Leslie’s Favorite Books of 2020

I’ve clung to a mantra this year that defines my professional life and a slice of my personal life: books provide the hope and the escape we all need, and they can become our saving grace. eel cringe-y. tunity to escape, to become absorbed in a narrative, and sometimes to lose myself in someone else’s sorrows – because some of my favorite books this year really were steeped in loss and longing and strife. (The Nightingale gave me the best, most cleansing cry I’ve had in a long time.) It was also a year for me to pick up some books I’ve long wanted to read with my 6-year-old daughter, to have moments to escape together, but also to feel her body curled against mine, rapt in a narrative I read as a child (Summer of the Monkeys) or I read for the first time as she grew inside me (as with the first two Harry Potter books). It was a year to revisit a long-held favorite (Their Eyes Were Watching God) and to understand the author’s own story better (Wrapped in Rainbows, a gift from my husband on my birthday). This was also a year to, when necessary, recognize my own inability to commit to long narratives, allowing myself to pick up collections of short stories and graphic novels far more often than I have in the past. Some of those graphic novels got me through truly difficult times – including the beginning of our collective lockdown in March, and the five days I spent quarantined from my family in my bedroom during one COVID scare in our household. A lot of things saved me this year – I can’t place the credit for it squarely on books – but books most certainly were a source of joy, release, and healing for me in this strange, scary year.

  • The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton
  • All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
  • Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
  • The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • Wrapped In Rainbows – Valerie Strauss
  • Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone (illustrated edition) – JK Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling
  • The Princess Bride – William Goldman
  • Summer of the Monkeys – Wilson Rawls
  • Junie B Jones: Toothless Wonder – Barbara Park
  • Be Prepared – Vera Brisgol
  • Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
  • Bad Dirt – Annie Proulx
  • My Sister the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake – Sloane Crosley


Justin’s Favorite Books of 2020

Over the course of 2020 I found myself spending more time in our warehouse than I ever have before, which means I also brought home more books than I ever have before (RIP my bedside table). I can’t not be reading more than one book at a time which is a great problem to have when you’re responsible for coordinating the processing of tens of thousands of donated books every year.

Many of these books are ones the authors intended for younger readers, but that’s never stopped me. I’ve found there’s something comforting about stories written with less complicated conflict or complex emotions. Sometimes I just want to read about an anthropomorphic drum-playing frog traipsing through the forest with her woodland animal friends. Plus, we were all kids once, and with a little effort and the help of books, you can escape back to that  simpler time too.

They weren’t necessarily written in 2020, in fact few of them are, but that’s not the point. The point was to find a bit of light during an otherwise dark time. Books to me can be just like a big bowl of mashed potatoes in the way they provide a dose of nostalgia and comfort straight to our noggins.

  • The Nevermoor Series by Jessica Townsend
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  • Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
  • The Near Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
  • Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe
  • Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea and Zachariah Ohora
  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez



Rainey’s Favorite Books of 2020

While my reads this year were as varied as usual, the nonfiction reads I poured myself into adjusted my worldview, expanded my empathy, and generally motivated me to do more for my community.

  1. 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
  2. Mooncakes by by Suzanne Walker (Author), Wendy Xu (Artist)
  3. The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish by Lil Miss Hot Mess (Author), Olga de Dios Ruiz (Illustrator)
  4. A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South by Cinelle Barnes (Editor, Contributor)
  5. Dune by Frank Herbert
  6. Go with the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
  7. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
  8. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  9. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
  10. The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  11. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold (Author), Suzanne Kaufman (Illustrator)
  12. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  13. Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon (Author), Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrations)
  14. Emma by Jane Austen
  15. Untamed by Glennon Doyle