“The Tale of Genji” was written by a Japanese woman in the 11th century known as Murasaki Shikibu. This 54-chapter story of seduction and lust is believed to be the first novel ever written in this world. Almost 2,000 years later, people all over the world are still captivated  by novels, even in such modern times where stories appear on pocket screens and disappear after a day or so. Many of us are still enthralled on how novels are able to let us travel to places, experience things, and feel emotions by simply just reading. Indeed, Reading a good book is like being around an inspiring person. You observe inspiring actions, feel contagious passion, and desire to live a better life. 

Because, generally reading books is good not only for our mental and physical health but also our soul, we hope that you never stop reading even in a year such as 2020 – a time when we are mostly stuck at home because of a health crisis. One of the things this pandemic has given us is the time to slow down and reconnect with the hobbies and interests we used to do. With that, if you are a bookworm who just want to know which books to read for this year or you are one of those who want to rekindle their childhood hobby of reading, this article will give you the 10 best books that you should definitely not miss out reading this 2020. So if you are interested, keep on reading.

11. It’s Not All Downhill From Here: A Novel, by Terry McMillan

It's Not All Downhill From Here

Image lifted from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49819833-it-s-not-all-downhill-from-here

New York Times bestselling author Terry McMillan introduces the story of Sixty-Eight-year-old Loretha Curry, where one unexpected moment turns her world upside down. She will then must turn to her friends to ask for help to be able to keep on living, find joy, heal old wounds, and risk new paths. This is a story of hope, friendship, loyalty, and love. This story will definitely help you figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life – just like Loretha Curry did in this novel.

10. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind

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This third novel by Rumaan Alam is about a long weekend, away from the busy life in New York City, that has gone awfully wrong between two families who are forced to go together. The novel introduces Amanda and Clay who just wish to spend some quality time with their teenage son and daughter in a remote corner of Long Island. However, their family time was disrupted when Ruth and G.H, an older black couple, knocked on their door in the middle of the night. This suspenseful and provocative story of Rumaan Alam focuses on the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave The World Behind is a novel that will make you reevaluate your bonds with your family and friends and will make you think how strong it can survive during moments of hardship and crisis.

9. Drifts, by Kate Zambreno

Drifts, by Kate Zambreno

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Drifts is a story of creative crisis, artistic ambition, personal transformation, and all the failures and possibilities in the world of literature. This novel by Kate Zambreno is a reflection of how art impacts our lives in the most fascinating ways. As the protagonist looks for the meaning of her own art, and maybe life, in the faces of strangers in her neighborhood and in the quiet halls of bookstores and museums, readers are also captivated on how enthralling it is to find purpose in the most random of things. Just as she pours her emotions and thoughts in the blank pages of the yellow paper that soon becomes a finished novel, readers are able to see the evolution of oneself. With this novel, Kate Zambreno is definitely one of the most daring writers out there by truly depicting life’s distractions and uncertainties. 

8. Hollywood Park, by Mikel Jollett

 Hollywood Park

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Hollywood Park is a remarkable memoir of Mikel Jollet. This book depicts how it is to grow up into one of the country’s most infamous cults, with childhood full of hardships due to poverty, addiction, trauma, abuse, and delinquency. Being raised by a clinically depressed mother, abused by his angry older brother and unpredictable problematic step-fathers, Jollet was able to build a life that landed him to Stanford University, and eventually became one successful writer and musician. This powerful memoir shows how a problematic past cannot hinder your future, as Mikel Jollet being one of the proof. This book shows how a gifted writer found his voice through love at its fiercest and loyalty at most. 

7. Just Like You: A Novel, by Nick Hornby

Just Like You

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This tender and warm novel by Nick Hornby is all about falling in love with the best possible person, in the most unexpected times. This highly entertaining modern love story reflects how good it is to love a person you did not see coming. Nick Hornby was able to convey such a warm, tender, and funny storyline thru Lucy, the protagonist in this novel. Lucy was married to a guy who she thought she wanted. She married someone just like herself – same age, same background, and same interests. They started a family. But in the end, she was miserable. After two long decades, she’s  a nearly-divorced, forty-one-year-old mother of two school-aged sons and a school teacher. She met a man of different class, culture, and generation. And she did not expect that meeting will change her life drastically – in a good way. Just Like You is indeed a good read, especially in moments when you think love will never find its way into your life. 

6. The Disaster Tourist: A Novel, by Yun Ko-Eun

The Disaster Tourist

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This daring and powerful  eco-thriller novel by award-winning Korean writer Yun Ko-Eun strongly attracts readers to engage with global issues such as climate activism, dark tourism, and the feminism movement. Yona, the protagonist in this novel, works for Jungle, a travel company, that offers vacation packages to destinations that were destroyed by environmental and man-made disasters. Because of a predatory workmate, Jungle makes a proposition to Yona – she was offered to visit the desert island of Mui. The catch: she has to act like a tourist and evaluate if the unprofitable destination still can be recognized as a partner by the company. Being there, Yona discovered a lot of things that put in a situation where she had to choose between her company and a fresh new start. The Disaster Tourist, with its strong feminist sensitivity, is a powerful book that addresses the consequences of our obsession with disaster. 

5. Exciting Times, by Naoise Dolan

 Exciting Times

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Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan is an intelligent and well written love triangle story between an Irish expat, a male banker, and a female lawyer. This novel successfully conveys the thrill, freedom, and uncertainties of a modern love. Naoise Dolan is able to show this Ava, the protagonist in this story. Ava left Dublin to move to Hong Kong in order to find happiness. Here, she meets Julian, a smart British banker. Julian made it possible for Ava to experience a lavish lifestyle. After a while, she met Edith, a powerful female lawyer, who takes her on dates. This makes Ava confused if she should stay with Julian or risk it with Edith. Naoise Dolan engages readers through conveying the difference between wanting and loving someone. 

4. Sansei and Sensibility, by Karen Tei Yamashita

 Sansei and Sensibility

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In these bold and creative stories, Karen Tei Yamashita conveys classic novels with the Japanese American immigrant experience, as seen through the lens of people living in the 60’s and 70’s in California. With Mr. Darcy leading the football team, public school bake sales putting back Austen’s mannered countryside balls, and station wagons being the preferred mode of transit than horse-drawn carriages, Yamashita examines the perceptions of generations and the essence of inheritance – familial, cultural, emotional, artistic – in these daring stories that go beyond race, place, or time. 

3. This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

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This exquisite novel by Tsitsi Dangarembga is about the obstacles, hardships, and trials women in Zimbabwe face everyday. Tambudzai, the protagonist in this story, leaves her stagnant job and her living situation in downtown Harare. She moves to the boarding house of a widow, and in time finds work as a biology teacher. She tries everyday to make a living out of herself, however, her everyday social conditions paired with a bleak future, her reality in the end drives her to her breaking point. As her final resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job back to her parent’s home land. This novel by Tsitsi Dangarembga leads up to an act of betrayal. Furthermore, Dangarembga is able to powerfully reveal how colonialism and capitalism destroy the lives of people. This book will surely disturb the comforts that you experience everyday and will definitely make you reevaluate your life and the privileges you have. 

2. Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi 

 Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

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Burnt Sugar is a corrosive and compulsive debut by Avni Doshi. This novel is all about love and betrayal – not between lovers, but between mother and daughter. The story highlights Tara, who was very untamed in her youth. As a young woman, she abandoned her arranged marriage to join an ashram, then live through a short turn as a beggar, and spent years chasing a homeless artist – all these times with her young child in tow. Now she is an old woman, with a grown-up daughter who is faced with the responsibility of taking care for a woman who never cared for her. Burnt Sugar unravels the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter. This sharp and intelligent story untangles the bonds between two women together, looking through the perspective of each other as they go through the phases of their lives. Doshi tests the limits of us as readers of what we can know for certain about those closest to us, and in the end about ourselves.

1. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste 

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

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This hauntingly brilliant novel by Maaza Mengiste is set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia. This book conveys the first real conflict of World War II, highlighting the strength of women soldiers who were forgotten and buried down by history. The Shadow King tells the story of the recently orphaned Hirut. She begins the novel working as a servant, and gradually transforms herself into a proud warrior. With this, she inspires other women to take up arms against the italians. Next to that, follows a strikingly organized and compelling exploration of female power and strength, with Hirut as the first, strong, and valiant voice at its heart. Maaza Mengiste reinvigorates complex characters on both sides of the battle line,  molding a harrowing, lasting analysis of what it means to be a woman at war.

References: 

  1. Baker, L. BBC. 2020. The best books of the year so far 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200327-the-best-books-of-2020-so-far. Retrieved on 28 October 2020.
  2. Kelly, H. Vulture. 2020. The Best Books of the Year (So Far). Retrieved from: https://www.vulture.com/article/best-books-2020.html. Retrieved on 28 October 2020.
  3. Weiss, K. Harper’s Bazaar. 2020. The 43 Best Books to Read in 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/art-books-music/g30719704/best-new-books-2020/. Retrieved on 28 October 2020.
  4. Westenfeld, A. Esquire. 2020. The Best Books to Elevate Your Reading List in 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/books/g30630848/best-books-of-2020/. Retrieved on 28 October 2020.