Tana French's favorite reads of 2020

Al Woodworth on October 19, 2020
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Tana French's favorite reads of 2020

Like so many readers, the Amazon Books editors have always loved Tana French's crime novelsespecially her latest, The Searcher, which we named a Best Book of October. As Vannessa Cronin wrote in her review: "The Searcher is an atmospheric detective story on island time, with a lesson to impart about not taking situations—or people—at face value."

We asked the best-selling and beloved writer what she's read and enjoyed recently. Here are her picks along with her thoughts on reading right now:

"I’ve always loved disappearing into a book, but in the last six months that’s been more essential than ever. Right now we all need the occasional time out from the world. We need moments when we forget what’s going on around us, and we need reminding that there are other realities—this situation isn’t the only one that’s ever existed or the only one that ever will exist. (I recently saw a satire article from the Waterford Whispers News with this headline: 'BREAKING: Scientists discover first non-COVID-related conversation since March.’ Some days it really does feel like that.) And it’s not like we have a lot of options for escaping. So here are five books I’ve read or re-read recently that took me right out of my own reality for a few hours."


Watership Down by Richard Adams

This is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s about a bunch of young rabbits who leave their warren and strike out to start a new one of their own, but that description doesn’t do it justice. The writing is stunning, the plot is gripping, and even though I’ve read it at least a dozen times, there are still bits that make the hair stand up on the back of my neck or make me tear up. But what makes this such an outstanding book is the intricate detail with which Adams creates the rabbits’ perspective. They’re not just furry humans; they’re different creatures from us, experiencing their world very differently, and Adams pulls us right into that world.


The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

It’s a noir novel, but a huge, lyrical, wildly original, alternative-history one: Israel doesn’t exist, a snippet of Alaska has become a temporary Jewish homeland instead, and in its last days a battered maverick detective is investigating the murder of a chess prodigy-turned drug addict. I was blown away by the audacity and breadth of imagination, by the joy and expertise with which Chabon juggles language, by the way he can make a character leap off the page with one perfectly turned phrase, by how he switches effortlessly from laugh-out-loud funny, to unsettling, to deeply moving.


The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland

Alice grew up with a father who was passionate about his Irish-American heritage—except when she did a DNA test, she came up as half Ashkenazi Jewish… That turned her into a ‘seeker’, one of the people who follow the clues in their own genes to solve family mysteries. DNA testing is making people ask ‘Who am I?’ on every level, from the personal to the practical to the existential, and this book—a blend of scientific explanations, gripping detective stories, family sagas, and sociological questioning—does a fascinating job of exploring all of them.


Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

This won’t be out for a couple of weeks (it publishes October 27), but I got an early sneak peek. In 1940s New York, runaway and circus performer Willowjean Parker gets taken on as an assistant by enigmatic private investigator Lillian Pentecost. But when they investigate the murder of a beautiful socialite hit on the head with a crystal ball in a locked room, things get riskier—both physically and emotionally—than Will bargained for. It’s got razor-sharp style, tons of flair, a snappy sense of humor, and all the most satisfying elements of a really good noir novel, plus plenty of original twists of its own.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

A traumatized young boy staggers out of the wreckage of a bombed museum, carrying an Old Master painting. The explosion and the painting shape the rest of his life. Tartt’s writing is beautiful, but what makes this novel so totally absorbing is the characterization. No one takes you into a narrator’s head quite like Donna Tartt. You feel like you know Theo, every nuance of his scarred mind, as intimately as you know yourself.


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