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The New York Times Book Review: 10 Best Books of 2020

The New York Times Book Review: 10 Best Books of 2020

The editors of The Times Book Review choose the best fiction and nonfiction titles this year. Here they are, in all their audiobook glory.

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Hidden Valley Road

Inside the Mind of an American Family

By Robert Kolker
Narrated by: Sean Pratt
Length: 13 hours 8 minutes

OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
ONE OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
PEOPLE'S #1 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
ONE OF GQ's TOP 50 BOOKS OF LITERARY JOURNALISM IN THE 21st CENTURY
Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, TIME, Slate,...
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A Promised Land

By Barack Obama
Narrated by: Barack Obama
Length: 29 hours 9 minutes

A Promised Land

“No one really needs my blurb to help sell this book, but I wanted to give it anyway, especially for the audiobook, narrated by Barack Obama himself. If you want to know his incredible knowledge and wisdom that guided him through major decisions, and also hear him drop a few F-bombs, you need to listen to this fantastically written book. ”

Quail Ridge Books image Amber, Quail Ridge Books
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Deacon King Kong

A Novel

By James McBride
Narrated by: Dominic Hoffman
Length: 14 hours 5 minutes

Deacon King Kong

Deacon King Kong centers around an uncharacteristic event life in the projects in 1960's New York City. McBride’s highly energetic story encompasses a multitude of characters that circle the Five Ends Baptist Church, where his main character, Sportcoat, is a Deacon. Sportcoat is a hard-drinking, odd-job handyman that lost his wife two years ago (but continuously argues with her ghost), defies death multiple times, coaches a youth baseball team, and teaches Sunday School. The reader bounces around from character to character learning about the internal dynamics of the community; the mysteries, myths, and urban legends of the community and each individual’s take on shared events. The characters felt so real and the interactions often made me laugh out loud. The semi-chaotic writing style, jumping from one character’s perspective to another, was a bit challenging for me to get into at first, but soon the style clicked and I was swept away! And somehow, despite the chaos, everything ties up brilliantly at the end.”

Content image Emma, Content
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Homeland Elegies

A Novel

By Ayad Akhtar
Narrated by: Ayad Akhtar
Length: 10 hours 19 minutes

Homeland Elegies

“A masterful blend of memoir and fiction, this is an unforgettable journey through the lives of a Muslim family finding their place in a post-9/11 America. A searing navigation of the loves we try to reconcile — familial, religious, societal — and the definition of home. Written with wisdom, wit, and unsparing honesty, this an important book that you will continue to contemplate for a very long time. Both intimate and epic, this is a must-read.”

East Bay Booksellers image Pam Stirling, East Bay Booksellers
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Hamnet

By Maggie O'Farrell
Narrated by: Ell Potter
Length: 12 hours 42 minutes

Hamnet

“I wanted to live in this book forever and for it to never, ever end. I have never had a book hangover like the one I had when I finished this book. It is so, so, so, good. Every word is perfectly chosen and often not the expected choice. I can't say enough about both the writing and the narration and I already can't wait to listen to this one again.”

Another Read Through image Elisa, Another Read Through
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Shakespeare in a Divided America

What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future

By James Shapiro
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
Length: 9 hours 11 minutes

One of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year  • National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist • A New York Times Notable Book 

A timely exploration of what Shakespeare’s plays reveal about our divided land.

“In this sprightly and enthralling book . . . Shapiro amply demonstrates [that] for Americans the politics of Shakespeare are not...
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The Vanishing Half

A Novel

By Brit Bennett
Narrated by: Shayna Small
Length: 11 hours 33 minutes

If you enjoyed Red at the Bone, then you’ll love The Vanishing Half.

“Brit Bennett’s haunting second novel is carried on the shoulders of a robust cast of characters—namely, Stella and Desiree Vignes, twin sisters born in 1940s Louisiana, Black but pale as can be. Soon after running away to New Orleans, they separate for the first time in their lives. Stella begins passing every day as a white woman; Desiree marries a dark-skinned man and has an ever darker daughter. Decades pass, and children leave home, wondering about where they came from just as much as where they’re going. But some secrets aren’t meant to be kept. As if Bennett’s rich storytelling wasn’t enough, I was absolutely hooked by the Black trans joy represented in this book. A future classic.”

Raven Book Store image Mary, Raven Book Store
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Uncanny Valley

A Memoir

By Anna Wiener
Narrated by: Suehyla El-Attar
Length: 8 hours 44 minutes

Uncanny Valley

“Like Joan Didion or Renata Adler, Ben Lerner or Sally Rooney, Anna Wiener writes with dead-on specificity, scalpel-sharp analysis, deep sensitivity, and an eye for the absurd. She headed west into the modern gold rush that is the tech boom and now returns with gleaming ingots of insight, weaving tales of a strange land where boy-CEOs ride ripsticks and hoover up your data. An essential and very human look at the forces shaping who we are and how we behave.”

Sam MacLaughlin image Sam MacLaughlin, McNally Jackson Williamsburg
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War: How Conflict Shaped Us

By Margaret MacMillan
Narrated by: Deepti Gupta
Length: 10 hours 41 minutes

Is peace an aberration? The New York Times bestselling author of Paris 1919 offers a provocative view of war as an essential component of humanity.

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“Margaret MacMillan has produced another seminal work. . . . She is right that we must, more than ever, think about war....
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