Best Of season is here again! The beauty of these lists is that each is entirely personal and unique, meaning it’s a great time of year to pick up book recommendations. Earlier this week, we shared the NetGalley team’s favorite books of the year. Now, 16 authors each share one of the best books they read in 2020!

Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

Murder on Cold Street is one of my favorite reads of the year. It takes the locked room murder mystery and uses it to gloriously subvert toxic masculinity—after all, isn’t toxic masculinity a locked room itself? In this story, we find Detective Treadles, an extremely justice-minded investigator for Scotland Yard, suddenly accused of the murders of two men who work with his wife at the family company she now runs. In previous books, we’ve watched Treadles have his worldview shattered by the realization that women, including his wife, were capable of anything and had no need of husbands. This book deals beautifully with some of the most insidious, and hurtful, ways misogyny can permeate everything. All of this is of course balanced with the always insightful and irreverent Charlotte Holmes on the case—and the deepening of her extreme slow burn romance. A wonderful book, all around.” —Alyssa Cole, author of When No One is Watching

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

“I received a copy of Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material a while before its release and I read it immediately and quickly—so much so that I spent the next several months shouting about it to people who couldn’t buy it yet. Released in July of this year, this novel centers on the romantic journey of Luc O’Donnell, whose aging-rock star/absentee father is making a comeback, which drags Luc back into the spotlight. When a compromising photo of Luc is leaked and it threatens his job at a charity organization, he needs to publicly clean up his act or else. Enter Oliver Blackwood: barrister, vegetarian, genteel and perfect in every way. Their fake-dating is a matter of convenience to both of them, until it becomes so much more. I adore the fake dating trope, but what I loved most about this book was the way the voice exploded from the pages. Luc is sardonic and witty and self-deprecating (until he isn’t anymore) and the journey these two characters take together feels real, earned, and hopeful. Hall’s writing is pitch perfect here, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.” —Christina Lauren, author of In a Holidaze

Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez is a book I wish I’d had as a teen. The story follows Camila Hassan, a rising soccer star who is willing to risk everything—parental approval, societal expectations, even her first love—to pursue her dreams. Furia is a tale about the bravery it takes to chase our passion across all kinds of borders. It’s about what happens when we dare to defy the expectations placed on us by others and by ourselves. And for me, it’s about reading a story set in my homeland, an Argentina that’s tenderly rendered in all its complexities and contradictions, with homegrown foods and expressions and traditions. I am so thrilled for the new generations who will get to read Camila’s story.” —Romina Garber, author of Lobizona

One by One by Ruth Ware

One by One is a cutting-edge murder mystery set in the glossiest of five-star deluxe ski chalets, with a cast of hip young web entrepreneurs. Ostensibly the trip is a corporate jolly to discuss the potential buyout of the company’s music app. But one guest is not there for fun, she’s there because of what she knows and what she’s owed. In the midst of all this skullduggery, an avalanche strikes, someone dies, and from thereon in, the action is breakneck, the pace is breath-taking, and the need to know whodunnit is all-consuming.” —Lisa Jewell, author of Invisible Girl

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

“I adored The Midnight Bargain from page one to the point that I have actually have started teaching it as a beautiful example of making promises. Don’t be fooled by the gorgeous wardrobes, which are required for a young lady of quality during bargaining season. This charming book hides an intense examination of the cost of societal expectations beneath a story of magic and courtship. Beatrice’s story is wrenching in ways that are so, so relatable. Also lovely! It’s got magic, costumes, books with secret codes, and young women carving out a place in a world that is not made for them.” —Mary Robinette Kowal, author of The Relentless Moon  

Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras

“Priscilla Oliveras’ Island Affair was the book we all needed in 2020. When so many of us were stuck in our homes, Oliveras’ exquisitely crafted romance whisked readers away to beautiful Key West, Florida. And even though the fake dating storyline—one of my absolute favorite tropes—was everything I was looking for and more, it was the author’s tackling of sensitive topics such as eating disorders and tense family struggles that kept me turning the page.” —Farrah Rochon, author of The Boyfriend Project

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is a warm hug. While not young adult, it evokes all of the whimsy and romance of Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and has a poignant found-family dynamic reminiscent of Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway. I read The House in the Cerulean Sea during a time when I needed something soft and kind, and I’m so glad I did. This book feels like coming home to a house that is just as weird and wonderful as you are, and it welcomes you into its pages with heart and laughter and the promise of adventure.” —Ashley Poston, author of Bookish and the Beast

So We Can Glow: Stories by Leesa Cross-Smith

“This short story collection about women, empowerment, love, lust, and boldness left me wanting more! Cross-Smith has the ability to draw you in as a reader and she uses EVERY damn word to grab your attention and not let it go. You can see not only yourself in her literary harem of characters, but your mother, aunts, friends, neighbors, and strangers. I find myself going back and re-reading her prose and discovering something new—a theme, a belief, some tidbit of lusty wisdom I believe is only meant for me. I can’t say enough good things about this book.” —Catherine Adel West, author of Saving Ruby King

Killer Chardonnay by Kate Lansing

“Kate Lansing’s Killer Chardonnay is one of the most delectable mysteries I read this year. I enjoy culinary themes in cozies and the chance to learn about unique interests—winemaking, in this case. It was fun to hang around with entertaining characters, particularly the protagonist, Parker Valentine. I also loved the sibling relationship and the complicated dynamics found within her family. The novel was delightful and kept me guessing all the way through. Killer Chardonnay is a winning mystery you want to almost gulp down instead of sipping and savoring.” —Jennifer J. Chow, author of Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

“Sequels rarely live up to the originality, emotion, and excitement of the first book in a series, but Adib Khorram’s Darius the Great Deserves Better hits every beat flawlessly. Now back at home in Portland, Darius Kellner’s hilarious and heartwarming journey finds him navigating an internship at his favorite tea shop, playing soccer, first love (and bad first kisses), sexuality, bullies-turned-friends, and the highs and lows of family. This book grabs you and never lets go. From the clumsy joy to the quiet aches, Khorram proves he truly is great.” —Julian Winters, author of The Summer of Everything

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

“I don’t do favorites but a book I very much enjoyed this year was To Have and To Hoax by Martha Waters. This marriage-in-peril Regency romance is an absolutely gorgeous piece of frippery. It’s funny, it’s artful, and yet there’s depth to the lightness. And while “lovers are driven to hilarious foolishness” can be an acquired taste, there’s so much generosity and self-awareness in the telling here that it’s impossible not to get swept along. Besides, what could be more romantic than a couple as perfectly matched in their nonsense as they are in everything else?” —Alexis Hall, author of Boyfriend Material

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas is a dark academia novel unlike any I’ve ever read before. The story follows Ines, an undergraduate who is accepted into Catherine House, a gothic college that promises its graduates a life of privilege and power. But Ines will soon learn the school harbors dark and dangerous secrets. Catherine House is nothing short of a modern-day gothic classic, perfect for those who like atmospheric literary thrillers with a haunting edge.” —Alexis Henderson, author of The Year of the Witching

Loathe at First Sight by Suzanne Park

“Suzanne Park’s insightful and witty debut, Loathe at First Sight, is a probing look into the challenges women endure in the video game industry. Melody Joo smashes every obstacle—microaggressions, misogyny, and mayhem—all while coping with her quirky Korean parents and their heavy expectations. Park expertly addresses hard realities with humor and empathy, leaving readers with a final message that feminism can triumph in a male-dominated domain.” —Roselle Lim, author of Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop

Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald

“It’s no exaggeration when I say Beyond the Ruby Veil is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Set in the city of Occhia, where water comes from a mysterious being who sources it from blood, we meet one of the most unforgettable anti-heroines to grace the pages of YA fantasy today: Emanuela Ragno, a spoiled and viciously ambitious socialite who will do whatever it takes and step on however many heads she needs to for power. Through killing and betrayals that set her off on a wild journey to right a murderous wrong, this unapologetically chaotic queer fantasy is as unpredictable as it is unputdownable.” —Janella Angeles, author of Where Dreams Descend

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor by Eve Chase

“Told through three different points of view and in two different time periods, the early 1970s and the present, Daughters of Foxcote Manor is both historical fiction and an engaging mystery set in a dark forest in England. The characters feel fresh, and the setting is unique. But for me, it was the gorgeous writing which won me over. Metaphors without a misstep. Voices that stayed true to each era and character. It’s easy to miss out on some great books during the pandemic. Be sure you find this one!” —Jennie Fields, author of Atomic Love

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar is the book you should be reading right now. It’s about two best mates called Zaq and Jags, who are trying to work out who assaulted Zaq’s brother. Anwar manages to turn London into a hardboiled wonderland, full of great characters, quick dialogue, and really good action. Honestly, this thing moves so quickly–and is so gripping–you might as well glue it to your hands because you won’t put it down. It’s the second in the series after Brothers In Blood, so I’d start there just so you know who everybody is. Off you pop, my friends.” —Stuart Turton, author of The Devil and the Dark Water

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

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