By Emily Calkins
Emily Calkins of the King County Library System shares some of her favorite titles of 2020. Find these digital titles and more at kcls.org, or check out a hard copy with one of KCLS’ contactless pickup services. Find a participating location near you here.
For more notable reads and gift ideas for the book lovers on your holiday lists, visit kcls.org/bestbooks to see KCLS’ 100 Best Books of 2020.
Fiction: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
In 1954, identical twins Stella and Desiree Vignes run away from their hometown, a place that values light skin above all else. In New Orleans, Stella realizes she can pass for white and disappears; Desiree takes a different path but eventually returns home with her dark-skinned daughter in tow. Bennett explores race, identity, and family in this nuanced saga that follows the Vignes family for decades.
Nonfiction: Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
In this gripping account of mental illness, Kolker recounts the story of the Galvin family. Don and Mimi Galvin had 12 children between 1945 and 1965. Six of them were eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. Kolker weaves the family’s story together with a history of the disease and scientists’ understanding of it. The Galvin family became a landmark case in the psychiatric world. Powerful, fascinating, and deeply empathetic.
Teen: We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
In a series of connected stories, Chee paints a portrait of the lives of Japanese-American teens who were sent to internment camps during World War II. The characters in this novel have grown up together in San Francisco’s Japantown. They are on the cusp of adulthood when they’re forced from their homes during the war. Each of the 14 teens has a distinct and memorable voice. Chee’s emotion-packed writing captures the irreversible impact of internment.
Children: When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
This graphic novel for upper elementary and middle school readers offers a look at life in a refugee camp. Co-author Omar Mohamed’s childhood inspired the story. Mohamed cares for his nonverbal younger brother while they wait for a UN interview and search for their mother. Jamieson’s illustrations are simple and expressive. The authors don’t shy away from the hard parts of Mohamed’s story, but lighthearted moments provide balance. It’s a sensitive and unforgettable book.