Every year, we approach experts and ask them to recommend the best books published in their field that year. Below you’ll find all our best books of 2020 reading lists as they are published on Five Books. (Our best books of 2019, 2018 and 2017 lists are also still available: those books are still well worth reading!).
Almost all the book recommendations are based on an individual expert's choices. Sometimes, as in the best novels of early 2020, one of our editors may make a selection, based on the vast quantities of books we read every week. For very broad subjects like kids' books—where there are so many books and topics it's impossible for any individual to make a call on what the best books are—we will also interview the chair of distinguished prizes, as they have systematically gone through all the books published that year to choose the very best.
Either way, we can guarantee one thing: all the books below are very, very good books.
Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century
by Charles King
The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth
by Josh Levin
L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated "Female Byron"
by Lucasta Miller
Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century
by George Packer
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
by Sonia Purcell
How do you find the perfect subject for a biography? “Pick a real bitch, or real bastard, and make sure they’re dead,” a famous biographer once told Elizabeth Taylor. The author, critic and chair of the National Book Critics’ Circle biography committee talks us through the books that made their 2020 shortlist.
Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn rounds up the most hotly anticipated new novels of early 2020, including the final instalment in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy and new work from the authors of Dept. of Speculation, Eileen and Station Eleven.
Every year, the Audie Awards celebrate the best audiobooks published over the previous year. Veteran audiobook reviewer Robin Whitten of AudioFile Magazine and Mary Burkey, who has served on multiple audiobook judging panels, explain what makes a good audiobook and talk us through the brilliant books that were finalists in the 2020 ‘Audiobook of the Year’ category.
From a brave account by the Stanford rape case survivor Chanel Miller to New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow’s gripping tale of investigating the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it’s been a golden year for autobiography. Veteran critic Mark Athitakis talks us through the memoirs that made this year’s National Book Critics Circle autobiography shortlist.
After reading hundreds of newly published books and asking children and adults alike for their input, the winners of the 2020 Newbery Medal and Honors have been chosen. Librarian and chair of the selection committee Krishna Grady introduces us to the best new children’s books that will surprise, delight and hold your kid’s attention—including the first graphic novel to ever win the award.
Audiobooks are a great way to keep teenagers entertained and informed. Mary Burkey, an expert on kids' audiobooks, and Robin Whitten, editor and founder of AudioFile magazine, talk us through the wonderful titles that were finalists in this year's Audie Awards in the 'young adult' category.