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Lunch and a Book Club: Best Books Read in 2020

Reader Wearing a Medical Mask - Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash




During this pandemic year, some of our book club members found that they had extra time to do extra reading, while others found themselves suffering from a lack of focus. Some discovered new formats and found books to help them on new journeys, while others turned to old favorites. Regardless of the reading challenges of 2020, here are the recommendations from the Lunch and a Book Club of some of the best books they read this year.



Masked Reader - Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash


American dirt : a novel by Jeanine Cummins
Also available in: e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook | large print

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia--trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier's reach doesn't extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

The book of lost names by Kristin Harmel
Also available in: e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it's an image of a book she hasn't seen in sixty-five years--a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The book woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook | large print

Cussy Mary Carter is the last of her kind, her skin the color of a blue damselfly. As a member of the Pack Horse Library Project, Cussy delivers books to the hill folk of Troublesome, But not everyone is so keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and the hardscrabble Kentuckians are quick to blame a Blue for any trouble in their small town. 

Also available as a Book Discussion Kit.

The end of October by Lawrence Wright
Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook

At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are dead within a week. When microbiologist and epidemiologist Henry Parsons travels there to investigate, what he finds will have staggering repercussions across the globe. Henry's wife and children face diminishing odds of survival in Atlanta as disease slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions and decimating the population. Packed with suspense and the riveting history of viral diseases.

The exiles : a novel by Christina Baker Kline
Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook | large print

Sent to a Tasmanian penal colony after conceiving her employer’s grandchild, a young governess befriends a talented midwife and an orphaned Aboriginal chief’s daughter while confronting the harsh realities of British colonialism and oppression in nineteenth-century Australia.

A life without water by Marci Bolden
Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook

Carol Denman divorced her husband twenty years ago and never looked back. But on the day before her daughter's thirtieth birthday, John barges back into Carol's life with a request that threatens the fragile stability she has built. With the past hovering between them like a ghost, Carol and John embark on a decades-overdue road trip. Together they plunge back into a life without water... but which may ultimately set them free.

Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

When Iris's lift button-pushing is disrupted by a new member of the family, she's pretty put out. That is, until the sudden appearance of a mysterious new button opens up new realms of possibility. But when it becomes a question between going it alone or letting someone else tag along, Iris finds that sharing a discovery with the people you love can be the most wonderful experience of all. This is a story that will lift your spirits and expand your imagination.

News of the world : a novel by Paulette Jiles
Also available in: e-book | audiobook

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, reading newspapers to paying audiences. In Wichita Falls, he takes a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Recently rescued after being abducted by Kiowa raiders and raised as their own, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Also available as a Book Discussion Kit.

The only good Indians : a novel by Stephen Graham Jones
Also available in: audiobook | e-audiobook

 Four American Indian men from the Blackfeet Nation, who were childhood friends, find themselves in a desperate struggle for their lives, against an entity that wants to exact revenge upon them for what they did during an elk hunt ten years earlier by killing them, their families, and friends.

Orphan train by Christina Baker Kline
Also available in: audiobook

Between 1854 and 1929, orphan trains ran regularly from the East Coast to the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children with uncertain fates. As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child. But now Vivian leads a peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing a hazy blur. Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer helps Vivian sort through her possessions, and discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. 

Also available as a Book Discussion Kit.

Prairie lotus by Linda Sue Park

In Dakota Territory in the 1880s, half-Chinese Hanna and her white father face racism and resistance to change as they try to make a home for themselves. Highly recommended for lovers of Little House on the Prairie, as Linda Sue Park offers a new but just as poignant family tale that reveals difficulties of life on the frontier.

Saturday by Oge Mora

In this heartfelt and universal story, a mother and daughter look forward to their special Saturday routine together every single week. But this Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong until Mom is nearing a meltdown. A story that speaks to a year of cancelations and disappointments, with the added bonus of beautiful artwork.

The sport of kings by C. E. Morgan
Also available in: e-audiobook

One of the oldest and proudest families in Kentucky, the Forge family is as mythic as the history of the South itself. Henry Forge, together with his daughter and a stablehand fresh from prison, tries to create a new future from a noble equestrian bloodline. A majestic story of speed and hunger, racism and justice, this novel is an astonishment from start to finish.

The vanishing half by Brit Bennett
Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook | large print

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But ten years running away from their small, southern black community, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by many miles and many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. 


Also available in: e-book

By turns dazzling and edifying, this is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both struggle and beauty, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives

Lose weight, eat as much as you want, feel healthy, and look great. This may sound like an impossible dream, but with The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss it is a dream come true for thousands of people. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. John A. McDougall draws on the latest scientific and medical information about nutrition, metabolism, and hunger to provide a simple weight-loss plan. 

Note: only available on Hoopla, or through MeL.

Me by Elton John
Also available in: e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook | large print

Elton writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble, and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you by a living legend. 

The author recounts her traumatic childhood, with a mother suffering from mental illness, unfortunate experiences in a series of foster homes, and her discovery of her love of writing, which eventually helped her overcome the hazards of her life.

Also available in: e-audiobook

A Rip in Heaven is Jeanine Cummins' story of a night in April, 1991, when her two cousins Julie and Robin Kerry, and her brother, Tom, were assaulted on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River just outside of St. Louis. When, after a harrowing ordeal, Tom managed to escape the attackers and flag down help, he thought the nightmare would soon be over. He couldn't have been more wrong. 

Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook

Fear of carbs has taken over the diet industry for the past few decades--the mere mention of a starch-heavy food is enough to trigger an avalanche of shame and longing. Here, diet doctor and board-certified internist John A. McDougall, MD, and his kitchen-savvy wife, Mary, show that a starch-rich diet can actually help you lose weight and prevent a variety of ills.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Also available in: e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook | large print

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both a memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It offers a piercing, electrifying examination of the restrictive expectations women are issued from birth; shows how hustling to meet those expectations leaves women feeling dissatisfied and lost; and reveals that when we quit abandoning ourselves and instead abandon the world's expectations of us, we become women who can finally look at our lives and recognize who we truly are.