My top 20 reads of 2020

This year, thanks to two lockdowns, the two longest stretches of insomnia I can recall ever suffering and having to withdraw from a number of commitments for health reasons (and some very short volumes), and despite a massive increase in unrecognised and unremunerated workload, I read 311 books.

I’d read 20 of them before* (and one in a different translation).

Of the 291 I read for the first time, these are the best 20.

Novels
Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929), Michael Hoffman translation
Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift (2019)
John Sayles, Yellow Earth (2020)
Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya, or The Moor (1806) – it’s a fucking hoot
Robin Robertson, The Long Take (2018)
Ling Ma, Severance (2018)
James Clarke, The Litten Path (2018)
Sue Burke, Semiosis (2018)
Fran Ross, Oreo (1974)
Hari Kunzru, Gods Without Men (2011)
Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer (1996)
Alexandre Dumas, Twenty Years After (1845)
Charles Portis, True Grit (1968)

Short Fiction
Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People (2018)
Tim Etchells, Endland (2019)
Julia Armfield, Salt Slow (2019)

Comics
Kate Evans, Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (2015)

Poetry
Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop (2006)

Non-fiction
Jane Elliott, The Microeconomic Mode: Political Subjectivity in Contemporary Popular Aesthetics (2018)
Gilbert Rist, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, fifth edition (1997/2019)

Some numbers 142 by straight white men writing in English, 144 by the rest of the world (82 by women), and 25 multi-authored or otherwise don’t fit.

And for anyone who cares, here is the full list:

James Agee, Agee on Film: Reviews and Comments (1958)
–. Selected Journalism and Book Reviews (2005)
–. The Night of the Hunter (1960)
–. Uncollected Film Writing (2005)
Robert Aickman, Cold Hand in Mine (1975)
–. Dark Entries (1964)
Akala, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire (2018)
Prayaag Akbar, Leila (2018)
Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer (1996)
Richard Allen, Skinhead Girls (1972)
–. Sorts (1973)
–. Knuckle Girls (1977)
Eric Ambler, The Mask of Dimitrios (1939)
Julia Armfield, Salt Slow (2019)
Eleanor Arnason, Mammoths of the Great Plain, plus… (2010)
Jake Arnott, The Long Firm (1999)
Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya and Nancy Fraser, Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto (2019)
Jenn Ashworth, Fell (2016)
Odafe Atogun, Taduno’s Song (2016)
Margaret Atwood, In Other Words: SF and the Human Imagination (2011)

Linda Badley, Claire perkins and Michele Schreiber, eds, Indie Reframed: Women’s Filmmaking and Contemporary American Independent Cinema (2016)
James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son (1955)
–. Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son (1961)
–. The Fire Next Time (1963)*
–. The Devil Finds Work (1976)
Iain Banks, The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007)
–. The Quarry (2013)
Edward Bellamy, Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process (1880)
John Berra, Declarations of Independence: American Cinema and the Partiality of Independent Production (2008)
Charles Beaumont, The Intruder (1959)
Lauren Beukes, Slipping: Stories, Essays & Other Writing (2016)
Gurminder K. Bhambra, Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nişancıoğlu, eds. Decolonising the University (2018)
Emilie Bickerton, A Short History of Cahiers du cinema (2009)
Terry Bisson, The Left Left Behind, plus… (2010)
Max Blecher, Adventures in Immediate Irreality (1936)
Michael Blumlein, Thoreau’s Microscope, plus… (2018)
Leigh Brackett, Stranger at Home (1946, ghostwriting as George Sanders)
–. The Starmen of Llyrdis (1952)
–. The Big Jump (1955)
–. An Eye for an Eye (1957)
Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister, the Serial Killer (2018)
Pat Brereton, Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema (2005)
Maurice Brauddus, Pimp My Airship (2019)
Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)
John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)*
–. Greenmantle (1916)
Holly Jean Buck, After Geoengineering: Climate Tragedy, Repair and Restoration (2019)
Edward Bunker, Stark (2008)
Sue Burke, Semiosis (2018)

Ramsey Campbell, The Face That Must Die (1979)
Hannelore Cayre, The Godmother (2017)
Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others (2002)
Dave Chipps, Mozart Cuato, Mike Sellers, Matt Frank, Joshua Bugosh, Gonçalo Lopes, Gamera: The Comics Collection (1996, 2017)
Walter Van Tilburg Clark, The Ox-Bow Incident (1940)
James Clarke, The Litten Path (2018)
Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950)
Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe’s Tiger (1997)
John Crowley, Totalitopia, plus… (2017)

Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya, or The Moor (1806)
Uriah Derick D’Arcy, The Black Vampyre: A Legend of St. Domingo (1819)
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, new edition (1989)
Aliette de Bodard, The Dragon That Flew Out of the Sun: Stories of the Xuya Universe (2020)
Daniel Defoe, The Storm (1704)
–. Robinson Crusoe (1719)*
–. A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
Samuel R. Delany, The Atheist in the Attic, plus… (2018)
Virginie Despentes, Baise-moi (1993)
Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929), Michael Hoffman translation
Cory Doctorow, The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, plus… (2011)
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901–2)*
Alexandre Dumas, Georges (1843)
–. Twenty Years After (1845)
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (2014)

David Eggers, The Lifters (2018)
George Eliot, Silas Marner (1861)
Jane Elliott, The Microeconomic Mode: Political Subjectivity in Contemporary Popular Aesthetics (2018)
Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, Trees: In Shadow (2014)*
–. Trees: Two Forests (2015)*
–. Trees: Three Fates (2019–20)
Steve Erickson, Shadowbahn (2017)
Tim Etchells, Endland (2019)
Kate Evans, Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (2015)
Bernardine Evaristo, The Emperor’s Babe (2001)

Howard Fast, Peekskill USA: Inside the Famous 1949 Riots (1951)
–. The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party (1957)
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1930)
Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett and Gorg Hugg, 1637: The Volga Rules (2018)
Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth, The Crucible of Empire (2010)
John Fowles, The Collector (1963)*
Nancy Fraser, The Old is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born: From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump and Beyond (2019)
Philip French, I Found It at The Movies: Reflections of a Cinephile (2011)
Mattias Frey, The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism: The Anxiety of Authority (2015)

Ernest J. Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971)
Elizabeth Gaskell, Sylvia’s Lovers (1863)
John Gibbs, The Life of Mise-en-Scène: Visual Style and British Film Criticism, 1946–78 (2013)
Zoe Gilbert, Folk (2018)
Beryl Gilroy, In Praise of Love and Children (1996)
John Godey, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1973)
Rebecca Goldstein, Strange Attractors: Stories (1993)
Robert Murray Graydon, A Case of Arson (1917)
William Murray Graydon, The Law of the Sea (1912)
Graham Greene, The End of the Affair (1951)

Ian Hacking, The Taming of Chance (1990)
Patrick Hamilton, The West Pier (1951)
–. Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse (1953)
–. Unknown Assailant (1955)
Virginia Hamilton, The House of Dies Drear (1968)
Knut Hamsun, Pan (1894)
Elizabeth Hand, Fire, plus… (2017)
Karen Milwood Hargrave, The Girl of Ink and Stars (2016)
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon (2017)
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)*
Cecil Hayter, The Slave Market! (1907)*
Scott Heim, Mysterious Skin (1995)
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)
–. To Have and Have Not (1937)
Nalo Hopkinson, Report from Planet Midnight, plus… (2012)
–. Falling in Love with Hominids (2015)
Yuri Herrara, The Transmigration of Bodies (2013)
Sarah Holding, SeaBEAN (2013)
–. SeaWAR (2014)
–. SeaRISE (2014)
Reynold Humphries, Hollywood’s Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History (2010)
I.Q. Hunter, Cult Film as a Guide to Life: Fandom, Adaptation and Identity (2016)
Megan Hunter, The End We Start From (2017)
Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney (2014)
Zahid Hussain, The Curry Mile (2006)

Gabino Iglesias, Zero Saints: A Barrio Noir (2015)
David Ingram, Green Screen: Environmentalism and Hollywood Cinema (2000)

Ayize Jama-Everett, The Liminal People (2011)
C.L.R James, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (1953)
Stephen Graham Jones, Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth (2013)
Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You (2007)
–. The First Bad Man (2015)

Marc Kaplan, The Last Temptation of Sun Ra (2011)
Christian Keathley, Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees (2006)
Sarah Keller, Anxious Cinephilia: Pleasure and Peril at the Movies (2020)
Leigh Kennedy, Saint Hiroshima (1987)*
William Kennedy, Ironweed (1983)
Mark Kermode, The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies? (2011)
Porochista Khakpour, The Last Illusion (2014)
Laleh Khalili, Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula (2020)
Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir (2017)
Paul Kingsnorth, Alexandria (2020)
Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle 5: Some Rain Must Fall (2010)
–. My Struggle 6: The End (2011)
Sakyo Komatsu, Virus (1964)
Mary Robinette Kowal, The Fated Sky (2019)
David J. Kowalski, The Company of the Dead (2012)
Paul Krassner, Patty Hearst and the Twinkie Murders: A Tale of Two Trials, plus… (2014)
Hari Kunzru, Gods Without Men (2011)
Henry Kuttner, Fury (1950)

Paul LaFarge, The Night Ocean (2017)
Joe R. Lansdale, Vanilla Ride (2009)
–. Miracles Ain’t What They Used To Be, plus…(2016)
Christopher J. LeBron, The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea (2017)
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore (1973)
–. Tehanu (1990)
–. The Wild Girls, plus… (2011)
Cixin Liu, The Wandering Earth (2011)
Sarah Lotz, The White Road (2017)
Wesley Lowery, “They Can’t Kill Us All”: The Story of Black Lives Matters (2017)
Roger Luckhurst, Corridors: Passages of Modernity (2019)

Ling Ma, Severance (2018)
John D. MacDonald, The Executioners (1957)
Ken MacLeod, The Human Front, plus… (2013)
Barry N. Malzberg, The Destruction of the Temple (1974)
–. Chorale (1978)
Laura Marcus, ed. Twelve Women Detective Stories (1997)
Adam Mars-Jones, Second Sight: The Selected Film Writing of Adam Mars-Jones (2019)
Tim Maughan, Infinite Detail (2019)
Maxine McArthur, Time Future (1999)
–. Time Past (2002)
Ian McEwan, Solar (2010)
Claude McKay, Banjo (1929)
–. Amiable with Big Teeth (2017)
Danielle McLaughlin, Dinosaurs on Other Planets (2015)
Zakes Mda, The Whale Caller (2005)
Herman Melville, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846)*
–. Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas (1847)*
–. Mardi: And A Voyage Thither (1849)
Steve Mentz, Shipwreck Modernity: Ecologies of Globalization, 1550–1719 (2015)
Andrew Milner and J.R. Burgmann, Science Fiction and Climate Change: A Sociological Approach (2020)
Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (2005)
Michael Moorcock, Modem Times 2.0, plus… (2011)
Timothy Morton, Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People (2017)
Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen (2016)
Walter Mosley, Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned (1997)
Sarah Moss, Ghost Wall (2018)
Mitch R. Murray and Mathias Nilges, William Gibson and the Futures of Contemporary Culture (2020)
Benjamin Myers, Beastings (2014)

Annalee Newitz, Autonomous (2017)
Michael Z. Newman, Indie: An American Film Culture (2011)
Mick Norman, Angels from Hell (1973)*
–. Angel Challenge (1973)*
–. Guardian Angels (1974)*
–. Angels on My Mind (1974)*

Frank Owen, South (2016)
Helen Oyeyemi, Mr Fox (2011)

Paul Park, A City Made of Words, plus… (2019)
Adrian Parr, Hijacking Sustainability (2009)
Michelle Paver, Wakenhyrst (2019)
Salam Pax, The Baghdad Blog (2003)
David Peace, Nineteen Seventy Four (1999)
Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan (1946)*
–. Gormenghast (1950)*
Dale Pendell, The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse (2010)
Robert G. Penner, Strange Labour (2020)
–. ed., Big Echo Interviews, 2017–2020 (2020)
Ann Pettifor, The Case for the Green New Deal (2019)
Marge Piercy, My Life, My Body, plus… (2015)
Frederik Pohl, Drunkard’s Walk (1960)
–. Demon in the Skull (1965/1985)
–. Homegoing (1989)
Rachel Pollack, The Beatrix Gates, plus… (2018)
Charles Portis, True Grit (1968)
A.J. Pott, The Boyhood of Belinda (1931)
E. Deidre Pribram, Cinema & Culture: Independent Film in the United States, 1980–2001 (2002)

H.L.T. Quan, Growth Against Democracy: Savage Developmentalism in the Modern World (2014)

Edogawa Rampo, Beast in the Shadows (1928)
–. The Black Lizard (1934)
Alastair Reynolds, Revenger (2016)
B. Ruby Rich, New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut (2013)
Nathaniel Rich, Losing Earth: The Decade We Could Have Stopped Climate Change (2019)
Walt and Leigh Richmond-Donahue, Blindsided (1993)
Gilbert Rist, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, fifth edition (1997/2019)
Robin Robertson, The Long Take (2018)
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Lucky Strike, plus… (2009)
Fran Ross, Oreo (1974)
Rudy Rucker, Surfing the Gnarl, plus… (2012)
Rolan Rugero, Baho! (2012)

Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Slum Online (2005)
James Sallis, Death Will Have Your Eyes (1997)
José Saramago, Blindness (1995)
Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929–1968 (1968)
Stephanie Saulter, Gemsigns (213)
John Sayles, Yellow Earth (2020)
Carter Scholz, Gypsy, plus… (2015)
Sam Selvon, Moses Ascending (1975)
Ernest Sempill, The Man from Scotland Yard (1908)
Levent Şenyürek, The Book of Madness (2007)
Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift (2019)
Ashley Shelby, South Pole Station (2017)
John Shirley, New Taboos, plus… (2013)
Vandana Shiva, The Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology and Politics (1991)
Robert Silverberg, Blood on the Mink (1962)
Clifford Simak, All Flesh Is Grass (1965)
Upton Sinclair, Our Lady (1938)
Iceberg Slim, Mama Black Widow (1969)
–. Death Wish (1977)
–. Long White Con (1977)
–. Airtight Willie and Me (1979)
Joan Slonczewski, The Children Star (1998)
Norman Spinrad, Raising Hell, plus… (2014)
Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet (1998)
Neal Stephenson, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell (2019)
Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–67)*
–. A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768)*
Rex Stout, Under the Andes (1914)
Tricia Sullivan, Occupy Me (2016)
Helen Sword, The Writer’s Diet: A Guide to Fit Prose (2007)
–. Stylish Academic Writing (2012)
Imre Szeman and Dominic Boyer, eds, Energy Humanities: An Anthology (2017)

Koushun Takami, Battle Royale (1999)
Richard Taylor, The Battleship Potemkin (2000)
Adrian Tchaikovksy, Children of Time (2015)
Adrian Tchaikovsky and Keris McDonald, Short Changes (2020)
G.H. Teed, The Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle (1913)
–. The Black Eagle  (1923)
Tade Thompson, Household Gods and Other Narrative Offences (2020)
–. The Rosewater Redemption (2019)
Jim Thompson, Heed the Thunder (1946)
–. King Blood (1954)
–. The Grifters (1963)
–. Nothing But A Man (1970)
–. Fireworks: The Lost Writings (1988)
–. The Rip-Off (1989)
Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People (2018)
James Tiptree Jr., Up the Walls of the World (1978)
Yannis Tzioumakis, American Independent Cinema, second edition (2006, 2017)

Peter Van Greenaway, The Medusa Touch (1973)
John Varley, Titan (1979)
Yanis Varoufakis, Austerity (2018)
Eben Venter, Trencherman (2006)
Gore Vidal, Thieves Fall Out (1953)
Harl Vincent, The Copper-Clad World (1931)
Gerald Vizenor, Hotline Healers: An Almost Browne Novel (1997)

Priscilla Wald, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative (2007)
David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future (2019)
Rosie Warren, ed. Salvage #8: Comrades, This Is Madness (2020)
Peter Watts, Blindsight (2006)
–. Echopraxia (2014)
Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (2007)
Archie Weller, The Day of the Dog (1981)
Colson Whitehead, Apex Hides the Hurt (2007)
Aliya Whiteley, Skein Island (2019)
Charles Willeford, Miami Blues (1984)
Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop (2006)
Paula Willoquet-Maricondi, ed., Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film (2010)
David H. Wilson, The Psychotic Dr. Schreber (2019)
G. Willow Wilson et al., Ms. Marvel, volume nine: Teenage Wasteland (2016)
Sheena Wilson, Adam Carlson and Imre Szeman, eds. Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture (2017)
Brian Wood et al., The Massive, volume one: Black Pacific (2012)
–. The Massive, volume two: Subcontinental (2012–13)
–. The Massive, volume three: Longship (2013)
–. The Massive, volume four: Sahara (2014)
–. The Massive, volume five: Ragnarok (2014)
Nick Wood, Water Must Fall (2020)
Cornell Woolrich, Rendezvous in Black (1948)

Masaki Yamada, Aphrodite (1980)

Joanna Zylinska, The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse (2018)

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