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Books in 2020 That Will Make You Want to Smash the Patriarchy

Activists attend the 2019 Women's March Los Angeles on January 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Let’s be real: We’re already moving through the fourth month of 2020, and it’s been one of the longest years on record. While we’re currently all social distancing away in our various homes, we need to keep ourselves entertained. For those of who have books covering every square inch of their living space, that means buying even more books.

While 2020 has been a pretty garbage year for, well, everything, it has been a pretty good year for books, especially ones about and by badass women. So, while you’re handling your social distancing by buying books online, here are some interesting titles—either already released or coming out in the coming months—that will make you want to smash the patriarchy. These recent and upcoming releases will keep you occupied—at least for the rest of this month.

January 2020

dear edward dial press book cover

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

When a commercial plane crashes, there’s only one survivor: a young boy named Edward. Sent to live with his aunt and uncle, the three of them try to deal with their own trauma and grief. Compounding the matter is letters being sent by family members of those who died on the plane, begging Edward to fulfill the dreams of those who perished.

Napolitano weaves a beautiful story about grief in the face of unimaginable tragedy and the hope that you can find from it. It’s a gripping and emotional story, definitely meant to be read with tissues on standby.

The Majesties book cover

The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

This one was originally released in 2018 in Australia, but for U.S. readers, it was released in 2020, so it still counts. The Majesties follows Gwendolyn, the lone survivor of a mass poisoning by her sister Estelle, as she lies in a coma in Indonesia. While she cannot communicate with the outside world, trapped in her body, Gwendolyn traces their lives to figure out how and why this happened.

It’s a twisty mystery, and Tsao keeps the sisters in focus the entire time. For those who love a good family drama intermixed with a “why someone would do such a thing” tale, The Majesties is perfect to pick up.

Third Rainbow Girl book cover.

The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg

Prefer some true crime over fiction? The Third Rainbow Girl will definitely scratch that itch. Eisenberg details a brutal double homicide in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. While the focus is on the utterly heart-wrenching crime, Eisenberg also turns her focus on other matters, as well.

This book becomes an exploration of Appalachia where the lines of gender, race, and class run deep. While Eisenberg grew up in the area, she never lets Pocahontas County off the hook as she writes this richly worded and so very tragic story.

February 2020

Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes book cover

Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

This debut novel from West is perfect for those who binged Big Little Lies and Little Fires Everywhere. At the forefront are two characters: Julia, a helicopter mom who is everyone’s enemy and has no redeeming qualities, and Isobel, a teacher who is trying to champion a diversified curriculum for her classes. When both are rocked by scandal and humiliation at the privileged community of Liston Heights High, they find out how entitlement and competition can go too far.

There are secret Facebook groups for parents, winter musicals, and teenagers who are tired of their parents behaving badly. It’s definitely a mood and one book we think we’ll see on the screen sooner rather than later, so definitely hop on board and check it out.

Upright Women Wanted book cover.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

In a post-apocalyptic America that harkens back to the Wild West, Esther has stowed away on the Librarian book wagon to run away from home after her secret girlfriend and best friend was hanged for possession of resistance propaganda. Discovered by the Librarians, Esther begs for help, and it turns into a road trip to the resistance zone of Utah.

The book is a gunslinger novel for the 22nd century that has queer librarians trying to do the right thing while handling the bandits and fascists they run into along the way. It’s short, but the world and characters are incredibly gripping. When you finish, you’ll hope that Gailey has more of this world coming along.

Weather book cover

Weather by Jenny Offill

February 2020 was a good month to be a librarian in fiction. Weather follows librarian Lizzie Benson who also has a side job as a fake shrink. When her old mentor Sylvia gives Lizzie a call for help with mail for her podcast, Hell or High Water, Lizzie finds herself dealing with everything from people worried about climate change to those worried about the decline of civilization. While Lizzie’s own world seems increasingly shaky, she tries to use what she knows of empathy and despair to help others through their own reckoning.

The story is told in fragments, but Offill keeps the narrative running smoothly enough that it makes for a book that you won’t put down until you’ve finished.

March 2020

My Dark Vanessa book cover

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa has been described as one of the timeliest releases in the #MeToo era. People aren’t wrong to describe it as that, though Russell has been working on the book for years. It is truly a masterpiece that will sink into you and won’t let you go even after the story ends.

Told in 2000 and 2017, it follows teen Vanessa Wye in 2000, who has an affair with her much older English teacher. As an adult in 2017, he is brought to account for his abuses toward minors. Through it all, Vanessa struggles to reassess her teenage romance with the man for the tragedy it was.

Darling Rose Gold book cover.

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Definitely inspired, in part, by the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, Darling Rose Gold follows Rose Gold Watts, who grew up believing she was seriously ill because of her mother, Patty Watts. Patty was later diagnosed with Munchausen syndrome by proxy and had been abusing Rose Gold for years. With Patty released from prison, everyone is shocked when the now-grown Rose Gold takes in her mother. Rose Gold, however, has not forgotten what her mother inflicted on her. Not. One. Bit.

This is a chilling and tense thriller of intimacy gone horribly wrong that definitely stays with you when you finish reading. It’s truly hard to not read this and think of Gypsy Rose Blanchard the entire time, adding another level of discomfort the proceedings.

The Herd book cover.

The Herd: A Novel by Andrea Bartz

Katie Bradley has an in with the Herd, the women-only coworking space that prides itself on empowerment and mentorship, with her sister Hana. Hana’s one of the original Herders and a best friend to the Herd’s founder, Eleanor Walsh. Katie is thrilled to be in the Herd and so close to Eleanor, who is quietly feared even while striving to be warm and approachable.

Then, on the day of a big announcement that will change the Herd forever, Eleanor goes missing, and everyone is a suspect. Hana and Katie try to figure out what happened to Eleanor while confronting the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other. It makes for a tense read about what happens when a women’s perfect façade shatters.

It's Not All Downhill From Here book cover.

It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan

Loretta Curry, at 68 years old, is ready to prove that her best years are still in front of her. She owns a successful beauty supply store, has a loving husband, and is surrounded by supportive friends. When things, however, take a tragic turn, Loretta has to find strength and lean on others in order to start over again. Now she has to wonder if her best days are truly behind her or if she can forge a new path of joy. McMillan brings a desperately needed and fierce older lady to the forefront of this book, who has strength in spades even when it seems like it’s about to crumble.

April 2020

The Beauty of Your Face book cover.

The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah

Afaf, a Palestinian-American school principal, finds herself in the midst of what is becoming the most American of tragedies: a school shooting. The alt-right shooter ravages the Muslim school she presides over in Chicago. While Afaf has to endure the horror of the shooter in her school, she also finds herself reckoning with the loss of her beloved older sister in her childhood.

True to life and beautifully written, Mustafah captures one of the most persistent fears of American life perfectly and makes Afaf a beautifully realized character.

The Book of Longings book cover.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.” With those lines, Kidd takes readers through a beautifully wrought and epically twisty narrative of the wife of Jesus. Unlike, say, The Da Vinci Code, the story of The Booking of Longings makes the whole “wife of Jesus” story into something much more compelling than the conspiracy. Ana is smart, educated, bold, and wishes to protect women. When she is about to be forced to wed an older man, Ana has an encounter with an 18-year-old Jesus that changes everything.

Ana’s story is one of a bold woman who wants to realize her potential in a time, place, and culture that is meant to keep her silent. The Book of Longings promises to be a meticulously researched and epic read.

(featured image: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Women’s March Los Angeles)

The Mary Sue may have advertising deals with some of the publishers or titles on this list. These relationships were not considered in title selection.

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Bec Heim (she/her) is a writer who has contributed and edited for sites like Film Daily, NetflixLife, ScreenRant, and 4 Your Excitement. When not writing about pop culture, she usually buries herself under her mountain of books or listening to the hundred million podcasts that she’s accumulated over the years.