Must-Read Book Club Picks for 2020

by Heather Caliendo
Book Club Picks 2020 - Book Club Chat
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Can you believe it’s 2020?? And that means it’s that time again—my must-read book club picks for 2020!

When it comes to planning what to read next—it can be overwhelming with all the choices out there. And with plenty of books published each month, it’s also hard to keep track. That’s why I put together a big article detailing new books that will be a great fit for book clubs. And I plan to write book club questions for each of these so be sure to check back to the site often for those.

I broke down the lists by genre: contemporary fiction; thrillers/mysteries and historical fiction. Each feature six books that book clubs will no doubt enjoy.

Anyways, let’s get to it. Here are my must-read book club picks of 2020!


Contemporary Fiction

For this section, I’m also featuring women’s fiction, literary fiction and romance.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is a debut novel about race and privilege. I can’t wait to read it. Here is the synopsis:

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Such a Fun Age will publish on Dec. 31, 2019. You can order the book on Amazon here.


Followers by Megan Angelo

We all know we live in a social media obsessed culture. Followers by Megan Angelo is said to be a razor-sharp take on the future of humanity and social media. Sounds like there will be much to discuss with this one! Here is the synopsis:

Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss—a striving, wannabe A-lister—who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss’s methods are a little shady—and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can’t be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity—twelve million loyal followers—Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

Followers will be publish on January 14, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is one of the most buzzed about books of the year. 

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy―two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia―trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

You can order the book on Amazon here


In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

OMG, Rebecca Serle’s The Dinner List is such a moving and emotional story! You all must read that one if you haven’t yet (here are my book club questions for it). And she’s back with a new novel in 2020: In Five Years. I’ve heard this one is amazing too. Here is the synopsis:

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

In Five Years will publish on March 3, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

One of the biggest hits of 2019 was The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez (check out my book club questions)! Abby is back with another story, The Happy Ever After Playlist. And this time, it follows the character Sloan from The Friend Zone. Here is the synopsis (there are mini spoilers to The Friend Zone here):

Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?

The Happy Ever After Playlist will publish on April 14, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin

One of the best in the business, Emily Giffin, is back with a new story in 2020! She took a different approach with writing with 2018’s All We Ever Wanted—and it was absolutely a fantastic and impactful novel (here are my book club questions for it). I can’t wait to see what she’s come up with for The Lies That Bind. Here is the synopsis:

It’s 2 AM on a Saturday night in the spring of 2001, and twenty-eight-year old Cecily Gardner sits alone in a dive bar on New York’s Lower East Side, questioning her life. Feeling lonesome and homesick for the Midwest, she wonders if she’ll ever make it as a reporter in the big city—and whether she made a terrible mistake in breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Matthew.

As Cecily reaches for the phone to call him, she hears a guy on the barstool next to her say, “Don’t do it—you’ll regret it.” Something tells her to listen to him, and over the next several hours—and shots of tequila—the two forge an unlikely connection. That should be it, they both decide the next morning, as Cecily reminds herself of the perils of a rebound relationship. Moreover, the timing couldn’t be worse—Grant is preparing to quit his job and move overseas. Yet despite all their obstacles, they can’t seem to say goodbye, and for the first time in her carefully constructed life, Cecily follows her heart over her head.

Then Grant disappears in the chaos of 9/11. Fearing the worst, Cecily spots his face on a missing person poster, and realizes she is not the only one searching for him. Her investigative reporting instincts kick into action as she vows to discover the truth. But the questions pile up fast: How well did she really know Grant? Did he ever really love her? And is it possible to love a man who wasn’t who he seemed to be?

The Lies That Bind is a mesmerizing and emotionally resonant exploration of the never-ending search for love and truth—in our relationships, careers, and deep within our own hearts.

The Lies That Bind will publish on June 23, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


Mysteries/Thrillers

If there’s one constant in life is that book clubs love reading thrillers! The Silent Patient still gets huge traffic on the site (if you haven’t read it yet, go check it out!)

The God Game by Danny Tobey

Ooo The God Game by Danny Tobey sounds like such an ambitious thriller—a perfect way to start of your 2020 thriller list! Here is the synopsis:

With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.

But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life―does it?

As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.

God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.

The God Game will publish on January 7, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica sounds like an entertaining thriller/mystery combo! Here is the synopsis:

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor, Morgan Baines, is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie, who is terrified by the thought of a killer in her very own backyard.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. It’s their eerie old home, with its decrepit decor and creepy attic, which they inherited from Will’s sister after she died unexpectedly. It’s Will’s disturbed teenage niece Imogen, with her dark and threatening presence. And it’s the troubling past that continues to wear at the seams of their family.

As the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of Morgan’s death. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

The Other Mrs. will publish on February 18, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


Follow Me by Kathleen Barber

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber is also focused on social media and sounds super chilling. Here is the synopsis:

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

Follow Me will publish on February 25, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Book clubs loved An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen in 2019. And the authors are back with a new one in 2020: You Are Not Alone. The synopsis is pretty short but the less you know the better with these kinds of suspenseful reads! Here is the synopsis:

You probably know someone like Shay Miller
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is becoming increasingly isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live a life of glamour and perfection.
They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers.

You Are Not Alone with publish on March 3, 2020. You can order the boon on Amazon here.


The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung

The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung sounds so intriguing! Here is the synopsis:

Beautiful. Damaged. Destructive. Meet Alexa Wú, a brilliant yet darkly self-aware young woman whose chaotic life is manipulated and controlled by a series of alternate personalities. Only three people know about their existence: her shrink Daniel; her stepmother Anna; and her enigmatic best friend Ella. The perfect trio of trust.

When Ella gets a job at a high-end gentleman’s club, she catches the attention of its shark-like owner and is gradually drawn into his inner circle. As Alexa’s world becomes intimately entangled with Ella’s, she soon finds herself the unwitting keeper of a nightmarish secret. With no one to turn to and lives at stake, she follows Ella into London’s cruel underbelly on a daring rescue mission. Threatened and vulnerable, Alexa will discover whether her multiple personalities are her greatest asset, or her most dangerous obstacle.

Electrifying and breathlessly compulsive, The Eighth Girl is an omnivorous examination of life with mental illness and the acute trauma of life in a misogynist world. With bingeable prose and a clinician’s expertise, Chung’s psychological debut deftly navigates the swirling confluence of identity, innocence, and the impossible fracturing weights that young women are forced to carry, causing us to question: Does the truth lead to self-discovery, or self-destruction?

The Eighth Girl will publish on March 17, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Herd by Andrea Bartz

The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz was such a fantastic read (check out my book club questions here)! I’m so pumped she’s back with another one in 2020: The Herd. Here is the synopsis:

The name of the elite, women-only coworking space stretches across the wall behind the check-in desk: THE HERD, the H-E-R always in purple. In-the-know New Yorkers crawl over each other to apply for membership to this community that prides itself on mentorship and empowerment. Among the hopefuls is Katie Bradley, who’s just returned from the Midwest after a stint of book research blew up in her face. Luckily, Katie has an “in,” thanks to her sister Hana, an original Herder and the best friend of Eleanor Walsh, its charismatic founder.

Eleanor is a queen among The Herd’s sun-filled rooms, admired and quietly feared, even as she strives to be warm and approachable. As head of PR, Hana is working around the clock in preparation for a huge announcement from Eleanor–one that would change the trajectory of The Herd forever. Though Katie loves her sister’s crew, she secretly hopes she’s found her next book subject in Eleanor, who’s brilliant, trailblazing–and extremely private.

Then, on the night of the glitzy Herd news conference, Eleanor vanishes without a trace. Everybody has a theory about what made Eleanor run, but when the police suspect foul play, everyone is a suspect: Eleanor’s husband, other Herders, the men’s rights groups that have had it out for The Herd since its launch–even Eleanor’s closest friends. As Hana struggles to figure out what her friend was hiding and Katie chases the story of her life, the sisters must face down the secrets they’re keeping from each other–and confront just how dangerous it can be when women’s perfect veneers start to crack, crumble, and then fall away all together.

The Herd will publish on March 24, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is such a special genre. From WWII fiction to the 1980s, these stories give voices to people of the past.

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict focuses on one of the people who had the most influence during World War I and World War II: Clementine Churchill. Here is the synopsis:

In 1909, Clementine steps off a train with her new husband, Winston. An angry woman emerges from the crowd to attack, shoving him in the direction of an oncoming train. Just before he stumbles, Clementine grabs him by his suit jacket. This will not be the last time Clementine Churchill will save her husband.

Lady Clementine is the ferocious story of the ambitious woman beside Winston Churchill, the story of a partner who did not flinch through the sweeping darkness of war, and who would not surrender either to expectations or to enemies.

Lady Clementine will publish on January 7, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


All The Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

Historical fiction greats Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White are back with another novel together: All the Ways We Said Goodbye. There’s no doubt this one will be filled with rich historical details and a moving story! Here’s the synopsis:

France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.

France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret . . . one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history.

France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . . .

All the Ways We Said Goodbye will publish on January 14, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

I’ve been seeing a lot of early buzz for The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. And I love stories that feature the past and the present and how the two align. BTW, this also could have gone in the mystery/thriller category too. Here is the synopsis:

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

The Sun Down Motel publishes on February 18, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Girl In White Gloves by Kerri Maher

I love Grace Kelly movies! And last year’s Meet Me in Monaco featured several special appearances of the actress turned princess (check out my book club questions here). The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher takes a closer look at the woman behind the famous name. Here is the synopsis:

A life in snapshots…

Grace knows what people see. She’s the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.

A woman in living color…

But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real.

Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks–her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back.

Girl in White Gloves will publish on February 25, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Readers will also crave stories about Jackie O. Last year’s The Editor took a really clever approach to the former First Lady (check out my book club questions here). And I have a feeling And They Called it Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton will be a beautiful take as well. Here is the synopsis:

Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.

But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.

And They Called it Camelot will publish on March 10, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper

For lovers of last year’s The Gown (check out my book club questions here), The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper is definitely a must-read. Here is the synopsis:

1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.

The Queen’s Secret will publish on May 19, 2020. You can order the book on Amazon here.

And there you have it! Be sure to stay tuned for book club questions  for each of these. I will be back with more must-read lists throughout the year. Cheers to 2020!

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