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 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
Co-Owner of The Ripped Bodice a romantic bookstore in Los Angeles, CA
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!)
Host of Girl Boner Radio and author of Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment
I was gobsmacked by Samantha Allen’s Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States. Allen’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.
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!)
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.
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!
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.
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.
Lupita is the reader behind @lupita.reads on Instagram
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
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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
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