Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: The Best Books I Haven’t Read in 2020

It has been A Year, friends. A year that’s been cruel to so many of us. For me, one of the cruelest personal effects of this year has been the forgetfulness, the loss of time, the anxiety-borne impact on memory and emotion that successfully killed my ability to derive any pleasure from reading fiction by the tail end of the summer. In honour of this strange period, let me bring you The Best Books I Haven’t Read (yet) from 2020—and I do hope I’ll find myself able to read them eventually.

Valerie Valdes’ Prime Deceptions (September) is a sequel to her fast-paced, fun space-opera debut Chilling Effect. It promises another entertaining romp with Captain Eva Innocente and her crew, secrets, lies, and uncomfortable family moments, and damn, how sad am I about not reading it already?

The Midnight Bargain (October) by C.L. Polk (author of Witchmark and Stormsong) is a standalone novel in a new fantasy world inspired by Regency cutlure and a woman’s right to choose. I’ve seen it compared both to Octavia Butler and to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamor novels, which certainly seems like a wide Venn diagram, and since I loved Stormsong and very much enjoyed Witchmark, I’d really like my brain to grow back enough not to balk at starting it.

I actually read a good third of Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea (May), in which a pirate (a girl disguised as a young man for survival) forms a bond with a captive noblewoman, before my ability to read shut down. It looks like a promising debut, with hints of a wide and dangerous world, and the foretaste of adventure. I look forward to being capable of finishing it!

Megan E. O’Keefe’s Chaos Vector (July) is the sequel to the excellent space opera Velocity Weapon, and based on the twists and turns in that book, I have no idea what to expect from this one. Except excitement, action, adventure, politics, and large explosions… so I guess I have some idea of what to expect, after all.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (October) is a book I’ve heard numerous good things about (though, thanks to the mess that this year has made of my memory, I can’t tell you where I heard those good things). It opens a new epic fantasy series from award-winning author Roanhorse, and I have to say, I’m very interested in seeing what it does.

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke (September) sounds like a school story for the ages. Outcast lesbian witches? Feral youth? Facing down fundamentalist witch hunters and figuring out how having friends works? It sounds really good.

Andrea Stewart’s Bone Shard Daughter (September) is an epic fantasy debut that sounds perhaps a little grimmer than I’d often find appealing. But it promises some intriguing worldbuilding, queerness, and a story interesting in exploring power and privilege, so when my reading brain grows back, I do want to give it a try.

And what about The Once and Future Witches? (October.) Alix E. Harrow’s second novel looks like it’s about family, witchcraft, and the women’s suffrage movement, and based on the compelling prose and interesting conceits of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, it should prove to be well-constructed and pleasing to read—although I’m not yet ready for any highly emotional journeys.

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots (September) looks like a darkly humorous examination of the line between superhero and supervillain—perhaps a critique of capitalism, or perhaps a satire? It sounds like it should be very entertaining, and I know Amal El-Mohtar recommends it—and she has very good taste indeed.

Other books I have missed that also sound good include Mara Fitzgerald’s Beyond the Ruby Veil (November), Nina Varela’s Iron Heart (October, sequel to Crier’s War, which I enjoyed), Julia Ember’s Ruinsong (December), and Shveta Thakrar’s Star Daughter (September). I’m sure there are others: if 2020 has been good for anything, it’s been overwhelming me with too much to take in.

My next column will discuss the best books that I did read in 2020. But what about you guys? What have you not read this year that you wish you had?

Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Her first book, Sleeping With Monsters, a collection of reviews and criticism, was published in 2017 by Aqueduct Press. It was a finalist for the 2018 Locus Awards and was nominated for a 2018 Hugo Award in Best Related Work. She was a finalist for the inaugural 2020 Ignyte Critic Award, and has also been a finalist for the BSFA nonfiction award. Find her on Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, and the Abortion Rights Campaign.


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