This list of best books of 2020 includes a great variety: fiction, non-fiction, celebrity book club picks, beloved authors, historical fiction, romance, thrillers and more! There’s something for everyone here.
Some themes of 2020 reading trends I have seen around the web and on social media are escape books (hello, quarantine) and #BlackLivesMatter books. You’ll see those themes woven through my picks as well.
Best Books of 2020
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
I’m generally not one for books involving cheating, but this 28 year-long “same time next year” Labor Day weekend fling on Nantucket gave me all the feels and entertained me with yearly pop culture references. It’s one of Elin Hilderbrand’s best for sure.
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Caste is a #1 New York Times bestseller and Oprah’s book club pick that REALLY blew me away. It’s compulsively readable nonfiction the way Malcolm Gladwell’s book are, and it so thoughtfully and interestingly explores how America has been shaped by a caste system of hierarchy, though thoroughly researched, global stories of race, class, gender, religion and so much more. It’s a game-changer, and a must-read.
The Comeback by Ella Berman
I read The Comeback because it was a Read with Jenna book club pick, and it was one of my goals this year to read all of her picks. I ended up being so blown away by it. It’s about a former child star, hiding a dark secret, who disappeared for a year and is staging a comeback. I will warn that it has difficult content including sexual assault, but the writing is so vivid I felt like I was watching a movie while reading it and could picture everything.
Everything Beautiful in Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager
I hadn’t planned on reading Everything Beautiful in Its Time, but it popped up on my Scribd feed, and I am a huge fan of Jenna’s book club, so I gave it a shot. The emotional storytelling of her writing is so heartfelt and universal — despite her presidential lineage. As she recounts her relationships with her grandparents and struggles with their deaths, you can’t help but think about your own life and feel a kinship. It really touched my heart.
Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland
I had heard about Florence Adler Swims Forever, but I didn’t think it was for me. Then, I kept seeing glowing reviews after glowing reviews and decided to give it a shot. It exceeded all expectations for a family drama book. It’s simply a good story told really well, as a family in 1934 Atlantic City deals with grief and a host of other family issues.
The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz
The Grace Kelly Dress was one of the last books I read in the car while commuting before quarantine, and I still can recall how good it felt listening to it. It’s such a light and heartwarming story about three generations of women linked to a wedding dress that you won’t soon forget. I included it on my list of best books about Grace Kelly.
Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul
You know Jackie O. But do you know Maria Callas? While so much is known about Jackie when she was a Kennedy, there’s an incredibly juicy story behind her later marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and his relationship with famed opera singer Maria Callas. I mean, really, Jackie and Maria reads like a page-turning gossip magazine, with more drama than a Grey’s Anatomy marathon. You won’t believe you never knew these stories before. I included this book on my list of best books about Jackie O, and I give it bonus points for including scenes at the hotel in which we stayed in Venice on our honeymoon!
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
When I first read Good Morning America book club pick Long Bright River, I knew it was good. What I didn’t expect was how often I would think about nearly a year later. This book has probably stayed with me the most of all 2020 books. Set in my own city of Philadelphia, it’s what I call a thriller with a social conscience. Mickey is a cop in the drug-ridden Kensington neighborhood on the hunt for her missing sister, an opioid addict. You will compulsively turn the pages, yet be left with a lot to think about afterward.
For more, read my full review of Long Bright River.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman London
I’m a HUGE critic of rom-coms. They can be so unrealistic with one dimensional characters and situations that magically work themselves out — so unlike real life. One to Watch both defied those odds and introduced us to a character type underserved in literature and real life — a plus sized lead of a Bachelorette type show. The entire storyline from start to finish was so fresh, and the characters were beautifully flawed. It’s so worth the read.
For more, read my full review of One to Watch with book pairings.
Open Book by Jessica Simpson
Open Book was one of my most anticipated books of 2020 and it Did. Not. Disappoint. I was a huge fan of all things late 90s / early 2000s pop culture, including Jessica Simpson and The Newlyweds. There’s no topic off limits here: bullying; grief; eating disorders; alcohol addition; marriage; divorce; dating; motherhood. I had so many thoughts that I wrote a very long deep dive of Open Book. I only write such deep dives about books that affect my mind and emotions so deeply that I can’t move forward until I get my thoughts on paper. So, it’s THAT good.
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
Pretty Things was another book I was really looking forward to this year, and it ended up making my list of best books of 2020 because it contained soooo many twists that kept me engaged and guessing. It was also a pretty unique storyline about a con artist mother and daughter, and as opposed to being just your standard thriller book, it was more of literary suspense. So, I loved how unique and repeatedly shocking it was.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
When I finished Good Morning America’s book club pick The Vanishing Half in early Summer 2020, I KNEW it would be my best book of 2020. This was another one character-driven novel that captivated me so deeply I wrote an entire deep dive on The Vanishing Half. This decades-long story of light-skinned Black twin sisters — one living as White and the other living as Black — was so richly drawn, with characters you grew to know and love, as it explored such complex themes of race and identity in our Black Lives Matter era. It remains my top pick for 2020, and the one I would recommend to you most highly!
That concludes my best books of 2020 list! Since this is a blog “where books meet lifestyle” I also wrote a wrap-up lifestyle post I highly recommend: My Favorite Things of 2020. Hint: most of the items I selected this year are *so* good, I would easily add them to a list of my favorite things of all time.
And, if you want more “best” backlist books, check out my list of best books of 2019.