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The Best Books of 2020

These can't-miss reads will get you through the winter.

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The pandemic may have limited the number of places we can go to have a good time, but book lovers know their stay-at-home entertainment options are endless. Pick out a great new read with this OutSmart roundup of 2020’s Best Books: 

FICTION:

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman starts out a little strangely, but stick around and you’ll be rewarded with a hilarious, sweet tale of a bank robbery, a home seller’s open house, and other plot twists. Put this at the top of your list if you love novels.

Both Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab involve women in situations that are dark and dangerous. In the Nesbit book, a Pilgrim village holds secrets that are not discussed, while Schwab’s novel features a headstrong young woman who makes a decision she might regret for the rest of her very long life. There’s a hint of feminism in both books, and they’ll both give you shivers for months after you finish them. 

Fans of thrillers will eat up The Last Flight by Julie Clark, a tale of an abusive husband, swapped identities, and murder—or not. If you like heart-pounding cat-and-mouse tales, this is your book. 

A bold, sweeping experiment in LGBTQ acceptance is at the heart of Under the Rainbow by Celia Lasky. Acceptance Across America, an LGBTQ organization, is about to see if they can change the hearts and minds of small-town America by moving a handful of gay men and lesbians to Big Burr, Kansas. This novel, told from the locals’ point of view, is full of humor, love, secrets, haters, strife, and everything else you want in a novel.

NONFICTION:

How to Astronaut: Everything You Need to Know Before Leaving Earth by Terry Virts is a lighthearted read that will put you back in touch with your inner child—the one who really wanted to grow up to be an astronaut. It’s filled with insider information, fun facts, a bit of history, and a timely message. Space Force, anyone?

Pet lovers should absolutely not miss Good Boy by Jennifer Finney Boylan, a memoir of life and family featuring the seven dogs that Boylan lived with and loved. What lands this book on our list is that Boylan will make you reminisce about all the “good boys” (and girls) that you’ve also loved and lost.

Speaking of books that make you think, We’re Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy by Elijah Cummings, with James Dale is the perfect book to read at the end of a tough political year. Written while U.S. Rep. Cummings was dying, this book is full of calming words that can heal. If you feel beaten up by the past few months, this book is a balm for your soul.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War by John “Chick” Donohue & J.T. Molloy may seem like a romp, but it’s much more. Back when Donohue was a merchant seaman during the Vietnam War, he volunteered to take a beer to each of his hometown neighborhood’s “boys” in Vietnam. Finding them was only half the problem; a raging war was the other half. This is the consummate buddy book that can’t be missed.

Anyone who’s a sucker for a good mother-and-child book will love Like Crazy: Life with My Mother and Her Invisible Friends by Dan Mathews. The author renovated a Victorian house and moved his mentally challenged elderly mother in with him. She’s charming and funny, but she’s also a handful. Read it. With tissues on hand. Enough said.

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS:

Not surprisingly, middle-grade/YA author Nic Stone has two books on our 2020 list. First, Clean Getaway is the story of a young boy whose grandmother takes him on a cross-country “tour” of places that held meaning for her. Then, older teens will love Stone’s Dear Justyce, a story told through a young imprisoned man’s letters to a friend who chose another life path. 

And finally, 8- to 12-year-olds will absolutely adore Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, with illustrations by Jon Klassen. It’s the story of Badger, an introvert, who allows Skunk, a more outgoing soul, to move in to his serenely quiet house. Kids will love the humor in this book, as the two of them learn to adjust to one another’s quirks and become friends. Hint: adults will love this book as much as the kids do.

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Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terry Schlichenmeyer is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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