Best Books of 2020

We will all remember 2020 as a difficult year, but the reading has been quite good. So many fantastic, memorable books were published this year! Of course readers also continued to discover gems from past years that had escaped them. To show off our community’s best books of 2020, I’ve gathered variety of lists. Read on to discover which books topped the checkout list or made the cut as Topeka and Shawnee County readers’ favorites and our library’s staff favorites.

Top Checkouts

Local checkouts for print fiction reflect national trends with mystery, thrillers and romance as the most popular genres, and James Patterson as the most oft-named author. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner stands out as a literary novel at #4 in checkouts, which is not surprising given that the author is a Topeka native.

It’s interesting to note that the top checkouts for ebook fiction through OverDrive and Libby differs from print, with a greater diversity of authors and a stronger showing from literary fiction. The top ebook checkout of the year, Eight Perfect Murders, was our June community read. A number of popular books that did not make the cut for the print list appear here, such as The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.

View complete list

View complete list

In nonfiction, the top 30 titles based on number of checkouts for both ebooks and print books reflect a big interest in politics, cooking and celebrity biographies. The number one title for both formats is Unfollow, a memoir written by Topeka native Megan Phelps-Roper.

View complete list

View complete list

Digital audiobooks continue to be one of the fastest growing categories in popularity at the library. Audiobooks are perfect for reading hands-free while walking the dogs, doing chores, and commuting (although there wasn’t much commuting in 2020). Many listeners even have favorite narrators. Our list of the top 30 fiction audiobooks has titles in common with the ebook and print fiction lists. However, several titles ranked in the top 30 here that were not on other lists including The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson.

View complete list

Graphic novels were popular with middle grade readers, while romance, suspense and fantasy lead the pack for YA titles.

View complete list

Community Recommendations

Another way to see what your neighbors are reading is to check in on our Facebook page. A lot of the most talked about 2020 titles weren’t necessarily the books that checked out the most. Join readers and librarians on Wednesday nights on Facebook for book chat and recommendations, or watch for our “What are you reading?” posts to add titles to your list that might not be on your radar. Here are the books our community of readers named as their favorites from 2020.

View complete list

Staff Recommendations

View complete list

Of course I must share my personal top reads of 2020. Here are 25 picks from my fantastic list of reading that was very difficult to narrow down!

View complete list

For a curated list of powerful, diverse YA reads, check out teen librarian Angie’s top picks of 2020.

View complete list

Library staff also love picture books!

View complete list

More Reading Recommendations

You’ll find reading recommendations all year long in the library catalog, BookPage, books blogs, and weekly episodes of our library’s podcast The Bookmark.

Here’s to another great year of reading ahead!

Miranda is your Readers Librarian. She loves to talk books, and to connect readers with their next great reads. Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions, co-leads the BookBites book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's Top City Reads Together team.