Close

Books That Helped the Tor Staff Survive 2020

We are so, so close to 2020 being over and while we can’t wait to finally escape the dumpster fire that was this year, we’re also taking the time to look back at the books that helped get us through. Check out which books we are most grateful for here.


Jordan Hanley, Marketing Manager

Tor.com Publishing novellas have really pulled me through 2020. They’ve also saved my Goodreads reading challenge! Here’s a few short novellas I’ve read that kept my passion for reading good horror alive:

I still have quite a few horrific Tor.com Publishing novellas on my TBR, including Ring Shoutby P. Djèlí Clark. These slender volumes keep me turning pages long into the night and have kept my 2020 reading challenge alive (or, perhaps, undead!)

Lauren Anesta, Senior Publicist

I, personally, think The Murderbot Diaries (by Martha Wells) is the #1 science fiction series ever published. I stand by this bold claim because it has been absolutely the only thing I’ve been able to read for pleasure since March 8, 2020, the day my attention span officially died. Murderbot, a mascot for socially anxious people everywhere, feels somehow even more relevant at a time when we’re all isolated. Like Murderbot, I’ve fully retreated into the comfort of my favorite TV shows and have lost my ability to maintain a conversation with people IRL. Murderbot has Sanctuary Moon, I have 21 seasons of Midsomer MurdersMurderbot is often angry and frustrated and doesn’t want to stop watching TV, but it gets up and gets the job done anyway, because people rely on it. I know I’ve certainly needed that reminder more than once in the past year, and Murderbot does that for me—but gently, and cushioned in pages full of high-intensity space battles, heist action, and technobabble.

Libby Collins, Publicist

WHAT A YEAR, AM I RIGHT. Books were the most (only?) consistent thing in my 2020, and I’m grateful for so many of them. I took special comfort in some amazing TDA titles, including The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. What a timely testament to the beauty of being alive, even during the hard times. This was also the year I *finally* made myself acquainted with Murderbot, and I am extremely in love. Martha Wells’s novella series, The Murderbot Diaries, were a source of comfort and I can’t wait to get to the novel, Network Effect. Two others that provided a different sort of comfort were Lavie Tidhar’s By Force Alone and Matt Goldman’s Dead West. The former is an Arthurian myth reimagined with Scorsese-type gangster characters—very bloody, very profane, very fun. The latter is a mystery, the fourth in Goldman’s Nils Shapiro series, with a well-rounded, funny, very lovable Midwesterner visiting LA for the first time to solve a Hollywood murder. I have to mention an upcoming title from the one and only Catherynne M. Valente, called The Past is Red. It’s a sharp, satirical, dystopian novella rooted in environmentalism featuring one of the most enjoyable main characters I’ve read recently. And finally, She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. This one also doesn’t come out until 2021 (July 20, 2021, in case anyone wants to jot that date down so they can run to their nearest bookstore or pre-order the heck out of this one) but I read it in 2020 and wow, did I love it. I felt consumed by this book while I was reading it, and all the moments I wasn’t reading it were spent basically thinking about it and the characters in it. Here’s to another year and an endless pile of new books to get us through.

Rachel Taylor, Marketing Manager

So I don’t know about y’all, but I kicked off this year thinking I was going to CRUSH my Goodreads challenge. But then…2020 happened and my attention span went straight out the window. But suddenly, TJ Klune was there to save the day. The House in Cerulean Sea was one of the first books I read after starting at Tor and I devoured it in a single day. It was the warm, comforting read I needed this year and it truly saved me in the early days of the pandemic. I spent most of the year anxiously hovering, waiting for Under the Whispering Door, TJ’s next adult book with Tor, to come in. Though it’s not publishing until September 2021, I was lucky enough to read it early and once again was completely absorbed. This is a must-read for 2021 and I personally can’t wait for more people to get their hands on the book so we can scream about it together.

Giselle Gonzalez, Publicity Assistant

There’s so many books that I’m so greatful to have read in 2020, but if I had to narrow it down, Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi would definitely be at the top of my list. Riot Baby was the first work I’ve read by Tochi and it is absolutely essential reading. It is powerful, eye-opening, moving, and nerdy-as-heck. A book I will never forget and will recommend to everyone! Another novel that I’m grateful to have read this year is Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia. As a Cuban American woman it’s rare that I find a book that portrays my experience and that of the women in my family, but this novel felt like coming home. It’s a story of family, women, immigration, loss and it’s absolutely stunning, fierce and left me in a puddle of tears. It was one of the first times I saw myself and my family in a book and it holds a special place in my heart.

Leah Schnelbach, Staff Writer, Tor.com

Two of my favorite reads this year were, on the surface, quite different: Drowned Country, Emily Tesh’s sequel to her lovely Silver in the Wood, and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.

Drowned Country is a funny, ache-y return to characters I loved. Henry Silver and Tobias Finch are one of my favorite literary couples (honestly, my only quibble with these books is that they’re not giant fantasy doorstoppers because I want to spend more time with those two) and Henry’s monster-hunting mother is hilarious. But what’s great about Drowned Country is that it takes this trio and deepens them. The narrative hops around in time, stranding us in terrible memories before dropping us back in the present, creating a palpable sense of Henry’s grief. By letting Henry’s neediness shade into real selfishness, Tesh is able to explore the consequences and put the poor, silly boy through more of an emotional wringer. Meanwhile, Tobias’ taciturn nature very nearly ruins everything, until the moment when he allows himself to act on impulse (and thus saves the day), and Adela Silver is older now, and has vulnerabilities of her own. Plus there’s a terrifying quest? And a whole new fantasy country? And a new character, Maud Lindhurst, who holds her own even with Henry’s mother? The book gently worries at the idea of past mistakes echoing up into the present—both personal failings like Henry’s, and the giant, world-shattering choices that led to the Drowned Country in the first place.

Now, Gilead is again, on the surface, quite different. The engine of the book is that Reverend John Ames, a septuagenarian father, is writing letters for his seven-year-old son. The Reverend has a heart condition. He could go at any time. The letters may be the only way the boy will know his father, so Rev. Ames knows he has to get them right. This is a slow, quiet, meditative book about the different shapes love can take. It spends pages and pages turning over one idea, one memory. It also talks, beautifully and at length, about John Brown’s fight against slavery, and the ultimate moral failure of the nice white people who refused to back his fight. The threads of personal history and national catastrophe weave together beautifully to add up to a book that is, at its heart, about the need to connect across time.

In both cases, these books allowed me to slow down and spend time with characters who became quite real. They gave me space to think about the past as both personal and political, and to read about people who are brave enough to drop their defenses and be honest with each other in order to heal sins of the past.

Anneliese Merz, Publicity Assistant 

I’ve been immensely grateful for so many books this year, but I think that if I had to choose (help, Tor is making me!), I would say The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune was the perfect pick me up and feel good book that I needed in this god awful year that is 2020. I would also say, I finally read the Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo in preparation for the show coming to Netflix in April 2021 and my body and mind is SO ready!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *