The best books with Northeast Ohio ties in 2020

A look back at the 2020 books made it clear that this year seemed like many years. The dividend is that January and February books are like long lost friends worth revisiting.


In fiction, Susan Petrone’s “The Heebie-Jeebie Girl” from Cleveland is a fantasy that takes place in the darkest days after a Youngstown steel mill closes and has the city itself as its character.

Connie Schultz’s debut novel, The Daughters of Erietown, focuses on the importance of girlfriends, especially when their husbands can’t keep up.

Connie Schultz and the cover for

Gretchen Berg set “The Operator” in Wooster from the 1950s, where a telephone operator lives on juicy gossip until she hears a scandalous secret about herself.

“Cuyahoga” is Middleburg Heights native Pete Beatty’s original myth about a Paul Bunyan-style hero set in the early days of Cleveland history. It was nominated for a Pen / Hemingway Award, “for a debut novel of exceptional literary value by an American author”.

“Through Seasons of Fire” is the third in Karen J. Hasley’s series from the 1880s in Nebraska, in which women are the bedrock of pioneering society.

Mystery thriller

The mystery thriller field was overflowing, including Lisa Black’s “Every Kind of Wicked,” the sixth in her series about a Cleveland forensic scientist investigating the murders of a police officer who happens to be a serial killer.

“Once you go that far” is Kristen Lepionka’s fourth about a private investigator in Columbus. Here she investigates the death of a woman who fell off a cliff in a public park.

Kylie Logan continues her series about a woman who uses “The Secrets of Bones” to train dogs to detect human remains in which a corpse is found in the attic of an elite girls’ school in Tremont.

Kylie Logans

Shelley Costa, who writes as Stephanie Cole, starts her mystery series about the Tuscan cooking school with “Al Dente’s Inferno” about a woman who expects to design a curriculum but ends up investigating a murder.

Wooster writer Bob Adamov complements his Emerson Moore series with “Assateague Dark,” in which the reporter begins in Guantanamo Bay and eventually investigates a drug trafficking operation in Virginia.

“Island of Last Resorts” continues Mary Ellis’ “Marked for Retribution” series with a contemporary version of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians,” in which a private investigative agency is stranded on an island while suspects are murdered.

Vivien Chien continues her Noodle Shop mystery series with “Egg Drop Dead,” which shows a murder at a glamorous dinner party in a Chinese restaurant in Cleveland.

Julie Anne Lindsey’s “Deadly Cover-Up” from the canton is about a woman who tries to find out who attacked her grandmother. The answer may only be known to an elderly woman with dementia.

Steve Goble’s rousing “A Bottle of Rum” from Jeromesville, the third in the pirate mystery series from the 1720s, takes Spider John Reed on another quest to find a murderer.

“Columbus Noir” is a satisfying collection of 14 stories by some of Ohio’s finest writers with all elements of the genre.

Fictional crimes among the Amish continue to fascinate, whether lighthearted or grim.

“Outsider” is Linda Castillos twelfth in a row over the chief of police in a Holmes County community with a large Amish population; This is where she got into conflict when an old friend on the run wants her help to hide on a murder charge that may or may not be justified.

“Marshmallow Malice” is just one of Amanda Flower’s books this year; The Amish Candy Shop Secret reveals that candy maker Bailey is investigating the death of a woman whose body was found on church stairs after a wedding.


In nonfiction, former Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels takes a tour of the state in Barnstorming Ohio: To Understand America, asking people about their plans for a 2020 vote.

“Dear Oval Office Resident: Letters to the White House in the Age of Trump” is a selection of more than 500 of the daily letters that Richfield-based Kathy Hayes wrote to Donald Trump from December 2016 onwards.

Mike and Janice Olszewski tell exciting stories in “Smoky, Sweaty, Rowdy and Loud: Tales of Cleveland’s Legendary Rock’n’Roll Landmarks,” while Norm N. Nite and Tom Feran in “The House That Rock Built: How It It took time, money, music moguls, corporate types, politicians, media, artists and fans to bring Rock Hall to Cleveland, ”reveals the intricate negotiations that led to the decision.

Cleveland-based photojournalist Seph Lawless documents dead shopping malls in Abandoned Malls of America: Crumbling Commerce Left Behind.

Like so many other things, the 50th Anniversary of the shooting in Kent State has been canceled or held virtually. The release of Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, a graphic novel by Derf Backderf, has been postponed from May to August, but the powerful narrative has gained international acclaim. Paula Stone Tucker, a former Beacon Journal reporter and witness to the shootings, framed her story with memories of family, marriage and career in “Surviving: A Kent State Memoir” and in “Kent State” Deborah Wiles uses an inspired narrative format to to bring many voices and perspectives.

Cleveland editor Anne Trubek offers a solid introduction to her industry in “So Want to Get a Book Out?”

“The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company: A Photographic History, 1898-1951”, compiled by Akron University archivist S. Victor Fleischer, shows the diversity and processes of Akron.


In memoirs, Eliese Colette Goldbach’s “Rust” is the story of a woman who takes a job in a steel mill in Cleveland, which exacerbates her bipolar disorder but brings her strength.

Rust belt woman.  By Raechel Anne Jolie.

“Rust Belt Femme” by Raechel Anne Jolie tells of growing up in a low-income family and learning to respect resilient women.

Hear Me Ohio is a series of essays by Valley View native Jen Hirt, who writes about nature and discovery.

Two sporting memories stood out: “The Massillon Tigers” by former Beacon Journal sports journalist David Lee Morgan Jr., about his year as the team’s running back coach.

“A Different Color Coach” comes from Ray Greene, who began his coaching career at Kenmore High School and became one of the first black coaches in Division 1A college football.

“When there is no heaven”, a collection of poems by Barbara Marie Minney, who lives in Tallmadge, reflects the insecurity, loneliness, longing and self-actualization of the gender transition.

Mindy McGinnis, a powerful young adult survival story, “Don’t Be Far From Me,” finds a wounded teenage girl lost in the Smoky Mountains who endures merciless challenges.

Children’s book

“Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures,” a children’s book by Tricia Springstubb, is a simple story of friendship and thoughtfulness.

In Thrity Umrigar’s “Binny’s Diwali” by the former Beacon Journal writer, a little girl shares her favorite vacation with classmates.

And in Michael J. Armstrong’s Best Day Ever, a boy decides he has a day to have a fun summer.

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