The Best Books of the Year (So Far): Great New Reads You Might Have Missed 

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It’s been a year. While it feels like 2020 has been a non-stop roller coaster ride of the wildly unimaginable kind—we’re only halfway through. And although the start of this decade has been a rocky one, the publishing this year has been nothing short of stellar. Words are often a source of comfort, escape, and learning, and our booksellers had the great pleasure of rounding up our picks for the best books of 2020 (so far). These thought-provoking titles range from the informative to the historical, electrifying new novels, unforgettable characters and heartwarming narratives. Don’t miss the full list here and read on to check out five of the books we’re highlighting below.

The Vanishing Half
Brit Bennett

Spoiler alert: you will not be able to put this book down! The Vanishing Half is an indelible story of identity, family and home that tells the story of identical twin sisters and their daughters, all living vastly different lives. From the acclaimed author of The Mothers, this is a story that asks big questions about who we are and where we’re headed. It’s topping bestseller lists and HBO just won a highly competitive auction to secure the rights to develop the story into a limited series. Everyone is talking about this book! Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie hailed The Vanishing Half as “a novel that shows just how human emotion, uncertainty and longing can be captured and put on paper.”

“Brit Bennett’s writing is smart and sharp, funny and melancholy, and it’s clear she has a lot of love for her characters. A great recommendation for fans of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.”—Miwa M, Bookseller, B&N Home Office

“Smart, sharp, and oh so good. I absolutely loved this book and was very invested in the characters, even the ones I got frustrated with! This is the first book I have read by Brit Bennett and I cannot wait to read more.”—Lindsay B, Bookseller, B&N Home Office

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Suzanne Collins

Fans of The Hunger Games spent the better part of year swapping theories, pouring over the original texts to confirm or deny said theories and searching the new cover for any possible clues, all while patiently waiting to re-enter Panem. This is the series that ushered in a new era of dystopian fiction, one that’s character-driven in an extraordinary world filled with action, suspense, romance and social commentary – it’s basically got it all, and nothing is off limits. So, when the day arrived to finally unearth the early days of Coriolanus Snow and bring new insights to this complex and compelling world, fans were not left disappointed:

“A heart-stopping adrenaline rush that has you clamoring to reread the original series now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of this unexpected backstory!”—Melissa L, Bookseller, Bellingham, MA

“I didn’t want it to end, and knowing the events of the Hunger Games, I didn’t want to feel for Snow. The book gives you a peek into his world, and leaves you wanting to see more.”—Paul, Bookseller, Santee, CA

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning 
Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

This is not a history book. Jason Reynolds, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and the celebrated author of Long Way Down and Look Both Ways lends his powerful, lyrical prose in this remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning—a staggering look at the deeply rooted systemic racism in American society and how we got here. This edition shines a light on the many dangerous forms in which racism presents itself today and ways to identify and eradicate it from your daily life. Stamped is brilliant and profound and should find its way into the hands of every young reader. There’s no end to the heights this book will reach:

“Reynolds’s engaging, clear prose shines a light on difficult and confusing subjects, including anti-blackness and the creation of racial capitalism. Terms like “segregationist,” “integrationist” and “anti-racist” are defined in direct, accessible language, becoming real tools for a reader to take from the book. This is no easy feat.”— Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman, in The New York Times

Stamped is a book that should be in the hands of every teenager. This book is a call to action and is written with the intention of dismantling the racist prejudices that continue to plague our nation. It is educational, important and so very relevant.”—Victoria B, Bookseller, Corte Madera, CA

A Burning
Megha Majumdar

A Burning is like nothing we’ve ever read. An astonishing, heartbreaking story about power—who has it, who doesn’t and what some will do to get it—that’s also an absolute page-turner. In a deceptively slim package like Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys and There, There by Tommy Orange, this is an unforgettable debut by a magnificent new voice. We could not get over the complexities, distinct characters and timely messages throughout this amazing story, and we’re not the only ones who were completely enchanted by its language and universal themes: Yaa Gyasi, author of Homecoming raved about how “Megha Majumdar writes about the ripple effects of our choices, the interconnectedness of our humanity, with striking beauty and clarity.”

“The story is told through three characters whose fates become so carefully intertwined that you won’t stop asking “Why did they do that?” until long after you’ve finished the book. It’s a masterfully orchestrated story that will just leave you stunned and speechless.”—Stephanie F, Bookseller, B&N Home Office

“A searing debut novel filled with characters who will live with you long after you turn the final page… the intensity of this story cannot be overstated. A Burning is the best book I’ve read so far this year!”—Sarah C, Bookseller, Schaumburg, IL

Glennon Doyle

More than just a memoir, this book takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery. It seeks to liberate women from the societal expectations that bind them, to honor beauty and rage equally—it speaks to the soul. While Doyle’s previous books Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior started the conversation, Untamed started a movement. Her legions of fans (old and new) have found within themselves those three little words “There She Is” and have kept this book at the top of bestseller lists since it’s arrival in March. It was the April selection for Reese’s Book Club and one that Reese herself raved as a book “packed with incredible insight about what it means to be a woman today, what it means to be ‘good,’ and what women will do in order to be loved.”

“Some books shake you by the shoulder while others steal your heart. In Untamed, Glennon does both at the exact same time.” Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection

Untamed is another honest, moving and empowering book from Glennon Doyle. Her books feel like you’re having a conversation with just her, this one is no different.” —Sarah S, Bookseller, Corte Madera, CA

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