Best / Worst Books (2020)

As you probably know, besides writing book reviews, I host and produce a podcast about books and movies. (Pages and Popcorn Podcast)

While most people do their yearly wrap of best/worst in December, we thought it would be better to wait until January. And then to wait until after ALL the holidays. And then to wait until the holiday decorations are down.

But at last… here it is. Pages and Popcorn Podcast’s S09: Best/Worst 2020 where Kaylia and Jennifer talk about the best and worst books they read in 2020(ish)

For more information about the Pages and Popcorn Podcast (including show notes and direct-listen options for the episodes we discuss) visit

Here are the books we discussed. As always, if you plan on purchasing, I invite you to use my affiliate links. Thank you!

As we mention in our discussion, these aren’t books that came out in 2020, but rather books we read in 2020(ish)

Best Books From Kaylia

Everything I Never Told You

Celeste Ng

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

New Boy: William Shakespeare’s Othello Retold

Tracy Chevalier 

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds—Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant “girlfriend” Mimi—Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying, and betrayal will leave you reeling.

Educated: A Memoir

Tara Westover

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.


Octavia Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

An Excess Male

Maggie Shen King

This is the chilling dystopian tale of politics, inequality, marriage, love, and rebellion, set in a near-future China.

An Excess Malelooks to explore the intersection of marriage, family, gender, and state in an all-too-plausible future.

Jennifer’s Best

All Systems Red / The Murderbot Diaries Book 1

Martha Wells

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

 Michelle McNamara

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.

Introduction by Gillian Flynn • Afterword by Patton Oswalt

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath tells the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his I.R.A. past–Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.

All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

Stephen Kinzer

With a thrilling narrative that sheds much light on recent events, this national bestseller brings to life the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that ousted the country’s elected prime minister, ushered in a quarter-century of brutal rule under the Shah, and stimulated the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and The Economist, it now features a new preface by the author on the folly of attacking Iran.

Kaylia and Jennifer’s Worst Books of 2020

But… feel free to read and disagree!

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights 

An Anonymous Girl 

Ghost Virus 

The Shunning


When We Believed in Mermaids

And of course… we both had our favorites and our not so favorites from the books that we read for the podcast. But we invite you to listen and decide for yourself.

Our 2020 Podcast Season. 

LA Confidential

Ready Player One

Little Fires Everywhere

Black Hawk Down

Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda / Love Simon

Mary Poppins

Born on the 4th of July

King Solomon’s Mines

Ella Enchanted

From Lost to Found on the PCT / Wild

The Mountain Between Us

Fahrenheit 451


Amityville Horror

Jurassic Park

The Danish Girl

Hillbilly Elegy

A Christmas Story

And… yes, this one is in our 2021 season, but we read it in 2020… and we both really disliked it.. So… Good Morning, Midnight / The Midnight Sky

Published by kayliametcalfe

Queer,loudmouth,skeptical-agnostic-pagan,book addict,coffee lover,wine drinker, SAHM,writer,editor,producer,podcaster. -She/her

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