Literature

The Best Books of 2020 (So Far)

A must-read list of this year's new releases by some of our favorite female authors.

In trying times, books can have the power to serve as a great escape—and now, more than ever, that might be exactly what you need. As a source of inspiration, we have curated our favorite female-authored books of 2020 thus far. Whether it’s Adrienne Miller’s compelling recollection of breaking through the male-dominated literati of the ’90s in In The Land of Men, or Cho-Nam Joo’s trailblazing novel, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, which ignited Korea’s new feminist movement, let this frequently-updated list be a guide for your next read.


The Girl With The Louding Voice: A Novel

Abi Daré's anticipated new novel, The Girl with the Louding Voice, follows 14-year-old Adunni as she escapes an arranged marriage in her Nigerian hometown, in the hopes of receiving an education. She soon finds, however, that her only option as a young girl is to become an indentured servant to a wealthy family. In spite of her bleak reality, Adunni is adamant to defy expectations and be a "louding voice" for herself and other girls to come.

Abri Daré

The Girl With The Louding Voice: A Novel

Books A Million, $23

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Weather

Best-selling author Jenny Offill returns with her third book, Weather, a satirical look at a nation in crisis. The novel follows librarian-turned-therapist Lizzie Benson, who's attempting to deal with personal family drama whilst navigating clients seeking guidance through various existential crises, ranging from climate change to the decline of western civilization.

Jenny Offill

Weather

Books A Million, $21

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In the Land of Men: A Memoir

Adrienne Miller, the first female literary editor of Esquire, recounts breaking through the male-dominated literati of the '90s in her new memoir, In the Land of Men. One of the most anticipated books of the year, Miller's memoir is a sharp—and fierce—recollection of being the only woman in a room.

Adrienne Miller

In the Land of Men: A Memoir

Books A Million, $29

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The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President

Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks shares her story of being the only woman on the team of lawyers helming Richard Nixon's impeachment trial in her memoir, The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President. The parallels between Nixon’s America and society today are uncanny, and Wine-Banks' inside look is as inspirational as it is an important cautionary tale.

Jill Wine-Banks

The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President

Books A Million, $22

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The Exhibition of Persephone Q

In the eerie aftermath of 9/11, protagonist Percy finds out she is pregnant but feels instantly reluctant to share the news with anyone, including her husband. Percy’s feelings turn into isolation when she unexpectedly receives a package with a catalog of photos of a woman that only she can see is herself. Accoladed by Vogue and Wall Street Journal as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2020, Jessie Jezewska Stevens’ The Exhibition of Persephone Q is a witty satire that explores the question of owning our own image in the digital age.

Jessie Jezewska Stevens

The Exhibition of Persephone Q

Books A Million, $26

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My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa is another highly anticipated novel, by Kate Elizabeth Russell. The year is 2000 and 15-year old Vanessa falls in love, and consequently, has an affair with her then-teacher, 42-year-old Jacob Strane. Seventeen years later, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, a fellow former student reaches out to Vanessa announcing that Strane has been accused of sexual abuse. The news forces Vanessa to reconsider her teenage relationship and reevaluate whether her first love was actually far different from what she thought.

Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa

Books A Million, $22

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Lakewood

A story about class, race, and the terrifying world of medical experimentation, this thrilling debut novel by Megan Giddings is a raw reflection of the damage that has historically been administered on society’s most vulnerable people, and the sacrifices people make for their loved ones. If you're a fan of The Handmaid's Tale and the movie Get Out, this should be on your reading list.

Megan Giddings

Lakewood

Books A Million, $18

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The Herd

Andrea Bartz’s latest thrilling novel, The Herd, is centered on an elite women-only coworking space founded by the affluent Eleanor Walsh. On the day of the company’s momentous press conference, Eleanor mysteriously vanishes, and what’s left in her wake are details that slowly disassemble the seemingly perfect, yet secretive, life of the flawless female founder. The twisty plot and unexpected ending will have you racing through pages tackling female ambition, friendship, and jealousy.

Andrea Bartz

The Herd

Books A Million, $27

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The Beauty of Your Face

In Sahar Mustafah’s The Beauty of Your Face, Palestinian-American Afaf Rahman is the principal of a Muslim school in suburban Chicago that finds itself under attack by a radicalized alt-right shooter. Standing face-to-face with the attacker, Afaf revisits her relation to faith, family, and hate in this moving debut novel that “navigates a country growing ever more divided.”

Sahar Mustafah

The Beauty of Your Face

Books A Million, $18

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Afterlife

In the wake of her husband’s death, immigrant writer Antonia Vega is forced to navigate the disappearance of her unstable sister with the sudden arrival of a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. A captivating story about immigration, family, love, and loss, Afterlife is Julia Alvarez’s first adult novel in almost 15 years (following her critically acclaimed In the Time of Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents).

Julia Alvarez

Afterlife

Books A Million, $23

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This is Big

Part-memoir and part-biography, Marisa Meltzer’s This is Big is a candid examination of the author’s life-long struggle with weight—and personal relationship to dieting—paralleled with Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch’s entrepreneurial journey and own decades-long weight-loss story. The moving retelling of two women’s lives is an insightful reflection of our society’s collective obsession with thinness.

Marisa Meltzer

This is Big

Books A Million

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Kim Ji-young, Born 1982

Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 is the feminist novel that took South Korea by storm, selling nearly 300,000 copies in just 10 months. It follows Kim, a young woman dealing with the psychological consequences of Korea’s systemic misogyny, who recounts her injustice-riddled life to a psychiatrist. The novel, which touches on gender discrimination at home and at work, has been credited as influential to Korea’s new feminist movement, and it’s finally being translated into 18 languages, including English.

Cho Nam-Joo, tr. Jamie Chang

Kim Ji-young, Born 1982

Books A Million, $14

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Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America

Becoming a U.S. citizen might serve as literal evidence you’ve joined the nation, but it may not, in reality, overcome the figurative border of becoming part of the country’s fabric. In Conditional Citizens, author and Moroccon immigrant to the U.S. Laila Lalami discusses the often overlooked, yet incredibly important, meaning of what it means to be an American—and what it takes to be seen and valued as an equal.

Laila Lalami

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America

Books A Million, $26

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All Adults Here

In the wake of witnessing a fatal school bus accident, Astrid Strick—a mother to three now-grown children—finds herself questioning her parenting style decades prior. As she decides to confess her flaws to her children and apologize for the past, she realizes that they each have their own issues to contend with. All Adults Here is a heartfelt novel by The New York Times bestselling author Emma Straub; her relatable depiction of messy, yet loving, familial relationships will captivate you ‘till the end.

Emma Straub

All Adults Here

Books A Million, $20

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My Mother’s House

A dark, unsettling novel that explores the complex topics of race, class, and systematic violence, My Mother’s House is a story told from the point of view of Lucien, a Haitian immigrant, his wife Marie-Ang, and their house called La Kay (“My Mother’s House”). Although initially intended to be a place of peace and support for fellow immigrants, La Kay soon becomes the backdrop and witness to Lucien’s unsettling evils exerted on his wife and daughters. As gruesome as it is powerful, Haitian-born Francesca Momplaisir’s debut novel depicts the darkness of “the immigrant experience amid toxic male dominance.”

Francesca Momplaisir

My Mother’s House

Books A Million, $27

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Rodham: A Novel

In this riveting fictional novel, we enter an alternate universe where Hillary Rodham, rather than pursuing her marriage with Bill Clinton (which she was famously wishy-washy about, turning him down a few times), carries on to carve her path as a successful politician. Curtis Sittenfeld (American Wife) skillfully plays off the “what if” idea—what if Hillary never made compromises for her political aspirations?—to analyze the trade-offs women often make in building a “fulfilling” life.

Curtis Sittenfeld

Rodham: A Novel

Books A Million, $30

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These Women

This literary thriller of female empowerment parallels the year 1999, when 12 sex workers were murdered, with the year 2014, where several sex workers are being killed in the same manner, in the same Los Angeles neighborhood. With neglectful police spending little time investigating the similarities, These Women is a harrowing mystery from award-winning author Ivy Pochoda, giving a much-needed voice to those who have historically been reduced to “getting what they deserve.”

Ivy Pochoda

These Women

Books A Million, $22

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Stray: A Memoir

Following the debut of her bestselling novel Sweetbitter in 2016, Stephanie Danler confronts difficulties from her childhood in a new memoir that takes us through familial dysfunction. From her mother’s struggles with alcoholism to getting abandoned by her meth-addicted father, Stray has plenty of heartbreaking moments, but Danler ultimately surprises her readers with a hopeful ending in learning how to let go of one’s past.

Stephanie Danler

Stray: A Memoir

Books A Million, $26

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All My Mother’s Lovers

Following her mother’s death, Maggie discovers five sealed envelopes—each one addressed to a mysterious man and signed by her mother, Iris. Determined to unveil the truth, Maggie hand-delivers the letters only to discover Iris’ hidden life, making her question her parents’ seemingly loving relationship and her mother’s discomfort with Maggie’s sexuality. Deemed a “queer tour-de-force” and one of Harper’s Bazaar’s and O Magazine’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books of 2020, Ilana Masad’s tender story explores love and grief, as well as the everlasting connections between mothers and their children.

Ilana Masad

All My Mother’s Lovers

Books A Million, $27

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Every product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase through one of our links, The Helm may earn a commission.

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