In no particular order…
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
After reading Mexican Gothic, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on another of Moreno-Garcia’s books. She’s written a variety, but when I read the description of Gods of Jade and Shadow, I knew it was the next book for me. The story follows Casiopea, a Cinderella-like character living in shadow of her hateful cousin. She unwittingly releases an imprisoned god, leading her on an adventure across Mexico and ultimately to freedom. The cast of characters is fascinating, and the whole tale is based on Mexican folklore.
Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo & Olivia Gatwood with Illustrations by Theodore Taylor III
In the wake of the pandemic, I chose to homeschool my kids this year. What seemed like a daunting task became a real blessing in that I was able to choose the path of our study. I ran across Woke, having read other work’s by Elizabeth Acevedo, and was introduced to an absolutely beautiful and essential piece of modern literature. The poems in this book look at topics including racism and immigration, empathy and acceptance—among others. Accompanied by colorful illustrations, the poetry in Woke is accessible and relevant and really a book that everyone should read and consider.
One by One by Ruth Ware
Set in a chalet in the snowy French Alps, One by One is an Agatha Christie-esque thriller where a ski retreat in an isolated locale turns guilty. Everyone is a suspect, and Ware does an excellent job of keeping you guessing until the very end. My favorite aspect of this book is the case of flawed, complicated, and genuinely deplorable characters. I loved them. I hated them. And I enjoyed every moment.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
I admit, in the midst of quarantining in 2020, the idea of just sleeping until it was all over was a little more than tempting. That being said, the narrator in this story explores a drug-induced hibernation that is both fascinating to read about, and also horrifying. Full of black humor, interesting interactions, and a smart philosophical look at the power of alienation, the story brought to mind Girl, Interrupted but in all too accessible, normalized setting.
Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life by Teresa R. Funke
This wasn’t the only inspirational book I read in 2020, but it was certainly one of my favorites. Despite having so much unexpected free time, pandemic life was often much less productive than I would have liked. Bursts of Brilliance provided a breath of fresh air in contrast with Funke urging us to examine our uniqueness, follow our passions, and create, drawing on years of experience as an author and creative entrepreneur. This book made me smile, laugh, and had me chucking my hesitation in favor of embracing the things that I love so much about being an author.