RUSA Announces 2020 Reading List: Year’s Best in Genre Fiction for Adult Readers

The 2020 Reading List: Year’s best in genre fiction for adult readers has been published by the Reference and User Services Association. The Reading List Council selects an annual best-of list comprised of eight different fiction genres for adult readers. A shortlist of honor titles, up to 4 per genre was also announced. The list was announced January 26 during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting held in Philadelphia.

The 2020 selections are:

Adrenaline

Winner

  • “The Passengers” by John Marrs, Berkley an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

After their driverless cars are hacked, eight passengers have two and a half hours to live. One will be set free based on the votes of a captive jury and the will of the world’s social media population – but each has secrets that could condemn them.

Readalikes

  • “Speed” the 1994 movie
  • “Elevator Pitch” by Linwood Barclay
  • “The Escape Room” by Megan Goldin

Short List

  • “The Chain” by Adrian McKinty, Mulholland Books an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a Division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
  • “Cold Storage” by David Koepp, HarperCollins
  • “Conviction” by Denise Mina, Mulholland Books an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a Division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
  • “Lock Every Door” by Riley Sager, Dutton an Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

Fantasy

Winner

  • “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Del Rey an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC

In Jazz Age Mexico Cassiopeia’s dull life takes an adventurous and life-changing turn when she must help a Mayan death god vanquish his brother and regain his throne in the underworld.

Readalikes

  • “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik
  • “Trail of Lightning” by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • “We Hunt the Flame” by Hafsah Faizal

Short List

  • “Middlegame” by Seanan McGuire, a Tor.com book published by Tom Doherty Associates
  • “Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo, Flatiron Books
  • “The Ruin of Kings” by Jenn Lyons, a Tor book published by Tom Doherty Associates
  • “Silver in the Wood” by Emily Tesh, a Tor.com book published by Tom Doherty Associates

Historical Fiction

Winner

  • “The Secrets We Kept” by Lara Prescott, a Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf

During the Cold War, the CIA trains a new generation of female spies in an attempt to smuggle Boris Pasternak’s censored novel, Doctor Zhivago, back into the U.S.S.R. while Pasternak’s mistress deals with the fallout

Readalikes

  • “A Thread of Grace” by Mary Doria Russell
  • “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles
  • “The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book” by Peter Finn

Short List

  • “City of Flickering Light” by Juliette Fay, Gallery Books an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  • “The Confessions of Frannie Langton” by Sara Collins, Harper an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • “The Song of the Jade Lily” by Kirsty Manning, William Morrow An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • “Where the Light Enters” by Sara Donati, Berkley an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

Horror

Winner

  • “The Twisted Ones” by T. Kingfisher, Saga Press an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Brimming with spookiness, paranoia, and a single-minded bloodhound, this devilishly wicked tale of folkloric horror set in the woods of North Carolina is inspired by Arthur Machen’s “The White People.”

 Readalikes

  • “The White People and Other Weird Stories” by Arthur Machen
  • “The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek” by Rhett McLaughlin
  • “Meddling Kids” by Edgar Cantero

Short List

  • “The Devil Aspect” by Craig Russell, Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
  • “The Homecoming” by Andrew Pyper, Simon & Schuster Canada a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  • “The Toll” by Cherie Priest, a Tor Book, published by Tom Doherty Associates
  • “Violet” by Scott Thomas, Inkshares, Inc.

Mystery

Winner

  • “The Right Sort of Man” by Allison Montclair, Minotaur Books

In post-World War II London, Iris Sparks (perhaps a wartime spy) and Gwendolyn Bainbridge (a society widow) have teamed up to matchmake singles with The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. When one client is accused of murdering another, Iris and Gwendolyn decide the police have the wrong man and start investigating

Readalikes

  • “Dear Mrs. Bird” by A.J. Pearce
  • “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” by Susan Elia MacNeal
  • “Girl Waits with Gun” by Amy Stewart
  • The Tommy & Tuppence books by Agatha Christie

Short List

  • “The Chestnut Man” by Soren Sveistrup, Harper an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • “Magic for Liars” by Sarah Gailey, a Tor Book published by Tom Doherty Associates
  • “Paper Son” by S.J. Rozan, Pegasus Crime an imprint of Pegasus Books, Ltd.
  • “The Scholar” by Dervla McTiernan, Penguin Books an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

Relationship

Winner

  • “When You Read This” by Mary Adkins, Harper a division of HarperCollins Publishers

After her death at 33 from an aggressive lung cancer, Iris leaves behind a blog that connects her boss and sister.  Told through blog entries, emails and texts, this tender, uplifting, and at times amusing story shows each working through their grief and discovering an unexpected connection

Readalikes

  • “The Garden of Small Beginnings” by Abbi Waxman
  • “Attachments” by Rainbow Rowell
  • “Meet Me at the Museum” by Anne Youngson

Short List

  • “Evvie Drake Starts Over” by Linda Holmes, Ballantine Books an imprint of Random House a division of Penguin Random House LLC
  • “Queenie” by Candice Carty-Williams, Scout Press an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc
  • “Rules for Visiting” by Jessica Francis Kane, Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
  • “The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters” by Balli Kaur Jaswal, William Morrow an imprint HarperCollins Publishers

Romance

Winner

  • “The Flatshare” by Beth O’Leary, Flatiron Books

Tiffy needs a place to live and Leon works nights, so they come to an unusual arrangement: sharing an apartment (and a bed!) but never seeing each other. Communicating via post-it note, they begin to rely on each other in ways they never imagined.

Readalikes

  • “Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating” by Christina Lauren
  • “Our Stop” by Laura Jane Williams
  • “We Met in December” by Rosie Curtis

Short List

  • “The Bride Test” by Helen Hoang, A Jove Book published by Berkley
  • “Lady Derring Takes a Lover” by Julie Anne Long, Avon Books an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • “The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics” by Olivia Waite, Avon Impulse an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • “Royal Holiday” by Jasmine Guillory, Berkley an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

Science Fiction

Winner

  • “A Memory Called Empire” by Arkady Martine, A Tor Book published Tom Doherty Associates

In this conspiracy-filled novel, a determined ambassador desperately tries to survive her new diplomatic assignment while investigating the murder of her predecessor on a planet with rules she doesn’t understand.

Readalikes

  • “The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison
  • “The Collapsing Empire” by John Scalzi
  • “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie

Short List

  • “Finder” by Suzanne Palmer, DAW Books, Inc.
  • “The Future of Another Timeline” by Annalee Newitz, A Tor Book published by Tom Doherty Associates
  • “Gideon the Ninth” by Tamsyn Muir, a Tor.com Book published by Tom Doherty Associates
  • “To Be Taught, If Fortunate” by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

The winners were selected by the Reading List Council whose members include twelve expert readers’ advisory and collection development librarians. The eight genres currently included in the Council’s considerations are adrenaline, fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, and women’s fiction. However, the Council is adaptable to new genres and changes in contemporary reading interest.

The Council consists of Matthew Galloway, Anythink Libraries, chair;  Craig Clark, Upper Arlington OH; Gloria Drake, Oswego Public Library District; Halle Eisenman, NoveList; Andrea Gough, Seattle Public Library; Marlene Harris, Reading Reality LLC; Sarah Jaffa, Kitsap Regional Library; Jackie Kropp, Western Plains Library System; Teresa May, Durham County Public Libraries; Jo Schofield, Stark County District Library; Karin Suni, Free Library of Philadelphia; Estella Terrazas, Altadena Library District.

[Thanks to Galen Charlton for the story.]

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