Bill Buford, the writer and former fiction editor at The New Yorker, once said: “Stories protect us from chaos, [and are] essential to the way we make sense of our lives.” Given the tumult of this past year, we’ve needed stories more than ever. And fortunately, while 2020 has fallen wildly short of many expectations, it’s been a boon for readers who enjoy great books.
Each month the Amazon Books editorial team chooses 10 favorite books. It’s rare, but every once in a while a particular month will be so chock-full of compelling contenders that we extend the list to 12. In 2020 that happened an unprecedented five times, making the task of homing in on the Best Books of the Year that much harder. These are the “problems” we like to have.
Topping our list of the Best Books of 2020 is Brittany K. Barnett’s A Knock at Midnight. This deeply personal indictment of our criminal justice system speaks to the cultural moment in a way nothing else we read this year has. In an interview with Al Woodworth, Senior Editor for the Amazon Book Review, Barnett, an attorney, said: “I wrote this book to correct false narratives about those most impacted by the war on drugs and by the propaganda war that accompanied it—to set the record straight. I wanted to open a window for the world to know my clients—kind, generous, brilliant men and women—the way that I did. I want everybody to see that the victims of mass incarceration are not statistics but human beings, each with their own unique heartbeat.” This ultimately hopeful memoir opened our eyes and hearts in profound ways, and we hope it will for you as well.
Rounding out the top three are two very different but equally gripping novels. Part adventure story, part love story, Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy follows a sharp, flawed, and determined woman who will stop at nothing to track down what she’s lost. And Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby—a slick, rural, Southern noir caper threaded with what the author has referred to as “tragic masculinity”—will thrill you and break your heart all at the same time.
Crowning the Best Children’s Books of the Year is All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier. This beautiful picture book is an ode to all children, telling each one that they matter from the time before they were born and through their entire lives. For children who face injustice or who may question their place in the world, this book reminds them that the answer is a resounding yes: you matter, you belong, and you are part of something bigger. A conversation starter and a love letter to our kids, All Because You Matter is an important and moving book that needs to be shared.
To see all of the Best Books of the Year, visit www.amazon.com/bestbooks2020. There you’ll find our overall top 20 picks, plus favorites in popular genres from biographies, to literary fiction, to romance and sci-fi (and everything in between).