Favorite books of 2020

Updated: Dec 18, 2020



We asked our patrons,

“Out of all the books you read this year, which one was your favorite?”

Here’s what they had to say:



Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

  • Review: This book was incredibly well written and researched. It caused me to rethink some of my perceptions about our country. The author also added personal notes that were so heart-breaking and illuminating.” ~ Deb


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “The author is one of my favorites, and I am a great admirer of John Lewis.”

  • Review: “As a reader of history and biographies, and a big fan of the author, this was a must read. The author really helps you to see that Civil Rights was John Lewis' life work and the passion that drove him to risk his life over and over again to strive towards equality for all. Black lives DO matter which makes this an even more important book to read in these times.” ~ Donna


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook on Libby and OverDrive


Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris


  • Where did you hear about this book? “Blurb on Libby.”

  • Review: “I’ve read nearly 100 books during this pandemic. This story keeps returning to mind. Interesting characters make decisions that cause me to ask if I would - or could - do what they had done.” ~ Heather


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive

Available as an eBook with no waitlist on Hoopla via BPL eCard


His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “Having hosted many African students at Williams CDE (right next to the library) and having traveled to Ghana and South Africa I am curious to know more about that fascinating continent.”

  • Review: “This book has been called the "Crazy Rich Asians" for Africa. Within that setting, it follows the personal growth of a young woman in an arranged marriage to a very successful man in a relationship with another woman. The heroine's journey is beautifully rendered with depth and abundant detail (nuances of relationships; food; fashion; etc.) and her world and her community are vividly portrayed.” ~ Deb


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune


  • Review: “A quirky, heartwarming story about magical youth and a caseworker tasked with evaluating an isolated orphanage. A quick read with lots of laughs - just what I needed this year!” ~ Nina


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “My daughter heard about it on the Book Riot podcast.”

  • Review: This book centers on five immigrant families who lived in a tenement in NYC in the late 1800s/early 1900s and, in particular, how they procured and prepared food in their new home country. I learned so much about the diverse groups of immigrants as well as the workings of Ellis Island and the burgeoning NYC of that era. If you like reading about cooking and food traditions, I highly recommend this book.” ~ Karen


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook on Libby and OverDrive using the “Partner Libraries” feature


Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “Macfarlane is a long-time favorite of mine; any new book by him is cause for celebration.”

  • Review: “In my opinion, Macfarlane is arguably the greatest nature writer alive. He's one of those annoying Brits who knows a little (or a lot, actually) about everything - literature, history, art, religion, science, etc. - and brings it all to bear on the subject at hand - in this case, the various ways humans have found to explore what lies beneath us: the catacombs of Paris, Norwegian sea caves, et al.” ~ Martin


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson


  • Review: “Sociology is made clear by innumerable examples which are timely and on the mark. Specific anecdotes rather than abstract notions dominate and keep the narrative fascinating.” ~ Bob


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


Recursion by Blake Crouch


  • Where did you hear about this book? It was recommended by Goodreads.”

  • Review: “I needed a book that was pure escapism this year, so after not reading any fiction for a long time (years, maybe), I picked up Blake Crouch's "Recursion." When I was younger, I was a big fan of science fiction, particularly Michael Crichton. Without giving anything away, it's fair to say that Crouch's writing is very much in the vein of Crichton's sci-fi: thrilling, just enough science to make it vaguely plausible, but not too deep. Prior to picking up this book, I had been plodding along for weeks through a materials science book on "liquid'-- I finished this one in a couple days. If you like sci-fi, and you're looking to escape reality for awhile, it's a fun read.” ~ Dan


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson


  • Review: Very powerful description of the struggles and despair of Black men in prison, and how they are incarcerated so much more frequently.” ~ Abbie


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


Emmy Noether's Wonderful Theorem by Dwight E. Neuenschwander


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “Wanted a deeper appreciation of Noether's theorem in anticipation of women's history month activities.”

  • Review: “Emmy Noether is one of the greatest mathematical physicists of all time, and her central theorem deserves more than a cursory understanding. This book is a perfect technical introduction to the math savvy but non-physicist. Starting at the basics of functionals and extremals, the book allows the reader to earn the appreciation of Noether's theorem through the connection of symmetry and conservation. A few short appendices in the back allow for a review of special relativity or the Jacobian if needed.” ~ Micah


At this time, this title is not available in the CW MARS catalog. Please contact our Reference Librarian, Kira, at kbingemann@cwmars.org to see if we can order it from another network.


Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom by Sarah Seo


  • Where did you hear about this book? “Through [Phi Beta Kappa] (won the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award).”

  • Review: “Was fascinating reading how as cars permeated our society the role of law enforcement and civil liberties were influenced.” ~ Steve


Available as an eBook on Libby and OverDrive using the “Partner Libraries” feature


Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “Ireland’s history is interesting to me. I wanted to understand the attempts to become independent from Britain and why it hadn’t worked in N. Ireland.”

  • Review: “The book tells the story of some of the people involved in trying to revolt, specifically two sisters and others. The way they lived in constant fear and rarely knew who else was involved was suspenseful. They carried out acts and followed orders but didn’t know the whole plan. Many deaths and ruined lives in the fight for liberation.” ~ Jeanne


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “I have read all Erik Larson’s books and so I was eager to read his latest. I was also excited about reading more about Winston Churchill since I had just been watching The Crown on Netflix.”

  • Review: “I usually prefer a novel to nonfiction, but Erik Larson can make nonfiction read like a novel. The Splendid and the Vile is no exception. This book is about the first year (1940-41) of Churchill’s term as Prime Minister during WWII. Even though you know how things are going to turn out, it is still a page turner. Quoting from the fly leaf of the book, ‘The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when — in the face of unrelenting horror — Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.’” ~ Judy


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


Snow by John Banville


  • Review: “Absorbing mystery by great writer. Bleak picture of Ireland and the Church.” ~ Anonymous


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook on Libby and OverDrive


The Alice Network by Kate Quinn


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “My book group chose it after a member recommended it.”

  • Review: “A historical fiction story (true for the most part) about two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947. A group from history I was unaware of existing. It deals with much more than the great war: friendship, romance, sacrifice, sex, brutality and loss.” ~ Judy


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook and eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive

Available as an eBook with no waitlist on Hoopla via BPL eCard


The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates


  • Where did you hear about this book? “It was available on Libby audio. I enjoyed a number of audiobooks during COVID sequester.”

  • Review: “First it was vividly performed, giving each character a particular vocal rhythm. In addition, and essential to the experience is the vivid, poignant and horrific nature of slavery and the courage and vision needed to escape it.” ~ Jane


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook and eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins


  • Review: From the first chapter I couldn’t put it down. I wanted the mother and child to find a way to get to the United States. The father/husband was murdered with other family members by the Mexican cartel. I stayed up till 4 am to finish the book.” ~ Judy


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook and eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “To try and inform myself about how Trump rose to prominence in politics in general and in the Republican Party in particular; and how he was able to develop a significant ‘cult’ following.”

  • Review: “Trump used an apparent ‘propaganda network’ - including cable ‘news programming’ (ie Fox Corp), right wing radio and online media personalities with little regard for the truth - to maintain a constant presence with and influence, incite and expand his base.” ~ Anonymous


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook and eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


  • Review: “This book, although fiction, made me feel that the characters were real people and the theme of consistent love, courage and resilience were portrayed in unusual and deeply sensitive, unusual and memorable ways. It held my attention to the end. It was a deeply moving and beautiful story.” ~ Jennifer


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook and eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive


Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “Reviews, and loved The Warmth of Other Suns.”

  • Review: Caste presented a well-argued case for some reasons for the deep division in our country.” ~ Bette


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive




Staff Favorite Reads of the Year



All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan

  • Where did you hear about this book? “I found his second novel in the stacks and liked it so much I ordered his other novels on interlibrary loan.”

  • Review: “A contemporary story set in a small Irish town that explores the relationship between a pregnant woman and a young traveler (an Irish gypsy). The ending is a surprise, and actually made me cry.” ~ Debbie


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive using “Partner Libraries”


Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks


  • Where did you hear about this book? “A library colleague recommended it!”

  • Review: “Some have called it horror, some sci-fi, and it's definitely scary - but you're left wondering, is this in fact science fiction? Because Brooks tells the story from a journalist's point of view and the diary of a - presumed - victim, it felt just that much more real, and mysterious, given all the unanswered questions left for readers to ponder. Brooks also adds in historical/philosophical bits about peace vs. violence, and questions how harmonious the natural world is towards humans, mainly will we always be at the top of the food chain? The only problem is it kept me up VERY late a few nights. And really, would the main character be able to write so very much in her diary when she's being chased by a bunch of bigfoots?? If you like end-of-the-world survival sorts of books, even though that's not exactly what this is, I recommend.” ~ Kira


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & an eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “I had read several of her books, and they are well-written with strong characters, good plot lines, historically compelling, and just plain ‘not put downable.’”

  • Review: “It was exciting, heartwarming, and thought-provoking. The audiobook is narrated well.” ~Patt

Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & an eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen

  • Review: “As a Millenial, I found this book very relatable. Petersen touches on many interwoven issues that negatively affect the financial security and work-life balance of Millenials, including high student debt and a gig economy that presents fewer stable, benefitted positions than in generations past. This book, coupled with The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang, is food for thought about employment in America. The War on Normal People takes a look at impending job loss in both blue collar and white collar industries due to the rise of artificial intelligence. Yang explores potential solutions to help sustain the Middle Class as many Americans find themselves obsolete in the shadow of Big Tech. The War on Normal People is wider in scope than Can’t Even, but I found both of these books accessible and compelling.” ~ Marta

Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook on Libby and OverDrive

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid


  • Why did you decide to read this book? “I heard a lot about it before it was even published. The incident near the beginning - of the Black nanny being wrongly accused in a sticky situation felt timely in our political climate.”

  • Review: “I really loved the dialogue in this book - the way characters were able to code-switch depending on who they were talking to, the way the child dialogue was appropriately written. The characters were complex and interesting too.” ~ Kirsten


Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & an eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

  • Review: “A novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel — a beautifully transporting novel. Perhaps the ultimate quarantine read!” ~ Pat

Place a hold in the catalog

Available as an eBook & an eAudiobook on Libby and OverDrive

That’s all for now, folks! If you would like assistance ordering any of these titles, please contact us at (413) 458-5369. For questions about using eBooks & eAudio, contact our Digital Resources Librarian, Marta, at mkowitz@cwmars.org, or take a look at our video tutorials.

Happy holidays and happy reading!


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