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Our Top Books of 2020 in All Genres

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 23, 2020

When it comes to picking the best books of the year, we always struggle. There are just so many good ones! We all have our favorites, so finding agreement can be difficult. There has been much debate on this, but we've managed to narrow it down to the top two from each of six genres. You can see our full list of contenders here.

Literature

Winner: A Children's Bible

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lydia Millet's sublime new novel follows a group of prescient youth vacationing with their parents at a lakeside mansion. Contemptuous of their elders, who pass their days in a hedonistic stupor, the children are driven out into a chaotic landscape after a great storm descends on the summer estate. Millet's parable of the coming generational divide offers a lucid vision of what awaits us on the other side of Revelation.

Runner-Up: Deacon King Kong

It's September 1969 in a south Brooklyn housing project and a cranky old church deacon pulls a .38 from his pocket, and—in front of everybody—shoots the project's drug dealer at point-blank range. The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of James McBride's funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird.

Romance

Winner: Take a Hint, Dani Brown

Bestselling author Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him "rescuing" her from their office building goes viral. PhD student Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that.

Runner-Up: Beach Read

Emily Henry's novel features a pair of polar opposites: She's a romance writer. He's a serious literary author. The only thing they have in common is that they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block. One hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts. They'll each write the other's book.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Winner: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

From NYT bestselling author Christopher Paolini comes an epic tale set in a future where human settlements have spread through the galaxy. During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, xenobiologist Kira Navárez finds an alien relic that thrusts her into the wonders and the nightmares of first contact. As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation.

Runner-Up: Book of Koli

Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies a deadly landscape filled with dangers. Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don't venture too far beyond the walls. But what happens if you don't have a choice? M. R. Carey's chilling post-apocalyptic novel charts the journey of an unforgettable young boy struggling to find his place.

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

Winner: The Searcher

Dublin Murder Squad author Tana French offers up this gripping stand-alone novel. Recovering from twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, Cal Hooper seeks a different kind of life with a move to a sleepy Irish village. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing talks him into investigating, he begins to realize that small towns can shelter dark secrets.

Runner-Up: The Sun Down Motel

It's 1982 in upstate New York and Viv Delaney takes a job as a night clerk at the Sun Down Motel. But something isn't right at the motel, something haunting and scary. Now it's 2017 and Carly Kirk has come to the motel to search for clues about her Aunt Viv who mysteriously disappeared there many years before. But something still isn't right in this chilling new novel from Simone St. James.

Nonfiction

Winner: Hidden Valley Road

It's the heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia. Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. But behind the scenes was a different story. With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family's unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope.

Runner-Up: Memorial Drive

At age nineteen, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Her exquisitely wrought memoir explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother's life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of love and resilience.

Young Adult

Winner: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative by Jason Reynolds, the book takes you on a race journey through time.

Runner-Up: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Ambition will fuel him. Competition will drive him. But power has its price. It is the morning of the reaping for the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory. This new prequel from Suzanne Collins takes place 64 years before the beginning of her blockbuster trilogy.

Get Them While You Can!

Now's the time to grab these exciting titles because they're going fast! If a book is out of stock, be sure to add it to your wish list. And as always, if we've missed any of your favorite books from 2020, we'd love to hear about it in the comments.

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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