David Bell (THE REQUEST, LAYOVER)
CENTENNIAL by James Michener
Sweeping historical fiction about our westward expansion and the environmental destruction it caused. The perfect book to lose yourself in if you want to hide from your relatives.
Tara Bench (LIVE LIFE DELICIOUSLY - RECIPES FOR BUSY WEEKNIGHTS AND LEISURELY WEEKENDS)
HALF BAKED HARVEST SUPER SIMPLE: More Than 125 Recipes for Instant, Overnight, Meal-Prepped, and Easy Comfort Foods by Tieghan Gerard
Blogger Tieghan Gerard shares luscious pictures of flavorful recipes. Many health-forward cooking techniques and twists on comfort foods. This book inspires dinner after dinner.
Jenna Blum (THOSE WHO SAVE US, THE LOST FAMILY)
THE KINDEST LIE by Nancy Johnson
Not out until 2021 but you will see it EVERYWHERE so do yourself a favor and order it now!
DON’T ASK ME WHERE I’M FROM by Jennifer de Leon
Timely, poignant, and funny read about a Guatemalan teen adjusting to life in a suburban Massachusetts school.
Mike Chen ( WE COULD ALL BE HEROES, A BEGINNING AT THE END )
HENCH by Natalie Zina Walschots
HENCH is a clever and unique spin on superheroes, taking the perspective of the hired help (a hench) while creating an allegory on the perils of our modern data-driven culture.
Fiona Davis (THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE)
THE DAUGHTERS OF FOXCOTE MANOR by Eve Chase
This dual-timeline novel ticks all the boxes for me: a crumbling English manor house, generations of family secrets, and plot twists that will leave you breathless. Perfect for fans of historical fiction.
David Ebershoff (THE DANISH GIRL, THE 19th WIFE)
HOW MUCH OF THESE HILLS IS GOLD by C. Pam Zhang
A novel that upends the myths of my home state California, written in a vivid, poetic style of a major talent.
WHALE DAY by Billy Collins
In the days before the pandemic, if you were to attend a Billy Collins reading you'd find an audience that ranged in age from, say, five to eighty-five. That's because so many people find their inner lives reflected in Billy's poems. This is a book to savor, and to gift and gift.
Alka Joshi (THE HENNA ARTIST)
THE FAR FIELD by Madhuri Vijay
The gorgeous Kashmiri setting, the young woman in search of her late mother’s lover, and the political intrigue of the area captivated me and kept me turning the pages long into the night. The fact that Vijay is a 20-something writer and this deeply moving novel is her debut is mind-blowing for a 60-something debut novelist like me!
CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN by Sayaka Murata
A deceptively simple story— a compassionate nod to all those around us who never quite fit into society but make a valiant attempt to do so. Is Keiko, the main character, on the autism spectrum? We never really find out, but we feel so much empathy for this woman who gives away much of her dignity just to please others. That Murata manages to make the novel laugh-out-loud funny is an amazing feat.
THE YELLOW BIRD SINGS by Jennifer Rosner
I shy away from WWII novels, but this one offered a fresh take on how the oppressed manage to survive the horrors of war. To six-year-old Roza, hiding from the Nazis, an imaginary pet bird capable of singing the music she composes in her head helps her manage wartime terror. The details of the music, where the girl and her mother hide, the many people who help them on their journey, and the girl's resilient spirit stayed with me long after I finished the book.
Angie Kim (MIRACLE CREEK)
LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND by Rumaan Alam
I can't stop raving about this book! First, as a writer, I have to talk about how much I loved his prose. He uses such unusual words, chosen with obvious care, to efficiently express in one 6-word sentence what might take me 3 long sentences to express. And as a reader, I love dystopian novels, and the premise blew me away. It was suspenseful and kept me turning the pages all night long. Although it doesn't have anything to do with the current pandemic, it resonated so perfectly with the sense of confusion, doom, and isolation so many of us are feeling right now. I've been recommending it to everyone I know.,
Crystal King (THE CHEF'S SECRET, FEAST OF SORROW)
LANDMARK HERODOTUS: The Histories, edited by Robert B. Strassler
Considered to be the first history book. Herodotus wandered the ancient world with the idea that he would prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important and remarkable achievements produced by both Greeks and non-Greeks. It's a book filled with true history but woven with myth. It's also surprisingly accessible despite the fact that it was written 2,470 years ago!
Kristina McMorris (SOLD ON A MONDAY, THE PIECES WE KEEP)
THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES by Kristin Harmel
A fantastic read, particularly for lovers of WWII fiction. Not only was it a memorable page-turner, but it also taught me so much about the brave forgers of the Resistance who risked, and even sacrificed, their lives to save Jewish children, with the hope of one day reuniting them with their families.
THE ARCTIC FURY by Greer Macallister
Such a unique, transportive novel. Part court drama, part historical thriller, this 1850s story is loosely inspired by a true account and follows an all-female Arctic expedition, packed with enough twists and turns to keep me up reading straight until dawn.
Casey McQuiston (RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE, ONE LAST STOP)
FRANKLIN BARBECUE: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto by Aaron Franklin & Jordan Mackay
I specifically picked this book for a friend of mine who is a Texas native and lives in Austin, but I'm thinking of gifting copies to a few more Southern BBQ-lovers in my life. Franklin Barbecue is known to have brisket and ribs worth lining up for hours—who wouldn't want to know their secrets? And even if you don't plan to smoke any meat, I love the idea of having a piece of Texas iconography like this around the house.
SOLUTIONS AND OTHER PROBLEMS by Allie Brosh
This one is for the friends with whom I'd exchange screenshots of Allie Brosh blog posts in college while neck-deep in a miserable finals week all-nighter. Brosh basically invented the way a lot of millennials speak about anxiety, depression, life changes, existentialism, and humanity, and her latest is just as funny, poignant, and relevant as ever in 2020.
Kelly McWilliams (AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD)
THIS IS MY AMERICA by Kim Johnson
A book that examines systemic racial injustice in the criminal justice system from the perspective of a teenaged Tracy, a young girl fighting for the freedom of her father and brother. The story will sweep you away, and inspire you to fight for what you believe in. What better way to ring in the New Year?
Isla Morley (THE LAST BLUE)
A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama
This is going in my husband's stocking. He relished The Audacity of Hope and Dreams of My Father, and this will make a good complement to all the civil war and abolitionist history he has been reading.
EVERYWHERE I LOOK by Helen Garner
This book could be a contender for Worst Cover Award, but as to its contents, few writers could pack so much wisdom, wit, and vitality into every line. Throughout this selection of essays by a woman at the height of her power, I found myself resting for ages on a single sentence. It was a standout read for me in 2020, as was YELLOW NOTEBOOK, Vol I.
Kim Powers (RULES FOR BEING DEAD)
My two favorite books this year couldn't be more different, but they both got to me - and STAYED with me.
BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.A. Cosby
Isn't necessarily "book club-friendly" —unless you wanted to be taken on a devastating and emotional thrill ride by a career criminal, a getaway driver on his last ride. Brilliant.
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman
"Kinder/gentler" —but no less remarkable —this one IS perfect for book clubs, about a group of retired people in an English assisted living facility who use their considerable skills to solve cold cases - until things heat up and one of their own is killed. Funny and meditative.
Jewell Parker Rhodes (BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER, GHOST BOYS)
MAMA’S LAST HUG: ANIMAL EMOTIONS AND WHAT THEY TELL US ABOUT OURSELVES by Frans De Waal.
It’s a compassionate, wonderfully written book about the links between and the range of human and animal emotions
Teresa Rhyne (POPPY IN THE WILD, THE DOGS WERE RESCUED (AND SO WAS I)
ANOTHER GOOD DOG: ONE FAMILY AND FIFTY FOSTER DOGS by Cara Achterberg
This book makes for a wonderful gift for the dog lover in anyone's life. Besides being a good read, I hope it will inspire more folks to get involved in fostering rescue dogs, which is invaluable to the dogs being helped and the rescues trying to save even more dogs.
DOG MOM: A LOVE STORY by Isabel Serna
It's got adorable illustrations and pretty well nails what being a dog mom is like (before dog and after dog happy hours perfectly illustrated!). Since most of my friends are crazy dog moms, this is a perfect gift!
Susie Schnall (WE CAME HERE TO SHINE, THE SUBWAY GIRLS)
THE HENNA ARTIST by Alka Joshi
This book about a henna artist and her struggle for fulfillment in a changing society transported me into a world I was entirely unfamiliar with. I also heard the author speak and loved listening to her stories about the writing process for this book and her inspiration to take on the subject matter.
UNTAMED by Glennon Doyle
I have now both listened to and read this book, underlining like a maniac as I go. It has really resonated with me and has made me rethink a lot of what I’ve always assumed to be true about myself and my place in society as a woman.
Lisa See (THE ISLAND OF THE SEA WOMEN, THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE)
A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama
I’ll be giving this as a gift to several people to inspire them and give them hope in 2021.
THE LAW OF INNOCENCE by Michael Connelly
I’m reading it right now. Connelly never disappoints. He’s a master storyteller.
Ruta Sepetys (THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE, SALT TO THE SEA)
HANDLING THE TRUTH: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
How can we describe the year that was 2020 when it affected each of us so differently? In Handling the Truth, award-winning author and master of memoir Beth Kephart takes us through the process of interrogating our memories and giving voice to our personal experience. It's the perfect guide for capturing and archiving a year we'll never forget.
Catherine Adel West (SAVING RUBY KING)
A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama
I've heard nothing but good things about this book. And, despite its length, A PROMISED LAND offers an intimate, in depth look at the first black president"s struggle to guide a fractured nation into the possibility of becoming what was envisioned in the Constitution, and the price paid (known and unknown) for those ambitions. I hope my father likes it.
Ellen Marie Wiseman (THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR, WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND)
WITH OR WITHOUT YOU by Caroline Leavitt
A compelling novel about a woman who wakes up after two months in a coma to discover she has acquired a startling artistic talent, which causes her to examine everything about her previous life. The writing is superb and I adored the characters!
Peter Zheutlin (THE DOG WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN, RESCUE ROAD)
CATCHING DAWN: A Search for a Dog and the Discovery of Family by Melissa Armstrong
Much more than a beautifully rendered story about one stray dog in Tennessee and her rescue, this is a deeply touching, keenly observed, and intimate memoir about finding one’s way home.
CASTE: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
An enlightening and powerful examination of what we often refer to as racial division in the United States, but which Wilkerson casts in terms of “caste,” the system by which we establish a rigid hierarchy of human beings.