The year in books: Everything you need to know about 2020's biggest and best reads

The longest, strangest year taught us one thing: When in doubt, read. Literature was our constant companion through all the tumult — here, we (try to) sum up all the tomes we turned to.

The best of the best

10. A Burning by Megha Majumdar

9. Red Comet by Heather Clark

8. Daddy by Emma Cline

7. Deacon King Kong by James McBride

6. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

5. Memorial by Bryan Washington

4. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

3. Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

2. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

  1. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

For more on EW's best books of the year, check out the full coverage here.

The honorable mentions

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart

Apeirogon by Colum McCann (Read about Colum McCann's experience writing Apeirogon here)

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell

A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Find out what helped the POTUS write his memoir here)

Tome Deaf: The 5 worst books

Apropos of Nothing by Woody Allen

The beleaguered director’s memoir is as vain and shortsighted as his insistence, even after being dropped by his original publisher (Hachette), on releasing a memoir at all. —Seija Rankin

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

The separation of art from the artist is an ongoing debate, but J.K. Rowling’s latest Cormoran Strike novel is nowhere near good enough to forget her offensively misinformed rants. —SR

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

She’d never make this list if she hadn’t also written EW’s favorite book of 2018, My Year of Rest and Relaxation; alas, Death’s near-plotless mystery feels both empty and claustrophobic. —Leah Greenblatt

Rage by Bob Woodward

The legendary journalist’s hyped Trump exposé wielded consequential bombshells for media opps but failed to make a book out of unforgivably bland conversation transcripts. —David Canfield

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

How to erase Twilight’s already-tenuous charms? Tell it from Edward’s dour POV, as the series’ seemingly endless fifth entry does. Vamp romance has never felt so lifeless. —Mary Sollosi

Great Performances

Hilary Mantel, The Mirror & the Light

Starting with 2009’s Wolf Hall, Mantel ingeniously traced the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, spilling some 1,800 pages across three novels in just over a decade — and turning us all into giddy groupies for 16th-century cardinals and canon law. —LG

Kiley Reid, Such a Fun Age

Credit: Brad Ogbonna for EW

On the first day of 2020, Kiley Reid had been a debut author for all of 24 hours. By the first week, she was a New York Times best-seller. She closes the year with a spot on the Booker Prize longlist, and a lot of eyes on whatever comes next. —SR

V.E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Credit: Jenna Maurice

The fantasy author delivered a Faustian tale — the story of a woman cursed to be forgotten — that elevated her already enchanting prose to the stuff of true magic, proving she can probe darkness and the heart in equal measure. —Maureen Lee Lenker

Rodham love scenes, ranked from hot to not

Curtis Sittenfeld’s retelling of Hillary Clinton’s career offered heavy feminism — and heavy breathing.

Credit: Random House

Hillary and Bill consummate their breakup

“…he lay on his side in the bed, his shoulders shaking. I spooned him, and we stayed like that through the night. Around four in the morning, we had sex.”

Hillary accepts Bill's semi-decent proposal

“…we had glorious sex and when I was on top of him, sitting up, and both of us were close but not finished, I said, ‘I’ll marry you. I want to marry you so badly. I love you so much.’”

Bill attempts dirty talk in a hot tub

“…it was a new pleasure to me to…sink into the warm bubbling water. The first time we did this, Bill grinned and said, ‘It’s like we’re ingredients in a soup.’”

Bill offers Hillary an (ahem) special gift while driving on an Arkansas highway

“I lasted about two minutes, and then I was saying as quietly as I could, ‘Oh, baby. Bill. Bill. Baby, I love you so much.’”

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