From hotly anticipated debut novels to page-turning thrillers and the return of some cult favourites, it’s time to plan our reading lists for the year – and there’s a lot of loot to choose from. Some have caused a stir already, with others quietly working up to their publishing date, but one thing’s for sure, these are the books that will keep you captivated from start to finish – the missing-your-stop-on-your-morning-commute and staying-up-way-past-bed-time kind of page-turners.
Start planning your reading list with our pick of the best books to read in 2020.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (Harper Collins)
Fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye develops a close relationship with her English teacher, Jacob Strane, while attending a boarding school in America. The effects of this relationship stay with her for life as Strane becomes tangled up in multiple accusations of sexual abuse and Wye has to look back and examine whether it really was the equal, loving relationship she always thought it was. Louise O’Neill has called it ‘The book everyone will be talking about’. A page-turning debut that’s bound to be a bestseller.
The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions)
Anyone who read Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan series including My Brilliant Friend will be eagerly awaiting her return with The Lying Life of Adults this year. The novel is once again set in Naples, but follows a new protagonist, Giovanna, from age twelve to 16, who is learning to navigate her adolescence amidst a family fallout. English translation due to be released in June 2020.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
Fans of The Hunger Games can look forward to a new work by Suzanne Collins in May of this year. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel, set in Panem 60 years before The Hunger Games.
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House)
Sittenfeld’s novel An American Wife has stayed with me since I first read it. A beautiful portrayal of an ordinary small-town girl who becomes First Lady, the book is based on Laura Bush, wife of George W. Bush. Sittenfeld’s next novel, Rodham, imagines the life of Hillary Clinton (formerly Rodham) had she not married Bill Clinton.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Bloomsbury)
US author Kiley Reid’s much-anticipated novel opens when Emira Tucker is accused of kidnapping the child she is babysitting, because she is black and the child is white, leading the novel to explore race, class and privilege.
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (Penguin Randomhouse)
Bestselling Chilean author Isabel Allende returns with her latest novel, A Long Petal of the Sea, which sees a young woman, recently widowed and forced out of her home during the Spanish Civil War, marry the brother of her late lover in order to survive. As the two escape to Chile where they begin their new life together, we see a story typical of Allende’s historical fiction that touches on love, war, exile and belonging.
Apeirogon by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury)
This novel follows two fathers through political and cultural conflicts, one Palestinian and one Israeli, separated by war and country but united in their shared grief stemming from the loss of their daughters, both of whom have died due to conflict.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Tinder)
While Cummins received a lot of backlash ahead of the publication of this novel, we found it captivating from the very first chapter. The devastatingly brilliant novel follows Lydia and her young son Luca as they attempt to flee from Mexico following the murder of their entire extended family by a dangerous drugs cartel. Outlining the horrifying journeys that migrants face when attempting to cross the US/Mexico border, this novel brings these stories to life with a tale that is heartbreakingly real, in a book that is impossible to put down.
Actress by Anne Enright (Cape)
Irish author Anne Enright returns with this story of a woman who looks back on the life of her mother who was involved in the world of theatre, unearthing long-kept secrets in order to understand her better. This book explores stardom, sexual power and ultimately the love between a mother and daughter.
A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry (Faber)
Set in Tennessee in the aftermath of the Civil War, A Thousand Moons focuses on Winona, the Native American girl adopted by Thomas and John Cole whose story readers will remember from Days Without End. A brave and beautiful novel that fans of the Irish author will devour.
Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (Cape)
The author of the brilliant My Year of Rest and Relaxation returns with this suspenseful thriller. Navigating a new town, and ultimately a new way of life after the death of her husband, an elderly woman discovers a note in the woods related to the murder of a woman. So begins a quest to discover more as this revelation takes over her life. Moshfegh introduces this unreliable narrator to add another level of suspense and mystery to this novel, due in April of this year.
We’ll update our post regularly as new titles are released, so check back in for more of the best books in 2020.