The 24 Best Books to Read in 2020
We’re already almost halfway through 2020, but fortunately, the publishing industry has been keeping pace with the passage of time, with a slew of the year’s most anticipated titles already out, and many more on the way. If you’re looking to make a dent in your GoodReads goal for the year, keep an eye on this list of the top 27 new books to watch out for in 2020.
The Lying Life of Adults
Revealed via surprise announcement in September 2019, the reclusive writer’s latest title leaves behind the characters of the Neapolitan Novels to tell a new tale in the same setting. Playing on Ferrante’s favorite themes of beauty versus ugliness and class mobility, The Lying Life of Adults tells the story of a rich and rebellious teenager’s coming of age in a divided Naples.
Out June 9, 2020.
From Prep to American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld has built a name for herself as contemporary fiction’s foremost chronicler of WASP America. Now, she turns her literary lens away from wry observation and towards the realm of one particularly topical what-if: What would have happened if Hillary Rodham had never agreed to marry Bill Clinton?
Out June 30, 2020.
3 Transcendent Kingdom: A Novel
From the author of Homegoing, the breakout debut novel about the two very different legacies of an Asante woman living in 18th-century Ghana, comes a contemporary tale of a Ghanaian family in Alabama struggling to make sense of loss.
Out September 8, 2020.
4 The Glass Hotel: A novel
Fans of the genre-defying post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven, rejoice: Emily St. John Mandel is back with a new novel that weaves otherworldly elements throughout the storyline of a modern financial thriller.
5 My Dark Vanessa: A Novel
When a fellow former student comes forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Vanessa’s high school English teacher, Jacob, Vanessa must grapple with a discomfiting question: whether her own teenage affair with Jacob was as consensual as she’s been telling herself for 17 years. In the age of #MeToo, Russell’s blistering, deeply uncomfortable, and utterly essential debut achieves required-reading status.
6 The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel
With Freshwater and Pet under their belt, Akwaeke Emezi has cemented their reputation as a leading new voice in both YA and adult literary fiction in the span of less than two years. They’re not slowing up anytime soon, either: In their sophomore adult novel, out this summer, Emezi chronicles a Nigerian family’s experience of grief and transcendence.
Out August 4, 2020.
7 Real Life: A Novel
From a black, queer writer and former biochem Ph.D. candidate living in a Midwestern university town comes a searing debut about … a black, queer biochem Ph.D. candidate living in a Midwestern university town. When Wallace has an unexpected encounter with a supposedly-straight white classmate amid a time of mounting hostility in his community, he is forced to confront long-hidden wounds. Whether despite or because of Taylor’s closeness to his subject matter, the result is a novel of quiet, startling power.
8Wow, No Thank You.: Essays
Ever since the publication of Meaty in 2013, Irby’s essays have been required reading on the millennial condition. In her latest collection, the writer—now approaching 40 and living a Pinterest-ified version of the American dream in a small Midwestern town—turns her addictively bummed-out wit to topics like “lesbian bed death” and the difficulty of making adult friendships.
9 Death in Her Hands: A Novel
Dark and sharp as ever, the author of Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation returns with a tale of a woman in a small town who may or may not have discovered evidence of a murder. The problem: She can’t figure out whether or not anyone has actually been killed.
10 It’s Not All Downhill From Here: A Novel
How Stella Got Her Groove Back grows up in the author’s latest title, a story about what it takes to pursue joy after unexpected loss. Sixty-eight-year-old Loretha Curry has a full life, but when the unthinkable—and unforeseeable—happens, Loretha must turn to her friends for help healing old wounds and learning how to thrive.
11 The Vanishing Half: A Novel
When the Vignes twin sisters were growing up, they were inseparable. But now, as adults, they’ve taken two paths: one living with her Black daughter in the same community she’s known her whole life; the other passing as white and living among loved ones who have no idea where she came from. Propulsive and compassionate, Bennett’s follow-up to The Mothers is not to be missed.
Out June 2, 2020.
12 Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot
Long a pillar of Black Twitter, Mikki Kendall is perhaps best known for her creation of the viral hashtags #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, #FastTailedGirls, and #FoodGentrification. With HOOD FEMINISM, Kendall takes her timely and powerful critique of contemporary feminism from the worldwide web to the printed page.
13 Fairest: A Memoir
With her debut title, award-winning journalist Talusan turns her talents to memoir to chart her path from childhood in a rural Philippine village to adult life as a white-passing trans woman in American academia. The result is a stirring meditation on race, gender, and identity.
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14 Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation
Where were you when Petersen’s viral article about millennial burnout first hit BuzzFeed in January of 2019? If memory holds, I was wrapping up my third 12-hour workday of the week, praying that when I got home I’d be able to keep my eyes open long enough to finish my law school applications. Needless to say, the piece struck a chord with me—and with so many others that now, a scant year later, many of us are waiting with bated breath for the release later this year of Petersen’s book-length exploration of the same topic. Whether you’re looking for solutions or just looking to feel seen, Can’t Even is a can’t-miss.
Out September 22, 2020.
15 The Resisters: A Novel
In the half-submerged AutoAmerica of the near future, a young girl’s preternatural baseball prowess enables her ascent from the underclass of a sharply-divided dystopian society to the upper echelons of its elite—even as her mother mounts a challenge to the very foundations of the world they know. Cautionary and warm, witty and unsettling, Jen’s fifth novel paints a portrait of an evolution of American society that feels ever more plausible.
The author of 2012’s acclaimed Heroines is back with a quietly stirring account of an unnamed writer’s self-imposed isolation. Desperate to complete her overdue novel, the narrator haunts the street shops of her neighborhood in search of inspiration—but as winter approaches, her progress is interrupted by a series of unsettling disturbances.
17 Chosen Ones
The Hunger Games. Harry Potter. The Percy Jackson books. Wherever you first encountered it, it’s a story we all know by heart: In a time of darkness, a child is singled out as the world’s last great hope for salvation. As that child grows up, one must take ownership of their powers, fulfill the prophecy, and save the world. But what happens to the chosen one after the threat is vanquished? Veronica Roth—the author of a little franchise you may know by the name of Divergent—sets out to answer this question in her adult debut, which follows five former teenage heroes as they make sense of the trauma they were left with after saving the world.
18 I Hold a Wolf by the Ears: Stories
Though she’s racked up accolades for her two recent novels—Find Me, her debut full-length narrative from 2015, and The Third Hotel from 2018—the short story seems to be Laura van den Berg’s most natural medium. For proof, look no further than I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, the writer’s latest collection of melancholic adult fairy tales.
Out July 28, 2020.
19 Just Like You: A Novel
If you’ve already devoured the Zoe Kravitz-led series High Fidelity and are desperate for your next big binge, you’re in luck: Nick Hornby, author of the Hulu show’s source material, has another unputdownable story of love and heartbreak coming this September. In Just Like You,
not-quite-divorced 42-year-old Lucy is thrown for a loop when she realizes that 22-year-old Joseph—the man she’s hired to babysit her kids—just may be her perfect match.
Out September 29, 2020.
20 Perfect Tunes
From her Gawker days in the early aughts to her present-day Twitter presence, Emily Gould has made a name for herself as the Internet’s foremost chronicler of the millennial condition. Now, with the release of her sophomore novel, the founder of now-defunct indie publisher Emily Books looks back on the 21st century and draws a line through the decades-long series of little choices that make us who we are. Laura, Gould’s protagonist, arrives in New York in the early 2000s to pursue ambitions of songwriting stardom, but her plan gets turned upside down when she winds up pregnant. Fifteen years later, Laura’s teenage daughter, Marie, begins to ask questions about the dreams her mother left behind.
21 The Disaster Tourist: A Novel
What better time to pick up an eco-thriller than during a cataclysmic world event? In her first novel translated into English, acclaimed South Korean writer Yun Ko-Eun follows her protagonist—an employee at a travel agency that specializes in disaster tourism—on a visit to Mui, a remote island that’s in danger of falling off her company’s roster of destinations. There, she is faced with the decision of whether to remain loyal to her employer or help Mui’s foremost resort fabricate a disaster big enough to save the island’s economy.
Out August 4, 2020.
22 It Is Wood, It Is Stone: A Novel
Debut novelist Gabriella Burnham knocks it out of the park with a sharp, knotty novel about colorism and class in the heart of São Paolo. Left adrift after moving from America to Brazil for her husband Dennis’s work, Linda develops a fraught relationship with the couple’s maid, Marta, whose roots at Linda and Dennis’s home run deeper than either American can imagine.
Out July 28, 2020.
23 Empire of Wild
Métis author Cherie Dimaline follows up her breakout YA best seller, 2017’s The Marrow Thieves, with an electrifying riff on the Métis story of a werewolf-adjacent creature called the rougarou. While searching for her long-lost husband, Joan encounters the Reverend Eugene Wolff, a charismatic preacher who bears a striking resemblance to Joan’s missing love. Convinced that the preacher is really her husband, Victor, Joan undertakes the formidable task of reawakening Wolff to who he really is.
Out July 28, 2020.
24 Lakewood: A Novel
A Clockwork Orange meets The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in Megan Giddings’s deeply unsettling debut, a sci-fi thriller about the sacrifices a Black woman must make to provide for her family. When Lena drops out of college to help pay her family’s extensive debts, she finds a job as a professional guinea pig in a series of mysterious medical trials. But she soon learns that the consequences for the program’s medical subjects may be steeper than she can afford.