This year was a strange one, and while many people expressed how hard it was to read this year, stories helped me through it. I especially enjoyed audiobooks because I was walking A LOT.
I read 165 books in 2020, so it is hard to choose my top 40, but here they are! Most of these titles were published in 2020, but a few of them are older.
If you're intrigued by any of these, I encourage you to order them through your favorite independent bookstore. My favorite independent bookstores in the Cincinnati area are the Cincy Book Bus, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, The Bookshelf, and Blue Manatee Literacy Project. If you are going to order from Amazon, be sure to order through Amazon Smile and consider The Book Love Foundation as your charity of choice.
Here were my favorites of 2020:
|Shelves: 2020-book, environmental, indigenous-peoples, leaving-a-legacy, lyrical, mock-caldecott-2021, multicultural, own-voices, picture-book, read, social-justice, social-responsibility, social-studies-connections, strong-girl-character, water, weneeddiversebooks, women|
This is a stunning #ownvoices book about Indigenous-led movements across North America to protect water. I LOVE the illustrations, which led me to buying a print of the cover art. It's gorgeous! This one, along with the titles below, is one of my picks for winning the Caldecott or at least one award in this year's ALA Youth Media Awards on January 25th.
|2020-book, bees, creative-nonfiction, mock-caldecott-2021, mock-sibert-2021, nature, picture-book, read, science|
|2020-book, african-american, biography, learning-to-read, leaving-a-legacy, mock-caldecott-2021, mock-coretta-scott-king-award, picture-book|
What an incredible story about an inspiring woman, Mary Walker! She was born a slave in 1848, was married twice, and had 3 sons (one of whom was a WW I veteran), learned to read at 116 (talk about a lifelong learner!!), and died at age 121 in 1969. The Author's Note said she lived through 26 presidents and could still see and hear well, walk with only minimal help from a cane, and bake cakes. I would love to read more about her. Loved the end pages of photographs. Thankful for this biography and the beautiful illustrations by the award-winning illustrator, Oge Mora!
|2020-book, beginning-of-school, diversity, identity, metaphor, mock-caldecott-2021, music, names, picture-book|
Beautiful book! Making sure we can pronounce students' names is so important! I love that you can watch a video of the author pronouncing the names throughout the book!
|Shelves: 2020-book, creative-nonfiction, curiosity, gifted, math-connections, mock-sibert-2021, nonfiction, read, science, space|
|2020-book, african-american, antiracism, babies, baby-or-graduation-gift, beginning-of-school, belonging, black-history, black-stories, books-for-children-about-reading, building-community, diversity, family, identity, leaving-a-legacy, love, lyrical, mock-caldecott-2021, mothers, names, poetry, police-brutality, read, social-emotional|
|Shelves: 2020-book, african-american, belonging, black-lives-matter, black-stories, diversity, empowerment, identity, inspiration, mock-caldecott-2021, read, social-emotional, weneeddiversebooks, would-make-a-good-read-aloud|
A fantastic new book from the team who brought us Crown: Ode to a Fresh Cut. I bought two of them and gave one away at a professional development about joy in the ELA classroom after reading it aloud. This book exudes joy! Such energetic illustrations!
|2020-book, art, beauty, changes, cities, diversity, friendship, gentrification, home, leaving-a-legacy, mock-caldecott-2021, moving, multicultural, picture-book, read, trees|
|2020-book, disaster, fearandcourage, heroes, middle-grade-book, mock-sibert-2021, multicultural, nonfiction, own-voices, perseverance-grit, read, social-responsibility, social-studies-connections, sports, strong-children, upper-middle-grade, young-adult-book|
|art, audio-book, autism, character-development, character-who-draws, character-who-writes, coming-of-age, confidence, disaster, emotions, family, friendship, identity, lgbtqia, middle-grade-book, read, resiliency, sisters, strong-girl-character, windows-and-mirrors|
This graphic novel about real life brothers, Omar and Hassan, and their experiences in a refugee camp in Kenya will open your eyes and heart to what it's like to be separated from home and family. Ultimately, this story is hopeful.
“The stars are scattered all over the sky like shimmering tears, there must be great pain in the eye from which they trickled.”
— Georg Büchner
|2020-book, audio-book, disaster, explorers, friendship, gifted-character, gifted-girls, historical-fiction, journey, mock-newbery-2021, quest, questions, read, science, space, teachers-who-inspire, upper-middle-grade, women, young-adult-book|
2020-book, abuse, african-american, audio-book, award-winner, black-stories, brothers, coming-of-age, death, diversity, empathy, family, fearandcourage, friendship, grief, lgbtqia, mock-printz-award-2021, read, social-justice, young-adult-book
2020-book, audio-book, choices, dogs, family, fathers, fearandcourage, financial-struggles, friendship, gifted-girls, healing, historical-fiction, loner-character, loss, love, mock-newbery-2021, nature, read, strong-girl-character
|Shelves: 2020-book, beginning-of-school, book-love-summer-bk-club-2020, diversity, global-awareness, hope, human-rights, invitation-for-writing, leaving-a-legacy, mentor-text-for-writing, mock-newbery-2021, picture-book-long, poetry, read, social-injustice, social-responsibility|
|Shelves: 2020-book, antiracism, asian, biracial-multiracial, book-love-summer-bk-club-2020, diversity, gifted-girls, historical-fiction, home, identity, me-too, mock-newbery-2021, pioneer-life, racism, read, read-aloud-possibility, setting|
|Shelves: 2020-book, african-american, audio-book, brothers, bullying, coaches, family, mentor-mentee, mock-newbery-2021, mock-printz-award-2021, racial-tensions, racism, read, sports, upper-middle-grade, weneeddiversebooks, white-privilege, young-adult-book|
|Shelves: 2020-book, abuse, african-american, audio-book, black-stories, family, gender, identity, intersectionality, lgbtqia, memoir, mock-printz-award-2021, read, sexuality, young-adult-book|
|Shelves: 2020-book, african-american, antiracism, audio-book, black-stories, capital-punishment, character-who-writes, crime, criminal-justice-system, fathers, gifted-girls, mass-incarceration, mock-printz-award-2021, prison, racism, read, redemption, social-justice, social-responsibility, strong-girl-character, weneeddiversebooks, writing-connections, young-adult-book|
Excellent! Pair it with Just Mercy or The Sun Does Shine for HS students. It's an honest and gripping look at how racism pervades the criminal justice system. I appreciated, though, that Johnson provided an example of a good police officer's point of view in Beverly's character, much like Thomas did in Hate U Give. Tracy is a tough, gifted character, tirelessly using her writing and voice to make change and seek justice. Loved it!
|Shelves: 2020-book, acceptance, african-american, art, audio-book, black-stories, bullying, character-development, coming-of-age, diversity, friendship, gender, gender-fluidity, identity, intersectionality, lgbtqia, mock-printz-award-2021, mystery, read, romance, sexuality, social-media-issues, weneeddiversebooks, young-adult-book|
|Shelves: 2020-book, acceptance, african-american, anti-bullying, antiracism, character-development, classism, colorism, diversity, financial-struggles, hair, intersectionality, microaggressions, middle-grade-book, mock-newbery-2021, multicultural, read|
|Shelves: 2020-book, audio-book, biracial-multiracial, family, financial-struggles, forgiveness, global-awareness, hispanic-latino-latina-latinx, mock-printz-award-2021, modern-slavery-human-trafficking, multicultural, multiple-1st-person-points-of-view, perspective, poetry, point-of-view, read, sisters|
|Shelves: african-american, antiracism, black-history, black-stories, history, nonfiction, read, young-adult-book|
|Shelves: audio-book, book-club, empathy, family, fearandcourage, friendship, gender-fluidity, humor, identity, lgbtqia, mental-illness, read, romance, sexual-assault, sexuality, social-justice, social-media-issues, social-responsibility, therapy-and-therapists, weneeddiversebooks, young-adult-book|
|Wow! This is one of those unforgettable books! Kline takes some risks in this story - I won't spoil it - that I didn't think I'd recover from, but amazingly, it worked, and I did. I'll be recommending this one to lots of people! It's amazing that people survived the kind of conditions and abuse that these women did.|
|What a powerful book. Adunni's story is captivating, heart-breaking, and ultimately, hopeful. I want a sequel to see what becomes of her and if she achieves her dream of becoming a teacher, and ultimately, helps other girls find their louding voices! "So I nod my head yes, because it is true, the future is always working, always busy unfolding better things, and even if it doesn't seem so sometimes, we have hope of it." - Adunni|
|A beautifully written book about a "tasked" man's quest for freedom, love, and family. The symbolism of water, the mysterious "conduction", and the relationships throughout the book kept me captivated. I wish I had had someone to talk to about it while reading it - lots to unpack! While reading it, I visited Cincinnati's Freedom Center. I was able to connect much of what I was reading to real life events and stories. It helped the book come alive. If you are ever able to visit the Freedom Center, do it! It's an amazing museum.|
|There are a few books that have stayed with me for a long time, and this will be one of them. Absolutely loved it! Stunning. Lots of great interviews of Brit Bennett on this book. Here is one with Trevor Noah on the Daily Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Smj3I8Co9cM|
A middle grade book that also talks about passing as white is Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine.
I was fully absorbed in this story about henna artist, Lackshmi, and her journey after escaping an abusive marriage.
|This was an amazing story, and I didn't realize it was true until the end. It always amazes me that stories keep coming out of the Holocaust - each of them seeing it through a new/different lens. I never thought about who the tattooists were and that they could be prisoners themselves. This story was also a love story, and a beautiful one. Now I want to read the next one, Cilka's Journey.|
|Great book about creating intentional, impactful moments in your work, school, and life.|
There is something so compelling about Matthew! I've been a fan of his for a long time and completely enjoyed this memoir, especially listening to him narrate. While there are times I shake my head at some of the things he says, he always makes me smile. I love his zest for life and love for his family and career. Matthew is also quite a writer! Can't wait for his next movie!
|I LOVED this book - part Book Love Foundation Summer Book Club! Muhammed's Historically Responsive Literacy Framework gives teachers a great structure for creating curriculum and nurture the genius in all students AND themselves:|
You can get a chance to see her at the end of January as part of the Literacy Connection!
I chose this as a mother/daughter book club book after the death of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and more to begin a journey to uncover our own White fragility and privilege, learn more about racism, and embrace antiracism. I'm so glad we began with this book. It is a must-read! Can't wait to talk about it with my mom and daughters!
There is a lot of criticism about this book as well. I know I, as a white woman, can not stop here. I need to read other books by BIPOC authors and ultimately, take action against racism and injustice.
I loved listening to this fascinating audio on octopuses (yes, she teaches us that this is the correct plural form of octopus). What I loved most is Sy Montgomery's passion for animals (no matter how strange or frightening to others) and her delight in observing octopuses. Because she is the narrator of the audio, you can hear her love for these creatures in her voice. Made me smile and ALSO love octopuses! Who knew I could?! This book inspired me to read another book by her, How To Be a Good Creature, that had been sitting on my bedside table for a while. I also read her picture book, Inky's Amazing Escape. I knew about Montgomery and was already a fan because of her Scientists in the Field books she authored. Another book I loved and read by her is Temple Grandin. (Look at me shamelessly cheating on my "Top 40" by including a few other books I read and loved this year!)
I also want to watch the documentary My Octopus Teacher sometime soon!
And that's it! It was SO hard to choose which books to feature on this post. I hope you got some inspiration to pick up a few of these titles to read this year. Let me know if you read any of these and what you thought, and tell me some of your favorites!
Here's to 2021 reading! I linked up to #MustReadin2021 roundup here.