2020 Top 10 Books

Two lockdowns meant that my reading oscillated wildly between serious existential material and escapism. So much enjoyment and illumination! At the top of the apex were these (nine of them rated 9/10, one being the best out of the numerous 8/10s):

Mark Jaccard’s The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success is an expert’s guide to climate change policies that work, written in an inspiring, sparkling style. The more I read about the climate emergency, the more holes in my knowledge became plain, so this year has seen a major focus on such books. Plenty of my reads were well worthwhile but two stood out and this is one of them.

The Reversing Tide by Frank Kennedy is swashbuckling yet complex space opera at its best. Perfect for iso and beyond.

The Man Who Solved the Market by Greg Zuckerman: an intelligent, revelatory look at one of the giants of the “quant” movement in managing money.

Richard Smyth’s flowing prose could render a calendar interesting. An Indifference of Birds offers revelations about avian species amongst the human species. Not to be missed.

Two of the books on this list might seem to have a limited readership but that judgment would be wrong. Twyla Tharp’s Keep It Moving tilts at us older humans but there is so much in it about garnering bodily energy … and it’s characteristically a feisty read that delights.

In the same vein, Baseless by Nicholson Baker is not just for research nerds but also addresses a darkness at the heart of the United States and chronicles a restless mind and heart. Baker is effortlessly stylish.

The unforgettable Isaiah Quintabe, or IQ, is the Sherlock of the L.A. ganglands, and Hi Five by Joe Ide is the customary revved-up ride and stylistic treasure. The mystery at its heart is stunning.

A sci-fi treasure, a dystopian tale of a young boy setting out on an epic journey with unlikely allies … in The Book of Koli (the first instalment in a trilogy). M. R. Carey brilliantly settles into a unique voice.

The other standout climate emergency book of 2020 is Mark Lynas’s Our Final Warning. Is the Earth likely to warm 1 degree or 6 degrees or somewhere in between? What is the evidence? For each degree of warming, what are the human and planetary consequences? Brilliant reporting narrated in an intelligent, passionate voice.

Jenny Offill’s minimalist, acerbic prose splits readers into two camps. I adore her writing and Weather, a story of an idealistic woman coping with her world and the era of Trump, is a triumph.

Honorable mentions go out to: Agency by William Gibson; Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart; Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens; Garry Disher’s Peace; Andrew Lowe’s Pray for Rain; The Strange Book of Jacob Bryce by Tom Gillespie; J M Dalgliesh’s Hear No Evil; The Power of Daily Practice by Eric Maisel; Helen McDonald’s Vesper Flights; and The Good Ancestor by Roman Krznaric.

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