These Are Our Most Highly Anticipated Books Of 2020

New books from Emily St. John Mandel, Elena Ferrante, Yaa Gyasi, Julia Alvarez, David Mitchell, Samantha Irby, and Hilary Mantel — just to name a few!


Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Putnam; Dec. 31)

Reid’s much-discussed debut examines the relationship between a wealthy white couple and their young and broke black babysitter, Emira. Reid shows the uncomfortable ways that relationship strains and how the couple’s good intentions are challenged after Emira is accused of kidnapping the couple’s daughter while shopping with her one night. It’s a canny, scintillating, and deeply thoughtful exploration of race, class, and privilege. —Arianna Rebolini

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Jan. 14)

Hewing closely both in tone and theme to Greenwell’s first novel, What Belongs to You, his second book picks up where the first left off. The narrator, an unnamed American who teaches English in Sofia, Bulgaria, recounts various interactions he has had with former students, lovers, and friends. Each chapter reads like a compelling short story, and Greenwell’s writing about sex in particular is at turns erotic, chilling, thought-provoking, and just so artfully done. If you enjoyed his first book, you’ll love this gorgeous, evocative follow-up. —Tomi Obaro

Read Greenwell’s essay “How I Fell in Love With the Beautiful Art of Cruising.”

Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance by Zora Neale Hurston (Amistad; Jan. 14)

Comprising fiction Hurston began writing in 1925, when she was the sole black student at Barnard, Hitting a Straight Lick is a collection of shrewd short stories touching on gender, race, and cultural touchstones of her time and place — including eight stories found in the archives of long-out-of-commission periodicals. —A.R.

Little Gods by Meng Jin (Custom House; Jan. 14)

A woman gives birth at a hospital in Beijing on the same day as the Tiananmen Square protests. Amid the carnage, her husband (presumably the baby’s father) seems to disappear. Who the woman is, where the father is taken, and who the child becomes are all at the heart of this quietly unfolding mystery in this buzzy debut novel. —T.O.

Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar (Catapult; Jan. 14)

Paralkar, a doctor living in Philadelphia, leans on his medical knowledge here in this magical realist story of an Indian surgeon in a rural village. He is visited by a family with gruesome injuries who insist he operate on them — even though, it turns out, they are dead. A profound conversation about the meaning of life and death ensues. —T.O.

Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford (Scribner; Jan. 21)

Ada and her father live isolated on the outskirts of society, interacting with others only when sick neighbors arrive, desperate for help; through a dark ritual, the duo — who are something more than human — possess the power to cure illness. But when Ada falls for a local man, her experience of emotion and desire disrupts the balance of her relationship with her father and complicates her ideas of identity, health, and power. —A.R.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (; Jan. 21)

In just 176 pages, Onyebuchi creates a compelling, supernatural version of our reality, examining racism and police brutality through the story of one unusual family: Ella, who can see the future and manipulate the physical world with her mind; her little brother Kev, who is sent to Rikers Island for a crime he didn’t commit; and their mother, who can’t seem to get a break. Despite its dystopian elements, the story isn’t without hope — and it’s impossible to put down. —A.R.

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon (Simon & Schuster; Jan. 28)

It’s 1969 in war-torn Laos, and three orphan teens who are homeless — two siblings and their childhood friend — have been recruited by field doctor Vang to help save civilians; they travel the country on motorcycles, finding and delivering supplies and rescuing the wounded and abandoned. When Vang arranges for their evacuation, their lives diverge and change in drastic, sometimes tragic, ways. Through interwoven storylines spanning decades, Yoon explores themes of love, loyalty, grief, and courage. —A.R.

Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham (Catapult; Feb. 4)

Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike pride themselves on their street smarts living in 1996 Lagos, Nigeria, in relative material comfort in this debut novel from an Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate. But when their father’s various financial schemes go belly-up, the sisters — and their two younger brothers — are forced to fend for themselves. —T.O.

Everywhere You Don't Belong by Gabriel Bump (Algonquin; Feb. 4)

Young Claude McKay Love has a history of abandonment — his parents left him to be raised by his grandmother in Chicago’s South Side; his friendships and potential romantic connections just seem to fade away. After local police kill a young boy, the ensuing riot wreaks havoc on Claude’s life; when he travels to Missouri for college, he hopes to leave the trauma behind. But, of course, the past has a way of following you — and Claude’s story is a bighearted coming-of-age, a reckoning with everything he can’t abandon. —A.R.

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch (Riverhead; Feb. 4)

The title of Yuknavitch’s short story collection refers to the characters within them: people forced to the edges of society, outcasts marginalized for their status, proclivity, or misfortune. But these are also people whose desire, rage, and ambition are underestimated or misunderstood — the 8-year-old trauma victim who takes a job as a black market organ courier, the lonely janitor who turns garbage into a miniature city, the panhandler in a drive-thru line at McDonald’s and the driver terrified of him — and Yuknavitch shines a light on them in bite-size, evocative, and often uncomfortable stories. —A.R.

The Freedom Artist by Ben Okri (Akashic Books; Feb. 4)

In Okri’s dystopian version of our reality, the world is a totalitarian state, ruled by an anonymous but powerful authority known as the Hierarchy. When a woman goes missing after painting a simple question — “Who is the prisoner?” — on a public wall, her lover sets out to find (and hopefully save) her. His journey takes him through a dismal landscape, inhabited by people terrified of — but also resisting — their subjugation. —A.R.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (; Feb. 4)

Last year, I fell in love with Gailey’s page-turner Magic for Liars, so I was psyched to hear we’d be getting a new book from them so soon. It doesn’t disappoint — an underground group of queer librarian spies fighting fascism from the inside, in an imagined oppressive future of Southwestern America? Sign me up. —A.R.

Read “Sarah Gailey Walks Us Through Their Writing Space.

Weather by Jenny Offill (Knopf; Feb. 11)

Offill’s most famous book, 2014’s Dept. of Speculation — a wry, gutting little novel about a disintegrating marriage — made a number of best-of-the-decade lists, including ours. Weather, Offill’s latest, is similarly affecting, though it concerns itself with a much larger topic — climate change and the end of the planet as we know it. Lizzie, a university librarian, contemplates doomerism as she responds to fan mail for a friend’s apocalyptic podcast, watches over her brother who has an opioid addiction, and considers having an affair. Her angst is conveyed through Offill’s trademark pithy wit, making this book feel very Relevant but without the self-importance typically associated with such fiction. —T.O.

The Bear by Andrew Krivak (Bellevue Literary Press; Feb. 11)

An unnamed father and daughter, the last remaining humans in the world, fill their days with lessons of all manner of survival — the man teaches his daughter not only to hunt, build, and cook, but also to read poetry and understand human history. He wants her to be prepared for when he dies and leaves her truly alone. But when that day comes, much sooner than either of them expected, the girl isn’t left to fend for herself — a wild bear helps her grieve and continues her education in nature. It’s a dreamy, poetic novel that imagines a (nearly) humanless Earth as a thing of beauty. —A.R.

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga (Scribner; Feb. 18)

Adiga burst onto the literary scene with his Booker Prize–winning debut, White Tiger: a withering indictment of class inequality and a darkly comic story of a poor Indian driver who murders his boss. Amnesty, his fifth book, similarly deals with the haves and the have-nots. Danny is an undocumented immigrant originally from Sri Lanka who lives and works in Australia as a cleaner. When a client he works for is murdered, Danny must choose between admitting what he knows — that his client was having an affair with a doctor whose jacket was found at the scene of the crime, thus risking deportation — or staying silent. —T.O.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead; Feb. 18)

Wallace, a black biochemistry grad student from Alabama, has trouble fitting in at his predominantly white Midwestern university. Over the course of a weekend, he grapples with his sexuality, friendships, and feelings of alienation in one of winter’s most anticipated fiction debuts. —T.O.

Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman (Ecco, March 3)

Self-help blogger Judy Vogel is in a serious rut. She can’t recapture the brief success she experienced as a children’s book author, her once-loving son is now a teen who wants nothing to do with her, her best friend is dying, and her marriage is falling apart. It’s almost too much to bear, so Judy finds an unusual, unsettling coping mechanism: She starts wearing her beloved dog in a baby sling. Zigman writes with warmth as well as a biting wit, poking fun at both her flawed protagonist and the upper-middle-class world in which she lives. —A.R.

Deacon King Kong by James McBride (Riverhead; March 3)

It’s 1960s New York; Cuffy Lambkin, better known as Sportcoat, a deacon at the Five Ends Baptist Church, has just shot 19-year-old drug dealer Deems Clemens in the face, killing him instantly. Residents try to make sense of the shooting as the mystery behind it slowly unravels in this latest novel by the National Book Award winner (for The Good Lord Bird) and author of high school curriculum classic The Color of Water. —T.O.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Harper Books; March 3)

In her latest extraordinary novel, Erdrich brings us a story based on the life of her grandfather, Patrick Gourneau. Like Gourneau did, protagonist Thomas Wazhashk works as a night guard, is a chair on the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa council, and becomes instrumental in the 1953 fight against a bill that would allow the government to abandon treaties that protected Native Americans’ rights to their land. Thomas’s niece Patrice works at the factory he guards at night and stretches her small salary to support her brother and mother while dreaming of abandoning the expectations she feels from the tribe and following her big sister Vera to Minneapolis. But when she leaves home to find Vera, Patrice finds herself facing real prejudice and violence for the first time. With Patrice and Thomas at the center, Erdrich creates a cast of characters whose stories paint an expansive, essential portrait of the Turtle Mountain Reservation and Chippewa community. —A.R.

Read our profile of Louise Erdrich.

Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth (Graywolf Press; March 3)

In this eco-heist story, two auditors for the US egg industry are radicalized by the dark truth of the state of “cage-free” farms. They scheme to steal a million chickens from a local farm and put together a ragtag team — activists, investigators, punks, and rich kids — to help them. Through their chaotic adventure, Unferth challenges the possibility of ethical consumption in a capitalist society. —A.R.

The Ice Cream Man and Other Stories by Sam Pink (Soft Skull Press; March 3)

Sam Pink’s latest book comprises 13 grisly, spare, and poetic stories that delve into the darkest corners of modern society — or, as Pink described in a 2018 Electric Literature interview, “the garbage times” — and the wageworkers that inhabit it. Divided into sections on Chicago, Florida, and Michigan, Pink zooms in on the mundanities and dirty realities of labor — and the rare moments of humanity that manage to break through it. —A.R.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt; March 10)

Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which began with 2009’s Wolf Hall, finally comes to an end. The novel covers the last years of Cromwell’s life, starting shortly after the execution of Anne Boleyn. If you’ve never read its Booker Prize–winning predecessors, you’ve got about two months to catch up! —T.O.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (William Morrow; March 10)

It’s the year 2000; 15-year-old loner Vanessa Wye is excited to be singled out by her charismatic 45-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, as someone special — someone worthy of his special attention — in a relationship that soon becomes sexual. Seventeen years later, at the height of the #MeToo movement, Vanessa learns Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by another former student — and she’s forced to reckon with the nature of this defining relationship of her past. Jumping back and forth in time, Russell explores questions of agency, abuse, and sexual power dynamics. —A.R.

So We Can Glow: Stories by Leesa Cross-Smith (Grand Central; March 10)

In 42 (!) stories, Cross-Smith examines — and delights in — female obsession and desire. There’s the grocery store love connection, the teens sneaking out to make out, the therapeutic effect of fantasy lives, and much, much more, many nodding to the complicated, indelible bonds between women. —A.R.

New Waves by Kevin Nguyen (One World; March 10)

Lucas and Margo are twentysomething friends and colleagues who regularly commiserate over the racism they’re forced to deal with at their tech jobs: Lucas is one of many Asian employees at tech startup Nimbus but not the engineer everyone assumes he is; Margo is an engineer at the same firm but also Nimbus’s only black employee and often belittled. The two decide to get revenge by stealing Nimbus’s user database and turning those usernames and passwords into jobs at rival startup Phantom — but the plan goes tragically awry when Margo is killed in a car accident. Mourning his friend’s death and living with a potentially dangerous secret, Lucas starts to suspect Margo’s accident wasn’t an accident at all — and when he hacks into her laptop in search of answers, he welcomes a host of new problems. Nguyen’s debut is at once a suspenseful page-turner, a shrewd critique of startup culture, and a poignant examination of the interplay between humanity and high tech. —A.R.

Whiteout Conditions by Tariq Shah (Two Dollar Radio; March 17)

In this slim but memorable debut novel, Ant, who lives on the East Coast, flies home to Illinois to attend the funeral of one of his oldest friends, Ray. Picking him up from the airport is Ray’s cousin, Vince. Together they set out to drive to the funeral while untangling old hurts, popping Oxy, and grappling with adulthood’s disillusionments. —T.O.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit; March 24)

Jemisin’s riveting urban fantasy imagines a New York City come to life — literally, through a human avatar who must protect the city from an ancient evil. But when one avatar isn’t strong enough to withstand the battle, five people, one from each borough, are asked to become avatars and join in the fight to save the city. These new avatars act as representations of the boroughs they call home, and the tensions that arise within their group — tensions which threaten the success of their dire mission — are emblematic of the real NYC and the class and racial tensions that plague it. —A.R.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf; March 24)

St. John Mandel’s sprawling novel follows the fallout of a wealthy investor’s Ponzi scheme, drawing unexpected connections in its wake. At the center is Vincent Smith, a woman who leaves her bartending gig in the Canadian wilderness to try her luck in New York (“the kingdom of money”) as the trophy wife of Jonathan Alkaitis, the man whose financial scam will ruin countless lives. The novel moves forward and backward in time, jumping from one perspective to the next and from one reality to another, as St. John Mandel explores themes of love and art, fate and freedom, ambition and consequences. —A.R.

It's Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan (Ballantine Books; March 31)

The writer behind bestsellers How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale is back with a similar story of perseverance in the midst of adversity. At first, things seem to be going splendidly for beauty supply store owner Loretha Curry. But when sudden tragedy strikes, she’s forced to lean on her posse of girlfriends. —T.O.

Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang (Ecco, March 31)

The unnamed narrator of Chang’s clever debut is 24 years old and trying to figure out who she is. She’s bored at her job as a tech reporter, dismissed and underpaid as a young Chinese American woman, so when her long-term boyfriend announces he’s moving to Ithaca, New York, to attend grad school, she decides to go with him and get her own fresh start. But their move bares the tensions in their interracial relationship — and when the narrator takes this new abundance of free time as an opportunity to research the history of Chinese women in the US, she explores her own identity. —A.R.

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (Algonquin, April 7)

First, let’s acknowledge the fact that a new novel by Julia Alvarez, the bestselling author behind beloved classics How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, is major news. Second, and more importantly, her new adult novel is really good! Antonia, a retired English professor, is struggling to cope after the sudden death of her husband, Sam. When two twin crises occur — an undocumented immigrant working on the farm next door asks if she could help his girlfriend, who is also undocumented, and Antonia’s older, headstrong sister Izzy goes missing — Antonia is forced to grapple with what it means to be a good, present person in a world full of so much incomprehensible tragedy. —T.O.

Godshot by Chelsea Bieker (Catapult; April 7)

Fourteen-year-old Lacey May lives in Peaches, California — formerly an idyllic paradise, now a drought-stricken town whose residents live under the spell of a cult leader who claims to be God — with a grandmother too enthralled by Pastor Vern to see how dangerous he is. When Lacey realizes Pastor Vern’s plan to bring rain back to the valley involves impregnating local teens, she runs away in search of her mother — confronting cruelty, but also discovering unexpected friendships and personal resilience along the way. —A.R.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (HMH; April 7)

Beloved YA author Veronica Roth (of the massively popular Divergent series) makes her debut in adult fantasy with Chosen Ones, a smart, nimble story about what happens after those chosen to save the world actually do it. In this case, the superheroes are five disillusioned twentysomethings struggling to find the normalcy they granted the rest of the world when they destroyed the Dark One. But when one of the chosen five dies on the 10th anniversary of the evil’s defeat, the survivors suspect the worst — that perhaps they aren’t actually rid of the Dark One. —A.R.

Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould (Avid Reader Press; April 14)

It’s the early 2000s; 22-year-old Laura has left her home in Columbus, Ohio, to chase her dream of making it as a singer-songwriter in NYC. As she’s starting to gain some traction, she begins dating (and doing drugs with) Dylan, an up-and-coming musician — until he dies while high. When his bandmates offer her the opportunity to take his place in the band, Laura, pregnant with Dylan’s child, opts instead to settle into a quieter life — but 14 years later, when her rebellious daughter starts asking questions about her dad, she must revisit and contend with that wild time of her life. —A.R.

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press; April 21)

In a similar vein to her previous novel Eileen, Moshfegh brings us the dark, suspenseful, and morbidly funny whodunit Death in Her Hands, which follows elderly widow Vesta Gul as she happens upon a mystery that quickly obsesses her. Walking with her dog in the woods by her new lake house, Vesta finds a note that reads, “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.” — but there is no body. Vesta commits herself to not only solving this mystery but also understanding the woman at the center of it. —A.R.

Telephone by Percival Everett (Graywolf Press; May 5)

Geologist Zach Wells returns from a field trip to find his daughter’s health mysteriously deteriorating, and the generally impassive man is at a loss for what to do. So when he finds an anonymous call for help in the pocket of a secondhand coat, he grasps the opportunity to act, funneling his frustration into a trip to New Mexico to save a stranger. Everett’s work is a showcase of his astute, deliberate voice, and this exploration of love and grief is sure to be deeply affecting. —A.R.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub (Riverhead; May 5)

No one writes family drama like Straub, and in her new novel All Adults Here, she brings the Strick family to life with her unique wit and wisdom. When matriarch Astrid witnesses a school bus accident, the trauma uncovers a long-repressed memory that forces her to question the kind of parent she was to her now-adult children — who are floundering in their own ways. It’s a heartfelt, grounded story about family dynamics, forgiveness, and the unavoidable effects we have on those we love. —A.R.

Pew by Catherine Lacey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; May 12)

Lacey is a writer of wonderfully strange tales, and with Pew she’s created a new fable about faith and prejudice. When a stranger is found sleeping in a small-town church, the locals don’t know what to make of this silent, androgynous, racially ambiguous person they name Pew. Pew is passed from household to household, becoming a sounding board for evangelism and confession, while a spiritual lore builds around their identity. But what happens when the town’s generosity runs out? —A.R.

Life Events by Karolina Waclawiak (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; May 19)

BuzzFeed News executive editor of culture Waclawiak makes a much-anticipated return to fiction with Life Events, which follows 37-year-old Evelyn as she deals with a disintegrating marriage and existential crisis by enrolling in a training course for end-of-life care. In this new role, Evelyn meets terminally ill patients who force her to confront her past traumas and the decisions that have led her here. Waclawiak writes with emotional precision and explores the tragedy of existence by masterfully walking the line between suffering and hope; I’m eagerly awaiting this one, and I promise I’m not just saying that because she’s my boss. —A.R.

All My Mother's Lovers by Ilana Masad (Dutton; May 26)

When 27-year-old Maggie Krause’s mother dies, she returns home to find, alongside her mother’s will, five sealed envelopes addressed to men she’s never heard of. Maggie — whose queerness her mother openly disdained — decides to personally deliver these mysterious messages, and, in doing so, discovers she might not have known her mother, or her seemingly perfect marriage to her father, at all. It’s an exciting fiction debut from a discerning and insightful book critic. —A.R.

Read Ilana Masad’s essay “These New Books Refuse to Make a Spectacle of Women’s Trauma.”

A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Knopf; June 2)

The lives of Jivan, a Muslim girl who has been accused of a terrorist attack, PT Sir, a cunning gym teacher, and Lovely, an outcast who has a lifesaving alibi for Jivan, fatefully converge in this debut literary thriller from a fiction editor at Catapult. — T.O.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Riverhead; June 2)

In this new novel by the author of the New York Times bestseller The Mothers, twin sisters who are light enough to pass for white and living in a Southern town have dramatically different adulthoods when one twin decides to make good on her light-skinned privilege and marries a white man, leaving their town and her sister behind. —T.O.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (Random House; June 2)

The author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks is back after a five-year hiatus with a new novel about the ’70s psychedelic rock group, Utopia Avenue. “Can a novel made of words (and not fitted with built-in speakers or Bluetooth) explore the word-less mysteries of music, and music’s impact on people and the world?” writes Mitchell in a press release about the new book. “Utopia Avenue is my rather hefty stab at an answer.” Can’t wait to see if he succeeds. —T.O.

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; June 9)

Van den Berg (author of 2018’s surreal and haunting The Third Hotel) returns to short fiction in a collection of 11 stories about women and the ways in which they deal with their struggles against misogyny, violence, and power imbalance. —A.R.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions; June 9)

Following the completion of her Neapolitan novels — the wildly popular four-book series starting with My Brilliant Friend — Ferrante returns to Naples, this time highlighting the disparities between the rarefied airs of “the Naples of the heights” and the vulgarities of “the Naples of the depths” through the soul-searching of young Giovanna. —A.R.

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat (Catapult; June 9)