In a year like no other, PW's reviews editors kept up their usual industriousness and published thousands of book reviews. These are the most popular of those, for books published in 2020.

10. One by One by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware. Scout, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8881-7
Set in a remote chalet at an exclusive French Alps resort, this tempestuous locked-room mystery from Ware (The Turn of the Key) centers on the 10-person corporate retreat of social media company Snoop. Snoop’s shareholders—cofounders and ex-lovers Topher St. Clair-Bridges and Eva van den Berg, coder Elliot Cross, comptroller Rik Adeyemi, and former secretary Liz Owens (all millennials)—bitterly disagree on whether to sell the business to investors or to seek additional funding and work toward an IPO. The group goes skiing to dispel tension, but then Eva fails to report for lunch. Before chalet employees Erin and Danny can arrange for a search, an avalanche eradicates the exit routes and knocks out power, internet, and phones. After another guest dies, the panicked survivors wonder whether there’s a murderer in their midst. Liz and Erin share the narrative, which Ware rapidly cycles to accelerate pace and amplify suspense. A somewhat contrived denouement does little to diminish the thrill of this claustrophobic, adrenaline-fueled cat-and-mouse game. Agatha Christie fans take note. Agent: Eve White, Eve White Literary (U.K.). (Sept.)

9. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Robert Kolker. Doubleday, $29.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-385-54376-7
Journalist Kolker (Lost Girls) delivers a powerful look at schizophrenia and the quest to understand it. He focuses on a much-studied case: that of Colorado couple Don and Mimi Galvin’s 12 children, born between 1945 and 1965, six of whom were diagnosed with the illness. Drawing on extensive interviews with family members and close acquaintances, he creates a taut and often heartbreaking narrative of the Galvins’ travails, which included a murder-suicide and sexual abuse. Their story also allows Kolker to convey how ideas about schizophrenia’s cause changed over the 20th century, from theories blaming controlling and emotionally repressive mothers (a type epitomized by Mimi Galvin) to views of the disease as biologically determined—a hypothesis researchers hoped to use the family to substantiate. In one especially moving passage, Kolker catches up in 2017 with one of the Galvin girls’ daughters in college, where she is interning in a neuroscience lab with hopes of researching schizophrenia. Kolker concludes that while “biology is destiny, to a point,” everyone is “a product of the people who surround us—the people we’re forced to grow up with, and the people we choose to be with later.” This is a haunting and memorable look at the impact of mental illness on multiple generations. (Apr.)

8. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Kate Elizabeth Russell. Morrow, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-294150-3
Russell offers readers an introspective narrative that fully captures the complexity and necessity of the #MeToo movement in her powerful debut. In the year 2000, Vanessa Wye is a lonely sophomore at Maine’s Browick boarding school. The academically gifted 15-year-old professes not to mind her solitude, especially when her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, begins to pay attention to her, remarking on her red hair and fashion sense, and lending her some of his favorite books—including Nabokov’s Lolita. Almost before Vanessa realizes what’s happening, the two have embarked on a sexual relationship, and Vanessa is convinced she’s been singled out as someone truly special—until, under threat of exposure, their relationship begins to go off the rails. Seventeen years later, Vanessa is still occasionally in contact with Jacob, but their relationship has grown tense, as another former student has gone public about his inappropriate advances. Russell’s novel, alternating between past and present, presents a damning indictment of sexual predation, as she starkly elucidates the ways in which abuse robbed Vanessa not only of her childhood but also of her own once-promising future. It also prompts readers to interrogate their own assumptions about victimhood, consent, and agency. This is a frighteningly sharp debut. Agent: Hillary Jacobson, ICM Partners. (Mar.)

7. Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

James Nestor. Riverhead, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1361-6
In this fascinating “scientific adventure,” journalist Nestor (Deep) follows the clues that connect breath to health. After several bouts with pneumonia and resultant breathing problems, Nestor enters a Stanford University experiment that involves spending 10 days breathing with his nostrils plugged, and another 10 with his mouth taped shut. The results are eye-opening: mouth breathing increases his snoring and sleep apnea, and causes raised blood pressure and other issues. His investigation also leads him to a breathing class in Haight-Ashbury, a yoga studio in São Paulo, and to a conversation with a dental researcher, who points out that the skulls of ancient humans have wider airways and perfect teeth. (Subsequently, Nestor learns that the industrialization of the food supply led to softer foods, less vigorous chewing, and thus crooked teeth and narrow airways.) Frequency of breath is crucial; while science reveals that the ideal rate is 5.5 breaths per minute, many people breathe too fast. Nestor argues that proper breathing, though not a panacea, is an important component of preventative health maintenance. While the process of breathing may seem like a no-brainer, Nestor’s fascinating treatise convincingly asserts that it’s easy to get wrong, and vital to get right. Agent: Danielle Svetcov, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (May)

6. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare. McElderry, $24.99 (624p) ISBN 978-1-4814-3187-3
When Cordelia Carstairs’s father is arrested in 1903, her mother attempts to salvage the family’s reputation by moving them to London and encouraging 16-year-old Cordelia to find an influential suitor. Cordelia, however, prefers to focus her efforts on helping fellow Shadowhunters James and Lucie Herondale slay the vicious, seemingly unstoppable demons that recently began killing their Nephilim brethren. If, while saving the day, Cordelia can woo James—on whom she’s had a crush since childhood—all the better. Although Cordelia and James have chemistry, and James’s friends and family all adore Cordelia, he is strangely infatuated with Grace Blackthorn, who just arrived in town and whose mother despises the Herondales. Spun off from her Infernal Devices trilogy, book one of Clare’s Last Hours trilogy uses a large cast of deftly drawn characters of varying ethnicities, sexual orientations, and species (vampires, warlocks, etc.) to explore the intricacies of friendship and love. Although setup and backstory mire the tale’s start, Clare delivers a richly imagined fantasy rife with action, intrigue, and smoldering romance. A chilling cliffhanger sets up the sequel. Ages 14–up. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Mar.)

5. House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas. Bloomsbury, $28 (816p) ISBN 978-1-63557-404-3
YA author Maas (the Throne of Glass series) makes her adult debut with this electrifying series launch set on a planet plagued by conflict between oppressed humans and upper-class supernaturals. When a demon slaughters wolf-shifter Danika Fendir and her packmates, Danika’s best friend, the half-human, half-Fae Bryce Quinlan, turns from carefree party girl to traumatized loner. Bryce’s only comfort is knowing that Archangel Micah Domitus and the 33rd Imperial Legion have incarcerated the man who orchestrated the attack: a human with a vendetta against the wolves. But two years later a vampire with connections to Bryce dies the same way Danika did, suggesting the pack’s true murderer remains at large. Desperate to discover the truth, Micah conscripts Bryce to dig into Danika’s final days, and tasks Hunt Athalar, an indentured Malakim assassin doing penance for his part in a failed rebellion, with protecting her. Despite some murky worldbuilding that occasionally undercuts the intricate plot, Maas delivers a richly imagined tale spiced with snarky humor and smoldering romance between Bryce and Hunt. The villains tend to twirl their mustaches, but Bryce is a realistically flawed heroine with moxie and heart to spare. Maas’s adult readers and fans of Charlaine Harris will devour this ambitious, emotionally charged contemporary fantasy. Agent: Tamar Rydzinski, Context Literary. (Mar.)

4. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Rumaan Alam. Ecco, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-266763-2
In Alam’s spectacular and ominous latest (after That Kind of Mother), a family’s idyllic summer retreat coincides with global catastrophe. Amanda and Clay, married white Brooklynites with two children, rent a secluded house in the Hamptons for a summer vacation. Their “illusion of ownership” is shattered when the house’s proprietors, G.H. and Ruth, an African American couple in their 60s, show up unannounced from New York City. Widespread blackouts have hit the East Coast, and G.H. and Ruth are seeking refuge in the beach house they’ve rented out. The returned owners are greeted with polite suspicion and simmering resentment: “It was torture, a home invasion without rape or guns,” thinks Amanda. G.H. and Ruth, in turn, can’t help but wish their renters gone (“G. H.’s familiar old fridge yielded nothing but surprise. He’d not have filled it with such things”). But over a couple days, they form an uneasy collective as a series of strange and increasingly menacing events herald cataclysmic change, from migrating herds of deer to the thunder of military jets roaring overhead. The omniscient narrator occasionally zooms out to provide snapshots of the wider chaotic world that are effective in their brevity. Though information is scarce, the signs of impending collapse—ecological and geopolitical—have been glaringly visible to the characters all along: “No one could plead ignorance that was not willful.” This illuminating social novel offers piercing commentary on race, class and the luxurious mirage of safety, adding up to an all-too-plausible apocalyptic vision. (Oct.)

3. If It Bleeds by Stephen King

Stephen King. Scribner, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-982137-97-7
The four never-before-published novellas in this collection represent horror master King at his finest, using the weird and uncanny to riff on mortality, the price of creativity, and the unpredictable consequences of material attachments. A teenager discovers that a dead friend’s cell phone, which was buried with the body, still communicates from beyond the grave in “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” which reads like a Twilight Zone episode infused with an EC Comics vibe. In the profoundly moving “The Life of Chuck,” a series of apocalyptic incidents bear out one character’s claim that “when a man or a woman dies, a whole world falls to ruin.” “Rat” sees a frustrated writer strike a Faustian bargain to complete his novel, and in the title story, private investigator Holly Gibney, the recurring heroine of King’s Bill Hodges trilogy and The Outsider, faces off against a ghoulish television newscaster who vampirically feeds off the anguish he provokes in his audience by covering horrific tragedies. King clearly loves his characters, and the care with which he develops their personalities draws the reader ineluctably into their deeply unsettling experiences. This excellent collection delivers exactly the kind of bravura storytelling King’s readers expect. Agent: Chuck Verrill, Darhansoff & Verrill. (May)

2. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan. Doubleday, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-54627-0
Kwan follows up his Crazy Rich Asians trilogy with an intoxicating, breezy update of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. Lucie Tang Churchill, 19, a privileged “hapa” (she is half Chinese, half WASP) attends her richer friend Isabel’s wedding in Capri. After Lucie meets Isabel’s cousin George Zao, a rich, handsome, Chinese-Australian surfer, she becomes a “bundle of conflicting emotions,” repulsed by her attraction to the “brooding weirdo [who] took himself much too seriously.” Still, they hook up, at risk of jeopardizing Lucie’s reputation as an eligible bride. Four years later, Lucie and George’s paths cross in New York, only now Lucie is engaged to Cecil Pike. However, Lucy can’t get George out of her mind, and she is flummoxed by his kindness. When Lucy, George, and Cecil attend a film screening featuring a sex scene that reminds her of what she did with George in Capri, Lucie doubles down on suppressing her true desires. Kwan exploits the Forster frame for clever references—including Merchant and Ivory—and provides amusing footnotes. Kwan also relishes describing lavish meals and haute couture clothing, as well as Isabel’s decadent wedding and Cecil’s imaginative, over-the-top proposal. There are moments both catty and witty, but this delectable comedy of manners—the literary equivalent of white truffle and caviar pizza—is still pizza. (July)

1. Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Glennon Doyle. Dial, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-9848-0125-8
Motivational speaker Doyle (Love Warrior) writes of divorcing her husband, finding love with Olympic soccer player Abby Wambach, and coming out to family and fans in this inspirational memoir. Doyle's previous book concerned her attempt to heal her strained relationship with her husband, Craig, after she learned he cheated on her, and here she picks up the narrative a few years later, as she starts fresh with the attitude that it’s better to disappoint other people than to disappoint oneself. She talks about meeting Abby, while still married to Craig, at a book conference and instantly falling for her (“I put my hand on her arm. Electrical currents”), dissolving her marriage and raising her three kids in a blended family with Abby and Craig, and pulling back from her Christian faith. “I will not stay, not ever again—in a room or conversation or relationship or institution that requires me to abandon myself,” Doyle declares. The book is filled with hopeful messages and encourages women to reject the status quo and follow their intuition. “It’s a lifelong battle for a woman to stay whole and free in a world hell bent on caging her,” she writes. This testament to female empowerment and self-love, with an endearing coming-out story at the center, will delight readers. (Mar.)