From fiction to memoir, these are the books that’ll be everywhere in 2020.
2020 is already shaping up to be an incredible year for books with returning big hitters including Hilary Mantel, Eimear McBride, Elena Ferrante, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Anne Tyler and Marian Keyes all releasing much-anticipated books. There’s also incredible non-fiction from Deborah Orr, Layla Saad, Samantha Irby, Terri White and Lyra McKee (whose book will be published on the anniversary of her murder) and exciting breakout books from heralded new talent including Abi Daré and Kiley Reid.
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Your guide to 2020’s best non-fiction books
Below is our round-up of the books to start pre-ordering now that’ll be changing the conversation over the next 12 months. Happy reading!
Meaty by Samantha Irby
Need a book of laugh-out-loud essays that’ll touch on taboo subjects with insight and humour? This is the book that’ll ease you back into the worst month of the year (it’s out 2 January) as Samantha Irby tackles chin hairs, depression, bad sex, failed relationships, masturbation, taco feasts, inflammatory bowel disease and more. Bless her.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
If you want a book that bites into the zeitgeist then spits it out with gusto then Kiley Reid has you covered with this debut (out 7 January). Funny, piercing and satirical, it explores everything from race and prejudice to getting things wrong when you’re trying to do the right thing. It’s brilliant and Lena Waithe has bought the film rights.
The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
Out on 9 January, this is one of three feminist rethinks of Jane Austen (Miss Austen by Gill Hornby is out 23 January while Charlotte by Helen Moffett is coming on 14 May). This puts Mary front and centre stage exploring why she was so heartbreakingly sidelined by Mrs Bennet and gives humour and sensitivity to the most overlooked of the sisters.
Braised Pork by An Yu
After finding her husband dead one morning, Jia Jia sets out to discover the meaning of a sketch he leaves behind travelling from the underground of Beijing to the plains of Tibet. Strange and cinematic, this is an author to keep an eye on as this slight-but-moving book (out 9 January) promises to get some traction.
The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis
Out on 9 January, this is the career book you’ve been waiting for. As we all juggle side-steps, hustles and pivots, The Squiggly Career is about navigating work in a way that suits you. Discovering how to make the most of your own strengths and identify what you want out of your career, it’s a timely and brilliant handbook for now.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
The buzz around this book is building. Out on 23 January, it explores the story of Lydia and her eight-year-old son, Luca, and their desperate bid to cross the US-Mexico border. People who have read it cannot stop talking about it – so join them.
Pine by Francine Toon
Described by Sharlene Teo as “a supernatural mystery, [a] portrayal of small town claustrophobia and a coming-of-age novel, Francine Toon’s empathetic depiction of childhood and mourning will leave you gripped and transfixed”, Pine is already getting talked about on Books Twitter. Out on 23 January, this should definitely be on your reading list.
Motherwell by Deborah Orr
One of the most anticipated books of 2020 is the late, magnificent journalist Deborah Orr’s memoir (out 23 January) of growing up in Motherwell under the close eye of her mother, Win. As Orr’s fierce intelligence and independence makes itself known, Win became increasingly suffocating believing university is not for the likes of her family. Complex and moving, this is an honest take on the close ties that can bind, hold us back and also set us free.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
The Devil Wears Prada meets Social Network, this is a memoir to gulp down in a few hours as Wiener uncovers the reality of working in the Silicon Valley of start-ups peopled by (mostly male) CEOs who make teams watch their favourite sci-fi movies, selling algorithms that are creepily intuitive, right-wing chat rooms and the everyday people thrown under the bus of big tech. Out 23 January, this is essential reading.
Red At The Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
With recommendations from Candice Carty-Williams, Oprah Magazine and Tayari Jones, Red At The Bone (out 28 January) should be on everyone’s to-read list. It’s a sprawling family story that tackles race, the history of New York’s darkest moments and what it means to be a teenage girl trying to find a way in the world.
Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth
The author of the brilliant Animals (out 30 January) returns with this story of one woman losing her mind as she attempts to navigate modern life and her mother. Her rundown of trying to post some breakfast croissants will resonate with anyone (ie everyone) who’s fallen down a pit of Insta likes.
Rootbound by Alice Vincent
The nourishing impact of nature on our fractured lives has inspired a host of incredible memoirs over the last few years (H Is For Hawk, The Salt Path, Wilding) and Alice Vincent’s Rootbound (out 30 January) particularly resonates as she explores a life you’ll recognise – being rootless in an urban environment as work and relationships fall away unexpectedly and how growing things from the tiniest of seeds can help feed the soul.
Djinn Patrol On The Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
Funny and haunting, nine-year-old Jai watches way too many police shows and when a friend from school goes missing, he and his friends, Pari and Faiz, take it upon themselves to investigate… Drawing a portrait of the Basti while capturing the children’s voices, Anappara’s debut (out 6 February) is going to be everywhere this year.
Me And White Supremacy by Layla Saad
Having launched #MeAndWhiteSupremacy in the summer of 2018, Layla Saad has expanded on the results of what it means to reinforce a racist society (even unwittingly) with this vital workbook (out 4 February) which examines what it means to have white privilege. This is going to start a much-needed conversation and likely to be one of the books of 2020 and beyond.
A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler
Love a bit of Celeste Ng? Therese Anne Fowler is a brilliant, piercing writer and this new book (out 4 February) and this story of warring families, teenage romance and an argument over an old oak tree is exactly what we want from an escapist domestic drama. Imagine owning an oak tree…
Grown Ups by Marian Keyes
Tackling the realities of modern-day consumerism, Keyes’ new book Grown Ups (out 6 February) is the story of three brothers and their families written with her usual deft mix of witty storytelling and delicate touchpoint topics (Millennials vs Gen X, wokeness and taking responsibility for those less fortunate than ourselves). It’s brilliant so read it.
Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride
The author of A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing’s new book (out 6 February) is a strange and wonderful thing as her nameless narrator moves from hotel rooms in France, Milan, Dublin and beyond. Ever-changing and yet remaining the same, just go in and let her glorious words wash over you.
House Of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild
If you’re in need of a Succession replacement then this tale of a crumbling English dynasty clinging on to the past while coping with the fallout of the 2008 crash is for you. Rothschild is a mischievous narrator and this story is pure pleasure from the word go.
Weather by Jenny Offill
Jenny Offill is a wild and ambitious writer who can also make you laugh out loud on your commute so to say we’re excited about Weather (out 13 February) isn’t putting it strongly enough. In her book she tackles one woman’s attempts to support and fix the world around her – from her immediate family to global crises. It’s exactly what we need to read right now.
Actress by Anne Enright
From the poignant cover (the photo shows late actor Carrie Fisher watching her mother, Debbie Reynolds, perform from the wings) to its moving story, the buzz around Anne Enright’s Actress is intense (it’s out 20 February). It’s about mothers, daughters, celebrity, madness and redemption.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates made his name with some of the most piercing journalism of the present era (calling Trump “America’s first white president”) and this, his debut novel, is hugely anticipated (it’s out 20 February). The story of a slave who joins the underground resistance, Oprah Winfrey has commented that it’s “One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. I haven’t felt this way since I first read Beloved…”
The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Daré
Coming on 5 March, this highly-anticipated debut from Daré (named one of the most influential Nigerian writers under 40) features the brilliant 14-year-old Adunni as its narrator. Married to an older man then secretly sold in servitude, she is expected to conform and stay quiet – but Adunni has other ideas.
The Mirror And The Light by Hilary Mantel
This return is such a big deal that publishing houses are clearing releases out of the way as this behemoth is going to mop the floor with the competition. Out on 5 March, this is the final book in Mantel’s towering Wolf Hall trilogy – can you face the end of Cromwell? Clear your weekend on 7-8 March and settle down.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Described as the biggest debut of 2020, this a fascinating story out on 31 March that examines the reckoning we’ve all experienced in the wake of #MeToo. Vanessa Wye is now 32 years old but when she was a teenager she had sex with her English teacher. Was their relationship consensual love or was it something much darker?
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Hold on to your hats as Maggie O’Farrell gives her inimitable flourish to Shakespeare’s most famous work on 31 March. Inspired by the death of Shakespeare’s son – Hamnet – at the age of 11 and the playwright’s inspiration for Hamlet, this is a beautifully written story that explores a family’s loss and and a marriage steeped in grief in the most extraordinary of ways.
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
Betty Ramdin, her son Solo and their lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household after Betty’s abusive husband dies. United in their differences, one night a terrible truth drives them apart but there is redemption and forgiveness to be found in conflict.
Sway by Pragya Agarwal
Behavioural scientist, activist and writer Dr Pragya Agarwal explores how “unconscious bias” can affect everyday (and even life and death) decisions and reveals how – while we might consider ourselves to be above prejudice – that all of us can have implicit biases that colour our attitudes towards age, appearance, accent, races and sexes (out 2 April). A must-read for all.
Lost, Found, Remembered by Lyra McKee
On 2 April, to mark one year since journalist Lyra McKee’s murder in Derry, this is an anthology of celebrated articles and lesser-known work. To quote the writer’s letter to her 14-year-old self, “It won’t always be like this. It’s going to get better.”
The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves
Out 2 April, this debut is getting a lot of chatter with Jojo Moyes calling it, “Remarkable”. The story of a married couple who haven’t spoken for six months, it promises a twisting plot that will reveal hidden secrets and unspoken events.
Redhead By The Side Of The Road by Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler returns on 9 April with another novel set in her beloved Baltimore. Able to capture human foibles, comedy and tragedy with majestic ease, this new story of a meticulous man whose life is blown off kilter by a series of unexpected events is most likely to be wonderful.
As You Were by Elaine Feeney
Out on 16 April, this is going to be a breakout book for summer as it tackles Ireland’s state control of women’s bodies, institutional failings and #RepealThe8th. Uniting women’s friendships with personal and political storylines, pre-order now.
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Described as “acerbic, smart and fun”, this debut from Dolan (out 16 April) explores a love affair between an English teacher and a banker in Hong Kong and the lawyer who blows the whole thing sky-high. Definitely one to watch.
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
With comparisons to Beloved and Homegoing, this debut (out 16 April) is an era-spanning tale that originates in the American Civil War and beyond. The Big House has fallen and the men, women and children who were once slaves are now free but illness and superstition swirl around Rue as she navigates uncharted waters.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
From the brilliant author of Station Eleven comes a tale of haunting mystery that moves from Vancouver Island to Manhattan. Interweaving Ponzi schemes with a woman’s disappearance, it’ll be everywhere on its release on 30 April.
The Lying Life Of Adults by Elena Ferrante
How excited are you for 9 June? The Italian edition is out now with Italy’s wire service Ansa describing it as, “In 336 pages, The Lying Life Of Adults tells the story of Giovanna’s life up to the age of 16, amid the transformations and turmoil of growing up, the disappointments, the betrayals, and the lies of grown-ups.” We may have to book a trip to Naples in order to read in situ.
Coming Undone: A Memoir by Terri White
The editor of Empire and former Shortlist editor’s memoir is due out 9 July. Explaining why she’s written what is likely to be a harrowing-but-timely read, White explains, “While Coming Undone is about my experiences as a child – and how they proved my undoing as a woman – it’s also a story about what happens to so many other women who endure poverty, abuse and the destruction of their sense of self.” Definitely one to get on your reading list.
Watch this space to pre-order Coming Undone: A Memoir by Terri White (Canongate)
Images: courtesy of publishers
Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Stylist Loves; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown