Best of books 2020

Dedeepya Guthikonda and Izzy Wagener

“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennet

“The Vanishing Half,” written by Brit Bennet, comes after the widespread acclaim of Bennet’s debut book “The Mothers,” a “New York Times” best seller. “The Vanishing Half” did not lack in its own critical success this year, longlisting for the National Book Award for Fiction. The plot of the novel follows the multi-generational stories of twin sisters who become separated after running away from their home town of Mallard, Louisiana. Most of the residents of Mallard are light-skinned black people, and the two twins, Desiree and Stella Vignes, are white passing. Stella decides to pass as white in adulthood, while Desiree “married the darkest man she could find.” The novel is a mystery but does not fit neatly into one genre; Bennet’s complex themes encompass a family saga, coming-of-age story, and a work of historical fiction. The novel also shifts between characters and generations in telling the Vignes twins’ stories. As Desiree attempts to find her sister, both begin new lives of their own, leading their stories to take to the background at points along the way for the narrative to focus on their children. Bennet explores the heartbreak of loss, racial bigotry, and the bond of sisters as passed from view to view. 


“Think Like a Monk” by Jay Shetty

Much-needed in 2020, this self-help book gives readers insight on how to apply a monk mindset in their lives. Shetty uses a combination of ancient wisdom along with his personal experiences to navigate readers through coming to terms with one’s identity, overcoming negative thoughts, and creating true purpose. Shetty’s wisdom is widely acclaimed: he has long been an award-winning host and motivational speaker, reaching an audience of over 20 million globally. “Think Like a Monk” is not intended for readers to adapt to a monk lifestyle—rather, Shetty promotes the idea of thinking like a monk, an ideology that can bring inner peace. 2020 has no doubt been a tumultuous year, and this book may be just what you need to reflect, revitalize, and start off 2021 on your best terms. 


“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid

The premise of the novel is when an African American babysitter is asked to take the child of a white couple out—what follows is the babysitter being accused of kidnapping, and the mismanaged intentions of the white couple in resolving the situation that follows. Reid’s debut novel seamlessly hides bitter truths of the everyday reality of racism in this country through a book that manages to convey a clear message. While the clues are subtle, the book accurately portrays the falsity of the “woke” culture and performative activism—as seen through the white couple’s attempts to resolve the issue. Reid’s prose is simple and her voice is distinct; she veils the dark truths of the reality the book seeks to address through vivid prose that carries a sense of familiarity: Reid has lived it and seen it. “Such a Fun Age” was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. In a year with widespread racial justice movement, this book timelessly calls out the “woke” and performative activism culture our society has ingrained in us.