Staff Favorites from 2020

Will Harlan | December 28, 2020



Staff Favorites from 2020

We are celebrating the great books, comics, movies, shows, and games that came out in 2020. This was a difficult year, to say the least, and we are thankful for the art that provided escape and enrichment. Check out our compilation of 2020 titles that librarians loved. We have recommendations for adults, teens, tweens, and kids in all different genres, from bestsellers to hidden gems.

All of the books and films listed here are available through the Library. Looking for more resources? We have you covered. Check out our entire resource list OR, for more personalized suggestions, fill out our recommendation form.

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Here are of our favorites we read in 2020. Click on a box below to expand the list of items


Lean Against This Late Hour

Garous Abdolmalekian

A vivid, affecting portrait of life in the shadow of violence and loss, for readers of both English and Persian The first selection of poems by renowned Iranian poet Garous Abdolmalekian to appear in English, this collection is a mesmerizing, disorienting descent into the trauma of loss and its aftermath. In spare lines, Abdolmalekian conjures surreal, cinematic images that pan wide as deftly as they narrow into intimate focus. Time is a thread come unspooled: pain arrives before the wound, and the dead wait for sunrise. Abdolmalekian resists definitive separations between cause and effect, life and death, or heaven and hell, and challenges our sense of what is fixed and what is unsettled and permeable. Though the speakers in these poems are witnesses to the deforming effects of grief and memory, they remain alive to curiosity, to the pleasure of companionship, and to other ways of being and seeing. Lean Against This Late Hour illuminates the images we conjure in the face of abandonment and ruin, and finds them by turns frightening, bewildering, ethereal, and defiant. "This time," a disembodied voice commands, "send us a prophet who only listens."

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Trouble the Saints

Alaya Dawn Johnson

“Juju assassins, alternate history, a gritty New York crime story...in a word: awesome.” —N.K. Jemisin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fifth Season The dangerous magic of The Night Circus meets the powerful historical exploration of The Underground Railroad in Alaya Dawn Johnson's timely and unsettling novel, set against the darkly glamorous backdrop of New York City, where an assassin falls in love and tries to change her fate at the dawn of World War II. Amid the whir of city life, a young woman from Harlem is drawn into the glittering underworld of Manhattan, where she’s hired to use her knives to strike fear among its most dangerous denizens. Ten years later, Phyllis LeBlanc has given up everything—not just her own past, and Dev, the man she loved, but even her own dreams. Still, the ghosts from her past are always by her side—and history has appeared on her doorstep to threaten the people she keeps in her heart. And so Phyllis will have to make a harrowing choice, before it’s too late—is there ever enough blood in the world to wash clean generations of injustice? Trouble the Saints is a dazzling, daring novel—a magical love story, a compelling exposure of racial fault lines—and an altogether brilliant and deeply American saga. At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel

Cho Nam-Joo

A fierce international bestseller that launched Korea’s new feminist movement, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows one woman’s psychic deterioration in the face of rigid misogyny. Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that person. In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul lives Kim Jiyoung. A thirtysomething-year-old “millennial everywoman,” she has recently left her white-collar desk job—in order to care for her newborn daughter full-time—as so many Korean women are expected to do. But she quickly begins to exhibit strange symptoms that alarm her husband, parents, and in-laws: Jiyoung impersonates the voices of other women—alive and even dead, both known and unknown to her. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her discomfited husband sends her to a male psychiatrist. In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung’s entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist—a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission. Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behavior is policed by the male figures around her—from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls, to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women’s restroom and post their photos online. In her father’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child—to put them first. Jiyoung’s painfully common life is juxtaposed against a backdrop of an advancing Korea, as it abandons “family planning” birth control policies and passes new legislation against gender discrimination. But can her doctor flawlessly, completely cure her, or even discover what truly ails her? Rendered in minimalist yet lacerating prose, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 sits at the center of our global #MeToo movement and announces the arrival of writer of international significance.

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The Low, Low Woods (Hill House Comics)

Carmen Maria Machado

From New York Times bestselling author Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body And Other Parties, In The Dream House) comes a story so horrifying you won't dare to forget! When your memories are stolen, what would you give to remember? Follow El and Vee as they search for answers to the questions everyone else forgot.Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, is plagued by a mysterious illness that eats away at the memories of those affected by it. El and Octavia are two best friends who find themselves the newest victims of this disease after waking up in a movie theater with no memory of the past few hours. As El and Vee dive deeper into the mystery behind their lost memories, they realize the stories of their town hold more dark truth than they could've imagined. It's up to El and Vee to keep their town from falling apart...to keep the world safe from Shudder-to-Think's monsters.Collects issues # 1-6.

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Yes No Maybe So

Becky Albertalli, Aisha Saeed

A book about the power of love and resistance from New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed. YES Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone) Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya. NO Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her. MAYBE SO Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.

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Not So Pure and Simple

Lamar Giles

An Indie Next List Pick! In his first contemporary teen novel, critically acclaimed author and two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles spotlights the consequences of societal pressure, confronts toxic masculinity, and explores the complexity of what it means to be a “real man.” Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge. His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed. With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?

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The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

Wai Chim

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad's restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad's new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren't right at home, she's starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen. But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum's condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other. A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family.

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The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Maggie Tokuda-Hall

In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas. The pirate Florian, born Flora, has always done whatever it takes to survive--including sailing under false flag on the Dove as a marauder, thief, and worse. Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, a highborn Imperial daughter, is on board as well--accompanied by her own casket. But Evelyn's one-way voyage to an arranged marriage in the Floating Islands is interrupted when the captain and crew show their true colors and enslave their wealthy passengers. Both Florian and Evelyn have lived their lives by the rules, and whims, of others. But when they fall in love, they decide to take fate into their own hands--no matter the cost. Maggie Tokuda-Hall's sweeping fantasy debut, full of stolen memories, illicit mermaid's blood, double agents, and haunting mythical creatures conjures an extraordinary cast of characters and the unforgettable story of a couple striving to stay together in the face of myriad forces wishing to control their identities and destinies.

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Superman Smashes the Klan

Gene Luen Yang

The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Chinatown to Downtown Metropolis. While Dr. Lee is eager to begin his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to the famous superhero Superman! Tommy adjusts quickly to the fast pace of their new neighborhood, befriending Jimmy Olsen and joining the club baseball team, while his younger sister Roberta feels out of place when she fails to fit in with the neighborhood kids. She's awkward, quiet, and self-conscious of how she looks different from the kids around her, so she sticks to watching people instead of talking to them. While the Lees try to adjust to their new lives, an evil is stirring in Metropolis: the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan targets the Lee family, beginning a string of terrorist attacks. They kidnap Tommy, attack the Daily Planet, and even threaten the local YMCA. But with the help of Roberta's keen skills of observation, Superman is able to fight the Klan's terror, while exposing those in power who support them--and Roberta and Superman learn to embrace their own unique features that set them apart. From multi-award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Gene Luen Yang comes an exciting middle grade tale featuring Superman in a beautiful hardcover format.

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The Weirn Books, Vol. 1

Svetlana Chmakova

In the Night Realm, vampires, shifters, weirns, and other night things passing for human prowl the streets... but they still have to go to school! Ailis and Na'ya are pretty average students (NOT losers), but when a shadow starts looming and a classmate gets all weird, they are the first to notice. It gets personal, though, when Na'ya's little brother D'esh disappears-It's time to confront the secrets of the forbidden mansion in the Silent Woods! Join the acclaimed author of Awkward, Svetlana Chmakova, for an outing into her favorite fantastical world full of magic and adventure!

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City Spies

James Ponti

A New York Times bestseller! A GMA3 Summer Reading Squad Selection! “Ingeniously plotted, and a grin-inducing delight.” —People “Will keep young readers glued to the page…So when do I get the sequel?” —Beth McMullen, author of Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls In this thrilling new series that Stuart Gibbs called “a must-read,” Edgar Award winner James Ponti brings together five kids from all over the world and transforms them into real-life spies—perfect for fans of Spy School and Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls. Sara Martinez is a hacker. She recently broke into the New York City foster care system to expose her foster parents as cheats and lawbreakers. However, instead of being hailed as a hero, Sara finds herself facing years in a juvenile detention facility and banned from using computers for the same stretch of time. Enter Mother, a British spy who not only gets Sara released from jail but also offers her a chance to make a home for herself within a secret MI6 agency. Operating out of a base in Scotland, the City Spies are five kids from various parts of the world. When they’re not attending the local boarding school, they’re honing their unique skills, such as sleight of hand, breaking and entering, observation, and explosives. All of these allow them to go places in the world of espionage where adults can’t. Before she knows what she’s doing, Sara is heading to Paris for an international youth summit, hacking into a rival school’s computer to prevent them from winning a million euros, dangling thirty feet off the side of a building, and trying to stop a villain…all while navigating the complex dynamics of her new team. No one said saving the world was easy…

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BenBee and the Teacher Griefer

K.A. Holt

From the author of Rhyme Schemer, House Arrest, and Knockout! The Kids Under the Stairs: BenBee and the Teacher Griefer is a funny, clever novel-in-verse series about Ben Bellows—who failed the Language Arts section of the Florida State test—and three classmates who get stuck in a summer school class. But these kids aren't dumb—they're divergent thinkers, as Ms. J tells them: they simply approach things in a different way than traditional school demands. • Each chapter is told through the perspective of one of the four students, who each write in a different style (art, verse, stream of consciousness). • Celebrates different types of intelligence • A heartwarming, laugh-out-loud novel-in-verse Soon, the kids win over Ms. J with their passion for Sandbox, a Minecraft-type game. The kids make a deal with Ms. J: every minute they spend reading aloud equals one minute they get to play Sandbox in class. But when the administration finds about this unorthodox method of teaching, Ben B. and his buds have to band together to save their teacher's job—and their own academic future. The first in a series of complementary storylines, this is an honest, heartfelt book about friendship, videogames, and learning to love yourself. • Features a distinct and engaging cast of characters • Encourages even the most reluctant reader to embrace their own "divergent" self • Perfect for parents of kids age 10 and up who love Minecraft, educators and librarians, middle grade readers, new readers of poetry, and fans of videogames • You'll love this book if you love books like Ghost by Jason Reynolds, Patina by Jason Reynolds, and Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

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Frankie and the Creepy Cute Critters

Caitlin Rose Boyle

Frankie Fairy loves to learn about creepy crawly critters in her own backyard! Now that she's at a new school, she's excited to learn even more about them! Instead, she learns that the other fairy kids in class think she's the creepy one. Is Frankie really that scary? And if she is—is that really a bad thing? Maybe her creepy crawly friends can help her figure it out!

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Like the Moon Loves the Sky

Hena Khan

A lyrical and heartwarming celebration of a mother's love for her children by the award-winning author of Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns. In this moving picture book, author Hena Khan shares her wishes for her children: "Inshallah you find wonder in birds as they fly. Inshallah you are loved, like the moon loves the sky." With vibrant illustrations and prose inspired by the Quran, this charming picture book is a heartfelt and universal celebration of a parent's unconditional love. • A reassuring bedtime read-aloud for mothers and their children. • A perfect book for sharing Muslim family traditions and for families teaching diversity and religious acceptance. • Hena Khan's books have been widely acclaimed, winning awards and honors from the ALA, Parent's Choice, and many others. For families who have read and loved Under My Hijab, Yo Soy Muslim, and Mommy's Khimar. A sweet and lovely bedtime book to help let children know they are loved and precious. • Bedtime books for ages 3–5 • Mother's Day gift • Islamic children's books Hena Khan is the author of Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets, Night of the Moon, and many other books for children. She lives in Rockville, Maryland. Saffa Khan is an illustrator and printmaker born in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, and living in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Rick

Alex Gino

From the award-winning author of George, the story of a boy named Rick who needs to explore his own identity apart from his jerk of a best friend. Rick's never questioned much. He's gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff's acted like a bully and a jerk. He's let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn't given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out. But now Rick's gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school's Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that . . . understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones. As they did in their groundbreaking novel George, in Rick, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world . . . and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be.

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Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger 1)

Amy Timberlake

Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen. No one wants a skunk. They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it. When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens? “Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends. New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations. Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.

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Watch

Here are a few of our favorite movies and TV shows we binged in 2020. Click on a box to expand the selection list.


Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Harley Quinn joins forces with a singer, an assassin and a police detective to help a young girl who had a hit placed on her after she stole a rare diamond from a crime lord.

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The Good Place

Eleanor Shellstrop, an ordinary woman who, through an extraordinary string of events, enters the afterlife where she comes to realize that she hasn't been a very good person. With the help of her wise afterlife mentor, she's determined to shed her old way of living and discover the awesome (or at least the pretty good) person within.

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Emma.

In 1800s England, a well-meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends.

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Portrait de la jeune fille en feu

On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.

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