Category: book reviews

books in 2020

Books in 2020 Were A Saving Grace

Posted on January 1, 2021 by

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 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?


  • 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 **


  • 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


  • 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**


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


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


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


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


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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Best Books of 2019

Posted on February 16, 2020 by

I had intended to create a ‘Best Books of 2019’ every quarter or so, mainly to share my joy of reading and create a community of readers here and in my social media channels.

It started off OK-I got this I post done with the first chunk of 2019’s reading.

And then the year just sort of exploded – in some ways great, with lots of new professional opportunities (hello AVID Staff Developers!) and others personally challenging (saying goodbye to my dad).

But books were my constant companions, even if I wasn’t sharing. In fact, I met and exceeded my Goodreads challenge despite all the turmoil and turnover in my little part of the world.

So today I’m sharing the books that made a difference to me, the books that were by my side, and the books that you may enjoy, too, as 2020 challenges us to move forward. I’d love to hear your feedback on what you’ve read, what you’re reading now, and also follow you on Goodreads. You can find me on Goodreads here.

A Year of Daily Gratitude: A Guided Journal for Creating Thankfulness Every Day by Lorraine Miller

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays by Mary Oliver

The EduProtocol Field Guide: Book 2: 12 New Lesson Frames for Even More Engagement by Marlena Hebert and John Corippo

The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher

Educated by Tara Westover

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

The Miracle Morning for Writers by Hal Elrod

DON’T Ditch That Tech:Differentiated Instruction in a Digital World by Matt Miller

Donna Has Left The Building by Susan Jane Gilman

The Designer by Marius Gabriel

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Miriam

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

I read 62 books in 2019, and have set my goal for 70 this year. I’m six in…one book behind schedule.

Reflecting on my book choices in 2019 I noticed I pushed myself out of familiar genres. I hope that these titles spark some interest for you, and you find (and share) your favorites. I always love talking books – find me here, or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – @mamawolfeto2!

Happy reading, everyone! And remember, ‘You can’t buy happiness but you can buy (or borrow) books, and that’s kind of the same thing.”

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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Good Reads From My Best Read Books – March/April/May 2019

Posted on June 9, 2019 by

I’ve had some good reads in March, April and May – books that have made me think, act, disappear and relax. I’ve had a few that kept me up too late at night, and some that I couldn’t wait to dive into when I got home from teaching in the afternoons.

I’m up from 13 books in my January/February post, to 28 by the beginning of June. You can check out that good reads list here. And I’ve got a HUGE pile to be read over my summer – here are a few of the good reads I loved in the last three months!

Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing
A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.” – Goodreads
Wow – this book just captured my heart. The story follows Kya, a young woman left alone to grow up on the North Carolina coast. She is wild and curious and loving and searching for herself and how she fits in…you definitely want to read this one NOW!

The Lost Girls of Paris

by Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris
“1946, Manhattan. Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman.” – Goodreads
I’m a fan of Pam Jenoff and loved her story about how women played key roles in WW2 – combining historical stories about the 12 women who were Special Ops with a thrilling mystery, I know you’ll love this one!

The Kommandant’s Girl

by Pam Jenoff

The Kommandant's Girl (The Kommandant's Girl, #1)
“Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma’s husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city’s decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out.” – Goodreads
Another Pam Jenoff…this time the story of a woman who hides her identity to support her husband in the Resistance movement…blending romance and historical fiction for a decent read.

The Magdalen Girls

by V. S. Alexander

The Magdalen Girls
” Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are fallen women unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals.” -Goodreads
What I liked most about this story was learning about the Magdalen laundries – a part of history that didn’t surprise me, but certainly horrified me. I found it informative, yet a bit simplistic.

Watching You

by Lisa Jewell

Watching You
“Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.” -Goodreads
Shifting away from historical fiction, I rated this title four stars – mainly for its plot twists and suspense. I’m a fan of Lisa Jewell, and this is one you want to read!

The Hate You Give

by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. ” -Goodreads
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read YA fiction since you were a YA – this is a title everyone should read, immediately. Kids love it for a reason – it’s true. It’s current. It’s beautifully told from the point of view of a teen who is living the news most of us only read about. Read it.

The Leavers

by Lisa Ko

The Leavers
“One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate.” – Goodreads
I don’t give too many 5-star reviews, but this one deserved it. It’s a story of mothers and sons, growing up, unending love and the complexities of culture and immigration. It’s a must-read.

Winter Sisters

by Robin Olivera

Winter Sisters (Mary Sutter, #2)
“New York, 1879: An epic blizzard descends on Albany, devastating the city. When the snow finally settles, two newly orphaned girls are missing. Determined not to give up hope, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, searches for the two sisters. When what happened to them is finally revealed, Dr. Sutter must fight the most powerful of Albany’s citizens, risking personal and public danger as she seeks to protect the fragile, putting at risk loves and lives in her quest to right unimaginable wrongs.” – Goodreads
I was excited to find a copy of Oliveira’s new book at the library – I enjoyed her first novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter, and was pleased with her second attempt to share Mary’s story. A blend of historical fiction, thriller, and family saga, Winter Sisters is definitely worth picking up. 

A Place for Us

by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us
“A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years.” – Goodreads
I found this title through Sarah Jessica Parker’s new publishing company, and at first, I wasn’t sure how much I enjoyed the narrative perspectives – but the plot line just kept pulling me in. Family history, culture, parental expectations….this book offers a contemporary glimpse of what so many young adults are facing today. Check out this quick interview with the author – I swear she could be one of my students!

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists
“If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die.” – Goodreads
I waited a long time to get a copy of this one…and it was worth it! I’m not sure I would want to know myself but do love the idea that despite how and when we might see our last days, living life in the present is a daily exercise for me. This title made me really think about being right here, right now.

The Paris Seamstress

by Natasha Lester

The Paris Seamstress
1940. Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier.
2015. Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother’s work – one of the world’s leading designers of ready-to-wear. ” – Goodreads
My great-grandmother was a dress designer and owned her own company – making me a target for any good reads with a similar plotline and strong independent women. I loved the parallel narrative of Estella and Fabienne and felt myself back and forth between worlds the entire time I was reading this novel.

Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere
” Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.” – Goodreads
This is another title that seemed as if everyone had read it before I finally checked it out of the library…maybe the buildup was too much, but I only gave this one three stars. It was just ok for me. I finished it, I enjoyed thinking about the themes of motherhood, conformity and family, but just thought it was a bit overdone.

The Orphan’s Tale

by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan's Tale
” A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival. Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. ” – Goodreads
My third Pam Jenoff title of this batch and it comes in third place. Maybe it was the circus theme. Maybe it was just a bit too predictable – or implausible. I didn’t fall in love with the characters, but did finish it and wonder if this truly could have happened. It was only three-stars for me.

In Farleigh Field

by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field
” World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. ” – Goodreads
Maybe I should have given this one four-stars…I enjoyed the Gatsby-esque story about WW2 saga from the ‘fancy people perspective” – but couldn’t fall in love with any of the characters. It was a quick read with a good suspenseful plot line…

Matchmaking for Beginners

by Maddie Dawson

Matchmaking for Beginners
” Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would. ” – Goodreads
I’m a fan of Maddie Dawson, and LOVED this story! Such relatable, lovable characters and an enchanting plot line…reminds us that the Universe has plans for us that we might not ever imagine for ourselves. Match Making for Beginners is all about paying attention, taking chances, and listening to our intuition. A definite five-star must read!

The Woman in the Window

by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window
” Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.” -Goodreads
I wasn’t sure about this one at first…but then I couldn’t put it down. Mystery, thriller, suspense…I can see why it made it on my list after winning a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Mystery & Thriller and for Debut Author (2018). I wasn’t disappointed; in fact, I was pretty darn surprised with the ending! Four-stars – I couldn’t put it down.

So that’s it – I hope I’ve given you some good reads for the next few months! Let me know what you’re reading now, what you think I should read next, and if you liked any of these titles!

More good reads:

You can read my best books list here from 2017. If you’d like to read the best books I read in 2016 click here. For more best books recommendations click over to 2013 and 2014 favorites posts. I’ve also written a Books I Love post and would love to connect with you on Goodreads to share more about reading. Think of it as our virtual book club!

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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