By Margaret Kingsbury
A new year, a new decade, and, best of all, new books! I don’t know about you, but pretty much all of my New Year’s resolutions involve books and reading. I read across multiple genres and found what I think are going to be some of the best books from the first half of 2020. From children falling from the sky to immigrant lives in the United States to a new Hunger Games novel, there’s something for everyone on this list. 2020 is sure to start a new bookish decade with a bang.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore, January 7
Mickey is a police officer. Her sister Kacey is a drug addict. Once inseparable, the two no longer speak, despite still living close to one another in Philadelphia. When Kacey goes missing at the same time as a string of murders, Mickey becomes obsessed with finding out what’s happened. I’m calling it; this is going to be one of the most read books of 2020.
Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire, January 7
This is the fifth book in Seanan McGuire’s gorgeous Wayward Children series, but each book can also be read as a standalone. It’s a story of doorways, magic, death, and mad science. These slim novellas are perfect one-sitting reads that will stay with you long after.
The Night Country by Melissa Albert, January 7th
YA Contemporary Fantasy
The Hazel Wood was one of my favorite books from 2018, a book I wish I’d written. The Night Country continues the series, this time with even more dark fairy tales. This series is one adults will enjoy as much as teens.
The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez, January 14
A boy falls from the sky and lands in the arms of a weary star traveler, who takes him under her wings. As the two travel the stars, she learns how to communicate with this mute, flute-playing child, and both find a family. But she’s not the only one who wants him. A captivating and lovely novel.
Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream by Blair Imani, January 14
An under-taught area of United States history, Making Our Way Home looks at the Black migration from the rural south to Northern cities through images, biographies, graphs, and historical research. Nonfiction comics are a great way to explore history.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, January 21
One of the most buzzed about books of 2020, American Dirt is sure to be on many award lists. It’s about bookstores, drug cartels, and a migrant family fleeing for their lives to the United States.
Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc, February 4
Nonfiction Fairytale Memoir
I’m currently reading this, and it may end up being my favorite 2020 book. Leduc combines her memoir of living with cerebral palsy with an analysis of how disability narratives in fairy tales are still in use today, and how demeaning and detrimental these tropes can be to disabled folk. It’s immensely readable and thought-provoking.
Verge: Stories by Lidia Yuknavitch, February 4
Short Story Collection
Short story readers will want to check out Yuknavitch’s latest collection, an emotional celebration of outcasts full of empathy.
Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland, February 4
YA Alternate History
It’s unfair that I’m putting so many series on this list, but I loved Dread Nation, and book two promises to be just as badass. Look at that cover! This series is about an alternate Reconstruction era where, after the Civil War ended, the dead came back to life as zombies. Jane McKeene, the protagonist, and Katherine Deveraux went to an elite zombie training school and now they’re fighting both political corruption and zombies.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, March 3
Louise Erdrich is a prolific writer and collector of literary awards. In her latest, she imagines what her grandfather’s life was like as a Chippewa Council member trying to protect tribal lands and a night watchman at the first factory near the Turtle Mountain Reservation. As always, Erdrich creates a rich cast of characters full of darkness, idiosyncrasies, and humor.
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora, March 17
Afia Atakora’s brilliant debut novel takes place before, during, and after the Civil War, and follows the lives of three women: a healer and conjurer of curses, her daughter, and their master’s daughter.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, March 24
Mandel’s last novel, Station Eleven, was published six years ago and became the “it” book of 2014. While The Glass Hotel has quite a different setting and plot, it still revolves around a group of characters discovering things about themselves.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, March 24
One of the best science fiction and fantasy writers ever, N.K. Jemison delivers the first in an amazing urban fantasy series, where New York comes alive–literally–and is personified as each of its five boroughs. As a rural southerner who’s never been to NYC, I still found it a mesmerizing read.
Wow, No Thank You.: Essays by Samantha Irby, March 31
A new Samantha Irby collection! Irby’s essays combine humor and vulnerability in this perfect way that will leave you laugh-crying the entire time. If you enjoy audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to this on audio so you can hear Irby’s sardonic voice.
The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah, April 7
Another debut that will amaze you, this #ownvoices novel tells the story of a Palestinian American school principal who reflects on her life as her school is attacked by an alt-right school shooter. Another novel I expect to be on many award lists.
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez, April 7
Julia Alvarez is the award-winning author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, and this is her first novel in fifteen years. In it, writer Antonia Vega undergoes a series of traumas: her husband dies, her sister disappears, and then one night she finds an undocumented, pregnant teenager on her doorstep. This continues Alvarez’s emotional examination of trauma and crises and taking care of family.
The Law of Lines by Hye-young Pyun, Translated by Sora Kim-Russell, April 7
The Law of Lines has won several Korean literary awards, and now it’s translated into English for the first time. Two women struggle with the loss of their loved ones and inexplicably connect with one another as they investigate these deaths.
Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh, April 21
An elderly woman finds a note in the woods–“Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body”–which sends her on a quest to discover its meaning. With her trademark unreliable narrator, Ottessa Moshfegh combines horror, mystery, and suspense in this slim novel.
What We Carry by Maya Shanbhag Lang, April 28
Maya Shanbhag Lang cares for her mother with Alzheimer’s while also having a young daughter at home with her. This memoir examines the relationships between mothers and daughters, the family stories we tell and the ones we don’t, and life as an Indian immigrant.
A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability by A. Andrews, May 5
I’m very excited to get my hands on this comic book. It opens with “Ahem…Disabled people have sex! Trust me, I know.” Disabled people are often stereotyped as inspirations, asexual, and objects of pity and I’m all about breaking down those stereotypes.
Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup, May 5
This debut novel travels across India to explore seemingly disparate lives. Scientists and clairvoyants and yetis and turtles and ghosts all have a chance to tell their stories, interconnected by their environment and their common humanity.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar, May 12
Two teen girls own rival henna businesses, but that doesn’t keep them from falling in love. This #ownvoices romance about two brown girls falling in love will make your heart happy.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, May 19
A new Hunger Games book! All we know so far is that it’s a prequel set sixty-four years before The Hunger Games, during the tenth game. I can’t wait to read it!
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, June 16
Imbolo Mbue’s second novel takes place in a fictional African village, where an American oil company wreaks havoc on the land and therefore the wellbeing of the village. Mbue’s first novel Behold the Dreamers won numerous awards, and this one is sure to do the same.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, June 30
Silvia Moreno-Garcia can do no wrong, and she’s so prolific. This year’s book reimagines a classic gothic suspense novel in an isolated 1950s mansion in Mexico. The synopsis sounds like a cross between Jane Eyre, Mary Stewert novels, and Shirley Jackson. *rubs hands gleefully*
What 2020 books are you looking forward to reading?