Best books of 2020-so far

Catherine Coles
Coles’ Notes

Believe it or not, we are well over half way through 2020…and what a year it has been. With everything going on, I haven’t been reading as much as usual. That said, there have still been a handful of books that I’d count as winners. According to me and my own personal preferences, the following are the three “best” books I’ve read this year…so far.

Furious hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, a 2019 release, is an account of a sensational murder trial that captivated a small town in Alabama and novelist Harper Lee’s aborted attempt to write a true crime book about the case. Organized into three parts, author Casey Cep chronicles the life of Reverend Willie Maxwell and the murders he allegedly committed, the raucous trial of Maxwell’s vigilante murderer George Burns, and the personal and professional life of the enigmatic Harper Lee. Filled will historical insight and contextual details, Furious Hours illustrates the turbulent cultural and political climate of the deep south in the mid to late 20th century.

Another 2019 release that I was late to enjoy was The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. It is the story of two siblings, Danny and Maeve Conroy, their strange obsession with the grandiose mansion they lived in as children, and how their lives unfolded over the years. The story is narrated by Danny over multiple non-linear time periods as the family members squabble, strive, fail, and redefine their relationships to each other. If you enjoy complex (and sometimes very unlikeable!) well-drawn characters and appreciate a poignant reading experience, you should seek out The Dutch House if you haven’t already. Also, the audiobook is narrated by Tom Hanks and definitely worth a listen.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell has generated a ton of buzz (and controversy) this year – and for good reason. It follows a lonely sophomore (Vanessa) at a private school in Maine who embarks upon a sexual relationship with her English teacher, a man who is seemingly obsessed with Nabakov’s Lolita. Years later, Vanessa still fails to see the relationship as problematic. But then it emerges that she may not have been the only young girl who Mr. Strane groomed. My Dark Vanessa is sure to compel and repulse readers with equal measure.

Honorable mentions go to Know My Name by Chanel Miller (a moving memoir), Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (an offbeat literary-comedy), If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (female dominated contemporary Korean fiction) and Follow Me by Kathleen Barber (a great psychological thriller).

All of the titles mentioned above can be borrowed from your branch of the County of Lennox & Addington Libraries. Reserve them at your local branch or online at


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