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.

The Splendid and the Vile. A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

          When New York Times bestselling author Erik Larson (Devil in the White City; Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania) moved to New York five years ago, he had what he describes as a revelation. He had watched, horrified, as 911 unfolded on CNN.

Author Erik Larson

          “But I wondered what was it like for people living in New York to have their city invaded and all the fear they must have felt,” he says. “Then I started thinking about the bombing of London by the Germans during World War II. It was 57 nights of consecutive bombings. 911 shook us all but how did Londoners cope, knowing that every night their city would be bombed—that every night, hundreds of German bombers were flying over with high-explosive bombs?”

          At first Larson thought he’d tell his story about an ordinary family living in London at the time.

          “Then I thought why not a quintessential London family—the Churchills,” he says. “So much as been written about him, but this gave me the lens through which to tell the story.”

          The result is The Splendid and the Vile. A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (Crown Publishing), Larson’s saga about how Churchill, as prime minister, kept the country strong and together through his wit, his ability to speak to everyday people and by his own determination during the time of the Blitz from May of 1940 through May of 1941.

          ” I think the things that surprised me the most was the fact that Churchill was a lot of fun,” says Larson.  “Even though his staff was really overworked, even though they knew Churchill was inconsiderate, but he worked just as hard or harder than anyone. They loved working with him, he was able to do that.”

          He also had some intriguing habits—his drinking and his long soaks in the bathtub, smoking cigars and having his secretary take dictation, getting out, naked and wet to answer the phone and then getting back into the tub.

          Churchill was also fearless and without vanity says Larson.

          It drove the Nazis crazy.

          Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda, cursed him, writing in his diary, “When will that creature Churchill finally surrender? England cannot hold out forever!”

          His speeches were so effective with the British that Goebbels was alarmed when he learned that Germans were listening to them as well and ordered them to stop, saying it was treachery.

          “Churchill would visit a city that had been bombed, and people would flock to him,” says Larson. “I have no question that these visits were absolutely important to helping Britain get through this period. He was often filmed doing so for newsreels, and it was reported by newspapers and radio. This was leadership by demonstration, by showing the world that he cared, and he was fearless.”

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