a book with no expectations, thinking you probably won’t like it and then find yourself devouring it in one day? Well that book for me this year was The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. The book was recommended to me by both my mother and brother, and it’s good thing they did not really tell me anything about the book, other than I should just read it. This book contains one of those stories that just resonates, and you really root for the main character. The story follows the life of a boy who is born with a rare genetic condition giving him red eyes. He is raised Catholic and attends a Catholic primary school, where he is labeled “devil boy,” and other children make him an outcast. This book follows the main character’s life from childhood to mid-adulthood, exploring his friendships, relationships, and faith. The book was released in 2018, and it is a departure from Robert Dugoni’s usual thriller/mystery books. It really is just a lovely story and a bit of a tearjerker.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck is considered by many as one of the best American writers of the 20th century. He wrote some of the most iconic books of the century, including Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, but Steinbeck himself considered East of Eden his magnum opus. East of Eden was released in 1952 and is set in the Salinas Valley in California. It follows two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, through several generations around the turn of the 20th century. Through the story of these two families Steinbeck covers a range of aspects of the human condition. The main themes are borrowed from the story of Cain and Abel from the Book of Genesis. Steinbeck highlights the nature of brotherly relationships and how they mirror the relationship of Cain and Abel. These relationships offer some powerful moments that will stick with you well after you finish reading the book. East of Eden is one of those novels that leaves you thinking for a long time.
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
There may be a little bit of recency bias here, as I just finished reading The Way of Kings a little less than one week ago, but I enjoyed it so much it has to make my list. The Way of Kings was released in 2010, and it is the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archives. This book is epic fantasy at its best. The setting, the characters, and the magic are all unique and wonderful. Sanderson is a fantastic writer, and he created amazing characters. I love the characters in this book. They are all multidimensional, and their motivations are real and tangible. The world of Roshar is unique, and Sanderson reveals and holds back just the right amount of history and lore to entice the reader, while at the same time giving the reader the desire for more. As soon as I finished this book, I was eager to read the next book in the series. For an in-depth review of the book, you can check out my spoiler-free review.
A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
A Memory of Light is the fourteenth and final book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. Unfortunately, Robert Jordan passed away in 2007, and Brandon Sanderson was tasked with finishing the last book in the series, which then turned into three final books–The Gathering Storm (2009), Towers of Midnight (2010), and A Memory of Light (2013). In some ways the three final books are one book, but I had to pick one for this list so I went with the concluding book. My Wheel of Time journey began several years ago, and I devoured this series until I hit what many call “the slog.” I put down the series for a few years, and I picked it back up in 2020. The world Robert Jordan created is perhaps the best and most in-depth fantasy world ever created, rivaling even the great J.R.R. Tolkien himself. There are so many payoffs in this book to such a fantastic series. Throughout the whole series, the reader is waiting for The Last Battle with the Dark One, and while the chapter “The Last Battle” in this book is perhaps the longest single chapter I have ever seen, it is the best (and I mean THE BEST) fiction battle put to page that I have ever read. This book is an amazing ending to an amazing series, and 2020 is the year I finally finished it.