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Frontlist | 12 brilliant Books everyone should have read in 2020

Frontlist | 12 brilliant Books everyone should have read in 2020
on Jan 06, 2021
Frontlist | 12 brilliant Books everyone should have read in 2020

To Be A Man by Nicole Krauss

Nicole Krauss’s first story collection, To Be a Man, is populated by characters ranging from sexually curious teenagers at a private boarding school in Geneva to a California-based florist helping her orthodox parents get a divorce in the middle of wildfire season. Central to every elegant, disparate narrative: the nature of the Jewish experience across continents and generations.

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

No other 2020 debut quite compared with Kiley Reid’s brilliant take on the 19th-century novel of manners. Such a Fun Age centres on 25-year-old African-American nanny Emira, who finds herself caught up in the world of her polite, affluent (and deeply condescending) employers while grappling with what to do with the rest of her life post-university. Witty and thought-provoking.

Summer by Ali Smith

If you have yet to read Ali Smith’s masterful seasonal quartet–written and published in real time– start at the beginning with Autumn, released in 2016, and work your way through to Summer, an exquisite finale and quite possibly the first true Covid-19 novel.

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey’s poetry is world-renowned—and her memoir, Memorial Drive, about her mother’s gut-wrenching death at the hands of her step-father, is as lyrical as it is devastating. It’s also a deeply important lesson in Black feminist history that deserves a place on every bookshelf.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Even in a year that saw the publication of Hilary Mantel’s epic The Mirror & The Light, Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet stood out as a masterpiece of historical fiction–imaginatively tracing how the death of Shakespeare’s young son Hamnet during a plague outbreak in 1596 inspired his greatest tragedy, Hamlet, a few years later.

Intimations by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith long ago proved herself a master of the essay form (see 2009’s Changing My Mind) – and in this slip of a book, written entirely during lockdown, she probes everything from the decline of her own fertility to observations she’s made on the streets of Manhattan. Her most personal– and accomplished–collection to date.

I Am An Island by Tamsin Calidas

In a year defined largely by painful isolation and widespread reconnection with nature, Tamsin Calidas’s breathtaking memoir, about her decision to farm a croft on a remote Scottish island by herself, is essential reading.

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

Room salons; K-Pop fanatics; eyelid surgery… Frances Cha’s whip-smart first novel illuminates the darker side of life in contemporary Seoul—where four girls must navigate a patriarchal (and staunchly capitalist) society that demands nothing short of perfection from its inhabitants.

The Consequences of Love by Gavanndra Hodge

Like Memorial Drive, The Consequences of Love is a memoir of loss—beginning with the death of the former Tatler deputy editor’s nine-year-old sister Candy during a holiday to Tunisia in 1989. On another level, however, it’s also an account of not being “enough” for your own family, and an eye-opening snapshot of the fashion world in ’90s London.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

In her sophomore novel, Brit Bennett recounts the fates of two African-American sisters living in the Jim Crow South whose lives diverge when one decides to “pass” as white, leaving the other behind (at least temporarily). A read-in-one-sitting, cry-when-it’s-over kind of book that will stay with you for months.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Italians famously stood in line all night ahead of the release of Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults in 2019. Ann Goldstein’s English translation, published in June, proves the Neapolitan author is still at the height of her powers, beautifully capturing the transition from girlhood to adolescence through the eyes of her 12-year-old protagonist Giovanna.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

If you’re looking to disappear into a millennial novel, make it Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts, which shadows delightfully relatable 32-year-old Nina as she navigates the world of dating apps (and a potential love match); her father’s battle with dementia; and her girlfriends’ changing priorities before and after marriage. Chick lit as its best.

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