The 20 Best Books to Read in 2020 | MakeUseOf

The publication of many books was held back by the COVID-19 pandemic. But lockdown has also meant that many of us have whiled away the hours revisiting the classics.

However, the industry is never held back for long and the printing presses are back in full swing. So here are the best books of 2020 you need to add to your "To Read" pile.

The Best Literary Fiction of 2020

Some novels defy categorization. They span different genres and can't be pinned down as being a thriller or intended for a set demographic.

1. The Glass Hotel

A Ponzi scheme collapses and takes countless lives with it. What starts off as an unsettling exploration of love and money turns into a study of grief.

Emily St John Mandel mixes the atmosphere of Paul Torday (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) with the extravagance of F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby). The Glass Hotel is contemplative yet exuberant. It mulls over communal divides but ultimately explores how many lives we touch---with a superb twist at the end.

2. Pew

The eponymous character wakes up in a church with no idea who they are or what they're doing there. They're welcomed into the community, but within a week, that too unravels spectacularly.

Catherine Lacey's lyrical writing clashes extraordinarily with the harsh realities she presents. You'll be thinking about this book long after you turn that final page.

3. The Vanishing Half

It's no great shock that The Vanishing Half is one of the bestselling books of 2020.

Brit Bennett's tale of black twins living separate lives ties into the zeitgeist, but stretches from the 1950s to 1990s. It isn't just about race. It's about societal and personal expectations, making it perpetually important.


Many chart their lives through social media. Megan Angelo takes this to the nth degree by imagining a dystopian future where Marlow and her mother, Floss, are forced to spend their days in front of the camera.

Followers is The Truman Show spliced with Nineteen Eighty-Four. It reflects a new age obsessed with truths (and by necessity) lies, played out for all to see.

5. Summerwater

Staying in a cabin on an isolated island can be great fun. But when the weather's bad and you're stuck indoors, it can become a prison.

Summerwater takes place over 24 hours on the longest day of the year in Scotland. Each chapter is told from the point of view of someone inside a different cabin. Tension builds among these strangers. Not every vacation is a relaxing break.

The Best Thrillers and Crime Dramas of 2020

Looking for a book to keep you on the edge of your seat? Or a mystery to occupy your mind?

6. The Guest List

Lucy Foley's thriller, The Hunting Party, was a huge hit. The Guest List follows on similar grounds, stranding a wedding party on a remote island during a storm.

That's when the first murder happens. There are clear parallels with the work of Agatha Christie, notably And Then There Were None and Evil Under the Sun.

7. Afraid Of The Light

This brief tome is an anthology of 14 short murder mysteries from largely-unsung authors. It's great to have tales to sink into over protracted periods, but the brevity of these tales is particularly impressive. Each tackles the genre in a different way, forming an astonishing and chilling collection.

Sales go to the Samaritans, a charity aiming to "make sure there's always someone there for anyone who needs someone".

8. Troubled Blood

The fifth Cormoran Strike book is the private detective's first cold case. Margot Bamborough went missing in 1974, but her disappearance still proves relevant. Because Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott, uncover a terrifying serial killer.

Following the success of the TV series, this is the longest Cormoran Strike novel so far.

9. The Thursday Murder Club

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron, residents of the Coopers Chase Retirement Village, meet up every week to investigate unsolved mysteries. Are their theoretical detective skills transferable to real life after a brutal murder on their doorstep?

It's no great surprise that TV presenter Richard Osman's style is hilarious and smart. It's charming, engrossing, and life-affirming.

The Best Non-Fiction and Essay Books of 2020

The world is still on your doorstep. If you can't travel the globe, these books at least bring it to you.

10. Vesper Flights

Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk was a bestselling success and led to a regular newspaper column.

These perceptive essays demonstrate what nature can teach us. They're immersive and touching, and sure to make you appreciate life better than ever before. Vesper Flights encourages us to find value in the smallest things---and protect them in whatever way we can.

11. The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here

Amid protests and online outrage, it's sometimes easy to forget that our planet is at stake. Climate change is melting away the fabric of our world. In this book, geobiologist, Hope Jahren, tells us not only the current situation and what we can do, but also how we got here.

This is a sobering read, but Jahren's writing is lively and personable, making it an enjoyable book too.

12. Masters of British Comic Art

David Roach presents a charming and affectionate history of British comics.

Inside are gorgeous illustrations of international heroes, from Judge Dredd to Wolverine. It's a guide through cultural icons like Dan Dare, Tank Girl, and Rupert the Bear. A phenomenal piece, and an essential purchase for art enthusiasts.

13. Uncanny Valley

Anna Wiener moved to Silicon Valley to work at a data analytics start-up. Soon, she stopped staring at her phone and looked around her; to find everyone else staring at their phones.

This is a revealing and often unpleasant memoir, looking behind-the-scenes at the tech-obsessed San Francisco.

The Best Young Adult Fiction of 2020

Don't underestimate Young Adult (YA) books. They're as absorbing and emotional as adult fiction, and have fans of all ages.

14. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Can you believe it's been 10 years since the last The Hunger Games instalment, Mockingjay, was released?

The dystopian future is inspired by classic sci-fi novels, but feels eerily relevant right now. It's the perfect time, then, for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins' prequel to the popular franchise. The greatly anticipated book unsurprisingly became one of the bestselling YA books of 2020.

15. Tweet Cute

Here's something a bit different: a love story, fashioned for the Twitter generation.

Pepper is in charge of Big League Burger's social media. Jack is furious when Big League Burger steals his grandma's recipe. This means war, one tweet at a time.

16. Alex Rider: Nightshade

Alex Rider has enjoyed his own TV show exclusive to Amazon Prime. If you want to follow his literary adventures, Nightshade is an ideal jumping-on point.

The latest in the 13-book series finds the teenage spy pitted against the titular terrorist organization. And this time, Alex is completely alone.

17. All Your Twisted Secrets

Diana Urban's debut novel initially couldn't escape parallels with the hit sensation, One of Us Is Lying. But it definitely steps out from its shadow in presenting a tense, psychological thriller.

An array of stereotypical students are locked in a classroom. This isn't The Breakfast Club though: there's a bomb in the room and a syringe filled with poison. They have an hour to pick which one of them dies, or they all do.

The Best Graphic Novels of 2020

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC films mean that comics are hugely popular. You can check some graphic novels out on Kindle for free, or otherwise enjoy the latest from the medium.

Related: 20 Great Graphic Novels You Can Read Free on Amazon

18. Pulp

Max Winters is a 1930s comic writer, basing his strips on his own youthful escapades as a bandit. But life is harsh and he's easily replaceable. This is what happens after a heart-attack, when he's strapped for cash, desperate not to leave his partner in debt.

This original graphic novel comes from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the best-selling team who launched Criminal to massive acclaim.

19. Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Captain America became the face of Hydra. Now Steve Rogers is back to reclaim the title. But will America trust him? Cap teams up with heroes like Spider-Woman, Invisible Woman, and the Panther, but can even they restore the dream?

If you enjoy this, we also recommend Black Panther: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, similarly written by Coates. This exceptional tale feels particularly special after the untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman.

20. BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns, and Moonage Daydreams

Many are understandably still reeling from David Bowie's death in 2016. He remains an enigmatic and wonderful figure in pop culture. This graphic novel is a different type of biography, reflecting Bowie's gentleness, genius, and impact.

It's by Steve Horton, co-creator of Dark Horse's critically acclaimed Amala's Blade, and Mike and Laura Allred, best-known for their work on Madman and X-Statix.

Read More Books in 2020

Of course, there are lots more books available across a range of genres. Discover all the industry has to offer. Just be sure you know how to organize your book collection before it spirals out of control.