The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2020

The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2020

Last year, we asked book club members to share with us the books they had most enjoyed reading and discussing in all the years they have been in book groups. In addition to sharing their all-time favorite books overall, they also told us about their favorite mysteries and thrillers and favorite nonfiction titles. In addition, we asked them to tell us which books they had most enjoyed reading and discussing in 2019.

Now, I am pleased to bring you the results from our recent survey to reveal book club members' 2020 favorites.

By any standard, 2020 was an unusual year, with about a quarter of US book clubs not meeting at all once the pandemic started (according to our Book Clubs in Lockdown research report). Because those in groups that had only met for two to three months at the start of the year had a very limited number of titles to select a favorite from, and because they had not had a chance to discuss the more recently published books (which therefore put these titles at a disadvantage) we only asked respondents whose groups had met for the majority of 2020 to name their favorite titles.

This is what they told us:

The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2020

  Book % of Respondents
1 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018, Putnam) 10.8%
2 American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (2020, Flatiron) 9.7%
3 The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (2019, Harper) 8.9%
4 The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
(2019, Sourcebooks)
5 The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020, Riverhead Books) 7.1%
6 This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (2019, Atria Books) 5.7%
7 The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (2019, Pamela Dorman Books) 4.7%
8 Educated by Tara Westover (2018, Random House) 4.0%
9 The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larsen (2020, Crown) 3.7%
10 Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (2020, Random House) 3.4%

February 2021 survey of 1,262 BookBrowse subscribers who said their book club had discussed at least seven books in 2020, 97% of respondents were female. Respondents had the option to name up to 3 books, resulting in 3,574 total responses with an average of 2.8 titles per respondent.

Only those subscribed to BookBrowse's book club mailing list were eligible to respond, so as to prevent the ratings being skewed by enthusiastic fan bases. Respondent Profile: Approx. how many years of your life have you spent in a book group: Less than 5 years: 12%; 5-10 years: 25%; 11-19 years: 30%; 20-29 years: 21%; 30+ years: 12%. 96% female. Age: 65+ years: 71%; under 65: 29%.

It's important to note that book clubs are not homogeneous. There are book groups for every possible reading interest, and even among what might be considered typical groups (reading mostly literary fiction with forays into genre fiction and nonfiction), with so many books to choose from and groups being at different points in their reading journey, this top ten list represents only the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, the list of favorite titles is so wide and varied that only 16 books were named by at least 2% of respondents and more than 800 different titles were named overall. The titles that got at least 2% of votes but fell outside the Top 10 are (in ratings order) Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, perennial book club favorite A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd and Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout.

What was your favorite book club book of 2020?

–-Davina Morgan-Witts

Other articles in this series:

Book Clubs':
All-Time Favorite Authors
All-Time Favorite Books Overall
All-Time Favorite Mysteries/Thrillers
All-Time Favorite Nonfiction
The Most Popular Books of 2019
The Most Popular Books of 2021

*In our favorite book club books of 2019 blog you'll see that only 3 books in total received more than 2% of votes, whereas in 2020 14 books gained 2% or more of the vote. This radical shift is caused by a change in methodology -- last year, we allowed respondents to name just one favorite book of 2019, whereas this year, respondents could choose up to titles.

My favorite book of 2020 ( published in 2019) was The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
# Posted By Lauren | 4/19/21 12:30 PM
My favorite book from last year's Book Club selections
was Middlemarch by George Eliot. It is understandably one of the greatest novels in the English language.
# Posted By Carole Varney | 4/20/21 8:25 AM
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