Our borg Best of 2020 list continues today with the Best Books of 2020. If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Best Movies of 2020 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here, and the Best in TV 2020 here. Our list continues tomorrow with the Best Comics and Games of 2020. And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame later this month.
We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf. We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.
So let’s get going!
Best Sci-Fi, Best Thriller Novel – Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson (Tor Books). It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy. And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.
Best Tie-In Novel – Bloodshot novelization by Gavin Smith (Titan Books). A great update to the genre that began with Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, Smith creates an exciting, vivid novelization of the comic book character adapted to the big screen. Honorable mention: Firefly: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).
There are many more best book selections to go…
Best Fantasy Read – Relentless: A Drizzt Novel by R.A. Salvatore (Tor Books). Background on Drizzt’s past, a secret for future books, and a cohesive, compelling finale was the right way to end this great journey. Full of lots of good subplots, this is a must-read for D&D and fantasy readers. Honorable mention: The Last Uncharted Sky by Curtis Craddock (Tor Books).
Best Mystery, Best Historical Novel, Best New Series – Premeditated Myrtle/How to Get Away with Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Algonquin). A great new duo of detectives make their way through crimes with the help of a neighbor cat. An in-depth look at small-town Victorian England through the words of the daughter of the town Prosecutor with an avid interest in criminal science. Both are fun reads with rich characters and worldbuilding.
Best Adventure Read, Best New Edition of Previous Published Work, Best Translated Work – A Snake Lies Waiting: Legends of the Condor Heroes 3 by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood and Gigi Chang (St. Martin’s Press). This was a tough choice, as the second volume was fantastic and also debuted in the U.S. in 2020. The action and adventures and ups and downs of our heroes, and a great death scene, tipped this volume in for the win. Honorable mention: A Bond Undone: Legends of the Condor Heroes 2 by Jin Yong (Tor Books).
Best Retro Read – Masquerade for Murder, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Titan Books). Collins at his best, vintage Hammer, and indistinguishable from classic Mickey Spillane–as if Spillane never really left. Great, easy reading, and fast-paced escapist fun, for fans of 1980s detective tropes. Honorable mentions: The Knife Slipped, by Erle Stanley Gardner (Hard Case Crime), Are Snakes Necessary? by Brian DePalma (Hard Case Crime), and Vertigo, by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac (Pushkin Vertigo).
Best Horror Read – The Living Dead: A New Novel by Daniel Kraus (Titan Books). Yes, it needed a good edit at an indulgent 656 pages, but its prediction of the chaos in a pandemic that mimicked reality this year made up for it. A solid apocalypse story with some really good characters to cheer for, this was a spooky read for a spooky year.
Best Film/TV Concept Art Book – The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian by Phil Szostak (Abrams). The best dive into the creative minds who delivered the series, a combination of the storytelling and directing experience of Jon Favreau, Doug Chiang, and Dave Filoni′s years working on the films and animated series, developing a detailed knowledge of the corners of Star Wars people, places, and things, and the vision of production designer Andrew L. Jones. The love for Star Wars shared by the creators of the series, and the abundance of nostalgic throwbacks in this volume makes for the best content so far in these books.
Best Genre Non-Fiction Book – These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s Volume 2 by Marc Cushman (Jacobs Brown). Could you ever guess the period between projects could be as interesting at the series and movies themselves? Cushman’s in-depth research into places never before explored provides a new, insightful look back at the creation of a new era in genre fandom as it examines Gene Roddenberry, the visionary who made it possible. Plus an exploration of a series that almost-was. An exhaustive, definitive, 650-page history of what made Hollywood tick in the 1970s. In a word: Fascinating!
Best Book Design – The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Ships + Battles (Abrams Books for Young Readers). Abrams released the third book in this interesting format following the premiere book in 2018, Star Wars: Creatures + Aliens. The interactive nature makes the learning process–about filmmaking–fun, but each book also is full of fandom: great photos, flip-down images, and tipped in material that nicely expands on the “vault” format books. Gorgeous books, attractive design components, and great entertainment hours to read over and over.
Best Book on Film – TCM’s The Essentials Volume 2: 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by Jeremy Arnold (Running Press). An improvement on the first volume thanks to new appendices with the entirety of The Essentials entries. Each film provides good gold nuggets that take movie fans behind the scenes of some of the best film ever made.
Best Historical Non-Fiction Book, Best Adventure Read, Best Anthology Book – As Told at the Explorer Club edited by George Plimpton (Lyons Press) (new edition). Every reader will find something appealing here, a collection of true-life adventure stories from the people who lived them. Some stories will be likely to leave you breathless.
Come back tomorrow as we reveal our Best Comics and Games of 2020, and later this month we’ll add several new members to the borg Hall of Fame.
C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg