Some Good Books from 2020

By Book Moon

By Book Moon

The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

$27.00 $24.84

This book is on every best of the year list for good reason. We kept selling out of it at Book Moon — one of the fascinating challenges of running a small bookshop in a small town (that ships books around the world) is trying to forecast how many copies of which books (there are only a million new books or so every year . . .) are going to sell. Once I read this one I tried to keep a small stack of it to hand as it was the go to for a recommendation on a big novel that someone can dive into as it has it all: family and social history, secrets, love, intrigue, and more. Dive in.

Barn 8

Deb Olin Unferth

$16.00 $14.72

Do you like a heist? There are no jewels, but there is a team to assemble and a system to beat. Will there be breaking of hearts? (Yes.)

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning

Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

$18.99 $17.47

In January 2020 I saw these two authors in conversation at the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute in Baltimore, MD. Looking back, it's hard to imagine that going there was a good idea but Reynolds and Kendi are stars and this conversation was worth it. The writing grabbed me immediately and I read it on the train back home. Then our whole family read it and everyone here recommends it. Stamped was a Book Moon bestseller throughout the year. For me it was like Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States and Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, a corrective read that gave me a necessary perspective on written histories and filled in parts that I was never taught in school and have barely come across as an adult. a

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance

Zora Neale Hurston

$17.99 $16.55

Stark but laugh out loud funny in places, just irresistible.

The City We Became

N. K. Jemisin

$28.00 $25.76

Jemisin runs with the idea of the personified city and it is just great.

Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots

Morgan Jerkins

$27.99 $25.75

Jerkins begins with a simple question about her family's roots and along the way discovers much more than she expected.

Beowulf: A New Translation

Maria Dahvana Headley

$15.00 $13.80

Bro, you have to read (or listen!) to this. Maria Dahvana Headley's intro places her translation in the historical record and then, boom, you're into the tale and it is as good as you've heard.

The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

Danielle Evans

$27.00 $24.84

New Danielle Evans is always good news. I turn this spot over to Kelly: "A dazzling collection. Contemporary life in Danielle Evans's stories has a kind of incandescent and dangerous energy: even in moments of somberness or isolation, her characters crackle with heat, light, and self-awareness."-- Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

Layla Saad

$25.99 $23.91

Put this on your reading list every year. It's been about a year since I read it so dammit I am going to have to read it again. It's pretty much a must read.

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X

Tamara Payne and Les Payne

$35.00 $32.20

National Book Award winner and a total stunner.

The Yield

Tara June Winch

$27.99 $25.75

One of the best novels I've read. A woman returns to her family home and learns that a mining company is about to kick her family out. A deep look into family, history, and language itself.

Night Roll

Michael J. DeLuca

$14.99 $13.79

In Michael J. DeLuca's rolling and immersive debut a single young mother in Detroit finds community, slow joys, and perhaps the spirit of the city.

Piranesi

Susanna Clarke

$27.00 $24.84

A new novel — at last, yay! — from the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Trouble the Saints

Alaya Dawn Johnson

$26.99 $24.83

Again, going to turn to Kelly for this: "Beware this magnificent beguilement of a novel: once begun, Alaya Dawn Johnson's Trouble the Saints won't let you go." — Kelly Link, New York Times bestselling author of Get in Trouble And how about this, "Juju assassins, alternate history, a gritty New York crime story... in a word: awesome." — N.K. Jemisin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fifth Season

Bestiary

K-Ming Chang

$27.00 $24.84

Dance on Saturday: Stories

Elwin Cotman

$17.00 $15.64

A Small Beer Press title selected by Amal El-Mohtar, book critic and co-author of This Is How You Lose the Time War for NPR Best Books of the Year: “Elwin Cotman’s third collection of short fiction is only six stories long, but each story is packed with rich depth, like jeweled fruits glinting in wet loam. Mixing mythic and contemporary, humor and horror, melancholy and optimism, Cotman’s stories range from present-day Pittsburgh to fantasy Africa, with a beautifully flexible polyvocal prose. My two favorite stories make up about half the book: ‘Seven Watsons’ and the title story both deliver all the sophistication and complexity of a novel at a third of the length, and center Black joy and endurance.”

Postcolonial Love Poem: Poems

Natalie Diaz

$16.00 $14.72

Diaz is a master of the word, the poetric line, and the spaces and breaths in between.

Solutions and Other Problems

Allie Brosh

$30.00 $27.60

Our kid grabbed our copy and read it before I could — and Brosh answered one of the kid’s questions during an online zoom event, maybe her zoom high point of last year? When I got the book back I read it slowly. I used to love reading her blog and now that she writes books instead the breaks between new work are longer so I’m still spacing this out. It’s absolutely hilarious, as you’d expect if you read Hyperbole and a Half, but it’s also absolutely heartbreaking so be ready.

A Deadly Education

Naomi Novik

$28.00 $25.76

I picked this up because I’d enjoyed Novik’s previous novels, not because the subject pulled me in but woah, what a page turner. She builds a great set up, pushes the start button, and bam! Off to the races. Can’t wait for the next book coming in summer time. We stacked this up at the book shop and hand sold tons because while I’m not the best on-the-spot recommender of books I can enthusiastically put a good book into someone’s hands.

Reckoning 4

Anna Kate Blair

$15.00 $13.80

This is the 4th edition of Reckoning, a thought provoking and generous annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice. It is one of my favorite entities and this edition keeps the flag flying for truth, beauty, and new ways.

Flyaway

Kathleen Jennings

$19.98 $18.38

You may know Kathleen Jennings from her art (she has a great Patreon), her book covers, her art exhibit at Book Moon (including live sketching during the monthly pre-Covid Art Walk), or you may know her from her short stories from the last few years. Or you may not know her at all and this gothic, folklorish novel can be your introduction. Again, I can turn this over to Kelly: "A fairytale wrapped about in riddles and other thorny bits of enchantments and stories, but none of them quite like any you've heard before. Kathleen Jennings' prose dazzles, and her magic feels real enough that you might even prick your finger on it.” — Kelly Link

The Ministry for the Future

Kim Stanley Robinson

$28.00 $25.76

This is the last book on the list on purpose. I find it hard to recommend but also hard not to just ask you to stop reading this and start reading it. Robinson's an optimist and there is some huge hand waving in a few sections where large swaths of various populaces start behaving in ways that are better for the planet and for us. But besides that, this is a clear-eyed view of the way that the next few decades might unroll. This has one of the darkest starts to a novel I've read and the point of view character isn’t the one I’d expected or hoped for in that situation but I am writing my reservations out first so that I can get to the rest of the book. Robinson is as comfortable describing an Irish middle-aged politician's swimming routine as he is describing global weather interactions. The point of view shifts between a few characters, some of whom know more than others. The questions posed are on a global scale: if there are 500 people, mostly men, who control the oil production and distribution in the world, should they be held accountable for the present and future cost of that oil? It is a great, huge, scary book. I could hardly put it down even as I sometimes wished it would just go away. But, for those of us lucky enough to survive, the future isn’t going away and Robinson’s great achievement is that he shows that there are some people out there who will do the work of equality and justice, not just for some, but for all.