These lists seem to come out earlier every year, but I guess that way people can add them to their wish lists and give them as gifts. And this year is a better time than ever to 1) support your local bookstore and 2) hunker down and read. You can find the New York Times 100 Notable Books here, The Guardian’s Best Books of 2020 here, and the Washington Post’s best books here.
I don’t typically read a lot of new releases, unless I receive an advanced reading copy or an author is one of my favorites. So far, I’ve read 40 books that were released this year, which is about a third of my reading (more than usual, but what’s been normal this year?). Of those books, here are my top ten:
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
- Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
- Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Annaparra
- The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
- The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
- My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
- Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
- Writers and Lovers by Lily King
While these aren’t in a definitive order, Hamnet was my favorite read this year, and House in the Cerulean Sea my favorite “comfort read.” The others are all pretty difficult to compare.
Several are by favorite authors I nearly always read: Maggie O’Farrell, Emma Donoghue, Louise Erdrich, and David Mitchell. I’m also putting Yaa Gyasi in that category, because both her books have been fantastic. The remaining authors were new to me. The books by Bennett, King, and Klune generated a lot of buzz this year and were totally worth it. Russell and Annaparra are not only new to me, but these are their first novels, which is quite impressive.
Some of my runners-up were Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon, Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko, The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, and Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht.
If you’re looking for comfort reads, I recommend Take a Hint, Dani Brown, You Had Me at Hola, and The Switch. Good escapist reads are Mexican Gothic and Long Bright River.
I read only one nonfiction book released in 2020, The Story of More by Hope Jahren, and it was excellent. I definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about climate change – and that should be all of us.
Some critical favorites released in 2020 that I appreciated but didn’t love: A Burning, Saint X, The Glass Hotel, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, and The Beauty of Your Face.
And a few 2020 releases that disappointed: Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles, The End of the Day by Bill Clegg, and The Herd by Andrea Bartz.
I’ll sum up my favorite books read in 2020 (not just new releases) later in December. I have a few other lists I hope to write, like best books from around the world, best books by authors of color, and best audiobooks. Is there anything you’re particularly interested in hearing about?
What were some of your favorite new releases in 2020?