19 Incredible Titles To Add To Your 2020 Reading And Bookclub List

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Best Books Of 2020: 14 Incredible Titles To Add To Your 2020 Reading And Bookclub List
Editor At Large
Self

It's that time again! The end of year, where 2019 lists are made. And like I did in 2018, I've curated a list of my favorite books for you to read in 2020. It's a bit memoir-heavy — I do err toward memoir more than any other genre — but hopefully, there's something (or some book) that will cater to every taste. (And if you're like me and enjoy tracking your reads, follow me on Good Reads or get real-time book reviews @bookreviewsnobodyaskedfor.) Happy reading!

1. Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice For Living Your Best Life — Ali Wong

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

Hilarious. Dirty. (You have to be ok with phrases like ‘afterbirth leaking from my p*ssy’ and ‘licking butthole.’) If you’re Asian-American, a mom, or a woman who had a sexually enjoyable time in college, or all of the above, this is especially for you. 

RELATED: 14 Incredible Titles To Add To Your 2019 Reading And Bookclub List

2. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed — Lori Gottlieb

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

From Amazon: "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is rev­olutionary in its candor, offering a deeply per­sonal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly reveal­ing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them."

3. Inheritance: A Memoir Of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love — Dani Shapiro

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‘What never fail to draw me in, however, are secrets. Secrets within families. Secrets we keep out of shame, or self-protectiveness, or denial. Secrets and their corrosive power. Secrets we keep from one another in the name of love.’ Dani Shaprio (one of my favorite memoirists — check out her other stuff) takes an Ancestry.com DNA test and finds out that her Orthodox Jewish father isn't her father. Her real father is ... JK not giving that away — read the book! Seriously, I could not put this down. Fascinating, gripping, disturbing: a real-life mystery unfolding in real time.

4. Educated: A Memoir — Tara Westover

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It’s honestly difficult at points to believe this book is non-fiction. I'm genuinely flabbergasted how this woman survived her own childhood. Tara Westover was raised by survivalist Mormon extremist parents who raised her off-the-grid (i.e. no birth certificate until she was 9; no traditional schooling; no vaccines; no medical or government intervention (obviously, the more religiously fringe-y you get, the crazier you are but we gotta give it up to the Scientologists and Mormons for truly being on another level of WTF — see: 'Under The Banner Of Heaven' by John Krakauer for further evidence.) The fact that Westover overcomes her abuse (emotional and physical) and cult-like upbringing to become the accomplished woman she is today is astounding. Period. Her memoir is shocking, but it's also a testament to the incredible resilience of the human spirit. 

5. My Friend Anna: The True Story Of A Fake Heiress — Rachel DeLoache Williams

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I’ve been following the story of Anna Delvey A.K.A Anna Sorokin for awhile in the media — in short, she’s a Russian con artist who paraded around NYC socialite circles pretending to be an heiress and scamming people out of large amounts of $$$ — this book is written by one of the people she scammed. I couldn’t put it down. One: for the sheer audacity and brazenness of this bitch. Anna is EVIL. Two, for the gullibility of the writer. I know, I know, she’s the victim, but honey: let’s maybe not loan $70k to someone we’ve known for 6 mos...? (Free advice: being overly-suspicious of others’ intentions makes you cynical; being discerning makes you wise.) The story is more complex than what I’ve outlined but if you’re curious about how sociopathic scam artists prey on the weak, this is a fascinating character study.

RELATED: Best Books To Read In 2019 —​ 10 New Book Releases To Obsess Over Before The New Year

6. Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir — Jayson Greene

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“Your brain is a bad neighborhood and you should never go into it alone.” - Anne Lamott /// “Grief is fluid, and it’s always changing.” - Jayson’s grief counselor /// I read this in one evening and sobbed quietly, muffling my sniffles as to not wake my sleeping husband. Jayson Greene — who's also an editor at Pitchfork ("I learned something hidden and unpleasant about my chosen profession in these weeks. Yes, listening to music can be life-affirming, a conduit to your deepest emotions. It can also simply be noise, a horse blanket blotting out sensation.") — loses his 2-year-old daughter, Greta, in a freak accident: a crumbling brick falls from a dilapidated UWS building and kills her while she's sitting on a bench with her grandmother. Obviously, I'm masochistic in the sense I even chose to pick this book up; what can I say? I like to break my own heart. And break your own heart, you will BUT you'll also leave a few fragments intact because while the story’s sad and senseless, it also speaks to enduring unimaginable grief. (Notice I didn't use the word 'overcoming;’ one doesn't necessarily 'overcome' tragedy, moreso learns to co-exist w/ it.) There was a part that enraged me, though: At one point, Jayson and his wife attend a a grief retreat and get sucked into a 'psychic' who claims she communicates with the dead. FIRST OFF: how grotesque do you have to be to profit off the desperation of the bereaved? SECOND OF ALL: why is a psychic at a grief retreat? I wanted to jump into the pages and aggressively bludgeon the scam artist for selling false hope to these poor people. Anyway, I don't even know if I should recommend this book. Do you want to feel very sad? Read this. Are you sad? Would you like to feel even sadder? Definitely read this. Then hug your kids. Question God. Question psychics. Do it all. We have far less control than we think we do.

7. Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory: Stories — Raphael Bob-Waksberg

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This is spectacular and quite possibly, my favorite book I've read all year. It's written by the creator of BoJack Horseman (a show I obviously need to start watching!) and it's dark, strange, and romantic in the all the unromantic ways which makes it even more romantic. It’s also deeply funny if you share his weird, off-brand sense of humor. (I do.) It's not for everyone — if the title doesn't make you chuckle a little, that's probably a sign — but if it's for you, it's REALLY, really for you. Raphael Bob-Waksberg is a wacky and wonderful writer. Brilliant.

8. Kitchens Of The Great Midwest: A Novel — J. Ryan Strandal

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From Amazon: "Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life—its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent."

9. All That You Leave Behind: A Memoir — Erin Carr

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David Carr was one of my favorite New York Times media journalists. His death was a shock and a tragedy. This is the memoir of his daughter, Erin. (Who, I learned btw, is the woman behind some of my favorite documentaries: Mommy Dead & Dearest and the just-released At The Heart Of Gold on HBO about the US Gymnastics sex abuse scandal.) /// Anyway, this is a beautiful tribute to a complicated, imperfect, occasionally cranky man (all reasons I adored him) as well as a glimpse into who David Carr was as a father. (To Erin on her first job interview: "You are neither smart enough nor pretty enough to not be showering everyday.") But beyond the sage Carr-isms, Carr anecdotes, and Carr advice (“Don’t fuck your subjects”), the book also touches on the beautifully complex dynamics of fathers and daughters, Erin's struggle to get (and stay) sober, and how one copes after losing a parent, especially one with a force and heart like David Carr. If his work touched you, or simply just humored you, you'll enjoy this.

10. Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir — Ruth Reichl

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This is Ruth Reichl's memoir of her time as the editor-in-chief of Gourmet back when Conde Nast was THEE CONDE NAST (and allowed for wardrobe budgets; it was a different time). Perhaps because I used to work in the hallowed halls of 4 Times Square or perhaps because I was a magazine journalism major with stars in her eyes - a fairly useless degree now, to be honest, and look! I still use cliché phrasing like 'stars in her eyes,' — I enjoyed recalling the glory days of glossies and the Si Newman New York City editor gossip. But even if you're not here for that, it's still a scrumptiously sad (go with it) story of an old-timey print mag attempting to transition to digital — and ultimately failing. There's lots of stories like this, but Ruth's honesty and self-deprecation — qualities that made her such a killer food critic! — make it one worth reading.

RELATED: What Book Should You Read This Summer, By Zodiac Sign

11. Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef — Gabrielle Hamilton

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From Amazon: "Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a prickly marriage that nonetheless yields lasting dividends. By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion."

12. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir — Roz Chast

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I'm a huge Roz Chast fan. And this book — which was a huge best-seller when it came out a few years ago — is her best work. It's about the struggles and joys and heartbreak and hilarity of taking care of aging parents as the sole child. You'll laugh, you'll cry ... is a very cliché movie advertisement, but it's also true of this comic memoir. Her attention to detail is astounding (her illustrations could stand on their own) and she manages to endear you to a old Jewish couple from Brooklyn, while expertly balancing hard realities + comedic exaggeration re: geriatrics. Loved it; all my stars.

13. The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir Of Wanderlust — Laura Smith

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From Amazon: "The Art of Vanishing is a riveting mystery and a piercing exploration of marriage and convention that asks deep and uncomfortable questions: Why do we give up on our childhood dreams? Is marriage a golden noose? Must we find ourselves in the same row houses with Pottery Barn lamps telling our kids to behave? Searingly honest and written with a raw intensity, it will challenge you to rethink your most intimate decisions and may just upend your life."

14. The Pisces — Melissa Broder 

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From Amazon: "The Pisces is a story about falling in obsessive love with a merman: a figure of Sirenic fantasy whose very existence pushes Lucy to question everything she thought she knew about love, lust, and meaning in the one life we have."

15. Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions And Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure — Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

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In light of the abhorrent college cheating scam ring and the New York Times piece revealing that a significant portion of parents say they're actively involved in their adult children's daily lives — from scheduling dental appointments and attending (I repeat: ATTENDING) job interviews with their progeny, it'd be remiss of me not to mention this book and that if were up to me, humans wouldn’t be allowed to reproduce without reading it. (Stand down, helicopter parents, it's not up to me.) The book centers around three psychological principles and what happens to young adults when parents and educators acting with the best intentions implement policies that are inconsistent with those principles, leading to Three Great Untruths: 1. What doesn't kill you makes you weaker. 2. Always trust your feelings. 3. Life is a battle between good people and evil people. When young people embrace these untruths, it leads to low levels of viewpoint diversity, weak leadership, and a high sense of threat. This is the society we live in now and the authors astutely analyze six trends that got us here — e.g. rising political polarization, a shift to a more fearful, protective and intensive parenting style, among others. Frankly, I see reading this book as a responsibility, one that's just as critical to raising the next generation, should you choose to do so, as 'what to expect when you're expecting.’

16. Social Creature — Tara Isabella Burton

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

There are things it’s better for a person not to know. The day and manner of your own death, that's one, or whether or not you're going to fuck your mother and kill your father. What people say behind your back. The names somebody you love has called somebody else. There's a reason people are able to function in this world, as social creatures, and a good part of that is that there are a lot of questions intelligent people don't ask." This is some Talented Mr. Ripley shit. (Aside: that movie was PEAK Jude Law as a sex creature; yes, women objectify too.) If you like You on Netflix, you'll like this. If you like 'You' on Netflix because you especially like the fact that it takes place on the Upper East Side of New York City and addresses the inherent dangers of social media, you'll love this. Creepy. Dark. Murder-y. Death-y fiction; the most pressing takeaway being: if you don't set yo shit to private, you will immediately die.

17. The Witches Are Coming — Lindy West

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From Amazon: "In a laugh-out-loud, incisive cultural critique, West extolls the world-changing magic of truth, urging readers to reckon with dark lies in the heart of the American mythos, and unpacking the complicated, and sometimes tragic, politics of not being a white man in the twenty-first century. She tracks the misogyny and propaganda hidden (or not so hidden) in the media she and her peers devoured growing up, a buffet of distortions, delusions, prejudice, and outright bullsh*t that has allowed white male mediocrity to maintain a death grip on American culture and politics-and that delivered us to this precarious, disorienting moment in history."

18. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, And A Mother's Will To Survive — Stephanie Land

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From Amazon: "Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it's like to be in service to them. "I'd become a nameless ghost," Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients' lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path. Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the "servant" worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie's story, but it's not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit."

19. Motherhood — Sheila Heti

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“How hard is to understand what the other has done — when it looks to me like she has been stolen, and when it looks to her like I have stalled. We both look so cowardly and so brave. The other one seems to have everything — and the other one seems to have nothing at all. But we both have everything and nothing at all. We are both so cowardly and so brave. Neither one of us has more than the other, and neither one of us has less. It is so hard, I think, to see this: that our paths equal something the same, that having a child reflexively or not having one doubtfully are equal lives, the number of her life and the number of my life the same. That makes our hearts sink more than anything else, really, that the childless and the mothers are equivalent, but it must be so — that there is an exact equivalence and an equality, equal in emptiness and equal in fullness, equal in experiences had and equal in experiences lost, neither path better and neither path worse, neither more frightening or less riddled with fear. This is the bland fact we cannot take. There has to be more to it than that, so we keep on piling up the scales, to see which side tips down just a little bit. Yet neither side tips any lower than its pair. They both hover at the same height in mid-air. I can’t be any better than her, and she can’t be any better than me. And this upsets us most of all.” - Sheila Heti, on the societal pitting of mothers v non-mothers. One of the most astute, thoughtful meditations on motherhood —or really, lack thereof — I've ever read. It's plotless memoir (a writing style not for everyone, be forewarned); i.e. a meandering dive into the BIG, HARD QUESTIONS a childfree writer asks herself at 43. I could've used without the odd fortune-telling thing she does at the beginning of most chapters, but her observations are so sharp (even if slightly self-indulgent, but that's sort of the point) I was willing to breeze past those to get to the good stuff. It was challenging for me to pick only one quote to excerpt, which is a mark of a book that truly speaks to you. Excellent.

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Andrea Zimmerman is the editor-at-large at Yourtango. She enjoys reading, traveling, and reading while traveling. Follow her on Instagram @angiecat86 or email her at andreaz@yourtango.com.

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