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Some of Sara's Favorite Reads of 2020 (so far)

by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)

Reading in 2020 has been a challenge for me, friends. I have really struggled to dig into books. My reading was off the rails before our world changed in March, and it has not gotten any better. However, never fear, I have had some bright spots, and that is what I want to talk to you about today.

I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my favorite reads of 2020 (so far). Now, these aren't necessarily books that were published in 2020. These are books that I read in 2020. If you have been following along with our episodes about tackling our reading goals, you know that I am trying to get to some of my backlist titles! So without further ado, here are some of my favorites so far this year (Note: These are in no particular order. Like my friend, Jen, I do not enjoy ranking books. I just like to tell you which ones I enjoyed!):

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

From the publisher:

"This is NOT a history book.

This is a book about the here and now.

A book to help us better understand why we are where we are.

A book about race.

The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.

"Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas--and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives."

Why it made the list: It's the best book I have read in 2020. If you have young people in your life, read this book with them. If you can get the audio version, read it! The incomparable Jason Reynolds reads the audio version. It is straightforward, enlightening, and a must read. This is the YA version that Jason Reynolds adapted from the adult version written by Ibram X. Kendi. Both are phenomenal. As a teacher and parent to a preteen, the YA version is a book that spoke to me and provided me with an opportunity to discuss and educate the young people in my life. (It is no secret that I (and Jen and Ashley!) am a Jason Reynolds super fan. If you aren’t familiar with his work, please check it out. His book Long Way Down was an impactful, thought-provoking read in the classroom. His work is amazing.) Stamped is an important, timely, accessible read for young people.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

From the publisher:

"Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighbourhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

"Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

"Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend,Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up –way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty police officer beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack."

Why it made the list: As a teacher, I think this book provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss important topics in a meaningful way. The book is very direct and clear in its purpose, it is a slim novel, which is always a plus for whole class reading, and it addresses a lot of social issues surrounding race and being Black in America that are imperative to discuss with young people in the classroom.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

From the publisher:

"In this magical debut, a couple’s lives are changed forever by the arrival of a little girl, wild and secretive, on their snowy doorstep.

"Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart — he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone — but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

"This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them."

Why it made the list: Talk about mood reading! If this one sounds good to you, save it for the winter. It is a totally perfect, immersive winter read. It is beautifully written, and oh-so-very heartbreaking and beautiful.

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

From the publisher:

"What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

"When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

"Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic."

Why it made the list: I loved this book. I thought it was clever, fast-paced, and just a wonderful story about love and family. In addition, it had a strong cast of secondary characters who I really enjoyed. I couldn't stop reading it--usually romances aren't page turners for me, but this one was--I couldn't put it down. One warning--it is pretty steamy. No, really, it is STEAMY!! So, if that isn't your thing, just be warned.

From the publisher:

"In All Things Reconsidered, popular podcaster Knox McCoy uses a unique blend of humor, pop culture references, and personal stories to show how a willingness to reconsider ideas can actually help us grow ourselves, our lives, and our beliefs. 

"In this laugh-out-loud defense of reconsideration, Knox dives into topics like:

  • Are participation trophies truly the worst?

  • Is it really worth it to be a ride-or-die sports fan?

  • Do we believe in God because of the promise of heaven—or the threat of hell?

  • Does prayer work? Is anyone even there?

"This book is the catalyst we need to courageously ask the questions that will lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves—and God. It’s time to start reconsidering."

Why it made the list: I am pretty picky in my non-fiction choices. What I loved about All Things Reconsidered is that it really made me think about values and what we hold on to and why we hold on to those things. I like how McCoy is able to ask hard questions, but also provides his signature witty, sarcastic comic relief.

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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