Podcasts & Books

Get Sucked Into Some Serious Page-Turners With 8 Of The Best New Fiction Books

By Jessica Best
28th Aug 2020

book collage of fiction

Here’s the deal. Much like Netflix, books are a big form of escapism. And sometimes, you just need a damn nail-biting, cant-peel-your-eyes-away novel to feed your soul. So, say hello to the very list that will no doubt quench your thirst for a good story.

Here are the best fiction books to read this year.


By Jenny Offill

If you’re after a novel that beats all the madness of 2020, say hello to Weather by Jenny Offill. Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practise her other calling – (obviously) as an unofficial shrink. For years, she supported her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but then her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. Sylvia has become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of western civilization. It’s dark comedy meets political and climate anxiety so strap yourselves in.

The Glass Hotel

By Emily St. John Mandel

Grab the supplies because you won’t be leaving your room for a while when you start this one. The Glass Hotel is a fiction book which takes you through hidden landscapes, campgrounds, underground electronica-clubs, luxury hotels and federal prison. If you haven’t heard of Emily St. John Mandel (shame on you), heads up, she wrote the amazing Station Eleven which taled a world completely ravaged by an uber-evil mutation of swine flu. If you have read this book, then good news, The Glass Hotel takes place in the same universe and follows the aftermath of a graffiti incident at a hotel on Vancouver Island and the collapse of an international Ponzi scheme. Sound like a lot? It is, and you’ll love it.

My Dark Vanessa

By Kate Elizabeth Russel

If you’re deep in the bookworm hole this year, you’ll know then that this is the book every fiction-lover is talking about. This era-defining novel throws you into the deep end of a relationship between a 15-year-old, Vanessa, and her teacher. Twenty years later and Vanessa is now 32 and the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student of his. Vanessa is horrified by this news because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn't abuse. It was love. She's sure of that. But now, in 2017, in the midst of allegations against powerful men, she is being asked to redefine the great love story of her life. Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, and as riveting as it is disturbing, My Dark Vanessa is an absolute must-read and in case you need any more convincing, Stephen King dubbed it “a package of dynamite”.

The Vanishing Half

By Brit Bennet

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age 16, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything — their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the lives of the twins remain intertwined but these all come to surface when their own daughter’s lives intersect. You'll want to get your hands on this book stat.


By Hilary Leichter

For the more experimental readers out there, you’ll want to turn the pages of Temporary by Hilary Leichter. Eighteen boyfriends, twenty-three jobs, and one ghost who occasionally pops in to give advice — Temporary casts a hilarious eye toward the struggle for happiness under late capitalism.

Smart Ovens By Lonely People

By Elizabeth Tan

Conspiracies and memes, that’s just some of what you can come to expect from this short-story collection from Elizabeth Tan. Brace yourself for a cat-shaped oven who tells a depressed woman she doesn’t have to be sorry anymore. A Yourtopia Bespoke Terraria employee becomes paranoid about the mounting coincidences in her life. Four girls gather to celebrate their underwear in ‘Happy Smiling Underwear Girls Party’.

Topics Of Conversation

By Miranda Popkey

Prepare to get pretty abstract and philosophical. Miranda Pokey’s debut novel is all about the hidden truth’s of a woman’s life. It basically asks us — what is the “shape” of life? And whether this is constituted by the things that happen to us, or the stories we tell about the things that happen to us. This book follows a woman as she makes her way through two decades of bad relationships, motherhood, crisis and consolation, each new episode narrated through the conversations she has with other women: in private with friends, late at night at parties with acquaintances, with strangers in hotel rooms, in moments of revelation, shame, intimacy, cynicism and desire.

All Our Shimmering Skies

By Trent Dalton

Back in your bookstores is the one, the only, Trent Dalton. The bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe is now gifting you with All Our Shimmering Skies – a glorious novel which will no doubt go down as another Aussie classic. Set in Darwin, 1942, and as Japanese bombs rain down, motherless Molly Hook, a gravedigger's daughter, is looking to the skies and running for her life. Inside a duffel bag, she carries a stone heart, alongside a map to lead her to Longcoat Bob, the deep-country sorcerer who she believes put a curse on her family. It’s completely ridiculous and wholesome at the same time which makes it the ultimate Sunday afternoon read to close your week off.

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Image credit: Dominique Lonsdale

Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchase.

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