[FEATURE] Best Reads of 2020

Sitting down and viewing my GR list for 2020 was a bit of a surprise. I read quite a few comics and short stories this past year, for one. And two, this year must have been horribly long, because I could have sworn a bunch of these titles were actually read in 2019.

To compose my Top 10 Novels + Novellas, I looked for reviews that earned 4.5 or 5 stars. In doing so, I noticed many great books I had to leave off because they ended up with 4 stars. To give these notable releases some love, I have chosen my favorite to list in Honorable 4 Star Mentions at the end of this feature. There are also several other categories, like Top Anthologies and Most Disturbing. 

None of these lists are in any particular order.

I hope these curated lists help those in need of some book recommendations in 2021. Let me know which titles you’ve read below and which you’d like to read next!

TOP 10 OF 2020 (NOVELS + NOVELLAS)

(Yes, I know I cheated by including 3 titles in one slot…)

  • Wormwood – by Chad Lutzke and Tim Meyer
  • The Five Turns of the Wheel – by Stephanie Ellis
  • Mondo Crimson – by Andrew Post
  • The Nightmareland Series Thus Far (Books 1-3) – by Daniel Barnett 
  • Voodoo Heart – by John Everson
  • Devil’s Creek – by Todd Keisling
  • Misfits – by Hunter Shea
  • The Raven – by Jonathan Janz
  • Cricket Hunters – by Jeremy Hepler
  • Tomb of Gods – by Brian Moreland

TOP 10 RUNNER’S UP

(These just barely missed the Top 10. That being said, there were still other 4.5 starred books that are not shown here. These are simply my next top 10, in addition to those listed above.)

  • One by One – by D.W. Gillespie
  • True Crime – by Samantha Kolesnik
  • Piece of Me – by Steve Stred
  • The Prisoners of Stewartville – by Shannon Felton
  • The Neon Owl: When the Shit Hits the Van – by Chad Lutzke
  • The Sound of Distant Engines – by Robert E. Dunn
  • Ceremony of Ashes – by Jayson Robert Ducharme
  • First Blood – by David Morrell
  • A Lush and Seething Hell – by John Hornor Jacobs
  • *A Penny for Your Thoughts – by Robert Ford and Matt Hayward*

*Though I try to keep away from scandals that do not involve me, I realize that there was a lot of drama around Matt Hayward in 2020. As such, he’s basically disappeared from existence. I am highlighting this novel for Ford’s efforts, because I do not see him as guilty by prior association to Hayward. In other words, please don’t attack me as if I’m supporting Hayward’s behavior, because I am not. This is in support of Ford’s writing.

BEST ANTHOLOGIES 

(I read a big stack of anthologies this year, but these two titles were the ones that scored at least a 4.5 out of 5 – something that is quite difficult for an anthology, in my opinion.)

  • Midnight in the Pentagram – Edited by Kenneth W. Cain / Released by Silver Shamrock Publishing
  • It Calls from the Sky – Edited by A. Robertson-Webb and M. River / Released by Eerie River Publishing

BEST COLLECTIONS FROM AN INDIVIDUAL AUTHOR

(Though I read a few more collections than this, these two titles were the ones that scored at least a 4.5 out of 5 – again, not an easy feat for a collection.)

  • Hunger Pangs – by Scott J. Moses
  • Dark Winds Over Wellington – by Tabatha Wood

BEST INDIVIDUAL SHORT STORIES + NOVELETTES

(I read a lot of short story singles this year, so this category had to be made. Although All the Laird’s Men is being promoted as a novella, it was under fifty pages; in my experience, that word count generally qualifies as a novelette. That is why the title appears here instead of the Novels + Novellas list from earlier.)

  • Lovebirds – by Matthew Brady
  • All the Laird’s Men – by Tabatha Wood
  • The Pool – by Jason Sechrest
  • Grief is a False God – by Gemma Amor
  • Ketchup on Everything – by Nathan Robinson

MOST UNIQUE READ

Subcutanean – by Aaron A. Reed

MOST DISTURBING READ 

(This book was chosen as the most disturbing read of the titles I enjoyed this past year. There were several other disturbing books I read in 2020 that I really did not like and did not wish to promote, as a result.)

True Crime – by Samantha Kolesnik

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL SERIES

(Yes, I realize Hill dominates here. I can’t help it if he put out comics that attracted me the most this year.)

  • Locke & Key – by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  • Basketful of Heads – by Joe Hill, Leomacs, and Dave Stewart
  • Plunge – by Joe Hill, Stuart Immonen, and Dave Stewart

HONORABLE 4 STAR MENTIONS

(When making this list, I looked for those 4 star reads that stuck with me above the others. In doing so, I did not concern myself with whether they were a novel, novella, collection, or what have you. These were just the titles I thought also deserved highlighting in this feature. There also may be a few 4.5 starred titles that missed the lists above by the skin of their teeth…)

  • Pivot – by L.C. Barlow
  • Perish – by L.C. Barlow
  • These Wounds We Make – by Gemma Amor
  • Creature – by Hunter Shea
  • Subcutanean – by Aaron A. Reed
  • The Window in the Ground – by Steve Stred
  • Bottled – by Stephanie Ellis
  • The Wise Friend – by Ramsey Campbell
  • The Magpie Coffin – by Wile E. Young
  • Dark Choir – by Paul Melhuish
  • Hunger on the Chisholm Trail – by M. Ennenbach
  • Dust – by Chris Miller
  • Curse of the Pigman – by Asher Ellis
  • The Only Good Indians – Stephen Graham Jones
  • Nest of Salt – by Matthew V. Brockmeyer
  • In Darkness, Shadows Breathe – by Catherine Cavendish

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