Let’s be positive for a sec, k? Even though 2020 was the worst of the worst (I’m seriously ready to wipe it from my memory foreverrrr), it did give us ample time to do one thing: Read a sh*t-ton of books. But if this end-o’-year holiday season has you reflecting on the fact that there were actually quite a few reads you *didn’t* manage to get through when everyone else on Instagram was (allegedly) devouring them in one sitting, then step right up. Boy, do I have a list for you!
Choosing what to read can be a daunting task because, as with Netflix, you’re likely to end up scrolling through a hundred options before finally giving up and looking at TikTok instead. I mean, there are non-fiction titles, the self-help reads (necessary), and memoirs, to name just a few genres! To help you avoid decision fatigue, I culled The New York Times Best Seller list, the Barnes & Noble Best-Selling list, and Amazon’s best sellers and their editors’ picks (yeah, I love homework) to curate a list of the most thought-provoking, fascinating, popular reads. So the next time someone asks you what you’ve been up to during quarantine, you can flex and name a couple titles from the best-selling books of 2020.
‘A Promised Land’ by Barack Obama
I miss Barry O. so much and I know it’s not just me. The former president tells us his life story, spanning all the way from his childhood to his presidency. You can place this on the shelf next to Michelle Obama’s Becoming (which is still a best-seller two years later, btw) and feel intellectual as hell.
‘The Return’ by Nicholas Sparks
I may or may not ugly cry to every Nicholas Sparks book. Don’t judge!! This one follows an injured Navy doc, who moves back to North Carolina (duh) and falls for a mysterious local deputy sheriff. His story becomes even more complicated when he meets a teenage girl who may shed light on his past. If you liked Dear John, you’ll devour The Return.
‘Untamed’ by Glennon Doyle
If you haven’t heard of this book, then you probably don’t go on social media…like, ever. Glennon Doyle’s memoir blew up on Instagram and beyond this year because it’s packed with super relevant wisdom and relatable moments of honesty. Get your highlighter ready—there are a ton of sections you’ll want to read over, and over, and over again.
‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ by Suzanne Collins
Calling all Hunger Games fans! If three books weren’t enough for you, then you need to get your hands on Suzanne Collins’ latest dystopian novel ASAP. The spinoff and prequel to THG gives you a look at how President Snow came to be Katniss’s nemesis.
‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett
The Vignes sisters’ lives veer in wildly different directions. One secretly passes as a white woman while the other sticks around in their Southern hometown with her daughter. The Vanishing Half examines what it means to be Black in America and the complexities that comes with passing.
‘One by One’ by Ruth Ware
If you know anything about Ruth Ware, you know her thrillers keep you on the edge of your seat. After eight co-workers get stranded in the French Alps without reception, they have to figure out how to survive. Their panic increases as the group continues to dwindle (you guessed it) one by one.
‘Ready Player Two’ by Ernest Cline
Say hi to the sequel to Ready Player One (Cline’s debut novel that was later turned into a Steven Spielberg movie starring Tye Sheridan). This sinister sci-fi book is actually pretty scary, with a plot that is somewhat similar to the first book—you know the deal, the world is on the brink of collapse, just your normal dystopian fare.
‘Greenlights’ by Matthew McConaughey
Let’s give a warm welcome to Matthew McConaughey, the author! The leading man (and college professor, it’s casual) took the time to sort through his diaries and turn them into something legible for us to enjoy. He calls his memoir “a love letter to life,” which also sounds like a line that one of his characters would say in a movie, which only makes me love him more.
‘Forgiving What You Can’t Forget’ by Lysa Terkeurst
About moving on and learning how to forgive hard-to-forgive people, this self-help book (of the Christian variety) aims to help you stop stressing over the things you can’t change.
‘Leave the World Behind’ by Rumaan Alam
Leave the world behind? Now that’s an idea I can get behind. Where are we going? Space? 2025? An alternative dimension where the pandemic doesn’t exist? I’m just spitballing here. In actuality, Rumaan Alam’s suspenseful story covers the nuances of parenthood, race, and class, and what can happen to a person in a time of crisis.
‘Our Time Is Now’ by Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams is basically a real-life superhero. A lot of people are crediting her with increasing the Black voter turnout in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election, rightfully so. In this book, she outlines the tools needed to end voter suppression and empower Americans.
‘Lady in the Lake’ by Laura Lippman
As if 2020 wasn’t scary enough, prepare your mind to travel back to 1960s Baltimore for a modern psychological-meets-classic noir story about a woman who pursues a forgotten murder.
‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley
There’s one thing no couple wants: A dead guest at their wedding. Lucy Foley’s murder mystery will absolutely give you nightmares, but all those sleepless nights will be worth it once you get to the end.
‘Deacon King Kong’ by James McBride
Ever heard of the incredible 1995 story, The Color of Water? Well, this is written by the same author—except instead of being a memoir, Deacon King Kong is about what happens after a church deacon shoots a drug dealer at point-blank range. Have I got your attention now?
‘The Glass Hotel’ by Emily St. John Mandel
A massive Ponzi scheme collapses and a mysterious woman disappears from a ship at sea. Are these strange events connected? You’ll have to read this page-turner to find out.
‘Midnight Sun’ by Stephanie Meyer
Twilight fans, I’m here for you. Stephenie Meyer is back with a tale told from Edward’s point of view. Warning, though: Reading this will most likely, definitely, 100% make you view all the characters in the Twilight-verse differently.
‘Home Body’ by Rupi Kaur
Rupi Kaur delivers another collection of intimate poetry that will make you feel like she’s read every single page of your diary (you have one, don’t pretend that you don’t). If you want to be in your ~feels~, then add this to the top of your reading list.
‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’ by Holly Jackson
After a popular high school senior is murdered by her boyfriend (who then dies by suicide), the entwined tragedies haunt the small town for years. Five years later, one resident still doesn’t believe the boyfriend was the culprit and sets out to find the truth. If you like it (which you totally will), make sure to read the sequel “Good Girl, Bad Blood.”
‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins
This book was wildly successful (Oprah endorsed it, nbd), and then it became totally ensnared in controversy, which made people curious what the fuss was all about, which probably boosted sales even more. Cummins tells the story of a Mexican woman and her son as they journey to cross the U.S. border. This book kicked off a national conversation about who is allowed to tell what stories, and privilege and white-washing within the publishing world.
‘In Five Years’ by Rebecca Serle
Dannie’s life is interrupted after she wakes up five years in the future. She’s engaged to a new man and living in a new apartment. After spending one hour in the future, she wakes up again in the present day. But how can you shake knowing there’s a future out there for you that is wildly different than the one you were planning?
‘The Girl with the Louding Voice’ by Abi Daré
Adunni is a teenager growing up in Nigeria and her only goal is to get an education, despite the many challenges she faces. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, this story will inspire you to chase after your dreams—no matter what.
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