Barnes and Noble’s Best Books of 2020 (So Far)

Booksellers Select the Top Ten Titles from the First Half of 2020

Barnes & Noble Inc., the world’s largest retail bookseller, today announced that booksellers from across the U.S. selected ten titles as the Best Books of 2020 (So Far), including books that address our current moment, share lessons from the past, and bring memorable characters—both real and imagined—to life.

“Our passionate bookselling team has undertaken the distinct challenge of narrowing down our favorite books from the first half of 2020 into a short list of ten diverse and thought-provoking titles. The result is a unique range that includes the informative and historical, to electrifying new novels and even a heartwarming children’s tale about a dog, a gorilla, and an elephant,” Jackie De Leo, Vice President, Bookstore, Barnes & Noble. “I am really impressed with our booksellers’ selections, and I am pleased to recommend these titles to our customers.”

1) The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins
“Readers return to the districts of Panem to see the Hunger Games in its infancy and witness a side to future-President Snow that you wouldn’t expect … A heart-stopping adrenaline rush that has you clamoring to reread the original series now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of this unexpected backstory!” -Bookseller Melissa Lavendier

2) A Burning, by Megha Majumdar
“A searing debut novel filled with characters who will live with you long after you turn the final page… the intensity of this story cannot be overstated. A Burning is the best book I’ve read so far this year!”  -Bookseller Sarah Coombs

3) Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the Worldby Chris Wallace
“Step into the shoes of President Truman and experience the most difficult 116 days in American history.  Albert Einstein said working on the atomic bomb was ‘the one great mistake in my life.’  Don’t let missing this book be yours.” -Bookseller Steven Kneeland

4) Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
“This brilliant novel starts out with a literal bang when a church deacon shoots a local drug dealer in 1969 Brooklyn. It’s a story that will captivate you until the very end. Hands down, one of the best books I’ve read this year.”  -Bookseller Tara Smart

5) Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad
“A must read—and ENGAGE—book and an invaluable tool for fully examining the tentacles of white privilege and for confronting our own, individual complicity in a racist culture.  Said is a firm, gentle, frank, and demanding guide on a journey to explain and drive home the full meaning of what it is to be antiracist.” -Book Buyer Sallye Leventhal


6) The One and Only Bob, by Katherine Applegate
“Another heartfelt and empowering novel from Katherine Applegate, it will enchant and delight the inner child in every reader.  Follow Bob along on his mission to save his long-lost sister with his best friends.  See Ivan again in this as he helps his friend, Bob, and root them on until the very last page.” -Bookseller

7) The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson
“A beautiful history of how Churchill gave strength to the British people through times of great struggle and brought a country together.” -Bookseller Savanna Kessler

8) Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Stamped is a book that should be in the hands of every teenager. This book is a call to action and is written with the intention of dismantling the racist prejudices that continue to plague our nation. It is educational, important and so very relevant.” -Bookseller Victoria Bartolo

9) Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
Untamed is another honest, moving and empowering book from Glennon Doyle. Her books feel like you’re having a conversation with just her, this one is no different.”            -Bookseller Sarah Smith

10)  The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
The Vanishing Half is an incredibly thought-provoking novel that touches on societal norms, gender constructs and racial inequality. Brit Bennett has given us a powerful, challenging and complex story that I absolutely recommend to anyone looking to understand racial prejudice and colorism.” -Bookseller Allison Osborn

Customers can find these titles at their local Barnes & Noble and on BN.com.

Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists

DonnaSeamanbyDavidSiegfried (1)Call it the case of the disappearing sculpture for that’s what started Donna Seaman on her quest to chronicle the lives and works of the seven female artists featured in her just released book, Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists (Bloomsbury 2017; $30.

“I remember going to the Chicago Art Institute and seeing this large sculpture they had at the end of the corridor,” says Seaman who grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York but not lives in Chicago. “But then she disappeared.”

The sculpture was by Louise Nevelson, who at one time had quite a following in the U.S., but like the six other 20th century females artists featured in Seaman’s book are almost forgotten despite their talent.

Intriguingly, though I had heard of Nevelson, I didn’t recognize any of the other names when I first started reading Seaman’s fascinating book. But reading about Gertrude Abercrombie and seeing her strikingly haunted paintings, I realized my mother had one in her study. But though I loved that painting, I only remembered the male artists whose works hung in our home such as Chagall’s “The Rabbi of Vitebsk” and Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Steam” (all prints I assure you) and not this one? Was it a male thing?

Could be says Seaman, one of Chicago’s best known book critics and editor of adult books at Booklist, a book-review (and now online) magazine that’s been published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years.

“It’s about who’s writing history,” she says. “Women weren’t written about in a critically relevant way. Newspapers were interested but not the critics. And so these women disappeared.”

While doing her extensive research (Seaman acknowledges her obsessiveness) she asked museum curators to bring out the works of Lois Mailou Jones that had been tucked away in storage for who knows how long.

“They hadn’t seen them before,” she recalls. “And they kept saying these are wonderful.”

Though Seaman chose most of the artists she highlighted—Joan Brown, Leonore Tawney and Ree Morton–because she liked their work, her essay on Christina Ramberg was much more personal.

“I knew Christina,” Seaman says. “She died very young. The moment she became ill, we knew she wasn’t going to be around very long and I knew someday I would write about her.”

With a Master’s degree in English from DePaul University, one might expect Seaman to be more focused on lost women writers, but her mother was a visual artist (in fact Seaman is traveling to Vassar College last this spring where her mother has a showing of her work) and at one time, she considered becoming an artist as well.

Earning her BSA at Kansas City Art Institute where she was a sculptor major, Seaman says she was only one in her class who loved her liberal arts classes.

“I loved libraries and I have a passion for reading,” she says. “Despite getting into shows and selling my works, I realized that my stronger skills were in editing and writing.”

This skill subset—art and writing—is perfect for giving these artists their identities back.

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