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Veranda Magazine: The Most Engaging Books of 2020, According to Our Sip & Read Book Club Authors

You'll want to read these tales over and over again.



In a year filled with countless curveballs and few victories, books served an important role in helping us escape from the madness and transport us to worlds unknown, if only for a few hours. From spellbinding tales of Paris in the 1920s to in-depth studies on the decor of national landmarks like the White House, the editors of VERANDA were thoroughly entertained and blown away by this year's new releases. So much so, we even started our own Sip & Read Book Club to share the latest titles that caught our eyes while also recommending a delicious cocktail to pair with each selection.

We've asked the authors featured in our book club thus far to share the novels and biographies that helped them through this year. Whether you’re looking to lose yourself in thrilling historical fiction or discover a captivating collection of short stories, these books are sure to earn a spot on your bookshelf. Read on for the best books of 2020, hand-selected by our Sip & Read Book Club authors.


Flatiron Books Alex George $26.99$19.49 (28% off) SHOP NOW Set in 1927, Alex George's mesmerizing story follows the lives of four people from very different backgrounds residing in Paris, and the 24 hours that change their lives forever. For those looking for a thrilling Parisian escape, this spellbinding book is calling your name.

#2 ALEX'S PICK Intimations: Six Essays

Penguin Books Zadie Smith $9.86 SHOP NOW "I’ve always loved Zadie Smith’s nonfiction work, and this small but powerful book shows her talents at their finest. Written during the pandemic, these six pieces are sharp, funny, and thought-provoking. Smith’s deeply personal reflections on this strangest of years is essential reading. If ever there was a book for these times, it’s this one." —Alex George

#3 VERANDA'S SIP & READ JULY PICK Broken Glass: Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece

Random House Alex Beam $28.00$18.59 (34% off) SHOP NOW This thrilling biography by Alex Beam details the tumultuous relationship of German architect Mies van der Rohe and medical researcher Edith Farnsworth—and the renowned home at the center of it all: the Farnsworth House. Follow Beam as he examines the birth of a modernist masterpiece as tensions run high between the architect and owner.

#4 ALEX'S PICK Limonov: The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia $11.99 SHOP NOW "The title speaks for itself, as does Limonov's incredible life as a gigolo, a gangster, and as the leader of a political party opposing Vladimir Putin." —Alex Beam

#5 VERANDA'S SIP & READ AUGUST PICK The Lions of Fifth Avenue: A Novel

Dutton Fiona Davis $27.00 $19.25 (29% off) SHOP NOW In a love letter to the New York Public Library, Fiona Davis masterfully weaves together the stories of rising feminist Laura Lyons and, years later, her librarian granddaughter on the cusp of solving a decades-in-the-making literary mystery in The Lions of Fifth Avenue. It's the kind of tale you can get lost in for hours while sipping on a refreshing bourbon cocktail.

#6 FIONA'S PICK Under a Gilded Moon: A Novel

Lake Union Publishing

Joy Jordan-Lake

$14.99' SHOP NOW

"This fast-moving novel is set at the famous Biltmore Estate and provides a stirring account of the clash between the wealthy elite and the Appalachian locals." —Fiona Davis

#7 VERANDA'S SIP & READ SEPTEMBER PICK The Night Portrait: A Novel of World War II and da Vinci's Italy

William Morrow & Company

Laura Morelli

$16.99$12.50 (26% off) SHOP NOW Leonardo da Vinci's renowned Lady with an Ermine finds itself back in the spotlight with this enthralling tale of artistic and moral pursuit by Laura Morelli. Set both during the late 15th century in Milan and in Munich at the height of World War II, the story alternates points of view among a cast of characters—including the artist himself—all of whom illuminate the ability of art to offer hope in the darkest times.

#8 LAURA AND FIONA'S PICK The Exiles: A Novel

Custom House Christina Baker Kline $27.99$19.70 (30% off) SHOP NOW "From the first page, I was completely immersed in the world of these 19th-century characters, and I eagerly followed them across the ocean from London to Australia. Evangeline, one very unlucky English governess, is the best drawn character among this story’s interesting cast. One of Evangeline’s scenes toward the middle of the book made me gasp aloud, nearly scaring my family to death!" —Laura Morelli "I loved this powerful, beautifully written story of female friendship, redemption, and heroism centered around an Australian penal colony in the 1800s." —Fiona Davis


Flatiron Books Charlotte McConaghy $26.99$17.12 (37% off) SHOP NOW Charlotte McConaghy's stunning U.S. fiction debut follows Franny Lynch as she tracks the last migration of the arctic terns while reflecting on her past during the journey. While Franny’s character isn’t trying to convince anyone to think differently, Migrations still manages to address topics surrounding climate change and one’s own role in the world.

#10 CHARLOTTE'S PICK Writers & Lovers: A Novel

Grove Press Lily King$27.00$12.45 (54% off) SHOP NOW

"Poignant and heartfelt, it offers real insight into what it means to be an artist while also trying to pay bills, grieve a profound loss, and navigate a love life." —Charlotte McConaghy

#11 CHARLOTTE'S PICK The Glass Hotel: A Novel


Emily St. John Mandel

$26.95$20.30 (25% off) SHOP NOW "Mandel has a way of writing that is just so engaging, it turns something I had no prior interest in—a ponzi scheme—into something utterly fascinating and filled with tension." —Charlotte McConaghy

#12 CHARLOTTE'S PICK A Children's Bible: A Novel

W. W. Norton & Company

Lydia Millet $25.95$17.85 (31% off) SHOP NOW

"Scathing and hilarious, a completely different way to view the end of the world, from the eyes of the kids we’ve left to clean up our mess." —Charlotte McConaghy

#13 VERANDA'S SIP & READ NOVEMBER PICK The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard

W. W. Norton & Company John Birdsall $35.00$24.67 (30% off) SHOP NOW

Our staff devoured this stirring examination of the public and private life of culinary icon James Beard. John Birdsall's carefully crafted and researched biography looks beyond Beard's public image as the "Dean of American Cookery" to understand the sensitive man who used food as an escape.

#14 VERANDA'S SIP & READ DECEMBER PICK (AND ALEX'S PICK!) Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

Riverhead Books Katherine May $24.00$21.60 (10% off) SHOP NOW "This is a deeply personal, quietly beautiful book, written with grace and immense thoughtfulness. We all go through difficult times; by mulling over her responses to her own misfortunes, the author offers insight as to how we might think differently about low points in our lives. Instructive, inspiring, and, ultimately, profoundly hopeful. I’m giving this to a lot of people this Christmas." —Alex George

#15 KATHERINE'S PICK The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

Riverhead Books Danielle Evans $27.00$23.99 (11% off) SHOP NOW “Danielle Evans's stories are so lightly told, but they carry a very human weight—of grief, history, identity. I felt like I walked alongside the characters for a season, they were so fine-grained. I loved every moment.” —Katherine May

For the full article view VERANDA MAGAZINE online BEST BOOKS OF 2020.


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