Looking for your next great book to read? Something enthralling you can’t put down? Our fabulous books editor Zoe West reveal the top books every month, and there’s something for everyone.
We love books. Old-fashioned, weigh-your-handbag-down books. There’s something quite magical about bookmarking your way through printed pages and we’d like to share our love of reading with you, by hunting out good books to read in 2020.
This year is shaping up to be an exciting year for reading enthusiasts, with some much-anticipated novels already hitting stores, from a gripping tale of personal stories of war interwoven with historical fact in A Long Petal of the Sea, to an intriguing exploration of Jane Austen’s relationship with her sister in Miss Austen, by Gill Hornby.
Cecelia Ahern’s Postscript hit the shelves last last year too, telling the continued story of Holly Kennedy, from PS, I Love You – and it’s a delightfully heart-warming read. If you didn’t manage to catch it in 2019, it’s definitely one for your 2020 reading list.
We’ve also got our pick of the best books from last summer that you won’t want to miss – especially if the cold January days have you dreaming of whimsical romances on a far-flung exotic beach. For example, A Summer of Wisdom by Fanny Blake will whisk you away to a Mallorcan retreat where some old friends have unfinished business.
Each month, the team here at w&h pick the best books to add to your reading list. And, whether you’re looking for a thriller, romance or something to pull at your heartstrings, there’s sure to be something that takes your fancy on our list of good books to read this year…
Good books to read in 2020: from thrillers to romance
Miss Austen, Gill Hornby
In this subtle and delicate novel, Gill Hornby has created a clever, warm-hearted character in Cassandra, Jane Austen’s sister. Cassandra is on a mission to recover letters sent by Jane to relatives before they can be publicly exposed. We follow her through youth and old age, and emerge closer to the genius of one sister and the loving devotion of the other.
A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende
A gripping novel for our times, this confirms – again – that Allende is a consummate storyteller. Starting at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, and ending in 1994, we follow two remarkable characters – Roser and Victor – as they flee Franco’s dictatorship and board a ship to Chile, commissioned by the poet Pablo Neruda. Historical fact is exquisitely interwoven with personal stories as families are displaced by war, torn apart and reunited. A stunning portrayal of love, courage and hope.
Three Women, Lisa Taddeo
A book centred around the unmet needs of three women – Lina, who wanted to be desired and isn’t, Maggie, who wanted to be understood but is instead hated, and Sloane, who wanted to be admired, but is seen as a sexual object. A fascinating look into the worlds of three different women.
The Tenth Muse, Catherine Chung
December’s Book of the Month is The Tenth Muse. Katherine has always felt like an outsider in her community, both as the child of an interracial relationship and as a gifted mathematician. Guiding the reader deftly through her family history, Katherine’s own life becomes the ultimate puzzle as discoveries lead her to examine who she really is. A truly spellbinding read.
The Vanished Bride, Bella Ellis
If you’re a fan of the Brontë sisters, you’re sure to love this imaginative novel featuring Charlotte, Emily and Anne as super-sleuths. When Elizabeth Chester goes missing from Chester Grange leaving behind two children and a pool of blood, the sister set about becoming ‘lady detectors’, which isn’t easy as women in the 19th century. A classic murder mystery that brings the Brontës to life.
Postscript by Cecelia Ahern
Seventeen years after PS, I Love You comes the long-awaited sequel, set seven years after the death of Holly Kennedy’s husband Gerry. She is stronger than ever, until she’s approached by the PS, I Love You club. She soon becomes so involved that her fresh start seems precarious. If only she could find a way to honour his memory without compromising all she has rebuilt. Poignant, warm and hopefully, this is a delightful read.
Platform Seven by Louise Doughty
Watching a stranger approach the edge of the platform, ghost Lisa Evans is powerless to prevent what is about to happen. She is also unsettled by the feeling there must be a connection between this coming death and her own. Determined to seek out the truth, she guesses it can’t be worse than not knowing – or can it? Doughty’s eerie and atmospheric writing combines a calm assurance with sinister darkness.
The School Run by Helen Whitaker
Imogen and Lily are old friends who shared everything, but when they both move to the same area and the local ‘outstanding’ school only has one place, what lengths will they go to for their children? From fake marriage break-ups to moving house and ‘getting in’ with the vicar, it’s a frank and funny account that’ll resonate with many parents. Prepare to laugh and cringe in equal measure.
The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney
After his wife Abbie’s tragic accident, tech genius Tim Scott becomes obsessed with recreating her in AI form. With her memories completely intact and her appearance identical, the new ‘Abbie’ begins to assume her namesake’s place as dutiful wife and mother. But meeting Tim’s expectations takes a heavy toll and other memories start creeping back. The narrative complexity, characterisation and gradual unravelling of the truth is a triumph of pacing and suspense.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Francis Gleeson and his wife Lena welcome a new couple, the Stanhopes, to their neighbourhood in upstate New York. But while the men have common ground, Anne Stanhope makes her distaste for Lena plain from the start. As the years wear on, the combination of love and violence that binds these two families together becomes the ultimate test of human decency. A powerful tale.
Her Last Promise by Kathryn Hughes
A mysterious letter sees Tara Richards journey to Spain in search of answers. A gripping summer read.
Home From Home by Veronica Henry
The Melchior family’s Somerset home is disrupted by a tragedy that unearths secrets.
Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls
The perfect read for film enthusiasts, Nicholls’s debut novel follows projectionist Nick, whose idealised view of love is challenged when his girlfriend suddenly moves out. Nick must now confront his new reality, but will he ever understand where it all went wrong? In this refreshing take on the typical boy-meets-girl romance, Nicholls celebrates the genre, while never missing an opportunity to make it his own. An unmissable, multi-layered read.
Do Not Feed the Bear by Rachel Elliott
Freerunner Sydney is always on the move, but never quite able to come to terms with a tragic event that took place when she was a child. As her 47th birthday approaches, her partner Ruth wants them to celebrate together, but instead Sydney is standing on a rooftop in St Ives preparing to jump. Beautifully written, Elliott’s unique, mesmerising voice effortlessly draws you in.
A Summer Reunion by Fanny Blake
When Amy makes a shocking discovery, she heads to Mallorca with three friends in the hope of gaining advice. But what she gets is something else entirely… Fabulous, fun and full of wisdom.
You’ll Never See Me Again by Lesley Pearse
Set in the aftermath of the Great War, Betty Wellow is on a mission to escape her old life, but it seems even the dead are on her tail…
The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis
In 1956, Ivy falls pregnant and is sent in shame to the dark and foreboding St Margaret’s home for unmarried mothers. Her baby arrives and is given away for adoption without her consent, while Ivy herself is doomed to remain. Sixty years later, journalist Samantha is hungry to make her mark, so when she finds a letter from a young mother begging for help, she’s determined to unravel the girl’s story. As moving as it is disturbing – a real triumph.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Dumped and homeless, Tiffy can’t believe her luck when a reasonably priced flat is offered to her. There’s just one catch – she will have to share a bed with the other occupant. Leon works nights at a nursing home and spends weekends with his girlfriend, so in theory, their paths never need cross – but where would the fun be in that? Uproariously funny with characters you fall for from the first page.
The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans
When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers. For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness. Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what? A heart-stopping novel from the author of The Wildflowers.
The Distance Home by Paula Saunders
Set in South Dakota in the 1960s, this evocative, moving and deeply immersive novel follows an average family torn apart by expectation. Older brother Leon shares his passion for dancing with his younger sister René, but their father refuses to indulge in his ballet-mad son’s ambitions. There is an undeniable beauty to this epic portrayal of the complex and intimate nature of human relationships – well worth a read.
If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected. As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. A compelling and heart-breaking tale of family love and loss.
Between the Lies by Michelle Adams
You wake up in hospital, you can’t remember your own name, or anything about your life… So who can you trust? Struggling to regain her memory after an accident, Chloe turns to her family for help, but is she foolish to trust them? A psychological thriller with a shock ending you won’t see coming.
Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield
On a dark winter night, at an inn along the Thames, a group of locals have gathered to share stories when a far more curious tale staggers in right through the doors. The man who appears is dripping wet and bleeding profusely, but most peculiarly of all, he is carrying the body of a young girl – a child all those present agree is dead… until she opens her eyes. Brimming with folklore, intrigue and romance, this is a story to savour.
The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell
Life has begun to look a little beige for 79-year-old Peggy. Her bladder is weakening, her crush on the suave Brian is not reciprocated and her children assume that dementia is only a matter of time. The fact is, Peggy’s life is in dire need of an overhaul. So, when her old friend Angie offers to take our heroine under her very colourful wing, Peggy plays along… with hugely entertaining results. Funny and heart-warming.
Something To Tell You by Lucy Diamond
Discovering an unopened letter from her late mother fills Frankie with joy – until she opens it. Reeling from the contents, she hotfoots it up to Yorkshire to track down the Mortimer family and get some answers. This endlessly enjoyable drama puts even the most dysfunctional families in the shade – brilliant fun.
The Anniversary by Hilary Boyd
Divided by tragedy, Stella and Jack are drawn together once more in this riveting novel. Reunited once more, both have moved on with different partners, so can they resist temptation? If you get a second chance, should you always take?
The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein
Written by a former Scientologist, this unsettling drama peers under the lid of life within a sinister cult. Fog Island has been described as Flowers in the Attic meets Girls. A harrowing read.
The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright
From the very first page of this mesmerising novel, you know life has gone seriously awry for Cornelia Blackwood – and things get steadily worse from there on in. Why are her friends unable to look her in the eye, and why did her husband lie about where he was going? The truth, as it emerges, is as heartbreaking as it is captivating, and you’re left with no choice but to put life on hold while you race to the end.
The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Set in 1612 against the backdrop of the Pendle witch trials, Fleetwood Shuttleworth is pregnant for the fourth time but the 17-year-old is yet to become a mother. Fearing for her own and her unborn child’s life, she enlists the help of a local midwife, Alice Gray. When the young woman’s mysterious remedies bring her under suspicion of witchcraft, however, Fleetwood faces a tough choice, because saving Alice means risking herself…
Adèle by Leïla Slimani
From the bestselling author of Lullaby comes this new and equally sharp-edged literary tale about love, desire and female sexuality. Adèle appears to have it all – a loving husband, a young son and a beautiful apartment in Paris – but she is plagued by an ardent need to be wanted. This compulsion for sex leads Adèle towards a number of affairs, but the more she is gripped by her addiction, the closer she veers towards catastrophe. Erotic fiction at its best.