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.

2019 Reading Goals Check In

When this year started I shared a piece about setting and achieving your reading goals. One of the things I believe is really important to hitting goals is writing them down and checking in on them through out the year.

Since we’re a little more than halfway through the year, I thought I would share my own reading goals progress.

  • Read 100 books – I’ve read 56 books as of today
  • 60% of reading by authors of color – I’m 50% White and 50% authors of color
  • 60% of reading by women or gender queer authors – 55% of my books have been by women or gender non-binary authors
  • 25% of reading by non Black authors of color – of the books I’ve read 18% have been by non Black authors of color.
  • Read 30 books from my unread shelf at the start of 2019 – already ready 23 books from my unread shelf.
  • Read 10 or more books by queer authors – I’ve hit this goal, with 10 books by queer authors.
  • Read at least three books in translation – I’ve only read one book in translation so far this year.

As you can see, I clearly have some categories to catch up in, but overall I’m pretty happy with my progress! How about you? How are you doing with your reading goals in 2019? Share in the comments.


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.

The Short Stacks 3: The Best of 2018//Lauren Fanella

Its the last day of 2018, and we’re celebrating with our very own wrap up, New Year’s Eve show. We brought back friend of the pod, Lauren Fanella (who you might remember from episodes 15 and 16, where we talked about Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore). Lauren joins me to talk about each of our top five books from 2018, and the five books we’re most looking forward to in 2019. Get your TBR ready!

Connect with Lauren: Lauren’s Instagram|Lauren’s Twitter

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram|The Stacks Website|Facebook|Twitter|Subscribe|Patreon|Goodreads|Traci’s Instagram

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.

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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. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

My Family’s Gift Exchange Book Tradition

I am so lucky to come from a family of activists and serious readers. A few years ago we decided to start doing a Secret Santa style gift exchange, but instead of giving any kind of gift, we donate $50 to our recipients favorite charity, and give them a book to open on Christmas. Aside from that, there are no other rules. Then when we all get together on Christmas night, we go around and discuss the charities we donated to and the books we selected. Its a dream.

I wanted to share with you the books we exchanged this year. There were a bunch I knew and even more I’d never heard of. All on a variety of topics and from writers of all sorts of backgrounds, from novels about travel to histories of America, from translated Russian works to children’s books on US politicians. The list is awesome and you can find all the books below.

Here is the Christmas Gift Exchange Book Haul

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fourtune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted by Susan Wood and Sarah Green
Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Heartland:A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Paintings to Change the Way You Live by Christophe Andre
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawidoff
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book) Teacher’s Edition: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart and The Writers of the Daily Show
The Funeral Party by Ludmila Ulitskaya
The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic by George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling
The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Whiskey Words and a Shovel by r.h. Sin
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

I am looking forward to borrowing a whole bunch of these books in 2019.

If you’re interested to know which charities we donated to, look no further, here is that list as well.


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. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here