How Another 3 Big-Buzz 2020 Books Ultimately Fared

A look at the ups (and downs) experienced by a few widely promoted novels

Bookstore bookshelves full of books
Bookstore bookshelves full of books
Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

This is my third in a series of four posts covering the books I highlighted in “The Certainly Most Definitive List of the 12 Best Novels Due Out in 2020” way back in January, when the internet was overflowing with lists of the titles predicted to be the blockbuster bestsellers of the new year. Join me as I strive to discover which, if any, of the original dozen titles have lived up to their hype. (Please note this post includes affiliate links, and I may earn a little money if you click on a link and make a purchase. Thanks!)

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Genre: Literary

Cover image for the novel Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Cover image for the novel Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Photo source: Goodreads

I’m so glad I attended an event last November promoting the upcoming novel Afterlife by Julia Alvarez, who seemed to me to be a very kind, insightful, and gracious person. Since then I’ve read her latest as well as the book that first made her a well-known novelist in the early 1990s, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Of the two, I preferred Afterlife, which explores immigration and identity issues, sisterhood and family ties as well as the art of moving beyond the hardships that often shape us.

Alvarez is known for being a trailblazer as she was one of the first Latina authors to gain widespread commercial success, and she is currently considered a highly influential and revered author for her life’s work. For over thirty years Alvarez has written not only novels but multiple books for children plus poetry and essay collections. And while Afterlife hasn’t won any awards that I know of, Alvarez has won many, including the National Medal of Arts, which was awarded to her by President Barack Obama in 2010.

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

Genre: Literary

Cover image for novel Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon
Cover image for novel Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon
Photo source: Goodreads

This is one book I wish I’d read this year simply so I could provide some personal insights into it here. It’s definitely one of my to-read list, though. Suffice to say readers love Run Me to Earth as evidenced by the hundreds of reviews of it that use terms such as “intense” and “heartbreaking” yet “stunning” and “beautiful.” Set in war-torn Laos in the 1960s, it tells the story of three teenagers who are orphans and friends and what ultimately becomes of them.

This is the second novel by author Paul Yoon but his fourth book since he’s also published two short story collections. I’m not aware that Run Me to Earth has won any awards, but author Roxane Gay has called it a “fantastic read” that she “absolutely swallowed.” If I were Yoon, I’d consider that a feather in my cap any day.

A Burning by Meghan Majumdar

Genre: Thriller

Cover image for novel A Burning by Meghan Majumdar
Cover image for novel A Burning by Meghan Majumdar
Photo source: Goodreads

The career of debut novelist Megha Majumdar was kicked off with a lot of fanfare for A Burning. Set in India, it also explores the lives of three characters and how their experiences are dramatically impacted by their shared culture but very individual identities and overlapping experiences.

In many of its reviews from readers and the press, A Burning is described as a compelling read with terrific pacing and enough tension to keep those who love to read thrillers laced with political intrigue very satisfied. While A Burning was longlisted for the National Book Award, it hasn’t won any awards that I know of. It has, however, garnered for author Megha Majumdar thousands of readers who can’t wait for her next book.

I hope you enjoyed this overview! I’ll share my final post on three more titles from my original list soon.

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Karen DeGroot Carter

Written by

Bylines in Publishers Weekly, the Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, others. One Sister’s Song (novel). Not Nearly Everything You Need to Know About Writing (ebook).

Books Are Our Superpower

Book reviews, recommendations, summaries, rants — as long as it is related to books, your piece is welcome here. We aim to build a community of book lovers sharing about the books that moved them the most.

Karen DeGroot Carter

Written by

Bylines in Publishers Weekly, the Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, others. One Sister’s Song (novel). Not Nearly Everything You Need to Know About Writing (ebook).

Books Are Our Superpower

Book reviews, recommendations, summaries, rants — as long as it is related to books, your piece is welcome here. We aim to build a community of book lovers sharing about the books that moved them the most.

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