Discover the Top Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers of 2020 – Unveiling the NYT Chart-Toppers

2020 NYT Bestsellers Hardcover Fiction

Here are my favorite 2020 NYT bestsellers hardcore fiction.

Throughout 2016-17, I congratulated Amor Towles via Twitter and even an occasional email on the success of his book, A Gentleman in Moscow, for its 60+ weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List. At that time, no one on the list was close to him. Most of the regular once-a-month books from the likes of James Paterson, John Grisham, Steven King, Clive Custer, and Tom Clancy, who continue to write from the grave, et al would pop up, get their three weeks of fame, and then buy on the $5 dollar rack at Barnes and Noble a month or two later. (NOTICE: All linked items on this page are via Amazon. You click and are taken to your own account. If you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission from the sale. And thank you for using this method to assist me in continuing to provide this top content.

Where the Crawdads Sing

But now in early 2020, there is something special going on. For one thing, Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing now has been on the list for 76 weeks, and a good many of them in the number one slot. I read this book last summer and there is still imagery that pops into my mind when I think about the scenes she created in the book. I can still feel what it might have been like walking up to the tower down by the ocean. Hear the rotted steps off the front porch. Imagine what it might have been like in her boat in the bayou. Going to her hideaway shack. The book deserves the notoriety it is receiving.

The Silent Patient

Yet that is not all. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a book, as of today I’m only six chapters in, but holy smokes, this has my attention. A woman has been charged with murdering her tied-up husband by shooting him in the face multiple times in their London or Surrey home. (Writers have long had so many characters live in Surrey that it’s almost funny.) After the woman allegedly did the deed, she stopped speaking. The narrator is finally about to get her into a mental home. He got a job there just so he could be able to work with her to see what makes her tick. This is as far as I’ve gotten, but I’m intrigued. From the looks of it, the woman is not the murderer…. The book, at present, sits at 37 weeks on the NYT list.

The Dutch House

The present number five book on the list is Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House. For 21 weeks, the book has done like almost all Patchett books and been on the list. I am a fan of Ann’s work, there is no doubt. Commonwealth and Bel Canto are beautiful reads as well. The Dutch House includes an older sister character named Maeve. One can’t help but fall for this girl and her grit. I truly enjoyed the book, and by the way, the girl in the red coat on the cover is a depiction of her.

Other Bestselling Books

But I also noticed Stephen King has a book on the list for 22 weeks–The Institute. I read his 2018 tome The Outsider, which also made the list. I don’t know about this one. The tagline on this one is too much for me.

Jojo Moyes is next with 19 weeks on this list. That book, The Giver of Stars, when it reaches 25 weeks, that’s typically when I will finally buy. If you’ve had the chance to read this book, leave comments below about why others should, too.

And then John Grisham has a book that’s lasted 18 weeks, The Guardians. I’m not much for legal and lawyer whodunits. Leave comments below if you’ve read this book and what you liked about it.

Congrats to these authors for doing something that’s very hard to do. First, they made the list. Second of all, they made the list and have stuck around longer than the normal few weeks of the marketing push for a book, and are still living, breathing, and selling copies like crazy.

(NOTICE: All linked items on this page are via Amazon. You click and are taken to your own account. If you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission from the sale. And thank you for using this method to assist me in continuing to provide this top content.)

First Love by Ivan Turgenev a Russian Classic

First Love, by Ivan Turgenev, is a Russian Lit Classic

First Love by Ivan Turgenev is the 10th Russian/behind the Iron Curtain novel I have enjoyed since December.

My quest began by reading War and Peace in 17 days. TBH, I need to go back and start reading it once more. (War and Peace is a fascinating tale, too.)

As fate would have it, the recommendation to read the book came from a former Russian ballerina whom I met at the dinner counter while staying at The New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan.

A great final quote from First Love is this one, a summary about living, and an expansion on the American phrase, “Youth is wasted on the wrong kind.”

Quoting Turgenev at his best!First Love by Ivan Turgenev, a wonderful Russian novella.

“Oh, youth! Youth!

You go your way heedless, uncaring – as if you owned all the treasures of the world; even grief elates you. Even sorrow wits well upon your brow.

…Perhaps the whole secret of your enchantment lies not, indeed, in your power to do whatever you may will, but in your power to do think that their is nothing you will not do; it is this that you scatter to the winds – gifts which you could never have used to any other purpose.

Each of us feels most deeply convinced that he has been too prodigal of his gifts – that he has a right to cry “Oh, what could I have done, if only I had not wasted my time.”

Take your time reading this short book.

This is not a very long book, possible to read in one day.

But I recommend taking the time to have a think about what Turgenev wrote.

The richness of his writing leaves one with so much to think about and absorb.

Not my first Turgenev book

This is not my first Turgenev book.

I read Fathers and Sons not too long ago. A young, former Russian ballerina and now model, recommended this book to me. We were sitting at the bar for dinner in Eighth Avenue’s Tick Tock restaurant in New York City, Sept. 23, 2019.

Anastasia, the former Russian ballerina who insisted I read Turgenev's novel First Love, a beautiful story about life in mid-nineteenth century Russia.

Anastasia, the former Russian ballerina who insisted I read Turgenev’s novel First Love, a beautiful story about life in mid-nineteenth century Russia.

Surprising a young Russian ballerina with my knowledge of her literary culture.

I surprised Anastasia, who speaks little English when I told her how many Russian novels I’d read in the past 10 months.

One novel read for each of the 10 months.

My reading list impressed her.

Was an interesting conversation because we had to use Google Translate to talk.

But she emphasized First Love is simply a beautiful book that I must read. I ordered it from Amazon between translations.

Anastasia was so right. I hope you enjoy it, too,

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage–Book List and Book Review

Donald J. Claxton’s Book List and Book Review of The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

I read Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage:  last week and was told going in that there were things about the book that are not as good as his previous trilogy, but I’d seen a recommendation for this book regardless, and had decided to give it a read.

To start with, Pullman’s fantasy work is not something I would typically read. It still is not.

(You may find additional books to read on my Book List Page.)

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage–Summary

Reading about Malcom and his daemon Asta was curious I will admit. The first few pages did, I must confess, however, draw me right in. But I have to say, from a writer’s standpoint, at one point I began to wonder how burdensome the daemons must have felt–having to write about another character for every character–because in this version of the world, everyone living must have a daemon very, very near them and if they don’t, it’s supposed to be pretty draining.

My friend Tom at Interabang Books in Dallas said this book didn’t sell like publishers hoped it would. Not in comparison to the previous Dark Materials trilogy. Again, I’ve not read anything else by Pullman, but I can say that I felt there were a few weaknesses in this story. I do not mean to be critical of Pullman. He’s published, I’m not, so there’s that. He also invested a lot of time to create, as have I, so I respect his work from that standpoint. This isn’t easy so anyone who gets their work on paper, heck, even into a computer from start to finish has made quite an accomplishment, so I refuse anymore to tear something to shreds. (Here are some thoughts that confused me, or I thought could have been stronger, how’s that?)

Difficulty in suspending my concepts of physics and reality

What happens when the baby Lyra is taken away by the Holy Police to a nunnery that is supposed to be heavily guarded and damned near impossible for anyone to get in or out of. Malcolm, Alice, and their daemons float up to the place in their boat, find a drain with a metal cover, and lift it, Malcolm and his daemon Asta float in, get past the second drain, waltz up a hallway, get stopped once, claim to have wet the bed, get sent to where they were going, lie down in an empty bed, wait for the head priest and nun to come in and argue about the baby, leave while the nurse in the room is snoring, and then sneak out with the baby unseen.

What was supposed to have been impossible was done without any resistance whatsoever. Mkay.

There is a deluge in England and Malcom’s boat floats from Oxford to London, sometimes being able to float down specific streets, etc. That just seemed like too far a leap for me.

Failure to tie things off

Then the book just leaves one sort of hanging with a whole bunch of characters. Yes, this is going to obviously be a trilogy, but there’s so much non-closure for so many of the secondary characters. They’re literally just left floating in the flood. I was always led to believe that even for a trilogy, you tied everything off, mostly, and didn’t leave things floating.

I read the book from Sunday to Wednesday. It’s 438 pages, and it wasn’t a bad read.

It wasn’t ridiculously hard to understand like Good Morning, Midnight, or something like that, which the local book club chose to read. That is one nutty book unto itself….

Read The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage

I can say that I did like reading the story and in going back and cleaning up posts from the past, I can affirm that some of the imagined scenes in this book are still well ingrained in my psyche. I feel like I’m in the boat with the characters floating around in a flooded city and trying to get into a second-floor window just as clearly as I’m looking at the iMac screen in front of me. Mr. Puttman prevailed in his ability to make such a scene remain fresh in my mind throughout the passage of the time since I read this book.

Crime and Punishment–Book Review

Crime and Punishment Snares Readers

Reading Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment wrung me out and left me out to dry emotionally.

Drained me like leaving a gizmo in your car’s cigarette lighter and leaving the car overnight. I did not sense the book taking so much out of me until I finished and tried to read something else.

Crime and Punishment Spoilers

In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov does not want his sister to marry Luzhin, but his yearnings run deeper. He learns in the end, in the very, very end that his pride and separation from society aren’t what he has chalked it up to be. In the end … I will leave those points for you to discover on your own.

My own novel writing improved by reading.

I am not writing the follow-up to a Dostoevsky novel. But few things have helped my writing more than reading.

Now that I’m revising, and looking at what I have written before, I am embarrassed by my pages.

What I submitted to agents and said, “This is ready!” was not there at all. I see that now.

I’ve learned something important.

Reading while writing is critical. As writers, we improve every day.

Anne Lamott says she gets asked by students, “How do you get better at writing?”

She says the best way to show students, and it often makes them frustrated, is to pick up a yellow writing pad, pretend she has a pen in her hand and pretends to write on the page.

That’s how you become a better writer. You write. But just as important, you read. And read. And read. And read. And write some more.

How to make your drafts more interesting and read better.

You revise. And revise. And revise. That doesn’t mean you change a comma here, and a word there. Fixing the spelling on your pages is editing, it’s not revising.

No, you reimagine what you’re trying to say. Often I come up with something else entirely.

That’s revision.

Jen Manuel, who offers stellar courses on revision, encourages her students to “Re-Imagine” their works.  I encourage you to check them out. (Not an affiliate link or paid suggestion.)

War and Peace–A Profound Novel and Book Review, 2018

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy–Add to my reading list and book reviews

My daughters gave me a copy of the 1,358-page version of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace for my birthday in early December. I began reading it on Dec. 7 and finished seventeen days later on Christmas Eve. (Note the previous link to Amazon is an affiliate link where if you make a purchase, I may receive minimal compensation at no additional cost to you.)

Considered the best novel ever written, I shall not ever disagree with this assessment. (You may find additional books to read on my Book List Page.)

War and Peace is the most profound book I have read

War and Peace is the most profound book I have read in dealing with the human condition and with Tolstoy’s discontent and outright contempt for the oversimplification of journalists and historians.

In fact, it was these parameters that he sought to overcome in writing this book. In his research and own experiences in battle, he saw that far too much was eliminated in the reporting and recording of journalism and history for them to be even close to accurate, so he set about to write this book, which he did not consider to be a novel–for it does not really have much of a beginning, middle or end–in an effort to tell the fullest story as possible about the Napoleonic wars.

The beauty in this book is in the depth of the writing, and yet the simplicity of it as well. As daunting as it may seem to pick up a 14-hundred-page book, it flows like water flowing from a stream or a tap in your kitchen. And while there are in fact about one hundred characters within the work, once you lock on to Pierre, Natasha, and Prince Andrey, all the rest of them essentially revolve around these three and then crisscross because these three are intertwined with each other. Pierre and Andrey are best friends.

Pierre has known Natasha since she was little. Andrey becomes engaged to Natasha, whom she in part knows through Pierre. Add in support characters around those three and you have the other hundred or so, including Napoleon and Russia’s Emperor Alexander I.

The beauty of War and Peace

There are descriptions of great battles from 1807-1812 in War and Peace. There are love stories. There are stories of hardship and strife. There are stories of death and suffering. There are explanations about how historians got things way wrong. There are glimpses into the spectacle of Russian high society and its aristocracy. There is even a duel for honor. All are explained and told with the simplicity noted above so one who is reading feels immersed in the scene and empathetic to the characters looming large.

My Similarities with Count Pierre Bezukhov

Pierre Bezukhov, the main protagonist of the work, and I seem to share several life experiences. Nasty marriages leave us in emotional and financial tatters not necessarily our own fault. We share a longing to help others no matter the cost or consequence to our own selves. And we also savor a quest for knowledge, to right our own wrongs, and to leave the world a better place.

Pierre is a trusting soul and gets abused for being one by many. The question one must experience is whether he will survive to the end and not finish in the state in which he began.

Last week I saw my pain doctor. I’m down 26 pounds now since October, largely due to meds, but I’m also trying. As I was leaving, he said when he was younger, after one of his first heartbreaks, someone told him that the most important thing in life isn’t money or property or anything of that like.

“The most important thing in life is your health,” he said. “If you have your health, all those other things can get taken care of.”

Ways Pierre changes throughout the story

That isn’t necessarily how Pierre lives his life, but as the war turns in 1812 and the French are retreating from Moscow, Pierre has epiphanies about life and living and he becomes a new man.

Two hundred years after the events of War and Peace, I am learning as well, after so many hardships, that the self-inflicted wounds and experiences, as well as those done by others, while they affect me in ways that may never cease, I have a choice. I can permit them to rule me, or I can take control, disavow them, and ensure they do not repeat themselves. For too long I abdicated power over me to others, either because they abused my vulnerabilities, maliciously acted, or I was too worn down to stop them. Even if those events now are memories.

No mas!

Get behind me, Satan!

There are still those out to get me, those who think they can ruin me. I think that boat sailed long ago. The only way for me to go at this point in life is up, so knock yourself out trying if you feel so low as to try. You’re wasting your time.

I have recommitted myself to God and living every day of the rest of my life working to his glory and toward living healthier.

Despite my continued back and leg pain, Crohn’s, and whatever else is going on inside me, I’m still fighting. Yes, I go to Medical City of Dallas nearly five days a week it seems for one doctor’s visit or another, but I am doing so to get myself well. To find the cures to what ails me.

Why do I read so many novels?

I read to enrich my mind.

I finished my goal of reading 101 fiction novels a few years ago.

Now it is time to start revising my own novel writing again. But only now is this a worthy effort, armed with more strength, more knowledge, and more skill.

Fear of Moving On; Fear of Moving Out

Since 2018-2019 when I invested so much study into Russian Literature and novel reading as well, my willpower toward overcoming the Fear of Moving On and the Fear of Moving Out has increased substantially. (Check out my post about this on

It is time to take back the life that has been stolen from me by others for whatever reason, to give back what is owed, and to live out the remainder of my life on firmer footing and in the best health I can achieve.

Sure, others will continue to block my pathway.

My conclusion is this pattern is part of the human experience.

These days I find myself more equipped than I was several years ago; when so much of my world fell apart.

One of the greatest things I learned from Pierre in War and Peace is that while one is still living, there remains the chance to keep fighting for what is right, for what is best, and for the good of the world.

Such encouragement and objectives are what I intend to keep endeavoring toward.

My Reading Goal of 101 Novels

Heather Sellers’ 2007 writers’ guide Chapter After Chapter encourages anyone interested in becoming a better writer to read 101 Fiction Novels.

Heather Sellers' Chapter After Chapter encourages writers to read at least 101 novels.

Heather Sellers’ Chapter After Chapter encourages writers to read at least 101 novels.

In December 2016, I set out to do just that, having suffered an injury that was keeping me from working like most, one that continues to plague me even today.

Other complications and illnesses have been added since, making working and concentrating even harder, but thankfully, I’ve been able to keep reading, and on Nov. 29th, I put down Javier Marías’ The Infatuations, book number 101, satisfied and fulfilled in a way I could not have imagined two years before.

You see, while I have been physically disabled the past two and a half years, I have been able to mentally travel around the world and through time through the power of fiction.

I’ve made a study of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, the three geniuses edited and managed by Maxwell Perkins. Through them I’ve been bullfighting in Spain in the 1930s, been all over Italy and Europe during World War I, and Paris afterward.

Then through various authors I’ve been in Paris as the Germans invaded it during World War II, and in many ways I felt what it must have been like, to have gone from such heydays after World War I with the Lost Generation to the starkness of the Nazi invasions, their lists, the killings.

But I’ve also been to Australia for a road race around the continent in the 1950s with Peter Carey in his book A Long Way From Home, and returned to experience the power of Big Little Lies with Liane Moriarty; experienced The Plague in Africa via Albert Camus, a non-existent war in Africa during Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, and been to South America for a hostage situation via Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. (I’ll read  anything now written by Ann Patchett–Commonwealth was so good, too.)

I have been to Tennessee and South Carolina to figure out the mystery of the woman who stole river children in the 1900s for adoption in Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours. (Lisa is under the impression US senators ride around in limousines all the time. Reporters should know better.)

My thinking about trees was forever changed by Richard Powers’ The Overstory, one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read. To think about living in the canopy of a redwood in Oregon for nine months, 100 feet off the ground. Something I’d never thought of, but might consider, given the chance and with better health. A wonderful, wonderful book that haunts me now whenever I see someone cutting down a tree because I know how long it takes for a tree to grow, the history behind it and how we snuff out a tree with a chainsaw and don’t give it a moment of thought.

Gosh, I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve been to England. Ian McEwan’s Atonement. What a great story about the power of love. Don’t forget to also read his On Chesil Beach. If you want to read some of the first murder mystery genre setting books, don’t forget John Fowles’ The Collector, who kidnaps a woman he fancies and drags her off to live in his flat north of London. The Lodger is another prolific book that brilliantly explores the murders surrounding the mystery of Jack the Ripper. Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje was also one of my favorites from my journey.

Then there are the books about the States. The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel remains a favorite, a story about a boy who shows up in an Ohio town the summer of 1984 claiming to be answering an ad in the local paper calling on the Devil to present himself. Steven King’s The Outsider was something new for me. It wasn’t scary, but definitely a different read. Tommy Oranges’ There There shed new light on the Native American culture I did not know about. A.J. Finn and The Woman in the Window, Ottessa Moshfegh and Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, as well as Lauren Weissberger’s When Life Gives You Lululemons all gave me new perspectives about the modern woman.

Celeste Ng took me back to Ohio in Little Fires Everywhere, a very good book, and Rachel Kushner seemed to have much the same thematic in The FlamethrowersFac Ut Ardeat (made to burn); perhaps that theme was also being explored in The Summer that Melted Everything as well. Even Stephen King’s The Outsider.

Thomas Wolfe intrigued me for days with his You Can’t Go Home Again. The language and writing is beautiful.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. Funny, at times. But with an important message nonetheless.

Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin was strange to me at first, but I came to enjoy the writing once I got my bearings. The initial passages about the blind assassin himself, and the girl, were just strange, and I’ve found I’m not much for reading sci fi or dystopian nonsense.

I also flat out skip sections in books about explicit gay sex. Chloe Benjamin, Adam Haslett, take note. Your books were good, but I skipped large portions of The Immortalists and Imagine Me Gone and don’t think I missed anything, which means, those sections could have been left out (note to authors, agents and publishers). Those sections didn’t add anything. And in the case of Andrew Sean Greer’s book Less, once I learned that’s what it was, I’d actually ordered it from Amazon, I cancelled the order. I have no desire to read anything like that. Period.

I’ve read my share of spy novels: Daniel Silva’s The Other Woman, T. Jefferson Parker’s Swift Vengeance, Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, and the over-hyped ridiculous Bill Clinton/James Patterson The President is Missing.

In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone I spent time in Washington state and Oregon, and then the wilds of Alaska. This was not a great book by any means, but people recommended I read Hannah’s The Nightingale and I honestly believe it is the best book I’ve ever read. Goodreads has it rated at a 4.65 or something close and that seems to be the highest rating I could find. I highly recommend this book above all the rest. It is the one I described above as helping me understand what it must have been like when the Nazi’s invaded France in World War II. Maybe you should read some of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and their antics in Paris beforehand to learn about how gay and charming the city was 10 years before, that way you may get the full impact.


I’m going to start revising my second novel once again, with new knowledge.

And I’m going to keep writing.

It’s my 53rd birthday today and I’m getting a copy of War and Peace. I’m planning to also read Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov as a study in the next few weeks. I also need to finish Anna Karenina. The movie version is good, but not good enough.

I also have asked my girls for a series of books that PBS and my local book store, Interabang Books put together this summer–100 supposed best loved novels–that I intend to read. Some of them I don’t think belong on the list and won’t read, but a good many I will. Some I already have and just have never read.

The goal in all of this is to make me a better writer, but what it’s also doing is making me a better person. Opening my mind and horizons. Making me think and relaxing my soul. My body is not in a condition to do what it once was able. I’ve been doing all I can the past two and a half years to get help from doctors to get it fixed. In the meantime, I’ve been getting my heart, mind, soul and writing ready for when I am free to walk normally in the world again.

Two years later, that’s the greatest gift I can give myself.