What I’m Reading: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race (20th Anniversary Edition) by Beverly Daniel Tatum
What I’m Listening to: A Charlie Brown Christmas. That album is basically on repeat for a month in our house!
What I’m Cooking: Eggnog cake
It wouldn’t be the end of the year without some best-of reading lists, and I wouldn’t be a librarian if I didn’t contribute. Here are three books published in 2020 that sum up, for me, some of the key conversations from the year.
Humanocracy: Creating Organizations As Amazing As the People Inside Them by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini. If you haven’t thought about how our organizational work structures need a massive overhaul this year — or, if you have the power to make changes to those structures, you haven’t taken action on it — then you have been missing the boat. Our organizations need to be flatter and more flexible, and staff at all levels need to have the ability to work far more independently than most workplaces allow. Good things happen when you trust your staff to work to their highest potential in their own way; organizations, and especially government, need to be far more responsive, innovative, and bold. Thanks to Brad Allen, director of the excellent Lawrence (KS) Public Library, for this timely recommendation.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. Yes, Oprah chose it for her book club; it is thought-provoking and essential reading on the realities of institutionalized systemic racism, and how deeply those institutions and systems are embedded into American society. Wilkerson is a stunning writer, who creates a page-turner of a non-fiction book, writing frankly and personally about significant and challenging issues. Focusing on the hereditary racial structures of three societies, the United States, India, and Nazi-era Germany, Wilkerson draws clear parallels. There are many incredible books to read on systemic racism and its impacts on all facets of society; this is a tremendous addition.
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. New Yorkers Amanda and Clay, and their children, escape the city for a break at a remote rental house on Long Island, only to lose tv, internet, and phone access. When the owners arrive, fleeing the city, where there is a full blackout, Amanda and Clay aren’t sure what to do; the four adults settle into an uncomfortable and strange stasis, unsure of who to believe and unable to find out what is happening. Long after you finish, you will be thinking about what this novel says about crisis, how we respond to crisis, and what it will be like, in our connected world, when we don’t know. You’ll be chilled by this book’s patient, deliberate unspooling; its subtle and consistent criticism of our modern, daily lives; the fear in not knowing. Nothing like a story that takes what is so difficult about our months-long lockdown and condenses it into a highly charged weekend to make us feel better about staying in our own well-connected and safe homes.
This wouldn’t be a list I’ve made without at least one romance recommendation, so let me leave you with a few of my favorites published in 2020:
- You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. Soap opera star Jasmine and telenovela star Ashton both want to break into the big time in the leading roles in their new show. Can they manage to work together?
- Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert. Eve Brown isn’t sure what she wants to do, until she happens into the cook position at a bed and breakfast run by Jacob Wayne. (Obviously, opposites attract.)
- Waiting For a Scot Like You by Eva Leigh. The older Dowager Duchess of Farris and the young, dashing Major Duncan McCameron are stuck together on a trip… sparks really fly in this one; maybe don’t read it in public!
- One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London. Fashion blogger Bea ends up as the bachelorette on Main Squeeze after a frustrated blog post calls out what’s wrong with the Bachelor-like show.
What’s something you read and enjoyed in 2020? What’s a title published this year that feels particularly on-point? I would love to hear what you’ve been reading!