Bill Buford, the writer and former fiction editor at The New Yorker, once said: "Stories protect us from chaos, [and are] essential to the way we make sense of our lives." Given the tumult of this past year, we've needed stories more than ever. And fortunately, while 2020 has fallen wildly short of many expectations, it's been a boon for readers who enjoy great books.
Each month the Amazon Books editorial team chooses 10 favorites. It's rare, but every once in a while a particular month will be so chock-full of compelling contenders that we extend the list to 12. In 2020 that happened an unprecedented five times, making the task of homing in on the Best Books of the Year that much harder. These are the "problems" we like to have.
Below you'll find the top 10 books that made the cut, starting with our number one pick of 2020, Brittany K. Barnett's A Knock at Midnight.
To view all of our selections, visit The Best Books of 2020. There you’ll see our overall top 20 picks, plus favorites in categories from biographies, to literary fiction, to romance and sci-fi (and everything in between).
A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Barnett, Brittany K.
At times, Brittany K. Barnett’s memoir reads like page-turning crime fiction; at others, a galvanizing and redemptive portrait of a lawyer trying to defend Black lives that were never protected in the first place. Urgent, necessary, hopeful—and a knockout read. —Al Woodworth
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
Teeming with adventure, darkness, love, and loss, Migrations is a novel that’s impossible to put down as you learn about the life of Franny Stone—a sharp, flawed, and determined woman who will stop at nothing to regain what she’s lost. —Al Woodworth
Blacktop Wasteland: A Novel by S.A. Cosby
Blacktop Wasteland is a pedal to the metal thriller about a retired getaway driver, caught between the rock of poverty and the hard place of Southern racism, who gambles on one last heist to get him ahead. Toggling between high-stakes action, and quiet—even tender—family scenes, this is Southern noir with heart. —Vannessa Cronin
Group by Tate, Christie
Christie Tate was a summer intern at a law firm and at top of her class, and yet her memoir opens with her sitting in her car alone, wishing someone would shoot her. Written with the gift of hindsight, Group is an honest, heart-breaking and hilarious look at reaching rock bottom and climbing your way back to life. —Sarah Gelman
The Vanishing Half by Bennett, Brit
Ideal for book clubs, The Vanishing Half examines sisterhood, personal identity, starting fresh, and what it means to be Black (and white) in America. Bennett is known for creating taut family dramas, and like her brilliant debut, The Mothers, this novel shows just how strong the bonds of sisters are, even at their weakest. —Al Woodworth
Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie
Set in post WWII Japan, this sweeping story about a love child left with her scandalized, and brutal, grandparents will have you rooting for its resilient heroine, Nori, who must summon the courage to assert her own identity and live life on her own terms. This is a debut you don't want to miss. —Erin Kodicek
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Ten years after her award-winning The Warmth of Other Suns, Wilkerson argues that our entire social structure is built upon an unrecognized caste system. White people—whether their ancestors were slave owners or abolitionists—have been able to live and thrive under these set assumptions of inequality. This is a mind-expanding book. —Chris Schluep
The Girl with the Louding Voice: A Novel by Abi Daré
In this rousing tale of courage and pluck, a 14-year-old Nigerian girl is sold into servitude by her father when her mother—a proponent of education—passes away. You will root for Adunni as she endeavors to escape her sorry—and often harrowing—lot, and applaud the kind strangers who buoy her efforts, and her spirits. —Erin Kodicek
Memorial: A Novel by Bryan Washington
Told in a loose style, Memorial unfolds with depth, humor, and telling detail. Mike is a Japanese-American chef. His partner, Benson, is a Black daycare teacher. When Mike leaves Houston to visit his ailing father in Osaka, his mother comes to live with Benson. You will laugh, cry, and ask yourself: What makes a family? —Chris Schluep
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
Hidden Valley Road is a medical mystery story—with twists and reveals to rival any thriller—that shows how an all-American family was ravaged as an elusive, centuries-old mental illness caught and kept them in its crosshairs for decades. —Vannessa Cronin
While 2020 has fallen wildly short of many expectations, it's been a boon for readers who enjoy great books. Here are the ones you don't want to miss.