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The Best Lists of Best Books of 2020

December 27, 2020

When it comes to the BEST BOOKS OF 2020, the only certainty is that I haven’t read any of them all the way through. I’ve read free online samples of a few of them, but I’m too much of a cheapskate to buy a hardcopy when there are plenty of older (and probably better) books that I can get.

To me, there’s no benefit to reading a book just because it’s new. In twenty years, the book will still be there (most likely). In twenty years, you’ll know if the book was actually good or just a fad. And most important, in twenty years, the book will be cheaper.

Still, it’s the end of the year, and doing a BEST BOOKS OF 2020 list is almost a requirement for a book blogger. Since I haven’t read all (or any) of the books that came out in 2020, I have to rely on those who have (claimed to have) read the books.

With that in mind, here are several lists of BEST BOOKS OF 2020 from websites with people who have (allegedly) read all of the books.

Here is one set of best overall books from Entertainment Weekly. Entertainment Weekly? Entertainment Weekly talks about books?

THE BEST OF THE BEST

  1. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  2. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
  3. Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
  4. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
  5.  Memorial by Bryan Washington
  6. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  7. Deacon King Kong by James McBride
  8. Daddy by Emma Cline
  9. Red Comet by Heather Clark
  10. A Burning by Megha Majumdar

You can read more at The Biggest and Best Books of the Year.

*****

NPR has a variety of lists to choose from, so I chose the first ten listed in the Mystery/Thriller genre. Reading the list to yourself in a pretentious, monotone NPR voice is optional.

  1. A Shadow Intelligence by Oliver Harris
  2. Sisters by Daisy Johnson
  3. The Searcher by Tana French
  4. Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam
  5. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
  6. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  7. Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith
  8. Lakewood by Megan Giddings
  9. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  10. Survivor Song by Paul Trembly

Read more at NPR’s Best Books of 2020.

Publisher’s Weekly lists its best books by genre in sets of twenty, but I don’t make lists greater than ten items, so here are the first ten Books of 2020 in the Fiction category:

  1. The Abstainer by Ian McGuire
  2. Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit
  3. Bluebeard’s First Wife by Ha Seong-nan
  4. The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender
  5. The Cold Millions by Jess Walter
  6. Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford
  7. The Dominant Animal by Kathryn Scanlan
  8. Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera
  9. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  10. Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

Read more at Best Books 2020: Publisher’s Weekly.

*****

What do you think? How many of these books have you actually read? Which ones have you even heard of? How old is a book before you usually get around to reading it? What other best book lists of 2020 do you know about?

8 Comments
  1. Actually, it’s highly UNlikely that the book will still be there in 20 years. Most titles don’t last that long. Many don’t last a year. In print, anyway. I suppose it could still be there virtually. But you’re right that if it’s good, it will still be around.

    • You said what I meant better than I said it, I think.

      The only benefit of reading a book right away is if it’s actually good but nobody else recognizes that it’s good and so then it disappears so that you can’t find it twenty years later. But you don’t know what books those are ahead of time.

      Aaargh!

  2. I have not read any of these books, but they can’t all be the best of 2020 if not one single one of them is repeated on another list? What, in YOUR opinion, is the best book (books) of 2020? It is clear this is a very subjective opinion with no general consensus 🙂

  3. I can never access the new books – good or not – because I’m always 237th in line in the online library queue. When I’m looking to get a bunch of excellent reads (as before a trip), I always look up “best books” lists from a few years before and I can go check them out (in both senses of the word) that very day.

    On a related note, I have no idea when it was first published, but I recently read French Like Moi in which a Minnesotan (like me) relocates to France (unlike me) and writes about his experiences. It’s really well written, very funny, and Minnesota’s answer to Bill Bryson. Even if it’s not from this year, if you haven’t read it, it’s new to you! Happy New Year!

    • You’re right; reading the best books of 2015 would be easier to do.

      French Like Me… Aaargh… French Like Moi sounds like a cool book. Happy New Year to you too!

  4. I’ve accumulated so many books over the years that it’s tough for me to read new releases. Though I did read some this year, none of them are on those lists 😀

    • Since these lists don’t have many of the same books on them, you might have read the BEST BOOK of 2020, and none of the list makers even know about it.

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