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(Late, I know...) The Best of 2020!

I read 47 books in 2020 which is 17 more than my 2019 mark. If there is a silver lining to being home, there is more time to read since the start of my professional career. The books broke pretty evenly between being published in 2020, 2019 and in the immediate years before 2019. 

It was a proud accomplishment to read down the backlog. There are just one offs sitting on the shelf now. Books that I recently explained to a friend that I could not remember why I bought them much less a desire to ever read them. 2021 hopes be a year where I read a few things I have always wanted too, plus a few classics of literature that I missed when I graduated High School 31 years ago.

The Inaugural "I Regret Not Reading This Book" Award

Every year there is a BLACKTOP WASTELAND. Which is to say a highly regraded book that checks all of the boxes of my interest that I never quite get around to buying,. I read about this book back in July/August and I no doubt put it on the buy list. My initial hesitation was due to the fact that my regular bookseller did not have autographed copies. Another seller did, but something, something, something... I'm an idiot.

The book reappeared  on my radar in November as Best of 2020 started to trickle in. I was over my need for a signed copy, but instead I decided to buy something else. And now with 2020 in our rear view and not much else to stop me from getting what is clearly one of the most highly regraded Crime Fiction books of the year, I am drawn to a soon to be a released UK book with a cool dust jacket. 
[UPDATE: In between writing this and hitting publish, I bought the book. This does not negate this prestigious award.]

Honorable Mentions (All Years)

LAND OF WOLVES (2019) and NEXT TO LAST STAND (2020) Craig Johnson.
RIVIERA GOLD (2020) Laurie R. King. 
HEAD WOUNDS (2020) Michael McGarrity.
YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY (2019) Steph Cha.
THEIR LITTLE SECRET (2020) Mark Billingham.
THREE HOURS IN PARIS (2020) Cara Black.

The Best Non-2020 Release.

As the majority of the books read were not published in 2020 it seemed a shame to not recognize what in fact were the 3 best things I read all year.

1. THIS POISON WILL REMAIN (2019) - Fred Vargas

I read three of Fred Vargas's books in 2020, but it was THIS POISON WILL REMAIN that stuck with me. I like sad lonely books about confronting a past that seeks to break its character and their equal determination to not be defined by it. This is, without a doubt, the best book I read all year.

2. UNDER OCCUPATION (2019) - Alan Furst

I have been in the bag for Mr. Furst's tales of (mostly) everyday people being brought into a world of  late 30's early 40's European espionage. I was especially drawn to the latest in Mr. Furst's Night Soldier series, UNDER OCCUPATION. The book follows a writer of pulp detective novels who early on explains his methodology for writing his crime novels and in doing so how Mr. Furst, himself, has written this and all his books. A true pleasure.

3. THIS STORM (2019) - James Ellroy

There was much hand wringing on my part about this latest entry in Mr. Ellroy's second LA Quartet. The book follows numerous Ellroy creations both old and new, but the book is anchored by the titanic Kay Lake. A signature Ellroy creation and the first character of his I have rooted for in a long, long time. 

The Best of 2020

I should crunch the numbers to determine how many 2020 releases I actually read. In all honesty 2020 was still a year for reading from the same cadre of authors I have read for the last 10 years. Connelly, Crais, Billingham, Burke, King, Johnson, et. al. And not that these guys are incapable of writing great books far from it. Mark Billingham, Craig Johnson and Laurie R. King all wrote immensely enjoyable books, but alas they just miss this list.

1. THE LAST TOURIST - Olen Steinhauer 

The world is spinning out of control, and there is the sinking feeling that we will never regain control, whether real or imagined, ever again. Mr. Steinhauer captures that dread. THE LAST TOURIST is a pitiless portrayal of how we are losing a battle that is being fought by few and ignored by the rest.

2. A PRIVATE CATHEDRAL - James Lee Burke

It is a book about Death, what is not to love? The inevitability, the cold embrace, and the hope for beauty in it.


Hands down the funnest thing I read all year.  Mr. Brooks ability to not just build the details of something fantastical but the right details to make it believable are exceptional.


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