Researchers at Stacker pulled data from The New York Times best seller lists on Barnes and Noble’s website to compile a breakdown of 2020’s overall best-selling books in five different categories: hardcover fiction, hardcover nonfiction, paperback fiction, paperback nonfiction, and “Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous.”
When it comes to fiction, well-established thriller writers reign supreme: novels by John Grisham, David Baldacci, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly all ranked in the top eight for hardcover fiction. Stories with less crime and more personal drama—like the latest works from Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks—are time-tested favorites, too.
Nonfiction readers seem to go for memoirs above all else. Barack Obama’s A Promised Land took first place on the hardcover nonfiction list, edging out Michelle Obama’s Becoming by just one spot. They weren’t the only political figures to make the cut; memoirs by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kamala Harris landed on the paperback nonfiction list. Dolly Parton, the late Alex Trebek, and several other beloved entertainers also had best-selling autobiographies.
But it’s not only celebrity tell-alls and high-stakes thrillers that proved popular last year. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson made two lists: her 2020 book Caste came in third on the hardcover nonfiction list, and her 2010 work about the Great Migration—The Warmth of Other Suns—took the seventh spot on the paperback nonfiction list.
If your New Year’s resolutions are less about reading and more about eating, you might still find a useful volume or two. Ina Garten’s newest recipe collection, Modern Comfort Food, made the miscellaneous list. So did the official Dungeons & Dragons cookbook, if medieval comfort food is more your speed.
See 2020’s top eight bestsellers in all five categories below, via Newsweek.
- A Time for Mercy // John Grisham
- All That Glitters // Danielle Steel
- Daylight // David Baldacci
- Fortune and Glory // Janet Evanovich
- Rhythm of War // Brandon Sanderson
- The Law of Innocence // Michael Connelly
- The Return // Nicholas Sparks
- The Sentinel // Lee Child and Andrew Child
- A Promised Land // Barack Obama
- Becoming // Michelle Obama
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents // Isabel Wilkerson
- Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics // Dolly Parton
- Frontier Follies: Adventures in Marriage and Motherhood in the Middle of Nowhere // Ree Drummond
- Greenlights // Matthew McConaughey
- No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality // Michael J. Fox
- The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life // Alex Trebek
- Home Body // Rupi Kaur
- Interior Chinatown // Charles Yu
- Milk and Honey // Rupi Kaur
- Shuggie Bain // Douglas Stuart
- The Institute // Stephen King
- The Queen’s Gambit // Walter Tevis
- Then She Was Gone // Lisa Jewell
- This Tender Land // William Kent Krueger
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants // Robin Wall Kimmerer
- My Own Words // Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- No One Asked for This // Cazzie David
- Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents // Pete Souza
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma // Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
- The Truths We Hold: An American Journey // Kamala Harris
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration // Isabel Wilkerson
- White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism // Robin DiAngelo
Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones // James Clear
- Forgiving What You Can’t Forget: Discover How to Move On, Make Peace With Painful Memories, and Create a Life That's Beautiful Again // Lysa TerKeurst
- Heroes’ Feast: The Official Dungeons & Dragons Cookbook // Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Michael Witwer
- Magnolia Table, Volume 2: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering // Joanna Gaines
- Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook // Ina Garten
- The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts // Gary Chapman
- The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse // Charlie Mackesy
- Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day // Jay Shetty