fb-pixel

Booked solid: The most anticipated books of 2020

Louise Erdrich's 17th novel for adults, "The Night Watchman," is set on a reservation in rural North Dakota of the 1950s and is inspired by the life of Erdrich’s grandfather.
Louise Erdrich's 17th novel for adults, "The Night Watchman," is set on a reservation in rural North Dakota of the 1950s and is inspired by the life of Erdrich’s grandfather.Paul Emmel

Books are the best antidote for the agita of an election season. Luckily, this year promises a trove of worthy ones. To follow are a selection of buzzed-about titles — in fiction, nonfiction, and young adult — sure to distract from endless polls.

Clean Getaway,” by Nic Stone (Crown) Nic Stone is a best-selling young adult novelist who writes compelling, character-driven books that aren’t afraid to address racial injustice. Her last one, “Dear Martin,” made a splash with its raw portrayal of police brutality and its aftermath. “Clean Getaway,” about an 11-year-old boy on an enlightening road trip through the Deep South, is her first book for middle-grade readers. Out Jan. 7.

Advertisement



Loveboat, Taipei,” by Abigail Hing Wen (HarperTeen) In a young-adult fiction landscape rife with outlandish dystopian premises, Wen’s debut novel for teens sounds truly bonkers in the best way possible. A group of frisky teenagers from wildly different backgrounds are thrown together in a summer program called Loveboat. Without adult supervision, they dance all night and hook up with great alacrity, chugging sake all the while. Romance blooms among the debauch, of course, and friendship, too. Out Jan. 7.

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir,” by Anna Weiner (FSG/MCD) Quite possibly a once-in-a-generation kind of thing, Weiner’s thoughtful, wry account of her experiences working in the tech sphere is, by any measure, the most anticipated book of 2020. Not only is there an Elizabeth Banks-helmed feature film adaptation in the works, but the book has already generated the kind of lavish praise that all but guarantees its inclusion in year-end best-of lists. Out Jan. 14.

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau,” by Michael Zapata (Hanover Square Press) A mix of realist and speculative styles, this ambitious literary debut has earned Zapata comparisons to Jesmyn Ward. The plot — spanning not only generations and continents, but universes, too — follows a family beset by tragedies both personal and historical, leading the reader to the flooded streets of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Out Feb. 4.

Advertisement



18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics,” by Bruce Goldfarb (Sourcebooks) Frances Glessner Lee, an heiress who died in 1962, became widely known to true crime fans in the current century with the publication of “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,” a collection of photographs examining Glessner Lee’s grisly crime scene dioramas, still used in police training, and a 2012 documentary, “Of Dolls and Murder,” narrated by John Waters. In his deep dive, Goldfarb gives Glessner Lee her due, cementing her place as a pioneering forensic scientist. Out Feb. 4.

Apartment,” by Teddy Wayne (Bloomsbury) Wayne follows three arch, gimlet-eyed novels about the vagaries of our late-capitalist fake meritocracy with a story of two MFA students sharing an apartment in New York City. Wayne’s previous novel, “Loner,” currently being made into an HBO series, chronicled Harvard undergraduate life, while “Apartment” takes place at Columbia University, but both take on masculinity and class struggles with precision and verve. Out Feb. 25.

The Night Watchman,” by Louise Erdrich (Harper) Erdrich won the National Book Award with her 2012 novel, “The Round House,” and the National Book Critics Circle Award with her 2016 novel, “La Rose.” “The Night Watchman,” her 17th novel for adults, is set on a reservation in rural North Dakota of the 1950s and is inspired by the life of Erdrich’s grandfather, a night watchman and Native American activist who fought against the dastardly deeds of the United States government. Out March 3.

Advertisement



The Herd,” by Andrea Bartz (Ballantine) Amid WeWork’s corporate implosion and the rise of female empowerment-themed rent-a-desk outfits that serve complementary oat milk, Bartz offers a uniquely timely whodunit set in an exclusive, women’s only co-working space in New York, following her best-selling, critically acclaimed debut mystery, “The Lost Night.” Out March 24.

Bubblegum, by Adam Levin” (Doubleday) When Adam Levin’s 1,000-plus-page debut, “The Instructions,” was published nearly a decade ago, critics swooned over his ability to write something both long and engaging. His latest, although not quite 800 pages, has a tantalizing setting: a contemporary in which the Internet does not exist. Those who live in this world are instead besotted with a mass-produced, highly interactive robot named Curio who seems much nicer than Mark Zuckerberg. Out April 14.

Death in Her Hands,” by Otessa Moshfegh (Penguin) Hometown girl and experimental fiction writer Otessa Moshfegh came to national attention with her thriller “Eileen,” her uniquely dark and gripping first attempt at genre writing. “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” her last novel, won her an even wider audience with its story of a morbidly depressed woman who drugs herself to sleep. Her forthcoming novel, billed as a work of metaphysical suspense, centers on an elderly widow shaken by a cryptic note left in the creepy woods near her new house. Out April 21.

Advertisement



Citizen Baby: My Vote” by Megan E. Bryant and Daniel Prosterman, illustrated by Micah Player (Penguin) Common wisdom dictates that young people would radically change the face of contemporary American politics if more of them stepped into a voting booth. While this thought delights some and horrifies others, all can agree that voting babies would cause a next-level upset at the federal level. (A Goldfish in every bowl?) Bryant and Prosterman don’t lobby to lower the voting age to the single digits. Instead, they provide an adorable explanation of the voting process for those still in car seats, with an emphasis on stickers. Out May 5.

The Living Dead,” by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus When filmmaker, societal critic, and zombie pioneer Romero died in 2017, he left behind the manuscript of the novel he’d been working on in his final days. He felt confined by the constraints of filmmaking, so he started a zombie novel (naturally), one set in the present day and completed by rising horror novelist Kraus, who wrote “The Shape of Water” with Guillermo Del Toro. Out June 9.

Eugenia Williamson is a Chicago-based writer and editor.