2020 roundup: Top five book releases of the year
This year the publishing industry was also significantly affected by the pandemic, with book shop closures and numerous cancellations of literary events, but many determined authors still made it into print in 2020. Here are the releases that impressed us most.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
This is a wise and touching family saga that raises sensitive social issues but also reminds us of the importance of family ties. The novel mainly takes place in mid-20th century America; twin sisters Stella and Desiree have black ancestry but very fair skin. One of them decides to “pass” as white, while the other marries “the darkest man she could find.”
HBO has won the rights to adapt the novel into a TV series, which we are definitely looking forward to watching!
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
This 2020 Booker Prize-winning novel is based in a British mining town in 1981, where many families are trying to survive deprivation and hardship. Agnes dreamed of a very different life, but her husband left her, followed by her children. Only her son Shuggie hasn’t abandoned his mother.
Shuggie Bain is a powerful, realistic portrayal of the Scottish working class, alcoholism, poverty and family relationships.
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year, Burnt Sugar explores toxic and troubled relationships between mother and daughter and how the wounds of childhood can leave traumatic scars on adult life.
Avni Doshi openly speaks about the physical processes of a pregnant female body and masterfully describes postpartum depression. It’s an engaging, brave and painfully honest story about love and betrayal.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
The protagonist is both dead and alive at the same time and refers to himself as both male and female, having a mysterious connection with his grandmother, who passed away the day he was born. The Death of Vivek Oji explores the boundaries of the human body and its self-perception, which can come into conflict with the pressures of established social structures: “I’m not what anyone thinks I am.”
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
This year, David Mitchell delighted his fans with the release of a new novel. Those who love Cloud Atlas will appreciate Utopia Avenue for its many references to the famous bestseller and the author’s other works. However, this time the events are firmly placed in the 1960s, with Mitchell exploring the music industry of the time, where big ambitions and fame are not a guarantee of happiness.