In the December 2020 newsletter I asked our readers what the best books they read that year were.

Here are the responses:

Kenicia: I hope it’s not too late to send my favorite books of 2020. I only finished one this month, and then forgot to email you. I have three.

Miss Celia’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees

The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne

Eli’s Promise by Ronald Balson

Barbara: Hi Graham

Last minute as always.

Best books I read this year.

Deacon King Kong by James MacBride. An old alcoholic shoots the neighborhood drug dealer. The best characters in print I’ve seen for ages. Plus crime.
These Women by Ivy Pochoda. Serial killer, the cop, and the victims, and the relatives of the victims. Great crime novel, great characters.
The Stone Girl by Dirk Wittenborn. More crime, lots of substance. And characters.
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbil Weiden. I also nominate this guy for the new author spotlight. Set on a reservation, starring the local enforcer doing what the cops can’t bother doing, after reading this novel I felt like I was closer to grasping what it means to be a native at this time. Plus crime. And characters.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. Crime. And old characters. A fun read.
Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. Vampires, maybe. Lady characters. Sometimes fun, sometimes scary.

7 & 8: The Searcher by Tana French and A Time for Mercy by John Grisham. Both authors in top form.

The book I really didn’t care for this year: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It won the Pulitzer but I found Olive to be a most dislikable old bat and just do not get why this book is so highly rated. There are too many great literary novels that are a pleasure to read than to waste time reading one that is a pure chore to get through.

Thanks for your newsletter! It is always a pleasure to read. With good info. Plus crime. Plus characters.

Hope you’re staying safe!

B

Janet: I did read a few really good books this year. Two that come to my feeble mind right now are- Harlan Coben’s “Home”. OMG the ending was totally unexpected. I was really surprised as I had a different plot to wrap it all it, I was dead wrong. Real awesome book.

Catherine Coulter’s “Labyrinth” I was a fantastic book and I can’t wait for Paradox, the next one to hit the shelves.

I have brain fog and don’t want to ramble since I forgot the rest of the question.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Mary Ann: To answer your December question. This year I’ve said goodbye to some authors and characters and hello to others. I’m all caught up with Jack Reacher, Louise Penney, Robert Campbell” Jimmy Flannery, Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles, M.C.Beaton’s Agatha Raisin. I’ve said hello to Michael Connelly, David Baldacci, Tony Hillerman and many other’s. I even gone back and found books that were written when i was a teenager. I loved the Beast Master by Andre Norton and lo and behold found out there were more books in that series that I now have gotten to read this year. I’m almost finished with J.D.Robb’s Eve Dallas series one book to go and I read the Trilogy that started with YearOne. I’m waiting for Roberts new book Awakening. I’m 73 years old and pretty much in lockdown since the pandemic so reading is my main activity. I usually only read for about 3 hours a day, occasionally longer and I have finished 173 this year and still counting.
I enjoy your e-mails and have started reading your recomendations.

Monique: Good morning
I would say that my favorite this year has been everything Robert Crais has published. I had not read anything by him previously so I started at the beginning. Suspect was the best this year!

Another favorite this year was Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series. I’m looking forward to reading the new book during my time off between Christmas and New Years.

I didn’t read it this year, but David Baldacci’s Memory Man was a favorite in the past. All of his books are great I’m my opinion.

I love sitting outside and reading. I was reading 2-3 books per week this spring/summer/fall, but have found that since it’s gotten cooler and dark earlier I don’t feel like reading. I find myself settling in front of the TV. I don’t know if it’s b/c I’ve read so much (for me) this year that I just want a change, or if it truly does have to do with seasons. I’m wondering if others have this problem as well. Great suggestions keep coming and the books I want to read are piling up!

Thanks, as always, for the great suggestions!

Bonnie: First, your newsletter brings a bright spot to the year of covoid! I now have so many books on my to-read list that I should spend the rest of my life just reading! Love your insights and comments and the part where I am introduced to many new books and authors!

I loved “Where the Crawdads Sing.” I thought the writing and the language was just so beautiful. It was also an intriguing story of this little girl who had to basically bring up herself. I cannot imagine being so alone. She became such an amazing person, accomplished, talented and just so human.

I also started the Nina Borg series, written by Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis. The first book was written in 2008 and there are only four books in the series. The authors are Danish and it is set in Denmark. Nina Borg is a nurse who has a normal nursing job but on the side offers her services to an underground group helping immigrants, mostly illegal, who have fled to Denmark but find themselves in sometimes terrible situations. The first is “The Boy in the Suitcase” and Nina literally finds a little boy in a suitcase. Believing him to be in grave danger, she seeks on her own to find to whom he belongs. It’s a long terrifying road with many strange twists, [and of course murder.]. The books start out slow as they carefully set the stage for what is to come. At that point I keep questioning why I am reading it and then suddenly, I can’t put the book down and must read straight through to the end.

Also “The Giver of Stars” is high on my list for this year. Making it more intriguing is that it is based in fact. The story of these librarians is brought to life; it is both sad and uplifting. JoJo Moyes is a very gifted storyteller. This is the fourth book of hers I read and they only get better!

Thanks again for what you do.

H. Olson: Best book I read this year, “American Buffalo”, I tend to read non-fiction and really enjoyed this book. Any book that mentions the Clovis point gets a good mark from me. I’d describe this book as a history of the rise and fall of America, anthropologically
speaking.
I enjoy going to the website of a college press. I find the differences in the books published reflects the geographic location. LSU is great one if you’re interested in the Civil War. The University of Michigan has some great books on the Great Lakes. Just a suggestion for your nonfiction fans.
If a book interests me and my library doesn’t have it, thrift books or Abe usually does.

Shirley: Hello,

Hope all is well with you and your family. My husband and I are doing great despite the fact that we are hibernating. We do takeout often and the highlight of our week is for the one who’s turn it is to go to the grocery store.

Anyway … Just want to mention a trilogy that I really enjoyed and 2 ongoing series.

The 4MK trilogy thriller by J D Barker. “The Fourth Monkey”. ” The Fifth to Die”. “Sixth Wicked Child”. In the final book of this trilogy I found myself saying ” Wow .. Wow .. Wow”. I think I even said it out loud. Really, really enjoyed it.

Absolutely enjoy Sheldon Siegel’s Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez series. Whenever I’m notified by Amazon on my kindle that a new book in this series is coming out, I immediately click on pre-order. I don’t even look to see what it is about.

Another series that I love is the Blake Banner’s Dead Cold Mystery series. It hasn’t been long since I read book one and I’m now reading book 10. Keeping in mind that I’m always reading 2 books regularly .. A physical book and my kindle. Love the characters, detectives Stone and Dehan. Also, the books are quick to get through.

One more mention. My favorite author, John Hart’s new book is scheduled for release February 2nd!! Can’t wait! His writing is like reading poetry. I would give 5 stars to each of his books except “Hush” (4).

Thank you again for your newsletter. I always look forward to it!

Mishawn: I can’t pick just one favorite book this year. With the covid going on I had lots of time to read! I read authors I had never heard of before and liked them. If they wrote a series, I read them all! I even ventured outside of my normal genre and read historical fiction, love stories and paranormal. It was a great year for discovering new authors and genres that I liked. However, with that being said, I don’t ever want to have another year like 2020! Merry Christmas to you, your family and all the other readers!

L.C.: I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t read heavy material. It was one of those nights where I just needed something light-hearted so I searched for a rom-com audibook. And boy did it deliver! “Call Me Maybe” by Cara Bastone was such a delight from start to finish. It’s an Audible Original and was meant to be heard.

I’ve never seen so many glowing reviews from a relatively “non-famous” author before. And I’d have to agree, so this was one of the best “reading” aka listening book experiences for me this year.

Another book I really liked dealt with a touchy subject in a respectful way:
“Ryan’s Bed” by Tijan is about a girl whose twin sister committed suicide a day before their 18th birthday and its aftermath. But the one thing that irked me about it was that at the very last second, a truth bomb drops and then it just ENDS! And I think it was a stand-alone too. Gah! I plan to skip over that chapter for future re-listens.

Phoenix: You asked what were my best books I read last year, so I went through my list. Before the year started my brother asked me how many books I read a year, and my offhand reply was, “Oh, about fifty.” As of December 16th of this year, I’ve read 50 and am working on my 51st, so I guess I was spot-on.
In no particular order, I very much enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, The Secret Chord, and The Book of Boy. All very different genres. I also read six Cadfael mysteries, five in the Nuala series, four in the Heathcliff Lennox series, and three in the Matthew Cordwainer mysteries. I started reading Mary Trump’s book about her crazy uncle, but I couldn’t finish it. Very revealing, and way too depressing. Oh, I also read The Downstairs Girl, which was very good and shone a light on a culture and time of which I was unaware. I re-read two Yaconelli books: Messy Spirituality and Dangerous Wonder, and a few books on St. Francis and St. Clare. I’ve been crocheting like mad before Christmas, so haven’t been reading quite as much lately, or I suspect I would have surpassed my usual reading.
Happy New Year!

Susan: I enjoyed your December newsletter and will be trying out 2 new series, The Burning Books by Jane Casey, Year One of Chronicle of One by Nora Roberts and Replay by Ken Grimwood. Based on your descriptions these sound like books I will love and I am always thrilled to find a new series to follow. What I am reading right now is the Tana French Dublin Murder series, which is “new to me”. Excellent series and interesting how she focuses on one of the Dublin Murder squad detectives in each novel. You cannot help but root for each of the detectives, although they all are seriously flawed, but the books are quite satisfying and have believable endings.

Sandra: Hi Graeme,

One of my favorite books was My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Backman.I’d read some of his other books but,for some reason, this one was terrific. The phrasing, the styling, the humor, the pathos…all were perfect.

Another was the Peter May Lewis trilogy, The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man, The Chessmen, all were fabulous! The language was raw but I still enjoyed the stories and wish there were more.

Two years ago I got as far as Mull, Iona and Staff so was especially interested in the Lewis trilogy.

I know all these books are older but that didn’t water down my pleasure in reading.

Happy Christmas to you and yours!

John: First, absolutely love your updates.

Best book I’ve read this year was Ken Follett’s The Evening and the Morning. His character development, as always, is off the charts. I, literally, talked back to the book late one night! Total involuntary response: “are you kidding me?”

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen and This Tender Land by William Krueger we’re two others with very high ratings in my system.

Have a happy and safe 😷 holiday.

Jane: Thanks so much for your emails. They are always interesting, but especially during this time. Loved your cats in boxes story. I have two gingers who keep me laughing.

I just discovered a series new to me–Simon Beckett’s David Hunter series. I’ve read all the books but the last one so I will have to find another series soon. I am 74 and grew up on series: Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Judy Bolton, Philo Vance. Read all the Agatha Christies after that. Luckily I started Michael Connelly early on and I admire your Herculean effort in reading all the Bosch books in a year. Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, and Peter Robinson are other old favorites, and I am also enjoying Jane Harper and Peter May. I love Catherine Aird’s Calleshire Chronicles. Very funny (dry humor) and improved my vocabulary. (I like to read “polite” British police procedurals on Kindle when I am trying to sleep.)

Dan: Good afternoon
First still laughing at the cats and the boxes
We have a 15 pound main coon mix and she lives all boxes big and small
Now about authors!
One of the best I have read is Pat Conroy
The Great Santini, prince of tides and many more
If you have not read any of his give him a try. His audio books are great but a couple are very long

Very best a audio book was by Dean Koontz
Life Expectency. No supernatural just a great store with twist turns and humor
A great read but so fun listening to it!!!!!

As far as Series Kindle unlimited has an author Joesph Flynn ..a number of great series ( henchman ) my favorite and good standalones as well

Love the newsletter keep reading!!!
Have a wonderful holiday and stay safe

Barbara: Good Afternoon,
Just a couple of things – I cannot remember all of the books I have read this year, but, just finished ‘Without Sanction’ by Don Bentley. It is one the most interesting and enjoyable books I have read in some time. Perhaps Don Bentley can be added to your Books in Order site.
He has a new book, the second in the series, ‘The Outside Man’ to be released March 2021.
Also, regarding audio book narrators – anything read by George Guidall. He could read the phone book and I would probably listen. He reads many varied types of stories, but does them all well.

Raley: Low water mark – Paul Levine’s “Night Vision”. One of the few times in my life, I was so bored reading a book that I failed to finish it. I knew where the plot was heading, and I simply didn’t care.

High water mark – David Rosenfelt’s ” Suddon Death”. His prior two were interesting, but not outstanding. “SD”, however, hit it out of the park! If his subsequent books continue to improve, I’ll be delighted.

Mark: I’ve read a lot of books this year, but I think my favorites have been the “tried and true”–the latest volumes that I’ve read in the James S. A. Corey’s “Expanse” series, and Charles Stross’ “The Laundry Files. Both series just keep on getting better!

If a mashup of The Eurovision Song Contest and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy appeals to you, don’t miss Catherynne M. Valente’s “Space Opera”. It is as funny a book as I’ve ever read.

Judi: Author who I would miss most: Jodi Piccoult

Among the Best books read this year:
Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfield

Stuart: Ouch. Asking for 1 favorite I’ve read??? Tough one. I’ll cheat and offer fiction and non-fiction

To Wake the Giant by Jeff Shaara
For non-fiction – Enemy of All Mankind by Steven Johnson

And picking up on some other threads in the newsletter…..The Force by Don Winslow is a great read also.

Love to see your take on the Last Flight…..very fun storyline and fast reading with compelling characters…..nonetheless I turned out underwhelmed by it. Love the work you do.

roxanne: Oh, best book I have read this year??? Don’t think I could even venture a guess. Love mysteries and have read several Sanford – which are all good. I think one of the best series I read is the Frankenstein series by Dean Koontz. Well written and keeps you wanting to read more – great ending – think there were 5 or 6 in series.

Rich: Just finished “A River in Darkness” by Majari Ishikawa…the story of his life in North Korea and his ultimate escape.
Chilling !!

Joyce: Books I read this year and loved:

Silkas Journey
Where the crawdads Sing
Before we were yours
The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson.

I usually read thrillers and mysteries but these caught my attention.

Loretta: Hi Graeme:

Here the best books I read so far in 2020:

A Time for Mercy by John Grisham — This is a powerful realistic story that resonates with today’s world.
All the Devils are here by Louise Penny – One quote from this book I liked – “ . . . Hell is the truth seen too late.”
The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult -Loved it!
Night Road by Kristin Hannah – This story will stay with me for some time. This novel raises questions about motherhood, identity, love and forgiveness.
Outsider by Linda Costillo — She never disappoints … everyday life intertwined with mystery.
The Last Trial by Scott Turow – Not only it is a good story, but educational in that he makes sure the courtroom drama is understood by general readers.
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson – wonderful Churchill book.
The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes. Never had read this author before and was really taken with this story. It has it all! History and two love stories – 100 years apart – and covers many issues. I was so excited about this novel that I shared my thoughts with Graeme some time ago. Highly recommend.
The Night Fire by Michael Connelly – the detectives are real and human and the result is frantically suspenseful.

There were others that were worth reading but not in the best category.

Surprisingly, for me, in November I did not read a book. I can’t explain it but I just seemed to hit a wall. I think between the Covid-19 and then the turbulent election and ongoing political issues, I am just worn out. I am hoping that soon that feeling will leave me.

Here’s to happy reading. I look forward to your newsletters – thanks.

Here’s to better times! Merry Christmas and a Safe and Healthy 2021.

Kris: Best books of 2020 for me are, and I am absolutely certain that I am going to forget some:

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Totally gut-wrenching non-fic about poverty and class struggle)
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

I think this was a pretty good year for a lot of writers, there have only been a couple of stinkers that I’ve picked up and not finished. I did also start The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, and it is excellent thus far, but it is just SO DANGED BLEAK that I had to put it aside for a while. I’ll give it a shot at finishing in a happier time.

Joshua: I havent read much this year but I find Chains of Honor (by Lindsay
Buroker) and Spellslinger (by Sebastien de Castell) very interesting.
I’ll try to check out the Enola Holmes mystery.

Elizabeth: Hi
I think the best books I’ve read this year have been
The Last Flight by Julie Clark
The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
City of Windows and Under Pressure. Both by Robert Pobi.
My book club hasn’t met since February so I’m not reading those books that others suggest that I wouldn’t ordinarily read.

Because of the pandemic, reading was challenging when our library shut down print circulation for 8 weeks. There were more readers vying for limited quantities of ebooks. Reading before bed has always helped me relax and be able to sleep, so needed during this crazy year.
Thanks again for the Amazon gift card. I used it to buy books as Christmas gifts.
Maybe a January question can be to ask what everyone is looking forward to reading in 2021.

Diane: I have to say my best experience reading this year was a re-read of James Herriott’s All Creatures Great and Small series about a Yorkshire veterinarian. I read the first four books (All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, and The Lord God Made Them All) many years ago before digital books had even come along! I recently discovered there was a fifth book in the series that I had not known about, Every Living Thing, so I decided to start from the beginning and read the first four again before reading the last one. What a gifted writer Mr. Herriott was! The humor in all his stories leaves you laughing and hardly able to believe they were all really true! So sorry this book series finally had to come to an end because I could go on reading them forever! He wrote many other books, as well, even children’s books, that I would like to read.

Chris: I’ve read a lot of good books this year, many of them newly published, but one book that stands out for me is one you mentioned, Graeme: Replay by Ken Grimwood. It sounds like it affected me as it did you. I have told many people about the book but it’s hard to describe how the book made me feel. The idea of someone having a chance to live their life over again and again continues to fascinate me.

Ginny: Since you liked Replay so much you might also enjoy Every Day by David Leviathan. The premise is similar, in that every morning the main character (a 16-year-old boy), wakes up in a different place as a different person (who is also always16 years old). Sometimes he is rich, sometimes poor, sometimes male, sometimes female, etc. The issue arises when one day he falls in love with a girl, and after that, he spends the rest of his days trying to get back to her – but of course she has no way to recognize that it’s him. Obviously it’s not as good as Replay (because nothing is), but still, a pretty good short YA book.

Best books I read this year (although the year is not over yet, so I’m still hoping for a winner!):

Fiction: Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owen
The Girl with the Louding Voice – Abe Dare
The Last Days of Night – Graham Moore
Best Sci-Fi: Unlocked – John Scalzi
Best Mystery by far: The Right Side – Spencer Quinn (Peter Abrahams)
Non-Fiction: What Was Asked of Us – Trish Woods
Hiding in the Spotlight – Greg Dawson
A Woman of No Importance – Sonia Purnell
Strangers in Their Own Land – Arlie Hochschild
Best Kid’s/YA Books: Elephant Secret – Eric Waters
Battle Fatigue – Mark Kurlansky
Mastermind series: Gordon Korman

Vicki: It’s impossible to choose just one book for the whole year. I can narrow it to a few.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn – this is a “children’s” chapter book that every reader can appreciate. The creator of the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” has a statue on the island of Nollop. When letters start falling off the statue, the ruling government of the island goes a bit crazy…

My romance selection is Jasmine Guillory. I discovered her this year and have torn through her books. Her latest is Party of Two. The new LA lawyer who keeps her history quiet meets the junior senator from California. Different personalities, different histories, different races. Guillory makes it work well and I got caught up in the characters.

Mystery/Thriller – David Baldacci’s Walk the Wire. I was fascinated by the background of the fracking industry and the military history. The mystery was good, too.

The book that stands out the most in my mind is the quirky “time jumping” (not time travel, exactly) book Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore. I can’t describe the story because any description would include spoilers. Oona’s life is definitely disorderly. I recommend this book all the time for a light hearted, fascinating read. You walk away from this book with a smile as you shake your head. Well written and takes your mind out of the pandemic and pall of 2020.

Star: Good morning,
I found a new author to me, it’s Sharon Bolton and the book was The Split. Ms Bolton is an English author so wasn’t sure if I should attempt her book. Well, yes it was good and I loved dreaming about the streets of London, fond memories.
Am off to find another one of her books.

Another author that I really enjoy is Daniel Silva, the Gabriel Allon series is extremely good. The adventures take place mostly in Europe, thus allows me to dream of my days studying and traveling in Europe.

Thank you for your monthly letters.

Sheila: I began the month of March reading South by Java Head by Alistair MacLean and was hooked (again), having read a number of his books in high school. I never got to read that one, so when I found it in a box of books that had belonged to my father, it started me off on my vow to read all his books. My favorite is H.M.S.Ulysses, another that I had never read. I actually read all the titles before the end of the summer, even though I had to wait for some of our libraries to reopen. My Dad had quite a few of his books, which helped a great deal. I really recommend his earlier work. He had such knowledge of the sea, of war, and of human nature under the most challenging and stressful circumstances. Thanks for your posts. It’s a real lifeline for avid readers. Stay healthy.

Rick: I think the best book I’ve read in the crime genre this year was “The Law of Innocence” by Michael Connelly. When you’re finished with the Bosch series, it should be a must-read. I’ve read everything Connelly has ever published including all of the Mickey Haller series. You may want to save this one for last if you haven’t read the first four but it’s not necessary for continuity and Harry Bosch plays a small role. IMHO this was by far the best of the Lincoln Lawyer series.

If I can add to this in the science fiction genre, ‘To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” was the best. It’s reviewed controversially, people either love it or hate it; I think because it’s so long (800+) pages. I loved it and despite its length, I almost never wanted to stop reading.

Monique: You have provided many great suggestions esp this year when I’ve had way more time to read. Robert Crais has been my favorite find recently (I think you suggested him). Elvis and Joe are quite the team. I’d have to say that his book Suspect was my favorite that I read this year.

Thanks again for all your hard work. I reference your site every time I make a new book purchase.

Margaret: I just wanted to say I am a fan of Ann Cleeves. On the Ann Cleeves group FB page, someone suggested The Lewis Trilogy by Peter May. It is set in the Outer Hebrides. I loved it. I want to read more of Peter May’s books, but I haven’t figured out where to start.

Jenny: This year was a challenge with Covid closing down my library for months! I really made some progress on some series I have been reading though – Harry Bosch, Alex Delaware, Carter Blake, Peter Ash, and Alex Cross. I also reread some childhood favorites – The Island Keeper, The Flight of the Doves, and Reilly’s Luck. But my favorite read this year had to be the new Louise Penny novel “All the Devil’s are Here”!

Louis: Graeme – I suggest you consider including The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman in your next sending. I finished it the other day and my wife is now reading it, hoping to return it to our library on time. A simply delightful read. Definitely one of my top three of the year so far.

Linda: I keep a notebook of all the books I read. I have two sections:one by book title and one by author. Then I rate them. Excellent, Very Good, Good, did not finish poor. Very seldom do I not finish a book because I am very choosy on what I pick to read. Most of the time my books get either an excellent or a very good rating. This past year I have read many excellent books, but I will only list 5. “Total Power” by Kyle Mills, “Walk the Wire” by David Baldacci (the #6 Amos Decker book), “One Minute Out” by Mark Greaney, “All the Devils are Here” by Louise Penny, and “The End of Her” by Shari Lapena. The best experience I have had reading was with “All the Devils are Here”, because Penny lets you believe you are part of her book. I absolutely love her characters. It is not the best mystery/thriller, but the best in character development. I hope to get some new suggestions from the next newsletter. Thank you once again for your newsletter. Merry Christmas to all.

Laurie: The best book I read this year has been “The Last Flight” by Julie Clark. Unfortunately, that has been a problem because I have yet to find another book that has engaged me as well as that one did! I am wandering book to book trying to find something to pull me in.

Karen: My favorite book of 2020 is Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. The following is my review on Goodreads:
>Book Review – Anxious People
>I am an independent reviewer. This book is a standalone work of fiction with an HEA. The plot of the story seems pretty straightforward – A bank robber tries to rob a money-less bank, then retreats in to a nearby apartment and accidentally takes the people inside the apartment hostage. The reader is introduced to the different people in the apartment, along with the father/son cop partners who respond to the call. The story goes back and forth in time depending upon who is telling their story. The most irritating character seems to get the most pages in the story, but turns out to be the glue holding everyone together.
>I love how the author goes back and forth in the story. Something ridiculous stands out, like the fireworks, then later on they are explained in someone else’s recollection. This book is appropriate for an adult audience. I am giving this book 5 stars. I would give the book more stars if I could. This was the best book I’ve read in years. The story was both poignant and hysterical – poignterical!

Judy E: I have a couple of comments: You posted a letter from Linda. . .and both my husband and I said that if Linda hadn’t written that letter, it could have been from me as it expressed my feelings to a tee.

I believe your question for the month was about what book/books you read this year really resonated with you. Well, I have 3 books. . .all written by the same author. Since I can’t go by a used bookstore without buying a book, I have no idea where or when I picked up the first book, but I’ve had it for some time. I decided during the summer that I’d been reading quite a bit of fiction and it was time for me to pick up a non-fiction book. So I picked out The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein. Do you know this book? He wrote it at age 94 as therapy after his wife died. I really liked it and subsequently read his next 2 books, The Dream and Golden Willow, written when he was 96 and 98. These were really a 3 part memoir and I truly loved them.

I recently read the latest book in the Memory Man series, Walk the Wire, and was really thrown by Baldacci’s latest character addition. Is he planning on merging the two series?

Also, have read all the Ruth Ware books except for her latest one. . .and have loved them all.

Thanks for introducing me to several new books and authors. I just wish that I could read as quickly as you do. I will never come close to reading all the books on my To Be Read list!

Judy D: I, too, loved Replay which I read at your suggestion. You really can’t stop thinking about the book.

I just finished listening to Anxious People by Fredrik Backman and I can’t remember the last time I laughted outloud
while listening to a book. The twists and turns were amazing and the reader, Marin Ireland, was fabulous. Ever since
Backman’s novel A Man called Ove I have read most of his books but this last one was a real winner.

I also just started reading the Mitch Rapp series – don’t know where I have been that I never read them before but
I am going through them like peanuts on the bar. The last one I read was when his pregnant wife is killed and it really
got to me.

Keep up the good work – I have gotten so many good suggestions for books and series from your newlsetter and
have recommended it to everyone I know who is a reader.

Barbara: I’m happy to say I’ve read copiously all year…usually do, anyway…disabled and spend my life in a comfortable recliner…but no baseball until the end of July gave me a lot more reading time…

New-to-me series this year: Chief Inspector Gamache by Louise Penny…waiting for the newest to come out in paperback…
Am I the only reader who was appalled to learn the odd casting of Nathaniel Parker as Armande Gamache?
The Shardlake series by CJ Sansom
I re-read Pillars of the Earth (Follett) and then read World without End and Column of Fire…loved the first, liked the second, read the third, ordered the prequel (in paperback) but not sure it’ll be worth reading…
I also re-read Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine…a novel I actually purchased in Hay in the UK in 1988…absorbing…didn’t like her other books…

ElieceCasey: Graeme, I love your newsletters! Thanks for so many great suggestions over the past few years I’ve been reading them. And yes, Replay was so unique, so unexpected, so incredible. I got my whole family to read that one.

So I don’t think I can remember you ever mentioning Don Winslow. I first read The Power of The Dog, the first in a trilogy about the drug trade and the war on it in Mexico and Central America. Easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. Some guys simply have the gift of being better authors than most. Don Winslow has that gift and then some.

I have subsequently read every single book he’s written, not once being disappointed. Although, I will admit that The Power of the Dog and The Cartel are my two favorites. His Neal Carey series is not to be missed but can be tricky finding some of the earlier books. The first two I had to get from England and paid >$30 for each paperback.

He’s very much worth a mention in your newsletter. Anyone reading any of his books will be quite pleased.

Bonnie: Hi again! I adore your newsletters and I had to laugh. I have been off work since March. I stay up as late as I like to finish a book and I don’t set an alarm. I guess I’m not the only one.
I began a new book yesterday and the introduction written by the author is probably the best one I’ve ever read. The book is “ The Tourist “ by Olen Steinhauer. I think you would like it. And when I looked at the cover John LeCarre was mentioned. I hadn’t noticed that before I started reading. The book reminded me of his writing style which I always found very difficult to understand. This gentleman writes in the same way but it is much clearer why he’s doing what he’s doing and his train of thought is much easier to follow.
I found several new authors this year. One is Faith Martin who has written several series and they are all terrific. I also discovered an author who I will not name whose writing is filled with punctuation errors. For example, “She was a tall, thin, woman.” I thought the first one was a typo but they were too many commas on every page and I found that I couldn’t read the book. I downloaded two more and they were the same. I know that only a few rules of grammar and punctuation have changed. The commas were so distracting that I literally couldn’t read more than a few pages. It’s a shame because the stories themselves looked interesting.
Thanks again for all that you bring to the lives of readers. I have found so many new authors because of your newsletters and it’s always a pleasure to receive them.
And you know that I checked this reply several times for punctuation and grammar LOL. You can’t complain about something thing and then do it yourself.

Linda: Hi! I very much enjoy your Order of Books. We’ve corresponded before.
I have recently read some VERY good books – Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly – not Harry, not Ballard, but Mickey Haller. He’s not my favorite, but the book was still a good read. One had to suspend the old disbelief, but it was still good.
The BEST in a long time was Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz. It’s kind of a sequel to Magpie Murders, but no need to have read MM previously. I HAD read it, but I really had to work to recall any details. Moonflower Murders is incredibly clever – a book within a book – interesting characters – a mystery lover’s dream.
I hadn’t read Julia Spencer Fleming’s series for a while – boy, did I miss a lot when I picked up Hid from Our Eyes. Very good – now I have to go back and fill in the missing novels.
Have the best holiday you can under these circumstances. What do people who don’t read do??

Lynne: The Promised Land by Obama, Ann Cleeve mysteries, Cohens book re working for trump, and Jonathan KELLERMAN’s The Museum of Disire.

Katy: Two of the best books I’ve read this year:
The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket, by Benjamin Lorr – fascinating behinds the scenes of how our groceries got to our grocery stores.
and
My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem – not new, but I had never read, and it is a wonderful entertaining summary of the women’ movement.

Fran: My favorite books this year was the Maggie ODell series and the Ryder Creed K-9 series by Alex Kava. Both series intertwined but each was their own series. The writing kept you up late to find out what happened next. I found myself telling the characters not to go in there, call for help. Very suspenseful, clean, on the edge of your seat suspense.

Cheryl: I started two new series this year and am enjoying both:

Joe Picket by CJ Box

Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley

A continuing series that had a great addition again this year – Inspector Gamache:

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

Standalones by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

Anxious People

Phoenix: You asked what was the best book I read this year, and it didn’t take much thinking on my part: The Book of Boy, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. What follows is an email I sent to my friend to whom I sent the book. He devoured it in one sitting.

On the surface, it seems simply a children’s fantasy novel, but underneath it is really quite deep.
Faith, superstition, and fear mingle with love and hope creating an unbreakable bond, and I confess that I was entranced. It asks the questions, Can good travel with evil, and good still triumph? Will prolonged exposure to good eventually break down evil’s barriers? How often do we start out thinking we are one thing, only to discover, after walking our own journeys, that we are something else entirely? Does every path we take, every adventure, every quest simply bring us closer to ourselves, as we were meant to be? What a wonder to discover that our unsightly humps are really wings, waiting to be unfurled and spread!
The time frame in which the author writes is one of my favorites. My favorite series of books is Margaret Frazer’s Dame Frivesse mysteries. And Cadfael, of course. Those books are wonderful to read, and I can lose myself in them quite easily. But The Book of Boy is different. It makes me think, makes me wonder, makes me ask questions, and search my own heart for answers.

Tom: Hello. I suppose the best book I have read was “The Chronicles of Dating over 50” by Almena Mayes. I read it twice, which I seldom do with any books. She tells of her online dating experience with dating 50 men in 50 days. It’s kind of sad and yet funny. It’s not a book that is going to be read by many people who read your emails or visit your site. For me, online dating became somewhat of my new job (I am otherwise retired) and it has been extremely challenging during 2020. I have read several books on dating and relationships that have been somewhat enlightening. It is crazy out there as millions of men and women try to establish all kinds of relationships using the Internet. The dating sites are mostly horrendous in my view, but they are making a killing. However, I have been dating a very nice woman over the last month and things are looking quite well for creating a lasting relationship.

Dwayne: Looking back its been an interesting read this year. I would say mostly it has been the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo that has kept me up past my bed time this year. Just good solid plots with some interesting twists.
Occasionally, I like to take a break from my steady diet of mysteries and police procedurals.
Currently, I am reading a biography by N T West, called Paul a biography. Not really a page turner but I can’t stop reading it. Well written and I feel like I am learning something important. So I guess it counts as a best book read this year too.

Doug: I always look forward to your monthly newsletter. You mentioned that you are going to read “Behind Her Eyes” by Sara Pinborough. I will be curious about your rating on that one. I read it a few months ago, and I liked the first half, but the last half got too weird for me. I gave it 3.5 stars out of five. I ordered “Replay” based on your recommendation and look forward to reading that one.
In answer to your question, the best standalone book I read this year was “The Holdout” by Graham Moore. I am a fan of the legal thriller genre, and this one about a jury trial was a five-star read for me. The best series of books I read was the six book series by Allen Eskens, all taking place in Minnesota. “The Life We Bury” is the first in the series, followed by “The Guise of Another” and “The Heavens May Fall”, which was my favourite in the series. I read all six in a row, and really liked them all.

Mary: One of the best books I have read this year is “The Women in Black” by Madeline St John. It’s a story of some women who work in a high end department store in Australia during the 50’s. And especially about a certain black dress in the high fashion department. I really can’t tell you why I loved it so much but it’s one of those books you can’t put down and read over and over again, just because of the characters. Highly recommend!

AJ: My best experience reading this year was taking a 4d vacation by myself in Oct and reading 8 books in those 4d. As a physician, this year has been incredibly stressful – learning about and answering questions about Covid, changing my practice to keep staff and patients safe, and financially insecure as costs go up and revenue declines. Fortunately I have not had to lay off any employee or close down any part of my practice, but it has been a balancing act. Generally I get away in March or April for a continuing education conference, but this year that was all shut down and I hadn’t had any time away, until those 4 days in October. It was sheer bliss reading all day and all night too. I’m used to reading about a book a day, and with all this going on it is taking a week sometimes to finish one book. I’m praying 2021 can be a better year for absolutely everyone! Thanks for the few minutes of enjoyment I get every time a newsletter arrives, AJ

Bev: In answer to your question about our favorite series read this year, I’ll give two:
1. The Bosch series. Loved it, and devoured the series. Then proceeded to read every related segment of the series. I love finding a series after most of it has been written. Guess I’m more impatient than I thought.

2. The Sue Grafton alphabet series. Grafton writes the character, Kinsey, with an incredible sense of humor. Her turns of phrases are brilliant, and some short, succinct, words of wisdom pop up here and there. (You might find yourself chuckling, or laughing out loud, or going ‘Wow’.) This author is like no other I’ve read to date for the above reasons, but also for the quick way she ends a book. At first the manner of ending sort of annoyed me, but now I kind of like it. I’m up to “K”, and thoroughly enjoying it.

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Best Books Read in 2020