The best fiction books of 2020, from mysteries to historical fiction


Stories offer a chance to understand the world, and the monitor’s choices for the best fiction books of 2020 provide clarity and insight. From cozy mysteries to studies of the immigrant experience, there is something for everyone on this list.

“Amnesty” by Aravind Adiga

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

“Amnesty” by Aravind Adiga, Scribner, 256 p.

Sri Lankan living as an unauthorized immigrant in Australia discovers he has key information in a murder case. But if he goes to the authorities to reveal the killer, he will reveal himself too. Aravind Adiga tells a gripping story that pits self-interest against conscience.

“Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell

Irish-born writer Maggie O’Farrell brings William Shakespeare’s family life to life in a landmark novel named after the playwright’s son, whose death at age 11 may have prompted his father to write “Hamlet”. O’Farrell extrapolates a very thin historical record into an imaginative, sensitive and believable story.

“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig

Nora’s life is fraught with regret. Then she comes across a library with books that allow her to test the lives she could have led. His findings prove life in Matt Haig’s dazzling fantasy.

“Simon the fiddler” by Paulette Jiles

Courtesy of HarperCollins

“Simon the violinist” by Paulette Jiles, William Morrow, 352 pp.

A violinist enlisted in the Confederate army crosses the road of an Irish woman, servant under contract of an officer of the Union. When the South surrenders and Simon immerses himself in his music, he still desires it. Beautifully told with lyrical descriptions, the novel sheds light on the daily struggles of the time.

“The index of acts of self-destruction” by Christophe Beha

New York City after the 2008 financial collapse provides the setting for Christopher Beha’s modern moralistic tale in which algorithmic thinking collides with impulsiveness. Cleverly written with poetic accents, the story offers engaging twists.

“All the devils are here” by Louise Penny

Inspector Gamache strives to uncover a sinister web of crime in the City of Light, inflamed by the hit-and-run attempt of his beloved godfather. Sparkling with psychological suspense, secrecy, danger and levity, this masterful addition to Louise Penny’s crime thriller series “Three Pines” also celebrates the enduring gift of love and family.

“The other sister Bennet” by Janice Hadlow

Courtesy of Macmillan Editors

“The Other Sister Bennet” by Janice Hadlow, Henry Holt and Company, 463 pp.

Readers don’t have to be a fan of “Pride and Prejudice” to appreciate this novel in which Mary, the middle sister of Jane Austen’s classic, emerges from the shadows. It is a historical novel for the contemporary era.

“Elegies of the Fatherland” by Ayad Akhtar

Ayad Akhtar’s novel is a tour de force that combines personal narrative, political history and social commentary. Tracing the corrosive effects of scorched earth political rhetoric and late capitalism, Akhtar explores topics as broad as debt, healthcare corporatization, and the state of higher education today, through the debates and the fierce experiences of his family.

“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman

The backdrop to this charming and cleverly written ‘cozy mystery’ is an upscale British retirement community. At first, the septuagenarians tackle cold cases, but when one of the developers in their community is murdered, the small club seeks answers.

“The half that passes out” by Brit Bennett

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, Riverhead Books, 343 pp.

The twin sisters take very different paths in this captivating exploration of race, identity and meaning of home. A poignant combination of mystery and history, the novel moves quickly while addressing questions of great weight. While the plot hinges on coincidences and unlikely surprises at times, so do the nation and times that are recounted in this book.

“Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi

Ghanaian-born American writer Yaa Gyasi follows her award-winning debut album, “Homegoing”, with the touching story of Ghanaian immigrants struggling to achieve the American Dream in the face of racism and the opioid crisis. Told by the daughter Gifty, it is also the story of a young woman’s spiritual journey to reconcile her vocation as a neuroscientist with her evangelical Christian faith.

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