Best Books 2020: Best-Selling Fiction, Non-Fiction, New Releases
Let’s be honest: there was a dumpster fire in 2020. But that doesn’t mean that something good didn’t come out of it. Case in point: The Best Books of 2020. If you’re like us, 90 percent of your year was spent indoors, which meant we had more time than ever to catch up on our favorite Netflix shows and watch the movies that there was recommended forever.
But with so much onscreen, most of us had to get tired of watching TV at some point. (Though we still watched The Undoing in one night.) So if you’re like us, in 2020 you’ve turned to books for your screen-free form of entertainment. Like every year, 2020 was full of page turns from heartbreaking thrillers to mystical fantasies to impotent romances. But what were the best books of 2020? This is where we come in. In advance, we have summarized our favorite literature and non-fiction books from the past year. From Jessica Simpson’s heartbreaking memoir to two Reese Witherspoon Book Club tips that we would also choose if we ever ran a book club, these 2020 books should be added to your 2021 reading list (if you haven’t already).
Kiley Reid’s debut novel “Such a Fun Age” came out on New Years Eve 2019, so technically it’s not a book for 2020, but we’re going to let it slide because it’s so good. The Reese Witherspoon Book Club follows Emira Tucker, a 25-year-old black woman who is the 2-year-old white daughter of media personality Alix Chamberlain. The book begins with Emira in the supermarket with Briar, who is accused of kidnapping the girl by a security guard. The interaction is filmed by a viewer who is more concerned with Alix and Emira’s life than expected.
There are no words to describe the twists and turns that occur in Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind. The book opens with Amanda and Clay, a white couple who travel from New York City to a remote area of Long Island to vacation with their two teenagers. The two find a luxury home they’ve rented for a week, but one night they hear a knock on their door and Ruth and GH, an elderly black couple, show up at their rental and tell Amanda and Clay that their rental is over actually their home. Not too long later, the nation is ravaged by a power outage and the two couples must be quarantined together, unaware that the world around them is falling apart.
Jessica Simpson’s open book is one of the most open celebrity memoirs in a long time. The memoirs guide readers through Simpson’s career and life, from her audition for the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, and Justin Timberlake to her published relationship and marriage to 98 Degrees member, Nick Lachey. Raw and unfiltered, Open Book is a must for anyone who thinks they know Simpson. (Spoiler alert: you don’t)
Bryan Washington’s Memorial is a beautiful story about a gay couple in Houston: Mike, a Japanese-American chef in a Mexican restaurant, and Benson, a black daycare teacher. The book begins with the arrival of Mike’s Japanese mother Mitsuko. Before Mistuko arrives, Mike learns that his estranged father is dying in Osaka. After deciding to fly to Japan to say goodbye, Benson is left alone with Mitsuko, a woman he has never met. Memorial is set in both Houston and Japan and is told from both Mike and Benson’s perspectives.
Frances Chas If I Had Your Face is a must see for K-pop and Korean culture fans. The book is told from the perspective of four Korean women: Kyuri, a beautiful worker in the “room salon”; Miho an artist in a relationship with a man of good repute; Ara, a hairdresser obsessed with a K-pop boy band member; and Wonna, a newlyweds trying to have a baby. Each of the four women’s stories overlap and interweave an exciting story about the different effects Korean beauty standards and face-preserving culture have on them.
Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa is a haunting story about Vanessa Wye, a woman who realizes that her relationship with her teacher Jacob Strane when she was 15 wasn’t what she remembered. The story is told in two time series: in 2000, when Vanessa was 15 and began her affair with Strane, an English teacher at her private school for girls, and in 2017, after another student at her school accused Strane of sexual abuse and urged Vanessa to do so Come out as a victim too.
Lucy Foley’s guest list is a whodunnit that will keep you guessing to the very last page. The Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection takes place at a wedding on a remote island off the coast of Ireland where a person has mysteriously died. The story is told from the perspective of various wedding guests and party members: the bride, the Plus One, the best man, the wedding planner, the bridesmaid. Only one of them is a murderer, but who? On the guest list, readers guess not only the identity of the murderer, but also the victim.
Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half was one of the top bestsellers of 2020 for a reason. The book follows the Vignes twins, two sisters who grew up in a small southern black community and ran away at the age of 16. When one of the sisters returns years later with a daughter, she investigates what happened to her twin. without her knowledge she has wandered through the country, where she secretly passes by as a white woman with a white husband who knows nothing about her past. Narrated through various decades in the lives of the Vignes sisters, The Vanishing Half follows both twins as their secrets come to light.
Frederik Backman’s Anxious People is not your classic puzzle. The book takes place on an apartment open day when a failed bank robber seeks refuge and takes the group of strangers hostage. Among the hostages are a wealthy bank manager, an 87-year-old woman, a real estate agent, two couples and a mysterious man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom. The story is told from two timelines: the hostage situation and then where the robber mysteriously disappeared. Police must investigate what happened to the robber while the hostages’ stories and secrets are revealed.
Writer of bestselling thrillers like The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware returned in 2020 with another mystery. One by one, eight employees follow the London-based tech startup Snoop, an app that allows users to stream the same music someone else is listening to in real time. During a team vacation in a chalet in the French Alps, an avalanche crashes and traps the Snoop team and the two employees of the chalet. However, a Snoop member has not returned from a ski trip earlier in the day. To make matters worse, there is a killer among them and they have to find out who the killer is before they are individually selected.
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