We've all done it: bought books that years later, we have yet to read but can't bring ourselves to get rid of, either. And apparently, it's a global issue. Did you know the Japanese even have a word to describe people who buy a ton of books they never get around to reading? The term, tsundoku, is made up of two words: "tsun" is a derivation of the word "tsumu," which means "to pile up," while "doku" means "reading." Put them together and you have a word that means stockpiling books you don't read.
I don't know if there's a term for the opposite: reading the books you buy, but whatever that term may be, we can apply it to the ten books below. They are the most read mysteries and thrillers in 2020, according to Amazon Charts—the books that proved to be tsundoku-resistent. They were too good to pile up—they had to be read. Whether you keep them for yourself, or give them as gifts, we hope they will be enjoyed by librocubicularists everywhere (that's another fancy word, for people who read in bed).
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Touted as this generation's The Grapes of Wrath, American Dirt sparked a firestorm of controversy on publication about who gets to tell whose stories, and how. But Amazon customers have loved this particular story: over 27,000 customers have posted a review and rated it 4.6 stars out of 5, and it is the most read thriller of 2020.
When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O'Neal
Best-selling author Susan Wiggs described award-winning author Barbara O’Neal's When We Believed in Mermaids as a "masterfully told story of sisters and secrets, damage and redemption, hope and healing." In addition to topping Amazon Charts, this book also made the best seller lists of The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Entertainment Weekly called it "A mix of Hitchcockian suspense, Agatha Christie plotting, and Greek tragedy." Looking across this century's best-loved thrillers, The Silent Patient looks set to take its place alongside Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train as standard bearers for must-read thrillers. The 45,000 Amazon customers who have given it an overall rating of 4.5 stars would surely agree.
The Guardians by John Grisham
Since Grisham is a former lawyer, the surprise is not that he returns again and again to question the death penalty, judicial prejudice, or incarceration. The surprise is that he keeps finding ways to make those themes fresh and engrossing. Clearly that's the case with The Guardians, which enjoys a customer rating of 4.5 and was the fourth Most Read thriller of 2020.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Reese Witherspoon selected this as one of her book club picks and since we picked it as one of the Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2020, we really can't fault her taste. The Silent Patient author Alex Michaelides had this to say about the book, "It gave me the same waves of happiness I get from curling up with a classic Christie...The alternating points of view keep you guessing, and guessing wrong."
Walk the Wire by David Baldacci
Though it only published in April of this year, Walk the Wire—the latest in David Baldacci's Memory Man series—already has close to 10,000 customer ratings and they give it 4.5 stars out of 5. Amos Decker has to contend with murder in a boomtown, complete with prostitution, violence, a religious sect, and fracking. Yes, fracking. And best of all, even those new to the series will be able to enjoy this without having read the previous five books.
Last Day by Luanne Rice
Family drama, family secrets, and a family tragedy that somehow crosses generations make Last Day a must-read. But that's not all: on top of an exquisitely-drawn family drama, you also have a suspenseful art heist storyline, and a setting that proves that small towns often hide the biggest secrets. Lee Child called it "lovely, lyrical—and lethal." And we agree.
Camino Winds by John Grisham
If there's anything John Grisham knows better than the law, it's selling books. Way more books than the motley crew of crime writers in Camino Winds. But they do recognize the perfect crime when they see it. And the murder of one of their own—obscured by the aftermath of a storm—is just such a crime. Another compulsively readable thriller by the master.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Technically, A Gentleman in Moscow is historical fiction. But this tale of a Russian aristocrat sentenced to house arrest in a luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin is also a kind of political thriller. The kind of thriller that takes place against a background of political power struggles and espionage; in this case, in 1930's Russia. First published in 2016, it continues to find new fans.
If It Bleeds by Stephen King
Though King's novels are the stuff of legend (read S.A. Cosby's hilarious account of reading King for the first time in this post), his short stories and novellas are not to be missed, either. Here, he keeps the frights to grace notes, and concentrates on concerns of a different—though no less terrifying—caliber: mortality, loneliness, and the 24-hour news cycle.
Some books you hang onto for ages, some you can't wait to crack the spine and read 'til dawn. Which msyteries and thrillers fell into the latter bucket and were the most read of 2020? We reveal the top 10.