Best Selling Books of 2020: What's Hot and Why

3 Minute Read

Reading definitely didn't stop during the pandemic. With theaters and most in-person events cancelled or postponed through most of the year, people took the opportunity to catch up on popular and new-release books.

While the lockdown restrictions temporarily damaged print sales early in the spring, by August, publishers witnessed a turnaround.

“While many book markets in the world publishing industry are struggling to regain their footing after taking devastating hits during coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic spread-mitigation efforts, the United States' market has recouped losses from its relatively short lockdown periods and is ahead of where it was before the crisis.” (Publishing Perspectives)

More books are selling than ever before, profits driven by some absolute showstoppers.

2020's Hottest Bestsellers

Among 2020's hottest bestsellers are books in the following genres: fiction, history, education, African-American interests, and children's literature. Here are a few examples of each.

Delia Owens's Where the Crawdads Sing

Owens's book has spent 107 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List for a reason, and if ongoing sales are any indication, many readers spent the pandemic discovering just why that is. Warm and gripping and heartfelt, Where the Crawdads Sing is the perfect choice for readers who are looking for an engrossing story to sweep them away.

Isabel Wilkerson's Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent  

Wilkerson's Caste, which takes a look at America's racial history through the lens of the caste system, has dominated the bestseller list since its release. Dubbed an "instant American classic" by the New York Times, it's both beautifully and thoughtfully written. 

Stephen King's On Writing

Originally published back in 2000, King's memoir-style book on the writing craft has popped back on the bestseller list. Though this isn't the first time for King's work to drop and reappear on such lists, the timing of this one is quite interesting!

Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country

Propelled back into the spotlight in part due to HBO's 2020 series, Ruff's 2017 Lovecraft Country sets H.P Lovecraft-type stories in the Jim Crow South, highlighting America's tension with race and humanity.  

Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Bob

A sequel to Applegate's successful middle-grade novel One and Only Ivan, this second offering has spent 21 weeks as a New York Times bestseller. As the story's narrator, Bob the dog carries a different tone from Ivan, yet the book has its own charms. 

Why These Books?

If you consider the types of books that have dominated the bestseller lists through 2020, you can see why these particular ones would be so appealing. They're not only well-written; they also meet readers where they are right now.

Fiction books take us out of the stress of the moment. History books like Wilkerson's help us understand racial tensions that have led to recent protests. With children sent home from school mid-year for distance education and homeschooling, it only makes sense that educational books would sell well. That also goes for books like King's On Writing! With social calendars thinned out, new and aspiring writers are putting their extra time to good use! Books like Ruff's and Applegate's show the vastly different types of material various audiences are looking to curl up with and enjoy during the ongoing pandemic.

And on It Goes

As the year rolls on, it will be interesting to see how reader's interests continue to shape the markets. Because if 2020 has shown us anything it's this: you can’t stop storytelling.

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