Our Best of the Year yearbook

Al Woodworth on November 19, 2020

Best of the Year yearbook

Putting together the Amazon Books editors' Best of the Year list is a lot of fun. We read, we debate, we champion the books we love, and then we get to share the best books of the entire year—and what a year it's been.

Our list includes the top 100 overall picks, as well as the best books in categories such as biography and memoir, science fiction, mystery and thrillers, nonfiction, romance, young adult, cookbooks, and more. We decided to celebrate these great reads and talented authors by going a little old school and having fun with them, yearbook style.

Remember superlatives? Well, we thought we'd create our own yearbook using our Best Books of the 2020. Cheeky, right? Hope you enjoy.

A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett

Most likely to change people’s lives

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. Also, why the Amazon Book editors’ named it the best book of 2020.—Al Woodworth

See all our editors' top 20 picks for the Best Books of 2020.

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Life of the party

A rowdy cast of beguiling, booze-filled, and larger than life characters collide in 1960s Brooklyn in this unforgettable, laugh-out-loud novel. Deacon King Kong tells a broader story of race and religion, getting by and getting out, and how grudges and alliances become embedded in the foundations of our neighborhoods. —Al Woodworth

See all our editors' top 20 picks for literature and fiction.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Drama queen

Professor Dani Brown asks for a sign that will point her to her next bed buddy, but she still ignores the very, very (very!) obvious sign that Zafir Ansari is the one for her…even after he literally carries her out of a school building during an emergency. But that’s only the beginning of the drama, as Dani and Zafir begin to fake a relationship in a very public way. This romantic comedy will keep the sighs and giggles coming until the very end.—Adrian Liang

See all our editors' top 20 picks for romance.

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Couple most likely to be together forever

For those of us who read Twilight, years ago, Meyer transports us back to that pivotal story from the very first pages of Midnight Sun. Twilight changed a genre, redefined vampires, and put a whole new spin on dangerous obsession and star-crossed love. There are two sides to every story and we’ve long had Bella’s—now, thanks to Midnight Sun, we can see the whole picture. —Seira Wilson

See all our editors' top 20 picks for young adult.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montinore

Most likely to never be on time

Oona Lockhart is celebrating New Year’s Eve 1982 and the eve of her 19th birthday, but at midnight she passes out and wakes up as a 19-year-old trapped in the body of a 51-year-old. Thus begins Oona living life out of order. A fun romp through the adage “youth is wasted on the young” and a deeper look at destiny, love, and family. —Sarah Gelman

See all our editors' top 20 picks for literature and fiction.

A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team by Arshay Cooper

Most memorable underdog

A heroic story of triumphing over adversity, of mentorship and personal investment, endurance and conviction, and the first ever Black high school rowing team. This is a memoir of underdogs fighting their way to the top, but it’s also about how an entire population is left out of the opportunity loop and how a seemingly small thing like sports can change lives. This book perfectly encapsulates the glory of sports and you'll be rooting for these boys to row in unison and cross the finish line.—Al Woodworth

See all our editors' top 20 picks for history.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Most likely to make you jump at the shadows on the wall

The gothic novels of today are not like those of yesteryear: Female protagonists are smart and proactive, and vaguely disquieting events become truly terrifying. Put plenty of me-time on your calendar, because you won’t want to stop for breaks while you race through Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s creepy, glorious read that is pitch-perfect for today’s audience. —Adrian Liang

See all our editors' top 20 picks for science fiction and fantasy.

Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last by Wright Thompson

Most popular drinking buddy

Pappyland goes inside the cult of Pappy Van Winkle whiskey to meet its charismatic creator, Julian Van Winkle III, and learn the fascinating story of a legacy lost and reclaimed. A delicious tale of perseverance and craftsmanship, of Kentucky, and of family that is as smooth and satisfying as a glass of the rare Pappy itself. —Seira Wilson

See all our editors' top 20 picks for cookbooks, food, and wine.

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) story by Bess Kalb

Most likely to cheer you up

A feel good, laugh-out-loud memoir that recounts the genuine comradery, joy, and love between a grandmother and her granddaughter. And if you’re in need of hug, this book delivers. “What have I always told you, Bessie? What have I always said? You’re my angel. I am you. I’m the bones in your body and the blood that fills you up and the meat around your legs.”—Al Woodworth

See all our editors’ top 20 picks for biographies and memoirs.

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

Most likely to get their own reality TV show

Proving that "all that glisters isn't gold," two women with Insta-perfect lives clash in Pretty Things and it’s up there with House Lannister vs. House Stark. But this is also a slow-build, cat-and-mouse thriller—loaded with reveals and twists—where it’s far from easy to tell the cats from the mice.—Vannessa Cronin

See all our editors' top 20 picks for mysteries and thrillers.

Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine

Best teacher

Rankine’s brilliance shines through her ideas and her facility with language, but also through the construction of Just Us, which is a truly visual and ongoing inquiry into race (there are poems, photos, song lyrics, and annotations throughout). This book is catalyst for not only listening and learning, but for participation and action.—Al Woodworth

See all our editors' top 20 picks for nonfiction.

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly

Most likely to plead the fifth

In The Law of Innocence, Michael Connelly brilliantly captures the desperation of a lawyer-turned-defendant facing a long stretch in a prison full of people with scores to settle. Narration in the first person, showing a canny legal mind working furiously to hit on the right legal play, calibrates the suspense to an unbearable, read-in-one-sitting level. —Vannessa Cronin

See all our editors' top 20 picks for mysteries and thrillers.

Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen

Most likely to define their generation

A millennial herself, Peterson is a welcome insertion into the conversations around millennials, the generation who coined the phrase “adulting is hard.” Millennials will find validity in this book, but it’s a must-read for the parents and employers of millennials, as well as those who find ourselves rolling our eyes at them.—Sarah Gelman

See all our editors' top 20 picks for nonfiction.

Things in Jars by Jess Kid

Cutest couple that never was

Miraculous and thrilling…Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.—Vannessa Cronin

See all our editors' top 20 picks for mysteries and thrillers.

Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran

Class clown

Sigh, Gone is one of the funniest and most profound memoirs of the year. Without rose-colored glasses and with a flair for humor, Phuc Tran recounts his childhood as a Vietnamese kid growing up in a small Pennsylvania town: the racism, dislocation, and violence that surrounded him, how he fought to fit in, and how he fell in love with literature. —Al Woodworth

See all our editors' top 20 picks for biographies and memoirs.

Helga Makes a Name for Herself by Megan Maynor

Most likely to succeed

An irreverent Viking story that is sure to make your kids laugh. Helga is small, but mighty and is determined to become a warrior like her hero, Ingrid the Axe. And it just so happens that she'll get the chance. With a larger than life personality, Helga is just the person to realize her dreams and succeed.—Seira Wilson

See all our editors' top 20 picks for children's ages 3-5.

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