The process of choosing favorites when it comes to books is exceptionally agonizing. While we can narrow things down, selecting ten from the hundreds of books read feels like insanity. There are so many good books in 2020 — how can a reader choose? But we narrowed the list, and are happy to share our ten best fiction books of 2020!
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, 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 the novel.
McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.
How Much of These Hills Are Gold by C Pam Zhang
Both epic and intimate, blending Chinese symbolism and reimagined history with fiercely original language and storytelling, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a haunting adventure story, and an unforgettable sibling story. On a broad level, it explores race in an expanding country and the question of where immigrants are allowed to belong. But page by page, it’s about the memories that bind and divide families, and the yearning for home.
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
After Betty Ramdin’s husband dies, she invites a colleague, Mr. Chetan, to move in with her and her son, Solo. Over time, the three become a family, loving each other deeply and depending upon one another. Then, one fateful night, Solo overhears Betty confiding in Mr. Chetan and learns a secret that plunges him into torment. Love After Love questions who and how we love, the obligations of family, and the consequences of choices made in desperation.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young, alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on. Hamnet is a luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a tender and unforgettable re-imagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, and whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays of all time.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
A novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black, and one white. Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop, translated by Anna Moschovakis
Peppered with bullets and black magic, this remarkable novel fills in a forgotten chapter in the history of World War I. Blending oral storytelling traditions with the gritty, day-to-day, journalistic horror of life in the trenches, David Diop’s At Night All Blood is Black centers around Alfa Ndiaye — a Senegalese man who, never before having left his village, finds himself fighting as a so-called “Chocolat” soldier with the French army during World War I and how far he will go to make amends to his dead friend.
What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez
In What Are You Going Through, Nunez brings wisdom, humor, and insight to a novel about human connection and the changing nature of relationships in our times. A surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship, her book offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld
The lives of three women weave together across centuries. Sarah, accused of being a witch, is fleeing for her life. Ruth, in the aftermath of World War II, is navigating a new marriage and the strange waters of the local community. Six decades later, Viv, still mourning the death of her father, is cataloging Ruth’s belongings in Ruth’s now-empty house. As each woman’s story unfolds, we see the devastating indictment of violence against women and an empowering portrait of their resilience through the ages.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations. It’s also a dramatic story of loss and transcendence.
Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk, translated by Michiel Heyns
Set in the waning days of the South African apartheid. Milla is an elderly white woman who is silenced by a creeping paralysis. As she struggles to communicate with her maidservant turned caretaker, Agaat, the complicated history of their relationship is revealed. Agaat is a haunting and deeply layered saga of resilience, loyalty, betrayal, and how the passage of time cannot heal all wounds.
What do you think about the books on this list?
Have you read any books from this list? What are your favorite fiction books of 2020? What books would you add to the list?
+ show Comments
- Hide Comments
add a comment