20 Best Books of 2020
2020 has been a year to remember. Even though it is not the year that we have planned, there were some amazing books this year. It was so hard to narrow down the best books of 2020!
We’ve divided our list of the best books of 2020 into genres so that you can find recommendations that fit your reading style.
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Best Books of 2020: Historical Fiction
Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul
Excuse my whole I gush about Gill Paul‘s newest book, Jackie and Maria. Gill Paul is quickly becoming an auto-buy author for me. I loved Another Woman’s Husband and The Lost Daughter, about the Windsors and Romanovs respectively. Paul’s take on a new dynasty, The Kennedys, is equally compelling.
Most people know about Jackie’s life during her White House years, but hearing the tale of what caused her to marry Aristotle Onassis was fascinating. I loved the dual narrators of Jackie and Onassis’s long-time lover, opera singer Maria Callas. It’s a perfect political novel about music!
Code Name Hélène: A Novel by Ariel Lawson
I LOVED this book so much. It is so beautifully written, amazingly researched and absolutely enthralling. This book is based on the life of Nancy Wake who is a nurse and journalist who becomes a Special Operations Executive during WWII.
She was an amazing woman and I had never heard of her before this book. It has wonderful characters, a fabulous story, romance, adventure, and the terrifying reality of life during WWII. I could not put this historical fiction book down and is one of the best books for book clubs to read.
Love Historical Fiction? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Historical Fiction carefully divided by time period.
Best Books of 2020: Mysteries
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Long Bright River is phenomenal and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. The story takes place in Philly’s Kensington neighborhood which is known for having a huge opioid problem.
You can’t live in my area and not know about the epidemic spreading through our city. It’s devastating and scary and this book deals with it head-on.
The contemporary fiction story revolves around 2 sisters. One is a cop, one is an addict – both are being impacted by a string of murders in the area. This book dealt with many issues around drug addiction and it handles them without judging.
All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny
Robert Bathurst is a brilliant narrator and is the voice of Gamache. So much so that I will not read this series, rather, I prefer to listen.
I absolutely loved this book that takes place in Paris rather than Three Pines. The story kept me on my toes every minute and had me guessing to the very end. I love that we get to know Daniel, Gamache’s son, in a way that we have not in previous books.
If you are not familiar with the series, start with number one and pace yourself. I tried to slow down but now I have to wait a year between books!
Are mysteries your favorite genre? We created The Ultimate List of Mysteries carefully divided by sub-genre so you can find your next favorite read.
Best Books of 2020: Thrillers
His and Hers by Alice Feeney
His and Hers is the best psychological thriller I have read this year. There are two sides to every story and this one had me guessing until the last page. I had to go back and re-read.
Anna Andrews works at the BBC and has her dream job as an anchor until she doesn’t and she will do anything to get it back. When she has to return to her hometown to cover murders that are centered around her, nothing could complicate the situation more…..until her ex-husband is the lead investigator.
Oh, and he knows the first victim as well. This book is a puzzle that isn’t complete until the last page. It’s one of our best books of 2020 picks.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
I do not usually like horror but I love thrillers, book clubs, and vampires so I decided to read this urban fantasy book. I absolutely loved every minute- even when I was completely scared out of my wits. This vampire book will have you on your toes.
This book really is Steel Magnolias meets Dracula. Patricia is a housewife with two kids who don’t appreciate her and a husband who travels a lot. She spends a lot of her time caring for her senile mother-in-law who lives with them. When her elderly neighbor attacks her one night, James comes to the rescue. James seems well-read and well-traveled but Patricia is convinced he is a monster in disguise.
Patricia knows what she sees but nobody else agrees with her. The psychological warfare in this book is next-level creepy – it definitely earns its spot on our best books of 2020 list and is one of the best urban fantasy books I have read!
Love Thrillers? We created The Ultimate List of Best Thriller Books carefully divided by sub-genre. These will definitely keep you on your toes.
Best Books of 2020: Contemporary Fiction
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
September 2020 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick
Covering drug addiction, immigration, racism, and more, this story is as entertaining as it is stimulating. Its discussion of drug addiction’s impact on the larger family unit was reminiscent of Long Bright River.
I also kept having to remind myself that it was a contemporary fiction story and not a memoir because the emotion and knowledge expressed in the book were so believable. This is one of the books about grief that you must-read.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman is a master storyteller and he does it again with this book. He somehow manages to tackle difficult subjects without trivializing them but still allowing them to be humorous.
This book is a story of a bank robbery gone very wrong and the idiots in the story (his word, not mine) who are taken hostage after the failed robbery. It is also a story about compassion, human relationships, and the daily struggles that we all have.
I love how Fredrik Backman’s books show the good in people despite the flaws that make them human. Backman is such a talented writer and is able to vary his style to best tell the story. I loved this book! The themes that Backman weaves throughout all his books of love, friendship, and compassion make all his books perfect for a list of books like A Man Called Ove. It is also a perfect book for book clubs.
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Wowza. We are not from here is the book American Dirt should have been, an own-voices tale of the migrant journey into the USA. This tale doesn’t give erroneous detail to lighten the load of the harrowing, impossible journey to the north.
Instead, it delivers staggering truths of how and why migrants risk their lives for the possibility of a better life. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to learn more about immigration in America.
Ultimate List of Contemporary Fiction Novels to Love in 2023
For more contemporary fiction books like these, check out our ultimate list for dozens of recommendations.
Best Books of 2020: Magical Realism
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
I loved Matt Haig’s Last Book and was so excited to read this one. I loved it even more- it is definitely one of my favorite books of the year.
This is a library that has books filled with the infinite possibilities of the lives not lived. Have you ever wondered about a choice, or a path not taken?
When Nora finds herself in the library she is forced to face the choices that she made in her life- relationships, education, profession…This is a magical time travel book and I loved every minute of it. Matt Haig is a master of magical realism.
Oona Out of Order by Margarita
I absolutely loved this story about Oona who at the stroke of midnight on her 19th birthday, finds herself in her 51-year-old body. She is greeted by a stranger who is waiting for her in her home and tells her that every year, she will jump to another point in her life- she will live her life out of order.
This is an emotional, well-written story that will not only keep you quickly turning pages but make you think about the small things in life that we take for granted.
This book was a must for our list of feel-good books, but you can also find it on our New Years Eve books post and our best time travel book lists as well.
Best Books of 2020: Fantasy
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
House of Earth and Blood is the first in a new series by Sarah J. Maas, of ACOTAR fame. It’s an urban fantasy – and tells the story of Bryce Quinlan and her bodyguard, Hunt Athalar. Together, they are trying to uncover the source of the murders and series of strange events happening around Crescent City.
This wild ride was filled with skyscrapers, cellphones, and video surveillance, but also fairies, werewolves, angels, demons, and witches with history and power.
My initial turn-off of too many names/places/tribes/species types was quickly overcome by the insane world-building and a story that kept me up until 3 a.m. Head over to our guide on all of Sarah J. Maas’s books if you want more from this amazing author. This is one of the best urban fantasy books I have ever read.
House on the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
Linus Baker works as a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is sent on a mission to a secret orphanage isolated on an island where 6 of the world’s most dangerous youth live. Linus is sent to determine if the children are being cared for properly. Linus, who lives his life by the book, will have to look deeper to try and find the real answers to his questions. This story was so much more than the sum of its parts.
The magic and the orphan aspect are all reminiscent of Harry Potter. The story has just a touch of magic but somehow seems completely relevant to our society now. This magical realism book is a must-read for anyone who needs a feel-good book.
Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Where do I start? I love this book so much. The prose are beautiful, the story is so clever and the audio narration from Julia Whelan is perfect.
Addie LaRue is trying to escape a life of marriage to a man she doesn’t know or love. She makes a deal with the devil to live a life free and unknowingly gives away the ability to be remembered by anyone.
For three hundred years people forget her the minute she is out of sight until she meets Henry. I loved this magical realism book from the first sentence. It’s a total must-read.
Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
Thank goodness Hogwarts is nothing like this school. There is not a single first year that would survive. This school for magic, The Scholomance, is bursting with magic that is very dark and unforgiving.
Losing a few classmates is nothing surprising. You either graduate or die. If you love the dark side of Harry Potter, you will love this YA fantasy book. The books from this series are some of my favorite fantasy books for teens and you should add them to your TBR if you have not read them yet.
If you love books like this, check out our list of Dark Academia books.
Love Fantasy Books? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Fantasy for Adults and the Ultimate List of YA fantasy!
Best Books of 2020: Non-Fiction
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
June 2020 Oprah’s Book Club Pick
Stop everything and add Hidden Valley Road to your TBR now!! All I can say is wow! This favorite is one of the best books on Mental Illness and an absolutely fascinating non-fiction book.
This is the amazing story of Don and Mimi Galvin whose family paved the way for schizophrenia research over the past 50 years. Of their 12 children- 10 sons and 2 daughters, 6 of the boys have schizophrenia.
The struggles of this family to survive through the age of lobotomies and institutionalization provides a look into the history of this disorder. It’s unbelievable to think how far we’ve come and yet, we are not even close to understanding this disease.
HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes
I’m an avid follower of Elizabeth Holmes’ account (you should be too) where she explains the significance of the Royal Family’s wardrobe. The nuance and attention to detail the Royals use when
Elizabeth breaks it down in an accessible and understandable way. I’m thrilled that her book delivers everything I’ve come to expect from her and more. This in-depth look at The Queen, Diana, Catherine, and Meghan is informative and beautiful. This is the perfect coffee table book for any fashion lover!
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho
I admit that I do not listen to podcasts but I heard so much about this book that I could not wait to listen to it. It did not take me long to listen to this book but it is full from beginning to end.
I love Acho’s straightforward voice. There are no accusations. Rather, here are answered questions from someone who has the answers. I learned a lot from this book like the origins of the term “grandfathered in”. Acho has a unique and powerful voice. This non-fiction book is a must-listen!
Love Non-Fiction? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Non-Fiction Books.
Best Books of 2020: Romance
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Do you love Christmas movies? Are you obsessed with Romance books? Do you need to swoon? If you answered yes to any of those questions, stop everything and order In a Holidaze. This is possibly my favorite Christmas novel of all time.
I adored Mae and Andrew’s love story. It’s set up like Groundhog’s Day with Mae repeating the same Christmas vacation until she gets it right. Time travel romance at its best. And man… does she get it right. Peppermint kisses, sexy sledding, snowball fights, Christmas Tree trimming… this book is oozing with cheer-filled holiday goodness with a few scenes that are steamier than a cup of cocoa.
There is a reason this time travel book made our best books of 2020 list! This is an adorable magical realism book and a real must-read.
The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
I am a huge royal lover, and The Royal We is probably my favorite royal read of all. That’s why The Heir Affair was an immediate pre-order for me. How could I not read the sequel?
This book picks up immediately where the first leaves off – dealing with the same scandal and the fall-out over the disastrous royal wedding. As the newlyweds try to recalibrate their image, they also need to make amends to their royal family members.
This book dove into some deeper topics, but I found it to be a wonderful follow-up. A true delight of a story and a perfect addition to the pool reads for summer 2020 list!