It’s the time of year when everyone is telling you what books to read, buy or give. “Best of” lists abound. Here’s a few you might want to check out as you stock up for the holiday season or ponder how to fill a stocking:
The 10 Best Books of 2020 by the New York Times Book Review
This list includes James McBride’s DEACON KING KONG, described as “a mystery story, a crime novel, an urban farce (and) a sociological portrait of the late-1960s Brooklyn.” Or there’s novelist Maggie O’Farrell’s HAMNET, which takes readers back to 1596 and the death of Shakespeare’s 11-year-old son. She sensually describes the world of Shakespeare and his family and how the death of his son may have influenced the writing of “Hamlet.” As the editors report, “The novel is a portrait of unspeakable grief wreathed in great beauty.”
Among the nonfiction recommendations on this list is HIDDEN VALLEY ROAD by Robert Kolker. He tells of the Gavin family whose 12 children included six who developed schizophrenia. “His is a feat of narrative journalism but also a study in empathy; he unspools the stories of the Galvin siblings with enormous compassion while tracing the scientific advances in treating the illness.”
Also on this list are Barak Obama’s PROMISED LAND and Anna Wiener’s UNCANNY VALLEY, a memoir about her years in Silicon Valley with its dissonant internal conflicts and idealistic public image.
New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2020
If you crave still more recommendations, this list will give you 10 times more gusto.
Penguin Random House’s The Award-Winning Books of 2020
This list includes winners of the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and more. A great way to find books that have already been judged to be exceptional.
This list include Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning THE NICKEL BOYS, about two boys unjustly sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. Then, there’s Charles Yu’s INTERIOR CHINATOWN, a 2020 National Book Award winner soon to be made into a Hulu series. Valeria Luiselli’s LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE, winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, reflects 2020 well in a story about an artist couple and their two children who set out on a road trip from New York to Arizona in the summer. The further they travel, the more family bonds fray, leaving the children feeling the rift between their parents like an earthquake beneath their feet.
Wall Street Journal’s Best of 2020
The Journal has incorporated lists of best music, science fiction, television and politics. The book list includes ABE: ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN HIS TIMES by David S. Reynolds, ACTRESS by Anne Enright, and 1774: THE LONG YEAR OF REVOLUTION by Mary Beth Norton, among others.
NPR’s Best Books of 2020
NPR helpfully has categorized its selections into 33 categories, ranging from “Seriously Great Writing” to “Let’s Talk About Sex” to “The Dark Side” to “Staff Picks.”
CrimeReads’ Best True Crime Books of 2020
If true stories of crime are you cup of tea, CrimeReads has named its best nonfiction crime books, “ranging from memoirs to spy stories to tales of systemic corruption.”
The books on this list include Jax Miller’s HELL IN THE HEARTLAND; MURDER, METH AND THE CASE OF TWO MISSING GIRLS; Becky Cooper’s WE KEEP THE DEAD CLOSE: A MURDER AT HARVARD AND A HALF-CENTURY OF SILENCE; and Natasha Trethewey’s MEMORIAL DRIVE; A DAUGHTER’S MEMOIR.
Other books take readers inside deadly cocaine cartels, the early days of the CIA ad the Cold War, the heist of a Vermeer from a private Irish house and the Kidnapping epidemic of Depression-Era America.
LitHub’s The Ultimate Best Books of 2020 List
Lithub.com has taken a creative approach to list building. Author Emily Temple searched out which books were most often recommended on “best of the year” lists to create: “The Ultimate Best Books of 2020 List; Reading all the Lists So You Don’t Have to Since 2017.”
The top five books on this list are: Brit Bennett’s THE VANISHING HALF (posted on 25 lists); Rumaan Alam’s LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND (20 lists); Yaa Gyasi’s TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM (17 lists); Raven Leilani’s LUSTER and James McBride’s DEACON KING KONG (both on 16 lists); and Maggie O’Farrell’s HAMNET and Isabel Wilkerson’s CASTE: THE ORIGINS OF OUR DISCONTENTS (both on 15 lists).
She ends the article with a list of the publications surveyed if you want to go directly to your favorite sources.
So happy reading and happy giving!