Books in 2020 Were A Saving Grace

Books in 2020 were my saving grace.

I’m not going to write an end of the year post about how awful 2020 was. I’m not going to tell you, either about how I had to dig deep (I did) to come out the other side of the year intact. In fact, I’m not going to talk about 2020 at all right now – except for all the AMAZING books I read!

I learned to love my Kindle and free ebooks from the local public library. I also learned I really, really like people who like books (you know who you are!).

And according to my website statistics, lots of people who read jenniferwolfe.net liked books in 2020, and also like lists of books and book recommendations!

In 2020 I surpassed my Goodreads goal of 70, and wound up reading 76 – unless I finish The Silent Patient tonight, then it’ll be 77 (I’m also reading and loving A Promised Land, but there’s no way I can finish it tonight – it’s awesome, but I NEVER stay up till midnight)! This year I read lots of historical fiction and memoir, as well as some powerful non-fiction, young adult fiction, anti-racist books and works by inspirational new writers.

One more thing about 2020- I really committed to abandoning books that didn’t catch my attention in the first 1/3. I’ve had that creepy realization that there actually ARE a finite number of books I can read in my lifetime, and I’m not going to waste one more minute on a book I don’t love – or at least, like very strongly.

So, the books below are ones I actually liked/loved enough to finish! And the 17 BOLD titles with ** are my 5-star MUST READS! I hope you make it to the bottom of the post – there were some FABULOUS titles pre-COVID!

Also – if you DO make it to the end of this post, I’ve listed some of my FAVORITE picture books that I use as read alouds to my 7th graders! And if this list of books in 2020 isn’t enough, be sure to check my 2019 and 2018 lists, too!

so 2020, right?

DECEMBER 2020:

  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • The Night Tiger b Yangsze Choo
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins**
  • The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
  • This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger **

NOVEMBER 2020:

  • Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2) by Deborah Harkness
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
  • A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness

OCTOBER 2020:

  • The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
  • Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
  • Something Worth Doing by Jane Kirkpatrick
  • The Hard Way Home (The Star and the Shamrock Book 3) by Jean Grainger
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt**

SEPTEMBER 2020:

I ordered this book from a used book seller – imagine my surprise when it arrived, gently illustrated by a kindred spirit!
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett**
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • Blue Horses by Mary Oliver**
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  • The Emerald Horizon (The Star and the Shamrock#2)
  • Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • The Star and the Shamrock by Jean Grainger

AUGUST 2020:

This title is EXCELLENT for teachers during virtual teaching and learning times!
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
  • A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
  • Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro
  • The Gown by Jennifer Robson
  • Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
  • The Distance Learning Playbook by Douglas Fisher**
  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates**
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo**
  • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

JULY 2020:

  • Blended Learning in Action by Catlin Tucker**
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds**
  • Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne**
  • What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey**
  • Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thomson-Spires
  • On Agate Hill by Lee Smith
  • Across the Winding River by Aimie K. Runyan
  • The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

JUNE 2020:

  • Golden Poppies by Laila Ibrahim
  • Mustard Seed by Laila Ibrahim
  • Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
  • Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang

MAY 2020:

  • What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
  • Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon
  • The Paris Hours by Alex George
  • A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean
  • The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein
  • The Other Wife by Claire McGowan
  • The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker

APRIL 2020:

  • Inside Out by Demi Moore
  • One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker
  • Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction by Elizabeth Vargas
  • The Parisians by Marius Gabriel
  • When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal
  • Miss Mary’s Daughter by Diney Costeloe

MARCH 2020:

  • Verity by Colleen Hoover
  • Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown**
  • A Pledge of Silence by Flora J. Solomon
  • The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fion Valpy
  • The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey
  • This Terrible Beauty by Katrin Schumann
  • The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
  • The Widow’s War by Sally Gunning
  • The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

MARCH, pre-COVID

  • Sea of Memories by Fiona Valpy
I had just purchased these for my classroom library the week we shut down in March ūüôĀ

FEBRUARY 2020 pre-COVID

  • The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme
  • The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman**
  • A View Across the Rooftops by Suzanne Kelman**

JANUARY 2020 pre-COVID

This book…so strangely beautiful. Thank you, Lisa Highfill!
  • With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo**
  • How To Catch A Mole: And Find Yourself In Nature by Marc Hamer**
  • The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks

PICTURE BOOKS: MY FAVORITES

I read aloud to my 7th graders every single day during 2020 – I didn’t count these in my yearly total, but they are worth mentioning:

  • La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elyr
  • Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard
  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
  • Come With Me by Holly McGhee
  • Hey, Little Ant by Phillip Hoose
  • Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry
  • We Are All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
  • Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
  • You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith
  • Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne
  • Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
  • When Aidan Became A Brother by Kyle Lukoff
  • Tomorrow Most Likely by Dave Eggers
  • Small World by Ishta Mercurio
  • Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed
  • Max Attacks by Kathi Appelt
  • I’m Worried by Michael Ian Black
  • Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
  • Introducing Teddy by Jess Walton
  • Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
  • Gargantua by Kevin Sylvester
  • Mali Under the Night Sky by Youme Landowne
  • The Whispering Cloth by Pegi Deitz Shea
  • My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo
  • Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
Add these titles to your bookshelves!

You made it! Now, please tell me what were YOUR favorite books in 2020? Any of these?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Jennifer, this is such an awesome list! Can’t say that I’ve read nearly what you have, but am quietly plugging away. I have put together an impressive list of picture books, many with social justice themes during the pandemic (and own 98% of them that I am happy to share with you). Let me know if you’d like me to share the list with you. Mad respect for all you do for students and teachers. Kate:)

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