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The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

December 29 2020
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This year was quite the topsy-turvy, anxiety-inducing adventure and, dear reader, it shows in our most popular lists of the year. Close to the top are the book lists promising to soothe and comfort. And not far behind, it appears that some of you were even looking for the unique read, finding excitement in the unexpected. Perhaps a read to shake things up during the boredom that is shelter-at-home? Here are just 10 of the most popular book lists we ran on Off the Shelf this year.

Mornings with Rosemary
by Libby Page

Librarian Picks: 12 Books I Love to Recommend

Being a librarian, I never want patrons to leave empty-handed. So, here are my favorite fiction titles. My proven winners, aka my ICYMI go-tos. The only problem? Since I book-talk them often, they in fact just might be off the shelf!
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Mornings with Rosemary
Libby Page

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MENTIONED IN:

The 15 Most Popular Books of January

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 29, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2020

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

Book Therapy: 8 Soul-Soothing Reads That Help Us Quiet Our Anxieties

By Alice Martin | September 22, 2020

9 Literary Characters Keeping Us Company While We’re Social Distancing

By Holly Claytor | April 1, 2020

Readers’ Choice: The Top 10 Most Popular Books in February

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 28, 2020

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An Unkindness of Magicians
by Kat Howard

Librarian Picks: 10 Books I Would Prescribe to Cure the Blues

As I’m hunkered down at home, I’m thinking about special books that keep me going; books I love so much that I’ve bought them from both my public and home libraries. Each of these books contain characters whom I’d want to spend time with, absorbing plots, and vivid settings that take me out of the here and now. And it doesn’t hurt if they’re part of a series with promises of even more good reading ahead.

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An Unkindness of Magicians
Kat Howard

“A remarkable writer.” —Neil Gaiman, bestselling author of American Gods

An Alex Award Winner

There is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City and diminishing the city’s magicians’ power in this fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard.

In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.

Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

Indie Bookseller Recommends: 7 Escapist Reads That Fill Me With Joy

By Nicole Brinkley | July 28, 2020

Librarian Picks: 10 Books I Would Prescribe to Cure the Blues

By Beth Mills | April 6, 2020

10 Refreshing Book Recommendations Based on Our Go-To Café Order

By Off the Shelf Staff | June 20, 2019

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The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga

Our Top 20 Books from the 21st Century (So Far)

Now that we’re in the 2020s, we thought it only fair to look back at all the amazing stories published in the past 20 years and honor the best of the best from the 21st century (so far). We quickly discovered it’s nearly impossible to highlight just 20 books from the past 20 years, but we tried our best. Here you’ll find some award winners, some genre-game changers, some novels we never want to forget, and some that are just our favorites—but all in all, here’s our list of the best books we’ve read in the past 20 years (in no particular order).
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The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga

A stunning literary debut critics have likened to Richard Wright’s Native Son, The White Tiger follows a darkly comic Bangalore driver through the poverty and corruption of modern India’s caste society.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

Our Top 20 Books from the 21st Century (So Far)

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 15, 2020

13 Man Booker Nominated Novels You Need to Read Before You Die

By Alice Martin | September 3, 2019

A Menagerie of Books: 9 Reads for Animal Lovers

By Sarah Jane Abbott | April 22, 2019

Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue: 9 Books to Enjoy for the Fourth of July

By Allison Tyler | July 4, 2017

An Enchanting Story of a Modern-Day Invisible Man

By Daniel Loedel | October 12, 2016

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Vacuum in the Dark
by Jen Beagin

11 Hilarious, Heartwarming Books to Read When You Need a Good Laugh

To say we could all use a good laugh right now is a bit of an understatement. The entire world has turned into one giant ball of stress and anxiety (or at least mine has). Right now, I want adventure, I want happiness and charm and I want to laugh out loud. These novels and memoirs are filled to the brim with all of the above and more.
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Vacuum in the Dark
Jen Beagin

From the Whiting Award–winning author of Pretend I’m Dead and one of the most exhilarating new voices in fiction, a “thoroughly delightfully, surprisingly profound” (Entertainment Weekly) one-of-a-kind novel about a cleaning lady named Mona and her struggles to move forward in life.

Soon to be an FX television show starring Lola Kirke.

Mona is twenty-six and cleans houses for a living in Taos, New Mexico. She moved there mostly because of a bad boyfriend—a junkie named Mr. Disgusting, long story—and her efforts to restart her life since haven’t exactly gone as planned. For one thing, she’s got another bad boyfriend. This one she calls Dark, and he happens to be married to one of Mona’s clients. He also might be a little unstable.

Dark and his wife aren’t the only complicated clients on Mona’s roster, either. There’s also the Hungarian artist couple who—with her addiction to painkillers and his lingering stares—reminds Mona of troubling aspects of her childhood, and some of the underlying reasons her life had to be restarted in the first place. As she tries to get over the heartache of her affair and the older pains of her youth, Mona winds up on an eccentric, moving journey of self-discovery that takes her back to her beginnings where she attempts to unlock the key to having a sense of home in the future. The only problems are Dark and her past. Neither is so easy to get rid of.

Jen Beagin’s Vacuum in the Dark is an unforgettable, astonishing read, “by turns nutty and forlorn…Brash, deadpan, and achingly troubled” (O, The Oprah Magazine). Beagin is “a wonderfully funny writer who also happens to tackle serious subjects” (NPR).

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MENTIONED IN:

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2020

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

11 Hilarious, Heartwarming Books to Read When You Need a Good Laugh

By Maddie Ehrenreich | May 11, 2020

Readers’ Choice: Our Most Popular Books in January

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 31, 2020

6 Unforgettable Novels New in Paperback This January

By Carrie Cabral | January 13, 2020

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One True Loves
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Life Got You Down? Pick Up These 8 Comfort Reads

In times of distress, uncertainty, or hardship, there’s nothing more comforting than that beloved book whose pages you’ve thumbed through time and time again. Despite re-reading its story dozens of times over, the message is never lost. Here are our favorite books that we turn to when the world has got us down.
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One True Loves
Taylor Jenkins Reid

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

Life Got You Down? Pick Up These 8 Comfort Reads

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 23, 2020

6 Literary Love Triangles for Readers Who Hate Love Triangles

By Heather Waters | May 3, 2019

The TJR TBR: 5 Taylor Jenkins Reid Novels You Must Read

By Julianna Haubner | February 26, 2019

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In the Midst of Winter
by Isabel Allende

8 Wintery Books We’re *Snow* Excited to Curl Up With On Frosty Days

Are there any two words more beloved by children than “snow day”? Try to recapture that magic with these evocative and wintery books in which snow plays a major role. From atmospheric love stories in the midst of winter to thrilling adventures in the mountains, these books are perfect reads on your next snow day.
 
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In the Midst of Winter
Isabel Allende

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MENTIONED IN:

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2020

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

9 Festive Books We Always Read to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 1, 2020

Hope and Heartbreak: 10 Books About Immigration and the Refugee Experience

By Carrie Cabral | March 19, 2020

Readers’ Choice: The Top 10 Most Popular Books in February

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 28, 2020

8 Wintery Books We’re *Snow* Excited to Curl Up With On Frosty Days

By Kerry Fiallo | January 27, 2020

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Once Upon a River
by Diane Setterfield

5 Exceptional and Extraordinary Books Unlike Anything We’ve Read Before

One of the greatest parts about being a full-time book lover is the ease with which we can immerse ourselves in a life entirely unlike our own. Between far-fetched surrealism and glimmering sparks of magic, books open a reader’s imagination to the unthinkable. As we fill our bookshelves with various genres of eccentric tales, wildly unique stories capture our attention. If you too are looking for a riveting and unusual novel, here are five books to pick up, guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve ever read.
 
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Once Upon a River
Diane Setterfield

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MENTIONED IN:

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2020

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

5 Exceptional and Extraordinary Books Unlike Anything We’ve Read Before

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 20, 2020

Quarantine Travels: 10 Books to Help You Escape Your House Without Leaving the Couch

By Maddie Ehrenreich | September 8, 2020

10 Escapist Fiction Books to Read When You Need a Break From Reality

By Alice Martin | March 30, 2020

The Perfect Blend: 12 Book and Tea Pairings

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 25, 2020

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

What do you think makes a perfect book club book? Oprah has some suggestions! Whether it’s topical themes or relatable narrators, unimaginable conditions or a world that reflects our own, these twelve books have it all. All chosen as part of Oprah’s Book Club, these books are chock-full of unforgettable, discussion-worthy characters, settings, and plots that define them as modern classics.
 
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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Ayana Mathis

This debut of extraordinary distinction tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family. Beautiful, devastating, and blazing with life, this novel is a searing portrait of surviving in the face of insurmountable adversity.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

The Bigger The Better: 8 Books With Large Family Trees

By Holly Claytor | April 23, 2020

11 Books to Read While You Wait for Oprah’s Memoir

By Erica Nelson | April 5, 2016

12 Books to Cozy Up With This Fall

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 20, 2015

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The Clockmaker's Daughter
by Kate Morton

Indie Bookseller Picks: 5 Books I Love to Read and Recommend

I have always loved reading. I have always loved the way a book feels in my hands: the weight of it; the paper between my fingers; the words on the page that will slowly reveal the story to me. Choosing to make that story last as long as possible and letting the story take me to another place, educate me, and lift me up. It’s no wonder I became a bookseller working at an independent bookstore. Now, I would love to share a list of some of my favorite books with you.
 
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The Clockmaker's Daughter
Kate Morton

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MENTIONED IN:

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2020

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

The 10 Most Popular Books That Captivated Us This July

By Holly Claytor | July 31, 2020

Indie Bookseller Picks: 5 Books I Love to Read and Recommend

By Karen Bellovich | June 30, 2020

Creativity Chronicles: 7 Books About Art and Artists

By Holly Claytor | March 26, 2020

6 Novels That Perfectly Capture the Magic and Grit of Victorian London

By Jess Kidd | January 28, 2020

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The Daughter's Tale
by Armando Lucas Correa

20 Amazing Authors and Their Books To Read in 2020

Several of the talented writers we planned 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 was 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!
 
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The Daughter's Tale
Armando Lucas Correa

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2020

20 Amazing Authors and Their Books To Read in 2020

By Carrie Cabral | January 9, 2020

A Beautiful Tale Of Love and Survival That Will Stay With You Forever

By Genevieve Graham | January 7, 2020

10 Picks Your Book Club Will Love This Winter

By Carrie Cabral | December 20, 2019

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Photo credit: iStock / rihard_wolfram

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