Aqueduct Reading List 2020
By Margaret McBride
I read a lot, so my memory of books tends to get fuzzy, but the list below has books I remember well from my reading in 2020.
Trapped in the R.A.W. Kate Boyes 2019 A man checking out my books at the library recommended this one after seeing the SF I was checking out. It's an original, post-apocalypse, alien-invasion tale with innovative use of illustrations from 19th-century books.
Night Watchman Louise Erdrich 2020 I liked this one better than several earlier novels by Erdrich. Iit does have fantasy elements but is based on the history of her grandfather...strong writing style, interesting characters and plot.
European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman 2018 and Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl 2019 Theodore Goss (2nd & 3rd after The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter (2017) I love revisionist myth-making and these books are having so much fun reimagining women characters from older fiction.
The City We Became N. K. Jemisin 2020 I read this when it first came out and then reread in the fall because it was chosen for my Eugene-based SF book group. I liked it even more, perhaps because of the discussion. I was able to suspend disbelief better for the fantasy elements and enjoy the wonderful descriptive style and interesting characters.
People's Future of the United States Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams, ed. 2019 Wonderful anthology--worth reading for the first story alone, "The Bookstore at the End of America" by Charlie Jane Anders.
Words Are My Matter Ursula K Le Guin 2019 I have given myself the joyful assignment to reread at least one Le Guin book every year and this year was even better because much of this one was new to me...from snarky comments about Fox News and descriptions of what she thought good writing needed to be plus book reviews which added to my list of what to read or reread.
Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado 2017 I read this collection when it came out and reread it this year because it was chosen for my SF book group. I liked it even more, again perhaps because of the discussion. The stories range from SF to fantasy to horror to "oh, that's strange." Some of the descriptive paragraphs were so good, I found myself rereading and savoring them.
Dark and Deepest Red 2020 and Bianca and Roja 2018 Anna-Marie McLemore Both of these retell fairy tales with interesting perspective on gender, class, ethnicity. The first one interweaves a contemporary plot with a story of Strasbourg, France in 1518. McLemore won the Tiptree/Otherwise Award in 2016 for When the Moon Was Ours.
Song for A New Day Sarah Pinsker 2019 I can't think of another SF book that deals with music in such an interesting way and depicts the effects of a pandemic on live music--very timely.
An Unkindness of Ghosts Rivers Solomon 2017 A unique, challenging retelling of the generational starship trope.
Theory of Bastards Audrey Schulman 2018 Gender, disability, environmental crisis, and bonobo chimps--my second time reading and I still loved it.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration Isabel Wilkerson 2010 Le Guin writes that she likes narration even in nonfiction books and this is a great example of using story to good effect. The author has done an amazing amount of research but focusing on three families who moved from the South in different decades made the book more interesting to me.
BTW Two of my favorite books are Ring of Swords by Eleanor Arnason (1993, reprinted by Aqueduct Press with an introduction by Ursula K. LeGuin) and Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge (2002).
My most memorable viewing was re-watching two magical films--Baghdad Cafe and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead--they still made me laugh.
Margaret McBride taught science fiction for more than 20 years at the
University of Oregon, including three classes using fiction from the James
Tiptree, Jr./Otherwise Award. She was chair of the 2004 Tiptree Award panel. She has
been on many panels at WisCon since WisCon 20.She is the editor of The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 10, which Aqueduct Press published in 2016.