Calling to mind the work of Toni Morrison and Elizabeth Strout, Bennett’s masterful family saga is filled with characters who shine brightly in memorable moments both big and small.
Gyasi’s second novel ranges into fresh, relevant territories, delving into the heart of one woman’s struggle to make sense of her life and family.
“This slim tale of solitude and secrets is nearly impossible to describe, and I almost can’t believe Clarke pulled it off—but she absolutely did.” —Cat, Deputy Editor
Smart, witty and even a bit sly, this penetrating social commentary is also one of this year’s most enjoyable novels.
5. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Mandel follows her bestselling Station Eleven with an even more intricately layered novel of hauntings both literal and metaphorical.
In one moving scene after another, Alvarez dramatizes the sustaining power of stories, whether for immigrants in search of a better life or for a widow surviving a spouse’s death.
Graceful and moving, this triumph of literary and historical fiction is a brilliant re-creation of the lives of William Shakespeare’s family.
“Love is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, but Washington faces it head-on. The answers to our love problems aren’t in Memorial, though; they’re in how Washington makes us feel.” —Eric, Editorial Intern
9. Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Deacon King Kong finds a literary master at work, and reading the book’s 384 pages feels like both an invigorating sprint and an engrossing marathon.
10. The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
With the satisfying close to her Wolf Hall trilogy, Mantel has, quite simply, redefined historical fiction.
11. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Alam’s smart and terrifying thriller is certainly timely in the era of COVID-19, but it’s also relevant for anyone who has questioned our unwavering faith in the social contract.
12. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
It takes a village to raise a child, but as Emezi implies in their second adult novel, it takes a culture and its mythologies to erase a child. This is a profound exploration of the boundaries of personal, sexual and cultural transition.
13. How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang
“This fresh, myth-laden immigrant tale has the power to shift the needle for what we expect from American historical fiction.” —Cat, Deputy Editor
14. Monogamy by Sue Miller
Miller remains one of the best writers at depicting the day-to-day normality of sexual desire. If this is not her best novel, it is surely in the top tier of her work.
15. The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante
Ferrante’s standalone novel simmers with rage toward parental deception and society’s impossible ideals of beauty and behavior.
16. Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
As Texas women navigate what is decidedly a man’s world with feminine grace, Valentine becomes a testament to the resilience of the female spirit.
17. Sisters by Daisy Johnson
“Johnson’s psychologically astute tale of two sisters can be read in an evening but will be pondered for much longer than that.” —Trisha, Publisher
18. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata
“Stories within stories can be dizzying, but Zapata’s parallel universes are an anchor. His debut is as much about real life as it is about lives that could have been.” —Eric, Editorial Intern
19. Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
This spellbinding work of historical fiction, inspired by the true story of Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, will leave you in awe at every page.
20. Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin
This is a romp with substance, offering ample opportunity for self-reflection.