Not Another “Most Anticipated Books of 2020” List!
- Lupita Aquino
- January 13, 2020
Reading intentionally in the New Year.
By now, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen at least 10 “Most Anticipated Books of 2020” lists, if not more. As readers, we barely made it to the end of 2019 before we got inundated with word of all the wonderful new books coming our way in 2020.
If you’re like me, at the time the new lists came out, you had your eyes glued to one of the titles from a “Most Anticipated Books of 2019” list published a year earlier. And if you’re also like me, you dropped the book, panicked a bit, and started a new “To Be Read” list for 2020 (after taking deep breaths and assuring yourself that you’ll eventually get to all of them).
Essentially, you lie to yourself because, as a passionate book lover, you want to read all those buzz-worthy books. You want to add your voice to the conversation surrounding them and don’t want to miss out on the best books of the year.
But after reading through the 20th list of “Most Anticipated Books,” I noticed a trend. The same titles are featured over and over, with few exceptions. Also, unless the lists are demographic-specific — e.g., “Most Anticipated Queer Books” or “Most Anticipated Books by Latinx Authors” — they overwhelmingly highlight white writers.
Which makes you wonder: How are these lists determined? Specifically, who decides the must-reads of the year, and how do they make their selections? On a personal level, how do I determine which books to prioritize? How do I decide which ones may truly resonate with me?
With these questions in mind, I decided to take inspiration from fellow bookstagrammer @read.rewind and build my own Most Anticipated Books of 2020 list by analyzing and reflecting on the books I read in 2019. Not only did I find this activity important, but it was also eye-opening.
It showed me that while I say I read diversely and champion books by and about Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and queer authors, the reality can be quite different. Especially when I get swept up in the buzz that highly publicized books generate.
Here’s a look at my reading statistics from last year: Out of 69 books read, approximately 82 percent were written by women (72 percent by women of color); 13 percent were written by men (8.69 percent by men of color); and 2.8 percent were written by non-binary authors. This made clear to me how often I, too, gave into buzz.
The message? My reading was often not intentional and was guided purely by what someone else determined would be right for me.
Which brings me to today. In 2020, I want to work toward taking that power back. This year, I want to read with intention instead of riding the wave of buzz. Here’s a list of personal most-anticipated books that might help me do just that:
The Lost Book of Adana Moreau: A Novel by Michael Zapata (Feb. 4). Latinx authors write across the literary spectrum and often do not conform to it. With a sprinkle of sci-fi and historical fiction, this is definitely one Latinx book to have on everyone’s list.
Real Life: A Novel by Brandon Taylor (Feb. 18). The publisher sent me an advance reading copy (ARC); after the first few pages, I could not put it down. This book is on the list because I can’t wait for everyone to read it. It’s a coming-of-age debut that I say is a must-read.
Under the Rainbow: A Novel by Celia Laskey (Mar. 3). I didn’t mean to start or finish this book. To be frank, it wasn’t on my radar at all. The publisher sent me an ARC, and it was the synopsis that sold me. This charming book offers a kaleidoscope of characters struggling to understand their differences in rural Big Burr, Kansas, “the most homophobic town in the U.S.” Come for the plot; stay for the plot, the love, the characters, the writing, and all the good feels.
Deacon King Kong: A Novel by James McBride (Mar. 3). Can you believe this reader has yet to explore works by New York Times bestseller McBride? It has been a longtime goal to read his work, and this is the year it happens.
Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North American’s Stolen Land by Noé Álvarez (Mar. 3). As a long-distance runner, I felt this book’s synopsis spoke to me. As a Mexican immigrant, I urgently need it.
Wow, No Thank You.: Essays by Samantha Irby (Mar. 31). If you’ve never heard or read anything by Irby, do yourself a favor and head straight to Google. Irby is the creator of bitchesgottaeat.com, a blog that, much like her other two essay collections, will make you laugh while simultaneously making you want to cry. Her essays are so relatable, they’re healing.
Girl Gone Viral: A Novel by Alisha Rai (Apr. 21). I learned last year that I preemptively judged romance novels incorrectly. Everyone can use some romance in their life, and I’m excited, with this book, to dive into the genre even more.
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (May 19). Very often, books written about immigration center on the trauma of crossing the border. In this own-voice collection, the narrative is shifted to explore the realities of undocumented lives in America.
Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity by Porochista Khakpour (May 19). Two essay collections were among my favorite books of last year. That’s why, when I saw Khakpour’s tweet about Brown Album, a collection that centers on the immigrant and Iranian-American life, I knew I needed to read it.
You Exist Too Much: A Novel by Zaina Arafat (June 9). I will always say that there are not enough queer books in the world. So it was essential to add this novel that features a queer Palestinian-American protagonist to the list!
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (June 23). Last year, after reading Guillory’s The Proposal and The Wedding Party, I learned that what was missing in my life was a little bit of love from the romance genre. So, adding Party of Two to my list was a no-brainer.
The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel by Akwaeke Emezi (Aug. 4). Emezi first shook me with their debut novel, Freshwater, back in 2018. And their first YA novel, Pet, published last year, blew my mind. “Excited” doesn’t begin to cover how I feel about getting my hands on this book.
Transcendent Kingdom: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi (Sept. 15). Fans of Homegoing, Gyasi’s first book, have been eagerly awaiting another one. This year, we get it!
So, what most-anticipated books are on your list? And what reading resolutions — such as reading more queer literature or books from independent presses — do you plan to focus on? In other words, how will you read intentionally this year?
Lupita Aquino — better known as Lupita Reads — is the co-founder and current lead of LIT on H St. Book Club at Solid State Books. She is a passionate reader active in both the local and online book community through her Instagram blog, @Lupita.Reads. You can also catch her tweeting about books over at @lupita_reads.