When we clinked glasses on the eve of a new year, no one anticipated the sharp turn that 2020 would take. And halfway through, the world is still reeling. In times like this we tend to take stock of what’s truly important, and we are reminded not to take such things for granted. For the Amazon Books editors, one of those things is stories and their power to help us make sense of the messiness of life.
As the team debates the best books of each month and, in June, the Best Books of the Year So Far, we are cognizant that people read for different reasons. We read to escape or to be inspired, to learn something, or to be transported. We read in order to be comforted. And, like C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we are not alone." It is our hope that you will find a book on this list—hopefully many books—that will feel like a good friend in these uncertain times. That was part of our selection criteria too.
Below you'll find the top 10 books, starting with our number-one pick of 2020 so far, Abi Daré's The Girl with the Louding Voice.
To view all of our selections, visit www.amazon.com/bestbookssofar. 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).
The Girl with the Louding Voice 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.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
Hidden Valley Road is a heartbreaking, expertly told story of an all-American family, the Galvins, six of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia while still teenagers. Relying on exhaustive research, Kolker weaves together cultural, medical, and family history to show the ravages of mental illness on the six Galvin boys, on their parents, and, perhaps most movingly, on their other six siblings.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
The 10th anniversary of the Hunger Games is beginning, and 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow—President Snow, when we met him decades later in The Hunger Games—has an important role to play. Nearly impossible to put down, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is an exciting and thought-provoking novel that goes outside the arena to ask interesting questions about human nature and ambition.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Set in the 1960s, this propulsive and darkly comic neighborhood epic features a cast of characters that are beguiling, boozed-filled, and larger than life. National Book Award-winner McBride weaves a fictional story of one Brooklyn project, but in doing so tells a broader tale of race and religion, getting by and getting out, and how grudges and alliances become embedded in the foundations of our lives.
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
When a second-generation grifter, Nina, and her shady boyfriend move to Lake Tahoe, they collide with a woman from Nina’s past, heiress Vanessa Liebling. Behind a glittering façade of old money and fast living, a darker story of social climbing, social media, revenge, and betrayal starts to take menacing shape.
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Writers & Lovers is about the uncertainty of relationships, and of pursuing the creative life, in a world that values success and stability. Life is not waiting for Casey to fulfill her dream of being a novelist, so she works as a waitress and she dates, and she tries to figure it out as she goes. Love and art require frequent, often imperceptible, leaps of faith—and this book captures that perfectly.
Sigh, Gone is one of the funniest and most profound memoirs of the year so far. Without rose-colored glasses and with a flair for humor, 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.
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
Five strangers unexpectedly become the living embodiments of New York City’s boroughs and must battle an evil entity that threatens the city. Jemisin infuses this live-wire love letter to the city’s diverse denizens with reality-ripping storytelling.
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
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. Although Oona Out of Order could be a fun romp through the adage “youth is wasted on the young” (and it is), it’s also a deeper look at destiny, love, and family.
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
There isn’t much that is not unforgiving when it comes to the far-flung and frigid town of Vardø, Norway, including the sea that surrounds it, which swallows the majority of its male population in an epic storm while they’re fishing. Accusations of witchcraft quickly infect this grieving but resourceful community, threatening what hard-won normalcy they’ve regained. The Mercies is infuriating, baleful, but full of stubborn hope.
The Amazon Books editors reveal their favorite reads published between January and June.