It's that time of year.
This morning, the Amazon Books Editors (that's us) are happy to announce our choices for the Best Books of the Year So Far. Not content to wait a full year between best of the year lists, we each take stock of all the books published from January through June, convening in windowless conference rooms to advocate (argue) and compromise (weep) over our personal favorites. At the end of the day, we pack up our hurt feelings, bruised egos, and quiet resentments and prepare to do it again the next day.
As usual, there was no shortage of great books to consider. Just our top 20 features a masterful biography of a literary giant, the triumphant swan song from a three-time National Book Award winner, and a true-life tale of billionaires, art, and cannibalism. In all, we chose our favorite books across 17 categories, including kids and teens. Browse our top 10 selections below, and see them all in our Best Books of the Year So Far store.
1. Updike by Adam Begley: This biography of the American master goes far beyond simple chronology of this complex (and often paradoxical) character, layering on the lit crit where his real life bled into his novels. Detailed and compulsively readable, Updike is essential for admirers, and illuminating for anyone with an interest in literature.
2. The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel by Cristina Henríquez: Henríquez’s powerful novel captures readers with the quiet beauty of her characters and their profoundly rendered experiences as immigrants in America. Following nine families who arrived in the States from South and Central America, Henriquez has crafted a novel that is inspiring, tragic, brave, and unforgettable.
3. Redeployment by Phil Klay: The strength of Klay’s stories, all about the Iraq War or its aftermath, lies in his unflinching, un-PC point of view, even for the soldiers he so clearly identifies with and admires. These stories are at least partly autobiographical, and yet, for all their verisimilitude, they’re also shaped by an undefinable thing called art.
4. Euphoria by Lily King: Loosely based on the life of the anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is both romantic and intelligent. It is the best kind of historical novel—the kind that will send readers running to learn more about its real-life inspiration.
5. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald: Both a tense account of Greenwald’s cloak-and dagger encounters with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and a blistering commentary on surveillance in a free society, No Place to Hide is thrilling and enlightening, a bellwether moment in a crucial debate.
6. In Paradise: A Novel by Peter Matthiessen: Three-time National Book Award winner Matthiessen set his final story in a mid-'90s spiritual retreat at Auschwitz, exploring the sadness, horror, and absurdity—and even occasional joy—that accompany it. The result is a novel that is as profound as anything the late author had ever written.
7. The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd: In the early 1830s, the Grimké sisters were the most infamous women in America for speaking out in favor of liberty and equality and for African American slaves and women. Monk Kidd brings Hetty and Sara to life in a powerful novel that spans decades, vividly imagining the Grimké sisters’ courageous trials and personal transformations.
8. Red Rising by Pierce Brown: Pulsing with nonstop action, surprising twists, and unforgettable characters, Brown’s debut—and the first book of a projected trilogy—sets its tale of struggle and revolution in the desolation of Mars, tackling the large questions of fate and loyalty in brutal and heartfelt turns.
9. Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman: Was the scion of an American billionaire eaten by cannibals in New Guinea? Award-winning journalist Hoffman steps into Michael Rockefeller’s boots to investigate his 1961 disappearance, and succeeds in both solving the puzzle and spinning an engrossing tale of adventure.
10. Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children) by Ransom Riggs: Continuing the story that mesmerized readers in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Riggs packs Hollow City with more eerie vintage photographs, and like a seasoned magician, seamlessly incorporates them into a remarkable—and totally original—feat of imagination.
See all the Best Books of the Year So Far.