If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know I’m terrible at picking favorites. Movies, TV shows, books. I just can’t choose. How can I number my list of top sci fi and fantasy reads for the year in a way that makes sense? How can I reasonably rank wham-bam action against beautiful, lyrical writing and still share the books I loved with people sure to geek out with me about them?
So this year, I’m categorizing my favorite reads a little differently. I’ve been thinking of it like superlatives in areas like characters, worlds, action, and series finales.
Also, just a note — this is a list of the best sci fi and fantasy books I read this year. Not all of these books were released in 2020 🙂
Without further waffling, my favorites were:
- Network Effect by Martha Wells
- If you’re a sci fi fan and you haven’t checked out the Murderbot Diaries series (which starts with All Systems Red), I cannot recommend it more highly. In fact I really don’t want to say anything more about it here, because it’s just that good and a single detail could spoil the delight. Just go check it out.
- The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
- Another book I want to scream about forever — this one deserves so much more attention than it’s gotten. Lyrical historical fantasy about Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, who was a talented composer in her own right. All of her compositions are lost, and this book explores her story. I was a music major, and I found this book to be completely enchanting. Seriously underrated.
For unforgettable worlds:
- The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire
- These books follow the adventures of children who travel through doorways — think Narnia, only with endless (often creepy) variations — and their attempt to find those doors again if they get stuck back in our world. My favorite volumes so far have been Beneath a Sugar Sky and In an Absent Dream, but the whole series is gorgeous, thought-provoking, and fun. The books are short, and excellent as audiobooks.
- Heartless by Marissa Meyer
- This stand-alone story set in Wonderland could have fit in several of my categories — I loved the characters and could hardly rip myself away from it. Absolutely gorgeous, funny, heartbreaking. One could argue that Wonderland belongs to Lewis Carroll, and certainly it does — but Marissa Meyer deftly makes it her own, and I loved the way she explored the whimsy and the darkness of the place.
- Bypass Gemini by Joseph R. Lallo
- The perfect book for all your pew-pew, spacetastic racing needs. Fun, exciting.
- Soulless by Gail Carriger
- I can’t believe it took me so long to read this book. Set in Victorian England among vampires and werewolves, Soulless is hysterically funny in a way that Charles Dickens would approve of.
- Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
- Usually I’m a book-first kind of person, but I’ll admit I watched the Amazon series before I read this one. I loved both the novel and the adaptation.
- Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
- Definitely a great choice for fans of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.
- The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole
- I’m not generally drawn to sci fi romance, but I’ll read anything Alyssa Cole writes. The woman is a force of nature. And I seriously loved this sweet, Earth-based story.
For satisfying conclusion to a series:
- Supernova by Marissa Meyer
- I enjoyed the Renegades series before I reached this final volume, but when I got there? Holy moly, it just absolutely took off. Such a great payoff.
- Kill Shot by Jessie Kwak
- So satisfying. No spoilers. Looking forward to the spinoff series. (This one could also go under characters. Love this crew.)
For thought-provoking themes:
- To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
- I didn’t quite appreciate the depth of this novella until I got through the whole thing. And then it hit me, full force. I love a book that makes me work to put the pieces together, and then delivers.
- Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
- Here’s another one I had trouble categorizing. A voicey, memorable narrator plus zombie-filled action plus creative alternate history… it’s just awesome in so many ways. But ultimately, as many zombie stories do, Dread Nation stuck with me as a story that holds a mirror to society — and reveals the monsters within it.
And finally, for uncategorizable awesomeness:
- Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
- Funny, irreverent, and addictive. Page-turning awesomeness. Unforgettable characters. Yeah, this one’s gotten a lot of attention — but it deserves every ounce of it.
That’s that! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? And what were your favorite reads of the year?