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Librarians and Booksellers Name Their Top Books of 2020

Book covers: Caste, Humankind, The Vanishing Half, Minor Feelings, The Glass Hotel, Memorial, Transcendent Kingdom, Book of Eels

Each year, library professionals and booksellers come together to select the winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. This week, they announced the 46 books on their longlist for the 2021 award, which includes some of the most talked about books of the past year.

“This was unquestionably a challenging year for all the obvious reasons. There were times one didn’t feel especially like reading,” said Bill Kelly, adult programming manager for Cuyahoga County Public Library and 2021 Carnegie selection committee chair, in a press release. “And yet, in the end, reading proved to be just the balm one needs to sustain us, to give hope and strength and resilience in the face of an oppressively uncertain future.”

The selection committee will announce the six-title short list as the award’s shortlist in November, then share the two medal winners (one fiction and one nonfiction) in February 2021. In the meantime, here are all the picks on their longlist:


Red Dress in Black and White, by Elliot Ackerman

Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

Parakeetby Marie-Helene Bertino

The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich

Crooked Hallelujah, by Kelli Jo Ford

Transcendent Kingdom, by Yaa Gyasi

Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino, by Julián Herbert

Pew, by Catherine Lacey

Luster, by Raven Leilani

A Burning, by Megha Majumdar

The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel

Deacon King Kong, by James McBride

Apeirogon, by McCann, Colum

Hurricane Season, by Fernanda Melchor

Utopia Avenueby David Mitchell

Hamnetby Maggie O’Farrell

Echo on the Bayby Masatsugu Ono

Jack, by Marilynne Robinson

Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart

Here We Areby Graham Swift

The Last Great Road Bum, by Héctor Tobar

Run Me to Earth, by Paul Yoon

Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu

Memorialby Bryan Washington


Humankind: A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bregman

The Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town, by Barbara Demick

Fathoms: The World in the Whale, by Rebecca Giggs

The Beauty in Breaking, by Michele Harper

The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch, by Miles Harvey

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, by Cathy Park Hong

Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis, by Jeffrey H. Jackson

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, by Robert Kolker

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America, by Laila Lalami

God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World, by Alan Mikhail

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women, by Wayétu Moore

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, by Les Payne and Tamara Payne

Just Us: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, by Jenn Shapland

Recollections of My Nonexistence, by Rebecca Solnit

The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creatures in the Natural World, by Patrik Svensson

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir, by Natasha Trethewey

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle over American Immigration, 1924-1965, by Jia Lynn Yang

For more information about the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, visit the award website.

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