These Are 6 of the Most Critically Acclaimed Books of 2020
If you're trying to decide what book to read next, why not consider a critically acclaimed recent release? The Booker Prize is one of the most prestigious prizes awarded in book publishing, celebrating works of fiction published in English, with previous winners including Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel and Eleanor Catton. It's the award that boosts sales and leads to international renown. Win the Booker, and you're all but guaranteed a writing career for life.
Once a year, the Booker releases a long list of the best titles, called the longlist, which is then reduced to a shortlist before one winner is announced later in the year. Even making the longlist is a huge deal: Sally Rooney, Sophie Mackintosh and Otessa Moshfegh have each had novels on the Booker longlist.
The 2020 longlist includes more than one showstopper, such as The Mirror And The List—a shoe-in for the shortlist by two-time Booker winner Hilary Mantel. Then there's Redhead By The Side Of The Road from American author Anne Tyler, another sprawling drama after the riveting 2015 novel A Spool Of Blue Thread and 1982's Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant. (Nobody writes better titles than Anne Tyler. We repeat: nobody.)
Aside from the year's major releases you'll find a slew of brand new titles—many of them debuts—that you might not have read yet. Here are our six favourite books from the 2020 Booker longlist that will carry you through the rest of the year.
The debut novel from American author Avni Doshi, Burnt Sugar wonders whether the love between a mother and daughter can trump all else. It follows a mother whose youth was wild, travelling the world and living a nomadic, chaotic experience all with her young daughter in tow. What happens when that daughter is grown up and asked to care for a mother who needs her help, a mother who never cared for her when she was a child? Very smart, very sharp and very good. Put simply, we love this book.
We've talked about this book a lot here on the Bed Threads Journal, because it's truly one of the most exciting debut novels of 2020. With wry and unflinching prose, Such a Fun Age eviscerates the cosy domestic bubble of a well-off mother, who hires a young Black woman to be her nanny. Kiley Reid tackles subjects of race, parenthood and social media deftly, while weaving together interlocking stories with ease. It's a page-turner, and a thought-provoker, and one of our favourite books of the year.
Everything in Wallace's life comes to a head one weekend at the end of summer: his work as a scientist studying hard at grad school, his life on campus at a cloistered American university, his feelings over the recent death of his abusive father, his relationships with his quartet of close friends. Real Life is a book full of emotion and anxiety and desire, an astonishing debut novel about what it means to be alive.
A coming-of-age story that takes place in a Chinese community on the fringes of the California gold rush, this book is a sweeping epic told with prose as sparse as the American desert. A book about family and fortune and finding a place to call home, it's a must-read for anyone fascinated with that fraught period of American history.
Sophie Ward weaves together the stories of ten different yet interconnected characters in this tale of love, loss and the power of philosophy. It starts with Rachel and Eliza, a happy couple hoping for a baby whose entire relationship is called into question after one blistering fight and unspools from there in this enormously empathetic book.
The female soldiers who fought wars in Ethiopia in the 1930s are given the chance to have their stories heard in The Shadow King, a powerful novel by Maaza Mengiste. It follows Hirut, an orphan maid who ends up as a soldier in the Emperor's personal guard, a visible and vulnerable face of battle. Devastatingly told, The Shadow King is an unforgettable novel about the role played by women at war.