The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox, World Editions, RRP£12.99, 368 pages

Written in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, this picaresque romp tracks the journey of twins Ivan and Ivana from the author’s native island of Guadeloupe, through West Africa and to a Paris suburb, their paths diverging as Ivan succumbs to the false promises of jihadi radicalism.

The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein, Europa Editions, RRP£20/RRP$26, 336 pages

Few titles were more hotly anticipated this year than Ferrante’s unsettling coming-of-age tale about Giovanna, a teenage girl growing up in a middle-class neighbourhood in Naples, contending with her father’s rejection and confronting family secrets while tentatively navigating her way to womanhood. A truly worthy follow-up to Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet.

Storm Birds, by Einar Kárason, translated by Quentin Bates, MacLehose Press, RRP£12.99, 160 pages

Loosely based on the real story of an Icelandic trawler that barely survived a destructive storm in 1959, this gripping novel is as good at describing the magnificent seascapes and the unforgiving elements as it is at examining the inner lives of the besieged crew, toiling ceaselessly against implacable nature.

Earthlings, by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Granta, RRP£12.99, 256 pages

Murata’s previous novel, Convenience Store Woman, shone an unflinching light on the pressure to conform that Japanese women are often subjected to. Her follow-up revisits this theme in the story of Natsuki — a friendless, alienated young woman avoiding any actual intimacy by retreating into a fantasy world of whimsical rebellion.

Fracture, by Andrés Neuman, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza García, Granta, RRP£14.99, 368 pages

The latest offering by one of Argentina’s most outstanding novelists tells the story of Yoshie Watanabe, a survivor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs who, following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Fukushima in 2011, sets out on a quest to understand his country’s history of destruction and survival.

Wild Swims, by Dorthe Nors, translated by Misha Hoekstra, Pushkin Press, RRP£9.99, 128 pages

Minimalist and atmospheric, the short stories in this collection by the Danish author of 2017 Man Booker International prize nominee Mirror, Shoulder, Signal dwell on human connection and solitude. Longing is undermined by loss, intimacy breeds loneliness, and there are never any easy resolutions in these unnerving snapshots of the human heart.

Best Books of the Year 2020

All this week, FT writers and critics share their favourites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Business by Andrew Hill
Tuesday: Economics by Martin Wolf
Wednesday: Politics by Gideon Rachman
Thursday: History by Tony Barber
Friday: Critics’ choice
Saturday: Crime by Barry Forshaw

An Inventory of Losses, by Judith Schalansky, translated by Jackie Smith, MacLehose, RRP£20, 256 pages

Weaving fiction, autobiography and history, this sumptuous collection of texts offers meditations on “the diverse phenomena of decomposition and destruction”. In 12 shape-shifting chapters, treading the line between essays and short stories, the German author of Atlas of Remote Islands reflects on places and things that have disappeared or decayed.

Many People Die Like You, by Lina Wolff, translated by Saskia Vogel, And Other Stories, RRP£10, 208 pages

The Swedish author’s debut novel, Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs, served up a hilariously caustic attack on male egotism and cruelty. Her new collection of short stories, ranging from the domestic to the surreal, is no less brutal and unsettling in its dissection of men’s appetites and affectations.

The Discomfort of Evening, by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchinson, Faber, RRP£12.99, 288 pages

The winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize, and a bestseller in the author’s native Netherlands, this disturbing debut novel offers an unflinching exploration of a rural family torn apart by grief and religious fervour after the death of the child narrator’s older brother in a skating accident.

Tell us what you think

What are your favourites from this list — and what books have we missed? Tell us in the comments below

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