The Best Books of the Year 2020

Earlier this year, we gave you a little taste of the picks for the best books of 2020 (so far). As the year draws to a close, we’ve rounded out the list, just in time for gift-giving season! With world-rocking moments for social justice and equality, soul-warming poetry, hair-raising thrills and chills, mouth-watering recipes and thought-provoking memoirs galore, 2020 has given us endless honorable reads (and more than likely, the time to actually read them). Here are the best books of 2020.

Untamed

Glennon Doyle

More than just a memoir, this book takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery. It seeks to liberate women from the societal expectations that bind them, to honor beauty and rage equally — it speaks to the soul. While Doyle’s previous books Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior started the conversation, Untamed started a movement. Her legions of fans (old and new) have found within themselves those three little words “There She Is” and have held onto this book tight as a rallying cry for what it means to be a woman today.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning 

Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

An essential read covering everything from the history of racism in our country, how that history has evolved into the systemic racism we know today, and what we can do in our daily lives to become actively antiracist. Reynolds’ writing is compelling, conversational and extremely engaging, making Stamped an accessible read for all ages. In short, this is a book every American should read (and re-read and re-read again).

The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

An indelible tale of identity: twin sisters and their daughters choose to live vastly different lives. From the acclaimed author of The Mothers, The Vanishing Half is a story that asks pertinent and, at times, overwhelming questions about who we are and where we’re headed as a society. Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie, hailed The Vanishing Half as “a novel that shows just how human emotion, uncertainty and longing can be captured and put on paper.”

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents 

Isabel Wilkerson

Sometimes we read something so fundamentally stirring that we find ourselves speechless in the face of so many tumbling thoughts. Caste is one of those books. Isabel Wilkerson is one of those writers. She reminds us that “we are responsible for our own ignorance or, with time and openhearted enlightenment, our own wisdom.” In this magnificent work of history, narrative, social commentary, philosophy and inspired storytelling, she offers us a new frame, a deeper focal point and new language to help us toward a reckoning long overdue. Quite a gift.

Whale Day: And Other Poems

Billy Collins

What if Penn & Teller were poets instead of magicians? They approach their craft seriously but present it with humor. They present the wonder of the world by telling you they are going to pull a rabbit out of a hat — and yet, we’re still surprised when they do. The poems in Whale Day display this same kind of magic — simple language arranged creatively. Billy Collins’ sleight of hand isn’t there to trick us into reading poetry, instead, it’s to remind us of the beauty of living.

What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future

Oliver Jeffers

Gorgeously crafted, both lyrically and visually, Oliver Jeffers adds to his library of timeless, heartfelt classics with What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future. Anchored in the importance of family, there is an equally powerful thread of accepting others and being open with love and kindness. Truly a story that can be appreciated by all ages.

Leave the World Behind

Rumaan Alam

Atmospheric and provocative, Leave the World Behind starts off with Amanda and Clay’s family vacation drama and soon devolves into a cinematic catastrophe. A vacation story on the surface, this unsettling novel rises above a thrilling narrative to take aim at the inherent bias we have for our fellow humans, the brotherhood in our shared fears, and the catastrophic fallout of threats both prosaic and otherworldly. Vibrant, tense and thrilling, this is an absolute must-read.

The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food

Marcus Samuelsson, Osayi Endolyn (With), Yewande Komolafe (With)

Marcus Samuelsson is one of the most recognized chefs today and, as a person of color, has worked hard to expose the rest of the U.S. to the culinary traditions of Black Americans which have long been considered as just Southern cooking. Using recipes inspired by some of the great Black chefs today, Samuelsson has created a cookbook that is part food, part cultural history and part showcase of culinary talent.

Hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell

A meditation on the inspiration borne of tragedy and the story of the indomitable woman behind an iconic visionary. Gorgeous writing, a magnificent plot and the exquisite exploration of love and loss make this a can’t-miss novel from the talented, praise-worthy voice of O’Farrell. Without giving too much away, this is a book that must be savored.

A Promised Land

Barack Obama

Dreams from My Father, and an iconic speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, introduced our nation to a little-known Illinois state senator with an orator’s lyrical soul. The Audacity of Hope then laid plain the expansive and compassionate goals he envisioned for his presidency. Few books have been as avidly anticipated as this autobiography, which offers us the promise of a grand and detailed story, as well as a poetic and gripping narrative. We cannot wait to read this arc of an unexpected life, a momentous and consequential presidency and the important lessons of past, present and future.

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