Sarah Gelman, Director, Amazon Books Editorial

It’s time for a Beyond the Mic Short Cut.

We’re joined by Director of Amazon Books Editorial to break down the Top 10 books so far in 2020. Sarah Gelman Welcome

Being a part of the team that puts together this list each year has to be challenging. How competitive is it with publishers pushing books they want to be selected?

Where do you get your passion for reading and do you remember the 1st book you read?

You worked in New York before you went to Seattle. What’s the thing you miss about New York?

You’ve been known to love women’s fiction. What’s the best book in this category from this year right now?

How many books do you read in a week? wow

Is there a book from the children’s category you would like to read to your sons?

NICE! Your bio talks about our dream to design the perfect reading nook. What’s in the perfect reading nook?

Which category of books do you read the most? What about the least?

Thanks to Director of Amazon Books Editorial Sarah Gelman for joining us.

As always if you enjoy the conversation, subscribe and share it with a friend. We’d appreciate a review on Apple Podcasts.

Here are the Amazon Books editorial team’s top 10 picks of 2020 so far:

  1. The Girl with the Louding Voice: A Novel by Abi Daré: In this rousing tale of courage and pluck, a 14-year-old Nigerian girl is sold into servitude by her father when her mothera proponent of educationpasses away. You will root for Adunni as she endeavors to escape her sorryand often harrowinglot, and applaud the kind strangers who buoy her efforts and her spirits.
  1. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker: Hidden Valley Road is a heartbreaking, expertly told story of an all-American family, the Galvins, six of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia while still teenagers. Relying on exhaustive research, Kolker weaves together cultural, medical, and family history to show the ravages of mental illness on the six Galvin boys, on their parents, and, perhaps most movingly, on their other six siblings.
  1. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne CollinsThe 10th anniversary of the Hunger Games is beginning, and 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow—President Snow, when we met him decades later in The Hunger Games—has an important role to play. Nearly impossible to put down, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is an exciting and thought-provoking novel that goes outside the arena to ask interesting questions about human nature and ambition.
  1. Deacon King Kong: A Novel by James McBride: Set in the 1960s, this propulsive and darkly comic neighborhood epic features a cast of characters that are beguiling, boozed-filled, and larger than life. National Book Award-winner McBride weaves a fictional story of one Brooklyn project, but in doing so tells a broader tale of race and religion, getting by and getting out, and how grudges and alliances become embedded in the foundations of our lives.
  1. Pretty Things: A Novel by Janelle Brown: When a second-generation grifter, Nina, and her shady boyfriend move to Lake Tahoe, they collide with a woman from Nina’s past, heiress Vanessa Liebling. Behind a glittering façade of old money and fast living, a darker story of social climbing, social media, revenge, and betrayal starts to take menacing shape.

Six through Ten

  1. Writers & Lovers: A Novel by Lily King: Writers & Lovers is about the uncertainty of relationships, and of pursuing the creative life, in a world that values success and stability. Life is not waiting for Casey to fulfill her dream of being a novelist, so she works as a waitress and she dates, and she tries to figure it out as she goes. Love and art require frequent, often imperceptible, leaps of faith—and this book captures that perfectly.
  1. Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran: Sigh, Gone is one of the funniest and most profound memoirs of the year so far. Without rose-colored glasses and with a flair for humor, Tran recounts his childhood as a Vietnamese kid growing up in a small Pennsylvania town: the racism, dislocation, and violence that surrounded him, how he fought to fit in, and how he fell in love with literature.
  1. The City We Became: A Novel by N. K. Jemisin: Five strangers unexpectedly become the living embodiments of New York City’s boroughs and must battle an evil entity that threatens the city. Jemisin infuses this live-wire love letter to the city’s diverse denizens with reality-ripping storytelling.
  1. Oona Out of Order: A Novel by Margarita Montimore: Oona Lockhart is celebrating New Year’s Eve 1982 and the eve of her 19th birthday, but at midnight she passes out and wakes up as a 19-year-old trapped in the body of a 51-year-old. Thus begins Oona living life out of order. Although Oona Out of Order could be a fun romp through the adage “youth is wasted on the young” (and it is), it’s also a deeper look at destiny, love, and family.
  1. The Mercies: A Novel by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: There isn’t much that is not unforgiving when it comes to the far-flung and frigid town of Vardø, Norway, including the sea that surrounds it, which swallows the majority of its male population in an epic storm while they’re fishing. Accusations of witchcraft quickly infect this grieving but resourceful community, threatening what hard-won normalcy they’ve regained. The Mercies is infuriating, baleful, but full of stubborn hope.

The Girl with the Louding Voice joins the Amazon Book editors’ past Best Book of the Year So Far selections, including Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls, Tara Westover’s Educated, and Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

To view the complete list of the Best Books of the Year So Far spanning literary fiction, cookbooks, children’s books and more, visit

About Sarah:

Sarah Gelman, Director, Amazon Books Editorial – Named after the book her father was reading when she was born, Sarah was destined to be a reader. In fact, she has spent her entire career recommending books to readers: She worked at a New York publishing house before relocating to Seattle to work at Amazon. Sarah loves women’s fiction, memoirs, cookbooks, home design/organizational books, parenting books, and a good multigenerational family saga. When she’s not working or reading, she’s watching the movie Planes with her two young sons, menu planning with her husband, or daydreaming about the perfectly designed reading nook. Sarah regularly writes for the Amazon Book Review.

What do you think?

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1 comment
  • It’s great that Amazon showcases books based on actual reads, not sales. I’m an author (Extinction) and I’m in the process of extending the story. How can I get someone in your department to give it a look?

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