APL Staff's Favorite Reads of 2020 
Read It!

APL Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2020

“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”  

While we spent more time at home than anywhere else in 2020, books were able to transport us to anywhere in the world (or beyond)! Some were educational. Some were for entertainment. Some were an escape – to a far away world, or a different world just around the corner; into the future or the past; the start of a grand adventure or embracing the mundane everyday – every book took us somewhere. As we start to reflect on the year that has come and gone, our staff share some of their favorite reads.  



Elizabeth’s Pick: “Raybearer” by Jordan Ifueko 
Let’s talk about magic. Picture the first book you remember that made you feel like you’d stepped into another world. The colors felt more vibrant, right? You could imagine the world’s history, picture the wide halls and secret places, wonder about the magic, cheer for the brave young teen who wanted nothing more than to protect their friends and help good triumph over evil. 
That’s “Raybearer”, and I want this to become the next wildly popular fantasy series. Here’s a short, spoiler-free summary: Tarisai must compete to become one of Prince Dayo’s trusted, telepathically-bonded-for-life council. However, if she’s chosen, she’ll be magically compelled to kill the prince, her first true friend.  
Not persuaded yet? Here's what waits for you in this book. Do you like kind and clever heroines who fight for justice despite being cursed? Here you go. How about a detailed fantasy world full of fairies, alagbato (djinn/genies), and magical powers? There’s a country in this book where children are born to walk through the land of the dead, and a country filled with shapeshifters. There’s a corrupt dark secret in the empire, a secret backstory for the heroine, and everything else you long for in a fantasy world. Plus: it's the first in a series, so if you like it, you have plenty to look forward to! It’s on Hoopla right now. Stop reading this review and go get it! 

Erin’s Pick: “The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman 
In a tranquil retirement village called Cooper’s Chase, four unexpected friends meet weekly to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. When a local businessman is found dead, the Thursday Murder Club makes it their mission to solve the crime!  
This book was an absolute delight! It was funny and smart with endearing and compelling characters, even the minor ones. The plot was twisting and turning and Osman writes with such a tenderness and affection for, not only elderly people, but humanity in general, you just come away feeling good inside. I really loved this one. Very excited for the next one to roll out. I'd love to retire to Cooper's Chase!  

Megan’s Pick: “The Mother Code” by Carole Stivers 
When a virus runs amok (sound familiar, anyone??), and threatens the whole of humanity, a group of scientists scramble to genetically engineer embryos who are immune to the disease. However, with the speed the virus is overtaking the world, there are serious concerns about anyone remaining alive to raise these children. Enter a new type of AI – the Mother Code – specifically created to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing needs of a human, from infancy to adulthood, while keeping the child safe throughout it’s life. 
I love all science-fiction, but what I really find impactful is when an author creates a world that allows us to examine our current existence and norms, and nudge things down a path of future possibility in a realistic manner. The scenarios created are all logical steps forward, and the characters are regular humans; flawed, but trying their best to do what’s right for the future - no superheroes in this tale.  
This narrative jumps between timelines, from the onset of the virus to the future, where the immune children are being raised by Robot Mothers. The transitions between past and present are smooth, and following the storyline between timelines is deeply satisfying - all of the hints and clues click together to form connections between past and present. Overall, Stivers presents us with a refreshingly hopeful outlook on humanity’s relationship with technology, and our future as a species.  This is Carol Stivers’ second book, and I’m looking forward to her future stories.  

Nicole’s Pick: “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens 
This book was one of my favorite reads of 2020. I had heard so much hype about this book for the last couple years that when my book club suggested we read it, I was looking forward to it yet skeptical at the same time. This book has long wait lists at the library, has been given multiple awards and has even managed to stay on the New York Time’s Bestseller list for 32 non-consecutive weeks! However, I must say this book was totally worth the hype!   
The story follows the journey of Kya Clark, also known as the Marsh Girl around town, and her experiences of growing up alone, love and loss, and finding herself along the marshes of Barkley Cove where she is the lone suspect of a murder case. The story takes us back and forth between the present day in 1969 where the murder takes place and 17 years before that where we see Kya grow up from a small awkward girl into a beautiful wild woman. There are twists and turns you don’t see coming, and a sweet budding romance that is perfect for a coming of age story. I couldn’t put this book down, it kept my attention until the very end! 
Those who enjoy romance, suspense and a strong female lead will definitely enjoy this book. 

Sara’s Pick: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins 
One of my favorite reads from 2020 was “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, Suzanne Collins’ prequel to “The Hunger Games”, following the life of Coriolanus Snow. It has been a long while since I had visited Panem, and I was honestly skeptical when I heard this prequel was being released. I loved “The Hunger Games” trilogy with our heroine Katniss so much – would I really care about Snow as a young adult? Yes. Very much, yes.  
"The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds" was just as enthralling as the original trilogy; I could not put it down. I've read many books before the Hunger Games and after, but there is something about this series that makes it hard to not consume all in one sitting. From a dystopian future to a unique cast of characters, from the (sometimes terrifying) biological inventions that come from the Capitol and the underlying commentary of human nature – it all make this series so good! Collins did an astounding job expanding on the world of Panem and setting the scene for what would become the world we know in the trilogy. Knowing how corrupt Snow becomes, it was interesting to read his backstory and get a glimpse of how a young Coryo, our protagonist in this novel, becomes the villain President Snow. 
Overall, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is an engaging read and a truly great addition to “The Hunger Games” series. From beginning to end, there were twists and surprises that kept me guessing and immersed in the world of Panem as Snow worked his way through challenges to discover his ultimate fate and future.

Stacy’s Pick: “The Bear” by Andrew Krivak 
This book was by far my favorite read of 2020! This novel follows the story of a young girl and her father as she grows up in an almost-apocalyptic maybe-not-so-distant future. It focuses mainly on how she learns the stories of her passed mother, learns what civilization used to be like, and how to live, adapt, and survive alone in the mountains. 
One of the biggest reasons I loved this book - as someone who has gone through the loss of a parent, I resonated strongly with the main protagonist as she overcomes losing hers. The feelings and thought processes the girl goes through as she learns to accept her loss felt very reminiscent to how I felt. Although the situations were very different, the feelings are universal after a close loss such as that. While it was a difficult situation to digest, I love books that make me feel raw emotions. 
On a lighter note, this book very much reminded me of an adult version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. In a very simplified plot, this is a story of a child who grows up in the wilderness with two parental humanoid/animal figures. One of my favorite books/Disney movies since I was child, I was very very excited to be able to pick out hidden references and allusions (which may or may not have been intentional).  
As hard as I try, I can’t seem to put a finger on what genre this novel is. I would say it’s something between a dystopian novel, a coming of age story, and a survival tale. Though limiting this novel to just one of these three genres feels like an injustice as they all impact one another.  

Tessy’s Pick: “Wild Seed” by Octavia E. Butler 
“Wild Seed” was almost the first book of the year for me, and it was the second time I read this particular book. I love reading Butler’s science fiction works, and “Wild Seed” and the first novel in her “Xenogenesis” series, “Dawn”, always stand out for me.  
“Wild Seed” is the earliest book in her “Patternist” series, and the book I recommend readers start with (even though it’s the fourth book in the chronology). The “Patternist” series is a secret history that starts in Ancient Egypt, and through biological engineering, a group of telepaths emerge and gain dominance in society. “Wild Seed” is the beginning of this story, with two African immortals vying for power as they live through the centuries. Their choices are the incipience of the timeline.  
“Wild Seed” in particular is extremely interesting as you watch the power struggle between the two immortals, along with the gender dynamics and taking into consideration the powers that make them immortal. Doro is a spirit that can take over other people’s bodies, and in the process killing them. Anyanwu has complete control over her body, she can heal herself and change it into anything living. Eugenics and biological engineering come into play as well. However, the reason I love this book (and Butler’s other works) is for the Afrocentrism and Anyanwu as a strong black female protagonist, which can be hard to find in science fiction even now.  

Virginia’s Pick: “Frontier Follies” by Ree Drummond 
Having lived in Oklahoma for over a decade – I can relate to Ree’s stories of living out on a ranch and the liveliness that comes with it. O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, where the wind comes blowing down the plains! 😊  
In this relatable, charming book, Ree unveils real goings-on in the Drummond house and around the ranch. In stories brimming with the lively wit and humor found in her cookbooks and her bestselling love story, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ree pulls back the curtain and shares her experiences with childbirth, wildlife, isolation, teenagers, in-laws, and a twenty-five-year marriage to a cowboy/rancher. 
A celebration of family life, love, and (mostly) laughter, “Frontier Follies” is a keepsake to curl up with, have a good laugh, and remember all that’s wonderful (and funny) about family. 
Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org On 26 December, 2020 at 8:18 AM  

Leave Your Comment
Security Measure