Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2020

Although over 100 books from the second half of the year are already on my radar, I’ve limited myself here to the 15 July to November releases that I’m most excited about.

The modest number is a cheat in that I’ve already read seven books from this period in advance (plus I’m currently reading another three), and I haven’t listed any that I already have access to via proofs, promised finished copies, NetGalley, Edelweiss, or library preorders. Some of these that I intend to read are A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne, D (A Tale of Two Worlds): A Modern-Day Dickensian Fable by Michel Faber, Bringing Back the Beaver by Derek Gow, Just Like You by Nick Hornby, How to Fly (poems) by Barbara Kingsolver, Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald, Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell, Summerwater by Sarah Moss, Lake Life by David James Poissant, Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink, Jack by Marilynne Robinson and The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn.

(Meanwhile, two of my overall most anticipated 2020 releases have been pushed back to 2021, at least in the UK: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi and The Anthill by Julianne Pachico.)

The following are in release date order, within sections by genre; the quoted descriptions are from the publisher blurbs on Goodreads. For most I’ve added a note on why I want to read it. Nonfiction dominates: this seems to be the way of 2020 for me. Lots of flora and fauna on the covers and in the themes. Look out for antlers x 2.



I love the U.S. cover.

Artifact by Arlene Heyman [July 9, Bloomsbury] “A sweeping debut novel about love, sex, motherhood, and ambition that follows a gifted and subversive scientist’s struggle to reach beyond cultural constraints for the life she wants. … Artifact is an intimate and propulsive portrait of a whole woman.” Susan of A life in books put me onto this one; here’s her review.


I love the U.S. cover.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson [Aug. 13, Jonathan Cape / Aug. 25, Riverhead] “After a serious case of school bullying becomes too much to bear, sisters July and September move across the country with their mother to a long-abandoned family home. … With its roots in psychological horror, Sisters is a taut, powerful and deeply moving account of sibling love.” I loved Johnson’s Booker-shortlisted debut, Everything Under.


Piranesi by Susanna Clarke [Sept. 15, Bloomsbury] “Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless. … For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the LanePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world.” It feels like forever since we had a book from Clarke. I remember devouring Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell during a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads in 2006. But whew: this one is only 272 pages.


The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey [Nov. 5, Gallic / Oct. 27, Riverhead] “A beautiful and haunting imagining of the years Geppetto spends within the belly of a sea beast. Drawing upon the Pinocchio story while creating something entirely his own, Carey tells an unforgettable tale of fatherly love and loss, pride and regret, and of the sustaining power of art and imagination.” His Little was one of my favorite novels of 2018.



Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood [Nov. 10, Chatto & Windus / Ecco / McClelland & Stewart] “By turns moving, playful and wise, the poems … are about absences and endings, ageing and retrospection, but also about gifts and renewals. They explore bodies and minds in transition … Werewolves, sirens and dreams make their appearance, as do various forms of animal life and fragments of our damaged environment.”



Bright Precious Thing: A Memoir by Gail Caldwell [July 7, Random House] “In a voice as candid as it is evocative, Gail Caldwell traces a path from her west Texas girlhood through her emergence as a young daredevil, then as a feminist.” I’ve enjoyed two of Caldwell’s previous books, especially Let’s Take the Long Way Home. Also, I’ve been reading a lot of childhood memoirs and I like comparing them to see how authors capture that time of life.


The Fragments of My Father by Sam Mills [July 9, Fourth Estate] A memoir of being the primary caregiver for her father, who had schizophrenia; with references to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Leonard Woolf, who also found themselves caring for people struggling with mental illness. “A powerful and poignant memoir about parents and children, freedom and responsibility, madness and creativity and what it means to be a carer.”


Avoid the Day: A New Nonfiction in Two Movements by Jay Kirk [July 28, Harper Perennial] Transylvania, Béla Bartók’s folk songs, an eco-tourist cruise in the Arctic … “Avoid the Day is part detective story, part memoir, and part meditation on the meaning of life—all told with a dark pulse of existential horror.” It was Helen Macdonald’s testimonial that drew me to this: it “truly seems to me to push nonfiction memoir as far as it can go.”


World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil [Aug. 3, Milkweed Editions] “From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction—a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us. … Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship.” Who could resist that title or cover?


Antlers of Water: Writing on the Nature and Environment of Scotland, edited by Kathleen Jamie [Aug. 6, Canongate] Contributors include Amy Liptrot, musician Karine Polwart and Malachy Tallack. “Featuring prose, poetry and photography, this inspiring collection takes us from walking to wild swimming, from red deer to pigeons and wasps, from remote islands to back gardens … writing which is by turns celebratory, radical and political.”


The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World by Roman Krznaric [Aug. 27, W.H. Allen] “Drawing on radical solutions from around the world, Krznaric celebrates the innovators who are reinventing democracy, culture and economics so that we all have the chance to become good ancestors and create a better tomorrow.” I’ve been reading a fair bit around this topic. I got a sneak preview of this one from Krznaric’s Hay Festival talk.


Eat the Buddha: The Story of Modern Tibet through the People of One Town by Barbara Demick [Sept. 3, Granta / July 28, Random House] “Illuminating a culture that has long been romanticized by Westerners as deeply spiritual and peaceful, Demick reveals what it is really like to be a Tibetan in the twenty-first century, trying to preserve one’s culture, faith, and language.” I read her book on North Korea and found it eye-opening. I’ve read a few books about Tibet over the years; it is fascinating.


Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake [Sept. 3, Bodley Head / May 12, Random House] “Entangled Life is a mind-altering journey into this hidden kingdom of life, and shows that fungi are key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel and behave.” I like spotting fungi. Yes, yes, the title and cover are amazing, but also the author’s name!! – how could you not want to read this?


Between Light and Storm: How We Live with Other Species by Esther Woolfson [Sept. 3, Granta] “Woolfson considers prehistoric human‒animal interaction and traces the millennia-long evolution of conceptions of the soul and conscience in relation to the animal kingdom, and the consequences of our belief in human superiority.” I’ve read two previous nature books by Woolfson and have done some recent reading around deep time concepts. This is sure to be a thoughtful and nuanced take.


The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary by Melissa Harrison [Nov. 5, Faber & Faber] “Moving from scrappy city verges to ancient, rural Suffolk, where Harrison eventually relocates, this diary—compiled from her beloved “Nature Notebook” column in The Times—maps her joyful engagement with the natural world and demonstrates how we must first learn to see, and then act to preserve, the beauty we have on our doorsteps.” I love seeing her nature finds on Twitter. I think her writing will suit this format.


Which of these do you want to read, too?

What other upcoming 2020 titles are you looking forward to?

25 responses

  1. You’re right! I did wave at you about Artifact and am about to post my review. I hope you enjoy it. I’m looking forward to the Carey very much, too. Little was a gem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perfect timing! I’ll add in a link to your review above. (I must say I find the U.S. cover a lot more appealing.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, and me, too.


  2. Looking forward to the Atwood poetry book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too — I read a volume of her selected poetry many years ago. It will be interesting to see what her more recent work is like.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, sorry to hear the Gyasi has been pushed back!

    I can’t decide whether I’ll love or hate Sisters. I didn’t get on with Everything Under at all but loved Fen. I do love books about sisters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m reading several sister novels at the moment. I can’t seem to resist them!

      The Gyasi is still showing September as the date for the U.S. publisher, so it might be possible to nab it on NetGalley or Edelweiss this year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good to know!


  4. I’ve got Sisters on order, desperate to read Artifact now I’ve seen Susan’s review, and yes yes yes to Piranesi – I’ve read the first chapter on the latter on netgalley teaser – It’s very strange indeed! Avoid the Day sounds interesting in your NF choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Avoid the Day definitely sounds intriguing. It’s U.S. only as far as I can tell (at least for now), but I might be able to get it from NetGalley or Edelweiss.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. buriedinprint | Reply

    *ducks to avoid the antlers in passing* Phew, that was a close one!

    Did I know, but then forget, that Susanna Clarke has a new one? Sheesh. If so, my poor soggy, wilted-by-the-heat summer brain. Because I love that idea! JS&MrN was a real love of mine and her short stories were wicked fun as well. It must be tremendously difficult to wade back into publishing after that kind of strange and sudden and expansive success. Either way, I’m looking forward to this one.

    I also like the sound of Aimee Nezhukumatathil from Milkweed (they have such interesting authors/books) and the book on fungi. The poems from Kingsolver and Atwood interest me as you would guess. I’m super excited about the new Bobbie Ann Mason (due in September) and the new Gil Adamson (in CanLit, her follow-up to the much-lauded Outlander, one of those literary westerns, something like Jane Smiley’s Liddie Newton).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There has been surprisingly little fanfare about Piranesi, but I have seen some positive responses to it already. Maybe writing a book of such different length (and, at least superficially, style/themes) is her way of avoiding the comparisons people are sure to make to JS&MN.

      Did you ever place your Bobbie Ann Mason profile?

      I have a literary western I’m looking forward to in 2021: Outlawed by Anna North.


      1. buriedinprint

        It garnered a “no, thanks”, since we first talked, but I think I’ve got a solution now. Depends how another short review placement goes this month. There were a couple of new markets that I was planning to try, for the profile, but I was hesitant to push too hard on a new avenue once it seemed unlikely that I’d be able to access the reference materials in the public library. It’d be possible to write it without them, but I’d be more confident if I knew I could (several critical studies are only available for in-library use and at least one of her earlier novels). Many now that we’re edging towards re-opening stage three, I’ll rethink? I’ve not read anything by Anna North, but this genre is one that has grown to appeal substantially.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Definitely will buy the new Yaa Gyasi and will read Kingsolver’s poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the Gyasi will be available in September in the States. I’ve never read any of Kingsolver’s poetry and I’m so interested to see what it’s like. I’ve downloaded How to Fly from Edelweiss.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I was hoping for a new Kingsolver novel then, oh well!

    These are the ones I’ve got coming up to read on NetGalley for this period. Of course I want to read Homecoming most …

    Colin Grant
    01 Oct 2020

    Ben Wilson
    24 Sep 2020

    How It All Blew Up
    Arvin Ahmadi
    22 Sep 2020

    Paul Jepson; Cain Blythe
    15 Sep 2020

    V for Victory
    Lissa Evans
    27 Aug 2020

    Horse Crazy
    Sarah Maslin Nir
    04 Aug 2020

    Who Cares Wins
    Lily Cole
    30 Jul 2020

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too soon for Kingsolver! Would you read her poetry?

      Those are all new titles for me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m just not really a poetry person … Sorry they listed out like that by the way, I pasted in what looked like a more ordinary list!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Only just announced! Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell (Nov. 5, Profile / Nov. 10, David R. Godine). Novella-length novelty book to tide us over until his next bookseller diary. You can bet it will be a popular stocking stuffer this year.


  9. The cover of Antlers of Water is sublime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it just? I would have wanted to read it anyway, seeing the theme and list of contributors, but a beautiful cover is an added bonus.


  10. […] of these are from my most anticipated list for the second half of 2020. Four of the five can be linked by the tenet that humans are only one […]


  11. […] was one of my most anticipated reads of the second half of 2020. (I was drawn to it by Susan’s […]


  12. […] early July, I highlighted the 15 releases from the second half of the year that I was most looking forward to reading. […]


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