Best new books: 2020 reads
From literary greats to bright new talents, we round up the 20 best new books 2020 has in store. Some are out soon, others not until autumn, but you can pre-order now to ensure a whole year of riveting reading.
The incadescent debut explores class barriers, racial tensions and generational divides in a shrewd and vibrant story of a nanny and a mother. Alix is a glossy mother of two with a viral mission to empower women. Emira is a directionless 20-something who finds an unlikely kindred spirit in the toddler she nannies. The two women’s lives become increasingly, and surprisingly entwined, in a story that’s fresh, funny and sure to be a sensation.
Hilary Mantel has kept us waiting for the final novel in her double Booker-winning Thomas Cromwell trilogy. The Mirror & the Light captures Cromwell’s fall from grace, the final novel begins with him masterminding Anne Boleyn’s execution in 1536 and ends with his own beheading in 1540. 'We walk the last miles of Cromwell’s life, ascending to unprecedented riches and honour and abruptly descending to the scaffold at Tower Hill,’ Mantel promises.
American Dirt is the first book to explore crossing the border from Mexico into Trump's America. There’s so much hype, it’s already being hailed as a new American classic and this generation’s Grapes of Wrath. The story of a mother and son escaping a drug cartel feels piercingly timely, and Cummins’ prose cuts deep and stays with you long after the final page.
David Mitchell's first new book in five years tells the riotous story of a forgotten British band, spanning the psychedelia of the late 60s to the sex, drugs, love and violence that pave the way to fame. The Cloud Atlas author turns his inventive prose to the magic of music in what promises to be one of the big hits of the summer.
This debut novel is already galvanising reviewers and dominating our Insta feeds – and it's not even out until the end March. In a sharp and knotty take on the Me Too era, it follows a 32-year-old woman who discovers that the teacher she had sex with at the age of 15 has just been accused of sexual abuse by another student. Forced to re-visit her past, she has to decide whether her own sexual awakening was actually rape.
The author of cult ‘girls behaving badly’ story Animals returns to examine the pressures and pitfalls of the mid-30s. Adults broaches self-interrogation, unflitered emotions, overly filtered Instagram feeds and existential crises with such archly observed accuracy, you can’t help cringing. But Unsworth offsets the satirical home truths with tenderness and warmth.
JM Coetzee's enigmatic Jesus trilogy ends with delicate darkness, as the child at the heart of the story experiences a strange illness. Intricate symbolism, existential themes and artful puzzles make for a triumphant finale to this ambitious trilogy.
Booker-winner Anne Enright delivers plenty of drama with a story of a woman reflecting on the life of her theatre star mother. It’s a poignant meditation on the fickle nature of stardom, along with an intimate look at the mother-daughter bond.
Dolly Alderton has a loyal legion of millennial fans thanks to best-selling memoir Everything I Know About Love and chart-topping podcast The High Low Show. Now the journalist turns her talent to fiction with a timely story about the perils of online dating, the ticking of the biological clock and the complexity of family and friendships as you enter your 30s.
This million-selling South Korean sensation is finally coming to the UK. Unravelling gender discrimination on a personal and universal level, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows a young women whose life is utterly ordinary, yet unsettlingly nightmarish. The litany of injustices Kim Jiyoung faces has already galvanised Korean readers, and is set to be equally provocative for British readers.
Is an ideal partner just like you, or the polar opposite? Nick Hornby investigates in this new book about opposites attracting. The About A Boy author brings warmth, wit and plenty of fresh comedy to an age-old debate around dating.
The Lido was the surprise feel-good read of summer 2018, and now Libby Page is back to warm hearts with another story about the local community coming together. With a keen sense of London's eccentric characters, The 24-Hour Café follows waitresses Hannah and Mona as they work up the courage to follow their dreams.
The writer behind cult hit My Year of Rest and Relaxation returns with ‘a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense’. Unreliable narration, a macabre mystery and a sinister secret unravel in this tricksy story about an elderly woman who finds a strange handwritten note hidden in the woods.
Sophie Mackintosh follows the feminist dystopia of her Man Booker nominated debut The Water Cure with an equally surreal story about motherhood, patriarchal oppression and free will. Blue Ticket takes us to a world where women are arbitrarily sorted into mothers or childless.
Elena Ferrante, the reclusive author behind the My Brilliant Friend series, takes us back to Naples in her long-awaited new book, The Lying Life of Adults. It follows Giovanna from pretty child to gawky teenager, charting the betrayals and disappointments of growing up in a divided city.
Peep Show star Robert Webb proved his literary chops with surprise sensation How to be a Boy. Now he turns his talents to fiction with a novel about a widow who gets the chance to re-live her life, fall in love with her husband all over again and maybe even save his life this time around.
Lionel Shriver satirises the contemporary cult of exercise in this playful and insightful story of a sedentary 60-year-old man's sudden obsession with extreme sport. Shriver delights in skewering the fads we are all familiar with, as fitness breeds narcissism and healthy pursuits become dangerous.
When lonely widow Ada advertises herself as ‘Rent a Granny’ she ends up meeting a young student called Eliza. This piquant story of an unlikely bond across different generations is the debut novel from journalist and cartoonist Leaf Arbuthnot.
Prolific, prize-winning author Graham Swift takes to 1959, where the theatre at the end of Brighton Pier is hosting a dazzling summer season. Following the dramas on stage and off, this short but stunning story melds together magic and showbiz to explore what it means to be human.
Pioneer of the multi-hyphenate working method and mouthpiece for millennial women Emma Gannon ventures into fiction with debut novel Olive. Tackling life’s expectations, obstacles and milestones, it follows a strong-minded woman who becomes increasingly isolated as her friends all drift towards marriage and motherhood. Olive is sure she doesn’t want children, but is she missing out on too much?
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