My 10 Favorite Reads of 2020

Here it is, a list of my ten favorite reads of 2020. No, not every book in the list was published in 2020, but yes, every book on this list is superb. They’re presented here in alphabetical order with a few thoughts about each book. For more detailed reviews please check out The Stacks page on Instagram.

I did keep track of everything I read. Mostly because I’m a huge nerd and love a good spreadsheet, but also because I like to stay accountable to my reading goals.

Before I dive into my top 10 books, here is a little breakdown of what I read in 2020. I read a total of 95 books, which blew my goal of 36 out of the water. Though my goal was purposefully low because I didn’t know what to expect with the addition of The Mini Stacks this year.

  • 64 were by authors of color (67%)
  • 62 books were by women or nonbinary authors (65%)
  • 48 books were by women/femme authors of color (50%)
  • 45 books were published in 2020 (47%)
  • 52 books were acquired by me in 2020 (55%)
  • 59 books were nonfiction (62%)
  • 15 books received five stars (16%)
  • 1 books received one star (1%)

I love a good stat, and I could break down my reading even more, but I won’t. Instead here are my top 10 favorite reads of 2020.


Anna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee (2020)

A modern retelling of Anna Karenina set in current day NYC with socialite teenagers. Think “Gossip Girl” with amazing storytelling and wonderful characters.

I loved this book. Jenny Lee really creates something fun and exciting that I didn’t want to put down. I found myself so invested in the characters and their journeys. There’s a central love story that doesn’t feel corny, which is hard to do, especially with teenagers. This one comes highly recommended.


The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley (1965)

The story of one of our most important and influential leaders, Malcolm X. This book changed my life and the ways in which I see and relate to the world around me. I can credit it with helping me begin to understand racism as something systemic in America and not something only “bad” people do. This book is revolutionary.

One of the most impressive parts of this book is how Malcolm is able to stand in his truth and share that with the world and say it fully with his chest, and then learn something new and change his mind. That kind of courage is tough to imagine. His commitment to seeking justice and equality for Black folks was not to be interfered with, even if it was he who was getting in the way.

The Stacks Book Club discussion of The Autobiography of Malcom X can be found here.


Black Futures edited by Kimberley Drew and Jenna Wortham (2020)

Easily my most immersive and unique reading experience of 2020. Black Futures is a collection of essays, art, memes, conversations, recipes, lyrics, and more that attempt to detail and encompass the experience of Blackness today. This book is a time capsule of Blackness and a dream for our future.

I loved this book so much. It is massive and rich and full of wisdom and joy and creativity and activism and defiance and beauty. It is the embodiment of the saying “Blackness is not a monolith”. The topics range from Black Indigeneity to self-care, from Ocean preservation to Colin Kaepernick. And it’s not just about each of these things the book connects the many seemingly disparate dots and exposes the multitudes we, Black folks, contain. Drew & Wortham clearly poured so much love into this collection and into telling our stories. A blessing.


Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry (2019)

A deeply personal examination of life, family, gender, race, memory, and violence Breathe is a lush and layered addition to the epistolary tradition in Black American writing.

Perry has created something that is both complex and direct. A combination that is nearly impossible to do well. She is audacious and generous in allowing the reader into her relationship with her sons. I kept asking myself where does she get off writing with this much skill and emotion? The care and love in these pages are unmistakable. I can barely scratch the surface of what I want to say about this book here.

The Stacks Book Club discussion of Breathe can be found here.


Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon (2018)

This book was on this same list in 2018, but in 2020 I reread the book before Laymon was a guest on The Stacks. This time I listened on audio. This book holds up and is maybe even better the second time around. Heavy is an emotional memoir of Laymon’s life as a young Black man in Jackson, Mississippi.

The book is brutally honest and unyieldingly vulnerable. We are told of struggles and successes, addictions and abuses. Throughout Heavy there is blank space for the reader to connect to Laymon and to connect his life to a bigger picture of being Black in America. Laymon’s dedication to the written word and to the power of revision is striking.

You can hear Kiese Laymon on The Stacks on Episode 118 and Episode 122.


Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey (2020)

When Natasha Trethewey was 19 her stepfather murdered her mother. Memorial Drive is the examination of that event, Trethewey’s childhood, and the ways trauma and memory are in a constant struggle.

This book is incredible. I had visceral reactions through out my reading. Tears. Gasps. Tightening of my chest. This story is painful, powerful, and beautifully told. The kind of bravery Trethewey mustered to put this story on the page is something I cannot comprehend. There are depictions of domestic violence in this book that are haunting. They are difficult to read (despite the fact that Trethewey is careful to protect her reader). These sections are necessary. They are not gratuitous. To tell this story without these details is to protect abusers and the systems that enable them.


Othello by William Shakespeare (1603)

This play is extraordinary. It might be my most favorite Shakespeare play (and at this point I’ve read almost all of them). It is smart and complex and feels timely every time I read it. Mostly because racism, sexism, and violent white boys never seem to go out of fashion. And yes, this was already on my 2018 list of favorite reads.

Iago’s rage and jealousy stuck out during this read more than anything else. He lies so convincingly and so consistently, the parallels to the party in power in America are haunting. The fearlessness with which white men take and destroy is front and center in Othello. Also Act 4 Scene 3 is a scene that I love so much as it shows the way women fight against instinct and intuition to love toxic men. It is beautiful and devastating.


The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (2020)

This short story collection is so good. It’s funny. It’s depressing. It’s complex. It’s rich. It’s Southern. It’s sobering. It’s sexy and violent. It’s specific. It’s surprising. It’s delicious. It’s Black and free and brilliant. Philyaw snapped on each and every story. They’re short and pack a major punch. There is no apology. There is no white gaze and for that I feel entirely grateful. I don’t want to tell you more. Just read this book.


Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream by Mychal Denzel Smith (2020)

A masterful work that calls into question the dissonance of The American Dream and the reality that is The United States. Smith asks for reflection and reimagining in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Abolition, justice, reform, and redistribution are all on the table in this brutal and searing call to action.

Smith is an incredible writer. He distills the contradictions of America and Americanness down to its true, immoral, and predatory essence. I was impressed by the ways Smith kept Stakes Is High in the current moment (the book is not afraid of confronting the here and now) and also rooted in a history that reminds us that none of this is new. The book is in conversation with the great texts on race and liberation in America, and is part of the tradition of abolition, revision, and rigorous curiosity.


Sula by Toni Morrison (1973)

The simple synopsis: the story of best friends, Sula and Nel, the town they grow up in, their families and their bond. The complicated synopsis: everything.

Sula is an incredible feat of storytelling. It’s smart. It’s funny. It’s tragic. Morrison says all she needs to say without any excess. The ways Morrison captures the joy and trauma and complexity of Blackness is what will always stick with me from this book. The humor that is an integral part of Blackness is not overlooked, it is the foundation of this story.

Find The Stacks episode on Sula here.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Ep. 144 Citizen by Claudia Rankine — The Stacks Book Club (Darnell Moore)

It’s The Stacks Book Club day, and we’re joined again by author (No Ashes in the Fire), activist, and podcaster (Being Seen), Darnell Moore to dissect Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. We talk about how the book, published in 2014 holds up, who gets to express rage and joy, and what Rankine forces her readers to reckon with throughout the book.
There are no spoilers on this episode.

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

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Connect with Darnell: Twitter | Instagram | Website | Being Seen Podcast

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To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

The Best Things We Read in 2020

Dear Listeners,

I’ve reached out the guests from the 2020 season of The Stacks to share with us the best book they read this year. I enjoyed talking to each and everyone of our guests, and hearing from them again is a great way to end the year. Each guest shared with me their favorite read in 2020 and one book they hope to read in 2021.

Thank you all for listening to the show, and thank you again to this group of amazing humans for sharing their reading life with all of us.


Jordan Moblo
Jordan is the reader behind @jordys.book.club on Instagram

My favorite thing I read this year is Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. I thought the writing was fantastic and the exploration of race, class and gender through the lens of a mysterious pandemic felt very appropriate for 2020. It’s one of the few books I found myself dropping everything to finish reading. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Jordan was our guest for Episode 95, and then joined us to discuss Trick Mirror:Reflections on Self-Delusion by Sally Thorne, Episode 96.


Leah Koch
Co-Owner of The Ripped Bodice a romantic bookstore in Los Angeles, CA

The Rakess: Society of Sirens, Volume 1 - Kindle edition by Peckham,  Scarlett. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

The best thing I read in 2020 was The Rakess: Society of Sirens, Volume I by Scarlet Peckham. As someone who reads a LOT of romance novels, I’m always thrilled by an author who manages to subvert and celebrate the genre at the same time! 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan (a rabbi and a sex worker fall in love!)

Leah was our guest for Episode 97, and then joined us to discuss The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, Episode 98.


August McLaughlin
Host of Girl Boner Radio and author of Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment

Review: 'Real Queer America' shines light on LGBT folks living in red  states - Los Angeles Times

I was gobsmacked by Samantha Allen’s Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red StatesAllen’s writing is deeply personal and absorbing as she takes readers on a journey, revealing just how (very, very) queer the United States is. If you’re in the LGBTQIA community or care about folks who are, this book is essential reading.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: Since I’ve been focused on non-fiction writing, I’m excited to escape into fiction in 2021—particularly by way of Happy Endings, Thien-Kim Lam’s debut novel, and any/everything by Selena Montgomery, aka Stacey Abrams.

August was our guest for Episode 99, and then joined us to discuss Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, Episode 100.


Gigi Levangie
Author of Been There, Married That

I have stacks and stacks of books by my bed and on my Audible that I’ve read and listened to this year, in a year where I needed the solace and gravity of books and the written and spoken word. It’s a tough choice, but I came back to James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk – an honest and searing account of young true love, social injustice, and survival. Spare and brutal yet sometimes funny, and always, sadly, believable. A masterful work.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: There are so many books I want to read in 2021 – but I’ll tell you this – for every three or four fiction books I read, I’ll read one on finance – I often find myself rereading: The Little Book that Still Beats the Market by Joel Greenblatt. Super slim and easy to digest, with an investment strategy that makes good sense, especially in unsteady times. (Not sexy, but hey, that’s me!)

August was our guest for Episode 103, and then joined us to discuss So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, Episode 104.


Priya Parker
Author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters and host of the Together Apart podcast

The best thing I read in 2020 was Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. It’s the haunting true story about a society falling apart and the desperately complicated, problematic attempts of repair.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: Though it came out in December 2020, I just cracked it open and will absolutely still be pouring over Black Futures edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham in 2021.

Priya was our guest for Episode 108 to discuss her book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters


R. Eric Thomas
Author of Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays

It’s almost incomprehensible to me how stunning Danielle Evans’s The Office of Historical Corrections is. It is one of the last books I’ll read this year and it came in like a blizzard. Evans is a master of the short story form, which I believe means, in part, possessing the ability to imbue every phrase, every sentence, every word with enough power to run the whole endeavor. And she does it, time and again. Her ability to vividly and quickly capture the physical world and the endless depths of the emotional world is stunning. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: John Paul Brammer’s memoir Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons. J.P. is so wise and so funny and everything he writes in his advice column would make me green with envy if I wasn’t cackling so hard.

Eric was our guest for Episode 112 to discuss his book, Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays.


Keltie Knight
Co-host of LadyGang podcast and author of Act Like a Lady: Questionable Advice, Ridiculous Opinions, and Humiliating Tales from Three Undignified Women

The best thing I read in 2020 was A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum, it is an inside look at the conservative Arab women living in America, that I didn’t know much about, and the book plays around with the question “What Is A Woman Worth?” I loved it so much that I sent my paperback copy all the way to Canada for my mom to read, and she would call me and we would gush over how rich the storytelling was. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: I have no idea, I usually just wait to see what Traci tells me to read on The Stacks and then read that!

Keltie was our guest on a special two part episode discussing White Fragility by Robin Diangelo with the entire LadyGang, you can hear part one here.


Liara Tamani
Author of All the Things We Never Knew

The best novel I read in 2020 was Luster by Raven Leilani. I loved the sense of freedom Raven Leilani affords her main character, Edie, a depressive painter having an affair with a married man. She narrates her story with raw, illuminating honesty. I was hooked from the very first line. The book is truly a thing of beauty.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi.

Liara was our guest for Episode 124 to discuss her book, All the Things We Never Knew


Brit Bennett
Author of The Vanishing Half

I loved Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, a smart, propulsive, and funny novel about a black babysitter navigating the complicated and cringeworthy good intentions of her white boss. Reid writes about the complexity of navigating the relationship between race and labor with precision and wit; this book made me uncomfortable in the best way, and I couldn’t put it down. 

Brit was our guest for Episode 123, and then joined us to discuss Sula by Toni Morrison, Episode 126.


Lupita Aquino
Lupita is the reader behind @lupita.reads on Instagram

A World Between: A Novel: Hashimoto, Emily: 9781936932955: Amazon.com: Books

The best book I read in 2020 is a tie between The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio and A World Between by Emily Hashimoto. In The Undocumented Americans, I was able to take a moment and reflect on my own life experience. It gave me the language to do so and though much of that felt chaotic and scary, it led to a much-needed acknowledgment of areas in me that need attention and healing. A World Between is the queer love story I needed to help me get out of a spiraling mentality that all is doom. Hashimoto’s characters feel so alive in this novel that it’ll make it impossible to set the book down. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Lupita was our guest for Episode 127, and then joined us to discuss The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Episode 131.


Angela Chen
Author of Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex

The best book I read in 2020 was Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov. I know, I know, it’s an old Russian novel, but it was my first time returning to Russian classics since studying them in college and that made me all kinds of nostalgic. I chose it almost as a joke—we can’t leave the house, the character of Oblomov doesn’t even want to leave the house!—but it turned out to be an emotionally powerful book about motivation and nostalgia and love.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: I am very excited for two upcoming books that I think (hope?) are 2021 releases: One is Elif Batuman’s Either/Or, a sequel to The Idiot. The other is Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv.

Angela was our guest for Episode 130 to discuss her book, Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex.


The Kid Mero
Co-host of Desus & Mero, Bodega Boys podcast, and co-author of God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx

BASKETBALL (AND OTHER THINGS): A COLLECTION OF QUESTIONS ASKED, ANSWERED, ILLUSTRATED BY SHEA SERRANO IS A BOOK THAT IS FIRE BECAUSE IT DOES WHAT ALL MY FAVORITE BOOKS DO, TALK TO ME IN THE AUTHOR’S VOICE. I CAN 10000% HEAR SHEA IN EVERY SENTENCE. I’M A FAN OF BASKETBALL AND A FAN OF HYPOTHETICALS, AND THERE ARE A TON OF THEM HERE. IF YOU GET DRUNK ENOUGH YOU CAN HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH BAOT AND THAT ALONE MAKES IT BRILLIANT. ALSO SHEA IS FUNNY AS FUCK AND THIS BOOK IS A DELICIOUS SANDWICH OF BASKETBALL, JOKES, AND POP CULTURE REFERENCES THAT I HAVE READ AT LEAST 10X OVER.

Mero was our guest for Episode 133 to discuss his book, God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx.


Marcus J. Moore
Author of The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America

The best thing I read in 2020 was The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Through thorough research and fluid storytelling, Mr. Whitehead unpacks the sordid history of the Dozier School, where young boys were sent for reform but were abused and sometimes killed beyond public view. His fictionalized account puts the reader in the midst of despair, shedding light on the tragic circumstance. Ultimately, The Nickel Boys is an emotional story about the power of redemption, and how racism was, and still is, commodified in America. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: The Marathon Don’t Stop: The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle by Rob Kenner

Marcus was our guest for Episode 138 to discuss his book, The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America, we then discussed the book with Cole Cuchna on Episode 139 .


Arianna Davis
Author of What Would Frida Do?: A Guide to Living Boldly

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. I can’t remember the last time a story absorbed me to the point where I didn’t want to talk to anyone or do anything until I finished. A story of womanhood and race and identity with the kind of satisfying ending that is hard to find in a novel. 

Arianna was our guest for Episode 142 to discuss her book, What Would Frida Do?: A Guide to Living Boldly.


Oscar Almonte-Espinal
Oscar is the reader behind @booksteahenny on Instagram

The best thing I read in this hectic year of 2020 was The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. From the instant that I read that introduction I was shooketh because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. As an immigrant, I saw myself in these pages like I never had before. It was everything I needed, it is safe to say that this book saved me. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes.

Oscar was our guest for Episode 143 to help name The Best Books of 2020.


Christine Bollow
Programs and marketing manager at Loyalty Bookstore is the reader behind @readingismagical on Instagram.

My favorite book I read in 2020 is Free Food For Millionaires, the 2007 debut novel by Min Jin Lee. The book follows Casey Han, a Korean American woman in her late 20s living in NYC, and her Korean American family and friends. This is a wholly immersive novel reminiscent of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, but with the Korean American immigrant community and their daily struggles at its center. Flawed characters, superb writing, and rich storytelling, Free Food For Millionaires is an excellent backlist book to add to your TBR (to-be read list), especially if you loved Pachinko.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Christine was our guest for Episode 143 to help name The Best Books of 2020.


Traci Thomas
Host of The Stacks

The best thing I read in in 2020 was Stakes is High: Life After the American Dream by Mychal Denzel Smith. My biggest regret is that I didn’t read this book until after recording The Stacks Best Books of 2020 episode, because this book deserves all the praise and attention. Smith critiques and confronts what it means to be American. He asks his reader to grapple with the realities and myths that make up Americaness, and ultimately asks us all, who are we choosing to be?Stakes is High is certainly of this moment, and yet the history and context Smith shares with his audience allows the book to transcend any one moment in time.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2021: Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Ep. 143 The Best of 2020 with Christine Bollow and Oscar Almonte-Espinal

Today we’re joined by two of The Stacks’ most favorite readers, Christine Bollow (@readingismagical) and Oscar Almonte-Espinal (@booksteahenny) to share the best books of 2020. We also discuss how 2020 impacted our reading and look ahead to the books we’re most excited about in 2021.

The Stacks Book Club selection for December is Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, we will discuss the book with Darnell Moore on December 30th.

LISTEN NOW

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

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Connect with Christine: Instagram | Twitter

Connect with Oscar: Instagram | Twitter

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To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Ep. 142 Sparking Creativity with Arianna Davis

Arianna Davis is the debut author of What Would Frida Do?: A Guide to Living Boldly, and the digital director at Oprahmag.com. Today we discuss how Arianna got her creative juices flowing, what she hopes readers will take away from her book, and of course, Oprah!

The Stacks Book Club selection for December is Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, we will discuss the book with Darnell Moore on December 30th.

LISTEN NOW

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Connect with Arianna: Instagram | Twitter| Website

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram| Twitter | Facebook | Shop | Patreon | Goodreads

Support The Stacks

Page 1 Books – Get 10% off any subscription box with the code THESTACKS at checkout. 

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To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

The 2020 Stacks Book Club Battle of the Books

Its back! The 3rd Annual The Stacks Book Club Battle of the Books!

We did it in 2018 and 2019 and honestly, its the best tradition and I hope you’re all as thrilled for round three as I am.

To refresh your memory, The Battle of The Books is a March Madness style bracket where you vote to pick the book club book of the year. You also get a chance to win one of TSBC books by predicting the most accurate bracket over on https://challonge.com/thestacks2020 or click here. You create your account put your predictions in for who you think will win. Then on The Stacks Instagram Stories, you’ll vote (starting 12/22) for your favorite books in head to head battles, until we crown one winner, The Stacks Book Club Book of the Year. The results of each round will be updated over on Challonge (our bracket site) and on our Instagram @thestackspod.

You have until Tuesday, December 22nd at 8:00am PST to put in your predictions. The winner will be whoever has the most accurate bracket, and they will win one of our TSBC books from 2020 (winner’s choice). We will announce the winner of the tournament and the winner of the giveaway on Thursday, December 31st once all the results are in.

Here is the important stuff.

  1. Make sure you’re following The Stacks on Instagram @thestackspod.
  2. Register for the bracket if you want to be part of the giveaway CLICK HERE
  3. Vote in each round on our Insta Stories,  starting Tuesday December 22nd . All voting on Instagram!
  4. Spread the word!

If you want all the nerdy details of how the seeding was figure out, you’ve come to the right place. Mostly I created a bunch of my own calculations to rank the books based on many factors. The rankings are full of biases and assumptions, and honestly, thats what makes this fun. You all ultimately get to vote, which means you get to decide. Here is how I ranked these books, and below find a more detailed description of what that means. 

  • Podcast Downloads– Raw number of downloads that episode received according to my data (I know older episodes will be at a disadvantage as the podcast grew over time, but also newer episodes suffer because they haven’t been up as long, I’m hoping it all evens out). It is worth noting that I excluded Citizen: An American Lyric  from this calculation since that episode is not out yet.
  • iTunes Episode Popularity– iTunes lets me see how popular each episode is. Its slight different than raw downloads, because they take into account listeners at the time of recording, but they also only include people listening through iTunes. Again, Citizen: An American Lyric was excluded from this category, see above.
  • Goodreads Scores– I looked up each book on Goodreads and took that score.
  • Goodreads Reviews– I took the raw number of Goodreads reviews for each book.
  • Test of Time– The older a book is, the more credit it got, because it has withstood the test of time. 
  • Social Media Input– I’ve asked The Stacks Instagram followers to tell me their favorite book we read this year, and those responses are incorporated.
  • Traci’s Personal Ranking– Thats right, I’m influencing this competition a little. Its my podcast, so why not?

There are 16 books in the competition, so in each of those categories the books are rated on a scale of 1-16. Each book received a score from each category, 1 being the best, 16 the worst. I then tallied all the scores and divided by 7 (in the case of Citizen: An American Lyric only 5). The lower the score, the higher the ranking.

I know that sounds like a lot, but just trust me, it makes sense. Here are the rankings based on these calculations, and their total overall raw scores, remember lower is better. Where there was a tie, I broke the tie.

  1. The Autobiography of Malcolm X – 3.28
  2. Sula – 3.85
  3. The Giver – 5.14
  4. Citizen 5.8
  5. The Undocumented Americans – 6.14
  6. Breathe – 6.57
  7. Sister Outsider – 7.57
  8. Trick Mirror – 7.71
  9. The Hating Game – 8.71
  10. Trust Exercise – 9.71
  11. Savage Appetites -9.85
  12. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – 10.14
  13. Three Women 10.28
  14. The Butterfly Effect – 11.14
  15. Cribsheet – 11.28
  16. Number One Chinese Restaurant – 12.28

Voting begins Tuesday December 22nd, shortly after 8:00am PST for the first round, and will follow the schedule below. Remember you vote on The Stacks Instagram stories. You just click your favorite book in each round’s head to head matchup. Once the results are in, I’ll share the winners with you and we get ready for the next round. The schedule is below.

Round 1 – December 22nd – Sweet Sixteen 16

Round 2 – December 26th – Elite 8

Round 3 – December 28th – Final 4

Round 4 – December 30th – Championship

That feels like a lot, trust me, it’ll be fun and worth it.
Here is the important stuff.

  1. Make sure you’re following The Stacks on Instagram @thestackspod.
  2. Register for the bracket if you want to be part of the giveaway CLICK HERE
  3. Vote in each round on our Insta Stories,  starting Tuesday December 22.
  4. Spread the word!

For those of you curious who won in previous years, 2018 was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and 2019 was Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson. Who will ascend the throne in 2020?


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Ep. 141 White Male Mediocrity with Ijeoma Oluo

Our guest today is the New York Times Bestselling author of So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo. She joins us to discuss her new book Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. We talk about who Ijeoma writes for, how she practices accountability, and the types of value judgements that have become the bedrock of white supremacy.

The Stacks Book Club selection for December is Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, we will discuss the book with Darnell Moore on December 30th.

LISTEN NOW

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | PodcastOne | Google | Android

Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Connect with Ijeoma: Twitter | Instagram| Website

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram| Twitter | Facebook |Shop | Patreon | Goodreads

Support The Stacks

Page 1 Books – Get 10% off any subscription box with the code THESTACKS at checkout. 

Pluto TV

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Ep. 140 Radical Black Love with Darnell Moore

We are thrilled to welcome Darnell Moore to The Stacks. Darnell is an activist, the author of No Ashes in the Fire, and now the host of The Being Seen podcast which focuses on the gay and queer Black male experience. We talk today about Black love, reckoning in memoir, and you get to hear him rifle through his book stacks to tell you about his favorite books.

The Stacks Book Club selection for December  is Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, we will discuss the book with Darnell Moore on Wednesday December 30th.

LISTEN NOW

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | PodcastOne | Google | Android

Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Books

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Everything Else

Connect with Darnell: Twitter | Instagram | Website | Being Seen Podcast

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram| Twitter | Facebook | Listen Now| Shop | Patreon | Goodreads

Support The Stacks

Hello Fresh – use code STACKS90 for $90 off your order and free shipping.

Pluto.TV

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

The Stacks Book Club — December 2020

In a book that combines essays, poetry and visual art, Claudia Rankine has crafted an instant classic with 2014’s Citizen: An American Lyric. The book is a powerful examination of racial aggression, from the types of interactions that are easy to overlook to overt acts of violence against Black bodies. Citizen, like anti-Black racism, does not stick to one tactic or form, instead it shape shifts leaving the reader surrounded by the many insidious ways that white supremacy functions and thrives. Art, sport, police violence, and more are part of this brilliant work of social criticism.

We will be discussing Citizen: An American Lyric on the podcast on Wednesday, December 30th. You can find out who our guest will be by listening to the podcast on December 2nd. If you’d like even more discussion around the book consider joining The Stacks Pack on Patreon and participating in The Stacks’ monthly virtual book club.

Order your copy of our December book on Bookshop.org or Amazon.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed. For more information click here.

Nonprofit Organizations That Support Literacy

Today is Giving Tuesday where folks turn their holiday spending toward nonprofit organizations. I’ve compiled this list of some of my favorite organizations that promote and foster literacy in our communities. I have also included organizations submitted by The Stacks followers on Instagram. I encourage you to use this as a jumping off point and do your own research to find nonprofits that are doing work you wish to support and promote. This list is by no means comprehensive, but its a great place to start if you’re in a place to give! This list is presented in alphabetical order.

  • Athens Books to Prisoners – a volunteer run organization that sends free books to prisoners in Ohio upon request.
  • Behind the Book – inspire New York City public school students to love reading by bringing accomplished authors and their books into classrooms.
  • Blue Stoop – a home for literary Philly, Blue Stoop’s mission is to support writers, foster creativity, and build inclusive literary community.
  • Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) – Assisting Bookstore Employees & Comic Retailers Facing Hardship & Supporting Career Development
  • BookGive – We distribute new and gently used books from our service station to individuals, schools, and nonprofits throughout metro Denver.
  • Books to Prisoners – a Seattle-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster a love of reading behind bars, encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-empowerment, and break the cycle of recidivism.
  • Coaching for Literacy – sports teams, athletes, and businesses take part in the #Fight4Literacy promoting childhood reading in their communities.
  • Ferst Readers – children in their literacy program receive a bookstore-quality, age-specific book and resources mailed to their home every month until their fifth birthday.
  • First Book – matches nonprofit organizations with local classrooms and programs serving children in need.
  • Free Minds Book Club – uses the literary arts, workforce development, and violence prevention to connect incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youths and adults to their voices, their purpose, and the wider community.
  • Imagination Library – Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income.
  • Indigenous Literacy Foundation – Australia based organization that aims to make a difference in the lives of Indigenous families by gifting thousands of new culturally appropriate books – with a focus on early literacy and first language.
  • Inside Books Project – inside Books Project is an Austin-based community service volunteer organization that sends free books and educational materials to prisoners in Texas.
  • Kid’s Book Bank Cleveland – foster improved literacy and a love of reading by providing free books to children in need through collaboration with community partners.
  • Lambda Literary – nurtures and advocates for LGBTQ writers, elevating the impact of their words to create community, preserve our legacies, and affirm the value of our stories and our lives.
  • Liberation Library – provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to outside worlds of their choosing.
  • Literacy First – makes sure that children in Central Texas develop the reading skills that allow them to realize their full potential with regard to education, economic opportunity, civic engagement, and personal development
  • Make Way for Books – an early literacy nonprofit that provides proven programs, services, and resources to 30,000 young children, parents, and educators throughout southern Arizona each year
  • More Than Words – is a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business in Boston, MA.
  • National Book Foundation – to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture.to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture.
  • Open Books Chicago – Open Books is a nonprofit that provides literacy experiences for tens of thousands of readers each year through inspiring programs and the creative capitalization of books.
  • Prisoners Lit Project – An all-volunteer grassroots group that sends hundreds of free book packages to needy prisoners in the United States every month.
  • Read to a Child – foster a love of reading, improve literacy skills, and empower underserved children by inspiring adults to read to them regularly.
  • Reading is Fundamental – inspiring a passion for reading among all children, providing quality content to make an impact and engaging communities in the solution to give every child the fundamentals for success
  • Ready Readers – prepares preschool-age children living in low-income communities to become readers by reading aloud to them, providing high quality books, and offering literacy-related experiences.
  • Room to Read – seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in low-income communities by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education.
  • Rx for Reading – expand access to high-quality children’s books and support families in reading with their children in Detroit, MI.
  • Smart Reading – literacy nonprofit that serves kids in Oregon’s with two ingredients critical for literacy and learning success: one-on-one reading time and access to books.
  • The Conscious Kid – an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.
  • The Book Thing of Baltimore – put unwanted books into the hands of those who want them.
  • The Book Truck – give thousands of free books to foster care, homeless, and low-income teens throughout Los Angeles County
  • The Bronx is Reading – promote literacy and foster a love of reading among children, teens, and adults.
  • The Maryland Book Bank – The Maryland Book Bank is a nonprofit organization committed to cultivating literacy in children from under-resourced neighborhoods.
  • Traveling Stories – empowering kids to outsmart poverty by helpinng them fall in love with reading.
  • We Need Diverse Books – non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
  • Women’s Prison Book Project – providing women and transgender persons in prison with free reading materials covering a wide range of topics, all-volunteer, grassroots organization.

Note: The language for each nonprofit was taken directly for the organization’s website.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.