I have to begin with a disclaimer. I read a lot of books in 2020, but not very many new books. And in particular not a lot of fiction (outside of SF). This is something that I’ve noticed is only getting worse. I’d like to read more new fiction, but much of it seems to be getting lost in the shuffle of pages.
Best fiction: I don’t think Clifford Jackman’s The Braver Thing is a perfect book, but it is challenging and different, which is saying something. A pirate ship becomes a social-science lab for experiments in different forms of government. As with S. D. Chrostowska’s The Eyelid (see below) it’s a political allegory. Something must have been going on at this time that was turning people’s minds in this direction . . .
Best non-fiction: Trump dominated my non-fiction reading for most of the past year, as he did throughout his whole depressing reign. Is it over now? I suspect that after a wave of books about the 2020 election land it mostly will be. But we’ll have to see. One non-Trump title I really liked was William Deresiewicz’s The Death of the Artist, which takes a look at the collapse of the arts economy and how it’s being felt on the ground. I think I was most impressed though by the final volume in Rick Perlstein’s epic chronicle of the rise of the American political right, Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976-1980. Not a Trump book, though the arrogant New York City real estate maven does have a cameo and you don’t have to look too hard to see where America’s right turn was heading. A fascinating read, despite its heftiness and a ton of typos.
Best SF: I could go with a number of different titles, but S. D. Chrostowska’s The Eyelid sticks out the most. Not so much for the story as for the way it projects politics and even theory into a fantasy realm which is still relevant and interesting. One of few contemporary SF titles I found myself wanting to read again right away.