If you’re looking for a last-minute present idea for a loved one this Christmas, you might be considering a book. After a year of upended routines and ‘new normals,’ you might have missed some of the great literary releases the year had to offer.
Here’s your guide to seven of the best books of 2020 that would make a perfect gift this Christmas.
1. The Promised Land, by Barack Obama
Barack Obama, 44th President of the USA, released his first book back in 1995. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance follows Obama from Hawaii to Kenya as he searches for identity in the wake of his father’s death.
Obama published his second book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream just two years before he became US President.
The much-anticipated A Promised Land is his first volume of presidential memories. It covers his earliest political aspirations, through to his opening term in office as America’s first black president.
Deeply personal, introspective, and beautifully written, a second volume is set to follow.
2. Love, by Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle’s Love follows two childhood friends who meet up as adults for a night out in Dublin.
Joe has some things to get off his chest, but Davy isn’t ready to talk. As pints flow, the friends reminisce about their Dublin childhoods and their first forays into the adult world, facing up to their differing memories of the past and the issues that consume both their presents.
Told largely through the sparse, clipped dialogue of the increasingly drunk main characters, it’s a tale of love, friendship, growing up and growing old.
3. The Glass Hotel, by Emily St John Mandel
The author of five books to date, Emily St John Mandel became known to a wider audience with the success of her fourth novel, Station Eleven. That story follows a Shakespearean acting troupe as it travels the Great Lakes region of a post-apocalyptic North America.
The novel received nominations for the National Book Award, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, and won the Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction.
Earlier this year, Mandel followed up Station Eleven with The Glass Hotel.
The lives of a beautiful bartender, a hotel owner, and a shipping executive cross one night. Thirteen years later, as a Ponzi Scheme is uncovered in New York, a woman disappears from the deck of a freighter ship.
4. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson
Larson is the bestselling author of non-fiction page-turners covering the Chicago World’s Fair, the murderer Dr Crippen, and the sinking of the Lusitania. In March 2020, he released The Splendid and the Vile, an account of London during the Blitz and Winston Churchill’s efforts to unifying the nation.
Using diary entries and recently released intelligence reports, the book gives an inside account of Churchill’s most difficult year. From Downing Street advisers to his family at home, it’s an account of high-stakes political manoeuvring and day-to-day domesticity.
5. The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré
A New York Times Bestseller and a former BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, The Girl with the Louding Voice is Daré’s debut novel.
It tells the story of a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl, Adunni, in her own voice.
Told by her mother that receiving an education is the only way to get her ‘louding voice,’ Adunni wants only to go to school. Instead, with her father struggling to pay the rent, she is sold to a local taxi driver and becomes his third wife.
Adunni runs away. She knows that discovering her ‘louding voice’ is the only way to be heard. That means speaking up not just for herself, but for the girls who came before her, and for those who will follow.
6. Pine, by Francine Toon
Winner of the McIlvanney Prize 2020 (for Scottish Crime Book of the Year), Toon’s debut novel is an eerie and claustrophobic thriller about small-town rural life.
A father and daughter are driving in the highlands one Halloween when a woman stumbles into the road. The pair, Niall and Lauren, take the woman in but by the morning she is gone.
When a local teenager also goes missing, Lauren doesn’t know who to trust in a community that keeps its secrets well.
A gothic crime thriller, this Sunday Times bestseller is the perfect page-turner and a highly impressive debut.
7. Here We Are, by Graham Swift
Three friends are working at the end of Brighton Pier in the summer of 1959 – Ronnie Dean, aka The Great Pablo, Evie White, his beautiful assistant, and Jack Robinson, comedian, compere, and a born entertainer.
The story moves deftly between pre-war Britain and the Blitz, through to the devastating summer of ’59. It’s a summer that will see the curtain pulled back on all of their lives, breaking up the act, and their friendship forever.
Evoking the magic and wonder of the post-war years and the lure of show business, it is a story of love, memory, and the seemingly insignificant moments when paths diverge.