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Hyped books! With so many out there every single year, all that hype can be a blessing or a curse. When a great book intersects with a boatload of hype, readers are happy and sales can soar. It’s a win, win! On the flip side, when pre-publication hype gets readers excited, anxious to dive into a book, and then it disappoints, it almost hurts. As a reader you might feel a little cheated having expected SO much and then the book not quite delivering. When you cross a book like this with a favorite author and it gets down right painful! Today, I’m sharing a dozen hyped books from 2020, half lived up to all that hype, and the other half didn’t quite do it for me.
2020 Books That Deserved the Hype
- Long Bright River by Liz Moore – Even before 2020 began, there was a lot of buzz around this book. Word was that is was a truly SMART thriller, something that feels like a rarity at times. It did not disappoint with Moore delivering a twisty story of two sisters who grew up in the same sad house, but ended up in very different places: one a cop, the other a drug-addict living on the streets. (my review)
- My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell – This debut about a woman haunted by the relationship she had with her high school English teacher had many people talking. The chatter grew even more intense when it came out that the story was in part based on the author’s own experience. (my review)
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle – This book was being talked about EVERYWHERE last spring. I initially avoided it because I’ve struggled with nonfiction this year, but when I finally listened to it on audio, I got why everyone was talking about it. Doyle’s writing was so inspiring, so uplifting, and exactly what we needed in the midst of COVID’s first peak. (my review)
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – Sometimes when an author’s debut was a mega-hit, like The Mothers (my review) was for Bennett, her sophomore novel will get a lot of prepublication buzz. Sometimes that buzz is deserved, but many times it’s not. I’m happy to say that The Vanishing Half deserved every one of its early accolades. I actually liked it even more than her debut. (my review)
- Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam – It seemed like in late August and September everyone was talking about the new book by Alam. It was said to be strange, mysterious, thrilling, brilliant, a MUST read. For me it was all of those things and much more. It’s so nice when a book truly lives up to its early hype! (my review)
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwarz – I did not succumb to the swirl of hype surrounding the publication of this book because I DO NOT read fantasy. Then in mid-October I hit a sort of mini-slump, not finding any books to connect to. I read review after review by people who loved Addie. Finally, I decided to try it and within pages, I completely understood that the hype was well, well deserved. (my review)
2020 Books That Didn’t Deserved the Hype
- Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore – I heard about Oona months before it was published and had to hold myself back from reading it too early. When I finally did, I was a little disappointed. I grew frustrated with a girl who seemed to keep making the same mistakes over and over, and at times felt like I was slogging through her story. (my review)
- The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel – It’s hard to explain how much people were looking forward to this book from the author of Station Eleven, a book beloved by many. I was desperate to get my hands on a copy, but then the story was just okay. It didn’t meet my almost breathless anticipation, leaving me disappointed and a little sad. (my review)
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how much pre-publication hype Hamnet got because I wasn’t really very interested. Then I started seeing A LOT of love for the book on Instagram, so decided to give it a try. Usually, those high accolades bode well for me, but not this time. O’Farrell’s book was again, just okay. (my review)
- A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne – When we have an author on such a high pedestal, the fall can be painful. The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my review) was my Best Book of 2017 and I’ve loved other Boyne books, so like everyone else I was rabid for his newest saga. Did I read the entire book? Yes. Was it incredibly creative? Yes. Was it strikingly original? Yes. Did I love it? No. (my review)
- The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – This book was everywhere last summer including an August Book of the Month selection. Everyone (except me) seemed to loved this thriller about two rapes, twenty years apart. Rarely do I dislike a book as much as The Night Swim. I still don’t get why so many loved it! (my spoiler discussion)
- Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – Here we have yet another favorite author who people were eager to read in 2020. Pre-publication promised a quirky book about a botched robbery, an open house and an unusual cast of characters. Backman delivered all that, but with angst, I again have to say, “It was just okay.” (my review)
Which 2020 books do you think deserved,
OR didn’t deserve the hype?
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I’m really looking forward to Addie LaRue; like you, I don’t read a lot of fantasy, so it bodes well that you still enjoyed it!
I’d call it fantasy “lite” which is why I think it worked so beautifully for me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I’ve read three of each from your lists.
On the hyped list I agree with Vanishing Half. Long Bright River was OK and My Dark Vanessa, as important a story as it is, just didn’t do it for me, especially the ending.
I really liked Anxious People. The quirky and occasionally broken characters, many with intertwined stories, worked for me. I DNFd A Traveler At the Gates of Wisdom after 150 pages. I never looked forward to picking it up. Night Swim was stupid.
I just got Addie from the library. But it’s not in my wheelhouse so it’ll have to deliver quickly.
I’m really looking forward to what you think about Addie. It’s definitely not the sort of book I usually go for either, but I loved it. Let me know!
I owe it to you Susie! I never would have read Addie without your recommendation.
What a charming, moving book! It started a little bit slow for me but ended up 5*. I thought with 300 years of story, there might be a slew of characters to keep track of. The author did a fabulous job of focusing on her story and not documenting the timeline. A wonderful and thought provoking story.
On my overhyped list: Beach Read, You Had Me at Hola, When No One is Watching, Big Summer, and Uncanny Valley. Lots of good reads this year, tho! I just finished Valentine which was amazing.
I completely am with you on Beach Read and Big Summer. I DNF’d both of them. I think BOTM creates a lot of hype for some books that don’t really live up to it. Valentine is going to be on my top ten for sure!
Linda S. says
A great post Susie! I agree with three on your hyped list: Long Bright River, The Vanishing Half, and Leave the World Behind as I loved all of those. I am currently reading My Dark Vanessa, and I think it will be one of my favorites for this year. From your skip list, I loved Hamnet and was so involved in the story, and I thought it was so well written. I didn’t care for The Night Swim, and you have made me curious about The Invisible Life of Audie LaRue as I don’t read fantasy either.
Sounds like out tastes are mostly similar. I think I’m the outlier on Hamnet and it may be because I listened to it. That usually makes me like books more, but maybe Hamnet was one that would have just been better in print. Try Addie. It was my most pleasant surprise book of this year.
Oh nice list! I too loved The Vanishing Half, Long Bright River, and Leave the World Behind. All three were great. I still hope to try Hamnet and The Glass Hotel … but will lower my expectations. I also loved Sea Wife … but wasn’t a big fan of the novel Rodham which surprised me … I just didn’t like the alternative history path they characters took. hmm. But a lot of the time – we agree on books! That’s why I need to get my hands on the Addie LaRue book.
I almost put Rodham on the list for deserved the hype. I really loved it, but I know a lot of others didn’t. I also think it sort of fell off the radar pretty fast. Dea Wife was a gem for sur. I loved it. And, yes, try Addie! (Julie Whalen narrates the audiobook, so you might want to listen. I did a combo read/listen.)
I love this post topic! I have my own opinions on this but totally agree with you about The Vanishing Half and totally disagree with you about Anxious People and Long Bright River 😉
I usually agree with you on books, but we have a few differences this year. Yours was one of the reviews that put Blacktop Wasteland on my radar, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I think it’s the curse of mystery/thrillers of 2020. Almost nothing in that genre has worked for me. I always love talking books with you!