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2019 was a good one for bookworms, with the likes of Sally Rooney, Lisa Taddeo and Bernardine Evaristo taking centre shelf. Nevertheless, the new year is bringing with it a slew of fantastic new titles. From celebrated wordsmiths to debut novelists, these are the conversation-stirring books we’ll be stuffing in our carry ons throughout 2020.
Read our pick of the 30 best books for 2020
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, 7 January
Reid’s page-turning novel offers a darkly humorous commentary on the complicated dynamics of race and privilege when Emira, an underemployed black 25-year-old, is apprehended at a supermarket for “kidnapping” the blonde toddler she’s actually babysitting.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore, 9 January
Moore brings the US’s opioid crisis into sharp relief in this gripping mystery and family saga. As a string of mysterious murders plague a Philadelphia neighbourhood, the story hones in on the disappearance of drug-addict Kacey, sister of police officer Mickey Fitzpatrick.
No outfit should cost the earth – and yet it’s estimated that, in the UK, 300,000 tonnes of clothing go to landfill every year. Chronicling a year of quitting fast fashion, Lauren Bravo offers down-to-earth advice on how to repair and recycle garments without sacrificing style.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener, 14 January
In her mid-20s, Wiener left her publishing job in New York to join a San Francisco tech start-up. Uncanny Valley unveils the casual sexism, dubious success and unchecked ambition that she experienced, and examines our life-changing addiction to technology.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, 21 January
Shining a light on the US’s border crisis, American Dirt is the heart-rending tale of a Mexican mother, Lydia Quixano Pérez, and her son Luca who are forced to flee Acapulco after her journalist husband publishes an exposé on cartel kingpin, Javier.
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, 28 January
Young actor Willis Wu dreams of progressing from roles such as “generic Asian man” to “kung-fu guy”. In this inventive seven-part novel, Charles Yu dissects the impact of racial stereotypes, immigration and otherness.
Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth, 30 January
Jenny’s life according to her social media profiles is perfect – and yet in reality she is unloved, unemployable and emotionally unfiltered. With painful hilarity, Unsworth’s satirical narrative examines our age of self-promotion and the impossibility of adulthood.
Brother and Sister by Diane Keaton, 4 February
While Diane Keaton is best known for her idiosyncratic silver-screen characters (hello, Annie Hall), the actress has in fact already penned two memoirs. In her third, she shares the story of Randy, her troubled younger brother, and considers the bonds that hold families together.
Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch, 4 February
Yuknavitch’s collection of short stories paints beautifully brutal portraits of those who have been marginalised by modern society. Readers will meet an eight-year-old trauma victim turned organ carrier and a janitor who transforms discarded objects into a miniature city.
Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann, 25 February
Apeirogon (a geometrical term meaning “infinte number of sides”) revolves around the improbable friendship between Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, and Israeli Rami Elhanan. It’s an unflinching story of love, loss and belonging grounded in a harsh reality.
Kendall offers a fresh voice in black feminism. She argues that mainstream feminism focuses on increasing privilege for the few rather than ensuring the basic needs – food security, education, safety, medical care, a living wage – needed by the many.
Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey, 27 February
Liked Sally Rooney? You’ll love Popkey’s electric debut. The book’s unnamed 21-year-old protagonist is navigating a break up. Spanning across 20 years, her story of lust, disgust, loneliness and power is told almost entirely through conversations between women.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, 5 March
Based on the life of her grandfather who fought against Native dispossession in the 50s, Erdrich’s narrative weaves the stories of night watchman and council member Thomas Wazhashk and Pixie Paranteau, a factory worker pushing against traditional female roles.
Fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl Adunni is destined for a life of servitude, having been sold as a third wife to a local man and later, in Lagos, acting as a servant to a wealthy family. Instead, she wants an education and freedom – her “louding voice”.
The final instalment of Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning Tudor trilogy concludes the saga of Thomas Cromwell. Readers followed the plotting politician’s rise in Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012); now they be privy to his fall.
We devoured the Table Manners podcast, and now we’re hungry for Jessie and Lennie’s cookbook. More than 100 recipes (including bean casserole served to Ed Sheeran and custard tarts enjoyed by Nigella Lawson) are found across six sections: Effortless, A Bit More Effort, Summertime, Desserts and Baking, Chrismukkah and Jewish-ish Food.
Among 2020’s most buzzed-about books, this thought-provoking psychological thriller revolves around an affair between a middle-aged teacher and his 15-year-old student, Vanessa. Seventeen years later, as the protagonist contends with her past, the tale raises complex and timely questions around sex, power and victimhood.
The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood, 12 March
We love journalist Sophie Heawood’s celebrity interviews. Now she tells her own story of single motherhood in The Hungover Games, dubbed “Bridget Jones for the Tinder generation”. What happens, she asks, when you have an accidental baby in your mid-30s, but you haven’t yet worked out how to look after yourself?
Inspired by Munchausen syndrome as well as the true story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Blanchard, Wrobel tells the tale of Rose Gold who is poisoned by her mother, Patty, for 18 years. When the mother is released from a five-year jail sentence, Rose wants revenge.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, 31 March
Drawing inspiration from the tragic death of William Shakespeare’s son, O’Farrell’s period chronicle set in 1596 imagines the short life of Hamnet Shakespeare while summoning timeless themes of grief and loss.
“Life is the pursuit of big and small stuff, so I’m chewing it all over without gagging,” Smith told SUITCASE about his book. Expect wryly intelligent musings on what goes through his head during yoga class and why Theresa May needs a visit from Queer Eye’s Fab Five.
Bid farewell to messy desks and office agro. Having sorted your underwear drawer (we’re fans of sock rolling), Marie Kondo is honing in on your career with the help of psychologist Scott Sonenshein. If your work life doesn’t spark joy, you need the KonMari method.
For Laing, art is an antidote to our turbulent political climate; it’s a form of resistance and repair. In this inspiring essay collection – featuring a profile of Georgia O’Keefe, an interview with Ali Smith and a love letter to David Bowie – she makes the case for why art matters.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel, 30 April
The Glass Hotel has already been picked up for a TV series, so this book is bound to be a cracker. It ties the disparate disappearance of a woman off the coast of Vancouver Island with the collapse of a wicked Ponzi scheme in Manhattan. Read it before you see it.
We couldn’t get enough of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. Now, following a surprise announcement in September 2019, the best-selling anonymous author is back with the story of Giovanna and her painful adolescence in middle-class Naples.
Olive by Emma Gannon, 25 June
As Olive’s best friends reach the traditional milestones of marriage and motherhood, she questions whether she wants to do the same. Gannon’s debut novel will ignite conversations around female stereotypes and is a must-read for every woman at a crossroads.
The star of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour lets us in on her struggles with weight in a world obsessed by thinness. At once political and personal, the book tackles issues such as the obesity epidemic, asks why fat shaming isn’t a hate crime and examines how we can become comfortable in our own skin.
Summer by Ali Smith, 2 July
This is the fourth and final book in Smith’s seasonal state-of-the-nation quartet. While it can be enjoyed as a standalone novel, Summer is best paired on your shelf with Autumn, Winter and Spring – the exquisite Hockney-print dust covers prove that a book can be as good as its cover.
What should our best life look like? What if we get it wrong? Covering topics such as consumerism, wellness and womanhood, Sykes’ penetrating essays explore the anxieties and agendas that consume our modern lives, and interrogates the stories we tell ourselves.
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton, 15 October
As she tries to piece together her unravelling life, 32-year-old food writer Nina Dean becomes a victim of ghosting. Navigating the minefields of online dating, friendship and family (read: her father’s encroaching dementia and a mother’s midlife makeover), Alderton’s foray into fiction promises to be devilishly funny and relatable.
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