2020 means a new year, a new decade, and new chances to read amazing books by some of our favorite authors. Several of the talented writers we plan on reading this year have published numerous books in genres across the board, including horror, historical fiction, and magical realism, and even YA. Perhaps one of your 2020 reading goals is to try a new author or genre. We hope you can use our list to add books to your own TBR—or maybe even discover your new favorite author!
Armando Lucas Correa: Correa, an award-winning journalist, editor, and author, has written two books about families who face incredible circumstances during World War II. With the international bestseller The German Girl on his roster, Correa delivers again with the poignant and heart-wrenching The Daughter’s Tale. Correa’s journalism background lends itself to his novels beautifully; they are well researched, thoroughly investigated, and told with reverence and respect for the subject matter. If you’re a lover of authentic historical fiction, you should definitely pick up Correa’s books.
Jess Kidd: The award-winning author of Himself, Jess Kidd is a spectacular writer with one foot in the mythical and the other planted firmly in reality. Kidd creates remarkable characters and real-life settings, and then makes them magical. Her upcoming novel, Things in Jars, is a mesmerizing gothic mystery that follows detective Bridie Devine as she investigates the kidnapping of a London society man’s secret daughter—a girl who is rumored to have supernatural powers. Kidd expertly uses her cast of characters to create and solve the mystery, and her books are ones you don’t want to miss.
Martha McPhee: New York Times bestselling author Martha McPhee’s poetic prose and incredibly aware domestic fiction always delivers. McPhee’s work is expertly crafted and incredibly enticing. Her most notable novel, Gorgeous Lies, is a colorful, quirky story of a dying therapist who tries to make sense of his life and his relationships with his family as his conditions worsen. McPhee’s ability to write about relationships also comes across in her upcoming novel, An Elegant Woman, which follows four generations of women as they fight for their freedom and work toward a better future.
Megan Miranda: The bestselling author of All the Missing Girls, Megan Miranda writes thrillers that keep you wondering what will happen next—all the way up to the last-minute plot twist. Her latest book, The Last House Guest, is a chilling tale of two friends, Avery Greer and Sadie Loman, who might as well come from different worlds. The things that connect them are Littleport, Maine, and its wealthy summer residents and a dangerous secret that somehow involves the Loman family. The Last House Guest is thrilling and unpredictable, and perfect for fans of domestic thrillers looking for a contemporary angle. Miranda also writes YA fiction, so you’ll have plenty of material to read if you like crossover appeal or if you’re a diehard Megan Miranda fan.
Helen Phillips: Dynamic author Helen Phillips is incredibly skilled at weaving together wild fantasy with the mundanity of everyday life. Longlisted for the National Book Award, The Beautiful Bureaucrat tells the story of a woman named Josephine, whose job it is to enter numbers into a mysterious system called The Database. But when her husband disappears, and reappears with no explanation, things quickly turn become bizarre and terrifying. Phillips expertly balances the fear and terror of Josephine’s experience and the exhilarating twists and turns of a political thriller.
Isabel Allende: Isabel Allende is the author of a number of bestselling and critically acclaimed novels and is a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Allende should be on every list of authors you must read before you die. With roots in magical realism and a talent for connecting characters and readers like old friends, Allende’s novels are a can’t miss. Allende’s remarkable novel Eva Luna is told through the lens of an impoverished young woman growing up in South America. Eva Luna is a writer and revolutionary, but most importantly, she is a human being, who crafts stories of her time with passion and love and creates the history and identity of a whole country as she does it. Eva Luna is Isabel Allende at her finest, as she weaves together personal stories and political history. Allende’s other novels, including The Japanese Lover and The House of the Spirits, are also must-reads.
Conceived in an embrace designed to comfort a dying man, born to a servant and raised as a hired hand, Eva Luna learns quickly that she has a talent that belies her humble start: the gift of storytelling. As the years pass and her imprudent nature sends Eva from household to household—from the home of a doctor famed for mummifying the dead to a colorful whorehouse and the care of a beautiful transsexual—it is Eva’s magical imagination that keeps her alive and fuels her ardent encounters with lovers of all kinds. And as her South American homeland teeters on the brink of political chaos, and Eva’s fate is intertwined with guerrilla fighters and revolutionaries, she will find her life’s calling—and the soul mate who will envelop her in a love entirely beyond her mystical inventions.
Kristin Harmel: Another author with an impressive catalog, Kristin Harmel has written a dozen novels, each with stunning backdrops of war and turmoil. Harmel is an expert in writing about the personal stories of historic events, with a special lens on the relationships between female friends and families. Though of course, Harmel writes beautifully about romantic love, particularly in The Winemaker’s Wife, where two women risk their lives and their loved ones as they try to navigate danger and decide between being a resistor or a collaborator; both decisions could endanger their lives. The Winemaker’s Wife is a high-stakes historical fiction that doesn’t make light of its setting and is a great place to start if you’re looking to dive into Harmel’s remarkable novels.
Karen Kingsbury: Karen Kingsbury is the legendary author of the Baxter family books, and her last twelve novels have topped bestseller lists and have found homes with many dedicated fans. In addition to the Baxter family novels, Kingsbury has written numerous other books within other series, as well as true crime and children’s books. If you’re looking for compelling page-turners about love and people who feel as real as your own family, Kingsbury’s Love Story just might be the right pick for you. Plus, it’s very unlikely that you will run out of Kingsbury books to read anytime soon!
The instant New York Times bestseller featuring everyone’s favorite family—the Baxters—in a deeply emotional novel “faithful fans will no doubt relish” (Publishers Weekly).
When John Baxter is asked to relive his long-ago love story with his wife Elizabeth for his grandson Cole’s heritage school project, he’s not sure he can do it. The sadness might simply be too great—after a storybook romance that lasted almost thirty years, beginning when the two were in college, Elizabeth tragically died of cancer. But John can’t say no to his grandson and in the process of telling his love story, he finally allows his heart and soul to go places they haven’t gone in decades. Back to the breathless first moments, but also to the secret heartbreak that brought John and Elizabeth together…
Cole’s report on his grandparents touches the hearts of the entire family—and causes Cole to better understand his own beginning.
Whether you’re meeting the Baxter family for the first time or finding them all over again, Love Story will stir your heart and remind you of the generational impact of love and the eternal bond of family.
Rebecca Serle: Rebecca Serle is an author and TV writer whose characters move her novels forward seemingly without any help. With perfect pacing and riveting characters, Serle’s adult and YA novels alike deliver poignant heartbreak and exciting triumph. All of her books deliver some truth about the human experience, but in particular, The Dinner List manages to hit all spots on the emotional spectrum. The story follows a woman named Sabrina, who turns up to her 30th birthday to a huge surprise. Prior to the dinner, she made a hypothetical list of the five people, living or dead, that she’d want to have dinner with — and magically, that list comes to life. She’s surrounded by her best friend, three significant people from her past, plus Audrey Hepburn. This tender, thoughtful book shows the way people shape our lives, for better or worse, and what we can learn even when they’re no longer with us.
Sally Rooney: Irish author Sally Rooney is an incredibly talented author with unique perspective, well-established characters and thorough understanding of cultural elements that influence who we are. Rooney’s latest novel, Normal People, discusses the relationship between Connell, a handsome and popular boy, and Marianne, an intelligent yet intimidating girl whose family employs Connell’s mother. Rooney follows the pair through their lives and lets us in on the most intimate part of them as they navigate trauma and experience, never quite able to hold on to each other. You can also find Rooney’s short stories, essays, and poems in places like the Dublin Review and the New Yorker.
Lisa Jewell: The queen of domestic thrillers, Lisa Jewell is known for her bestselling novels that are the definition of page-turners. Jewell’s ten novels are all equally captivating, but her blockbuster hit, Then She Was Gone, or her latest, The Family Upstairs, are great introductions to the riveting world that is reading Lisa Jewell. The Family Upstairs is as much a contemporary drama as it is a thriller, as we follow Libby Jones on her journey of discovering her birth parents that involves secrets, terror, and disappearing children. If you’re a fan of Ruth Ware and haven’t yet read Lisa Jewell, we highly recommend that you start now.
Haruki Murakami: Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is a prolific bestselling author whose books have been translated into fifty languages and have sold millions of copies outside of Japan. Murakami is noted for his somewhat absurdist humor in his writing, as well as many traditional elements of Japanese literature. Among his many notable novels, Kafka on the Shore follows two distinct plots. In one, a fifteen-year-old boy named Kafka goes on a journey to escape an oedipal curse and find his family. In the other, a cat-finder named Nakata realizes that his path is changing. Murakami’s writing blends so many elements of literature—like humor, magical realism, suspense, and more—and he is truly one of the most groundbreaking writers of our time.
Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder.
Kiley Reid: Short story writer and Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Kiley Reid’s debit novel, Such a Fun Age, is a page-turning drama about race and privilege that centers around a black babysitter named Emira, who one day is accused of kidnapping the white child that she babysits. The child’s mother, Alix, is appalled and wants to help—but Emira, who is young, lost, and wary of the world, is hesitant. Reid expertly explores the social and racial dynamics, and the complicated reality that people face living in a world where we cannot escape the effects of race, privilege, and how they intersect. Reid’s commentary is smart and empathetic and shows her considerable literary talents.
Imbolo Mbue: Imbolo Mbue won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her 2016 novel, Behold the Dreamers. The book follows two families in New York City during the financial crisis; an immigrant family from Cameroon, the Jonga family, and their wealthy employers, the Edwards family. Mbue is a smart writer with a background in business, and her understanding of the system is clear as she explores how American bureaucracy works to protect the wealthy and keep away “outsiders.” Mbue is an incredible writer, which is evident in her short stories and essays as well, all of which are moving and feature her signature prose and social commentary.
There have been dozens of novels recently published about the financial crisis of 2008, but few have focused on those most profoundly affected: the working families left to pick up the pieces. Jende Jonga is a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem with his wife, Neni, and child when he lands a job as a chauffeur for a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. As the story alternates between Jende and Neni and speeds perilously close to economic disaster, they learn about privilege, pride, and impossible choices.
Famed and bestselling author Terry McMillan has written numerous books with female protagonists, many of which feature single women finding their place in the world and seeking happiness. Noted for her 1992 novel, Waiting to Exhale and, of course, the ever necessary read How Stella Got Her Groove Back, McMillan is still writing about the female protagonists we’re all dying to read about. While How Stella Got Her Groove back will always be a fan favorite and is a great first book if you haven’t read McMillan’s books, her latest novel, I Almost Forgot About You, is another fantastic story of finding love and finding yourself that is a can’t-miss for new and old fans alike.
Mary Kubica: Mary Kubica took the world by storm with the publication of her first novel, The Good Girl, which tells the story of Mia, the daughter of a prominent judge. Mia is kidnapped in an elaborate plot, and the kidnapper suddenly changes the plan and decides to keep her in a secluded cabin. Kubica’s writing is tight and she doesn’t waste a word, which makes the fast-paced thriller an emotional and intense read that you won’t want to put down. Kubica has four other books on her roster, and her newest novel, The Other Mrs., is coming out in early 2020. If you’re ready to dive into page-turning thrillers, make sure you try this spellbinding author.
An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, THE GOOD GIRL is a propulsive novel that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems.
Colleen Oakley: Author and essayist Colleen Oakley of Before I Go and Close Enough to Touch is definitely an author you should have on your list, if you’re not already looking forward to the release of her next book, You Were There Too, in early January. Oakley writes about love, loss, and following one’s heart in her latest novel, themes that we can see in her earlier works. If you’re looking for something that is heartwarming but also, somehow, makes you question everything you think you know, then Colleen Oakley is the author you should get to know this year.
Stephen Graham Jones: SA horror and speculative fiction writer, Stephen Graham Jones is known for the complexity of his stories and characters. In Mongrels, Jones tells the story of a young boy who lives on the outskirts of society in a world that shuns and fears him. This coming of age book makes us question what it means to be ordinary and puts Jones’ talents as a horror writer on display- the book is sometimes grisly, but it is often poignant and emotional, and makes the supernatural seem very human. Luckily, you have lots to read if you become a fan of Stephen Graham Jones; to date, he has published 22 books and counting—his next novel, Only Good Indians, is highly anticipated and publishes this May.
If you love literary novels about ordinary people facing extraordinary events, Cummins is one of the best authors you can read. Cummins has an astounding ability to see things from multiple perspectives, and an impressive way of writing about all sides with equal empathy and clarity. The Outside Boy follows an Irish gypsy boy, Christopher Hurley, who has only ever known a life of wandering, haunted by the knowledge that his mother died giving birth to him. When his father decides to settle down in a town, Christy struggles to fit in. Then, he discovers a secret about his mother’s past, and everything changes. Moving and mystifying, The Outside Boy is a must-read from one of our favorite must-read authors — and her new book, American Dirt, publishes January 2020.