Our Favorite Books of 2020

OPL staff look back on their favorite books of 2020 for children, teens and adults.

Some of us have found books to be a balm during these strange and difficult times. Some of us have struggled to read as much as we'd like to this year (I know I did!). I asked my colleagues to reflect on their favorite books from the last twelve months. Here are the books from 2020 they would love to share with you.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green    
This is the second book in the series by Hank Green.  And while this is a light sci-fi book it is also SO much more!  The author really does a great job of discussing interesting topics like becoming famous in a way that has me thinking about it for long after I've read the books.  If you want a fun fiction story with great characters that will also make you think I'd highly recommend this series of books.     
Recommended for: Teens, Adults         
Recommended by: Dice, Children's Librarian, Melrose 

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song edited by Kevin Young 
For #333 of its venerable series, the editors were gifted with a collection compiled by Kevin Young, poetry editor at the New Yorker,  that clearly ranks among the most valuable and majestic volumes in the Library of America. The publisher's own marketing collateral matter-of-factly declares it "a literary landmark: the biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published." Too often, such hyperbole from the marketing department is simply that: hyperbole, but in this case, the blurb is spot on. Hailing African-American poetry - and rightfully so - "one of the great American art forms," the anthology embraces its entire repertoire, includes the entire diaspora of the literary classification it compiles from rappers to literate slaves and with work that spans the entire history of the nation, beginning with the unforgettable works of Phyllis Wheatley. The brilliant editor, who also happens to serve as director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, demonstrates his open-mindedness, taking care to give equal space to revolutionaires and achieves the most important addition to American literary publishing in decades. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults        
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Oakland Main Library 

All Because You Matter by Tami 
Black Lives Matter. Black books matter. Bryan Collier's collage beautiful compliments the lyrical text celebrating Black boyhood.      
Recommended for: Children 
Recommended by: Kidbrarian PT, Children's Librarian    

Bedtime Bonnet by Nancy Redd 
This read-alike for Hair Love and Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut features a nighttime routine for Black hair care. It's lovely to see these family traditions on the page as I've often received questions about my hair. Read it and see it.      
Recommended for: Children, Families 
Recommended by: Kidbrarian PT, Children's Librarian     

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson 
This novel in verse format gives the point of view of ZJ, a 12-year-old whose still-young father has brain trauma from his pro-football career. Although his family can plainly see the effects, the football association will not admit he has Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy related to being tackled. The brevity makes it accessible to kids ages 10 to 17, and gives readers plenty to think about, without wasting time. The intergenerational family portrait is poignant and emotional, with no tidy wrap-up at the end; no Happily Ever After. ZJ's first-person running narrative feels authentic to the experience when a parent experiences acute trauma; Readers feel what it's like to be in the thick of it, trying to figure out how to help the family, who to turn to for support, and how to balance sweet memories with disappointment, fear, and hope for the future. His friends, like his dad's friends, show up for his family, and it feels like they are showing up for the reader, too.  
Recommended for: Children, Teens 
Recommended by: Erica Siskind, Children's Librarian, Rockridge 

Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. 
With his latest book, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., examines the ongoing struggle to compel Americans to address our racist past and policies in order to move closer to true equality. This book is as much literary criticism as psychological analysis of a profoundly astute artist who battled with the myth of America and its unmet promise his whole life. In these times of mass incarceration, generational poverty, and voter suppression, Glaude draws direct links from Baldwin’s time to the present moment, what he calls “the after times,” a period of racist entrenchment after a promising move toward social justice. While Glaude chronicles harsh and perilous times, from Selma to Charlottesville, he makes clear, as Baldwin did, that hope, love, and community empowerment are still desirable, necessary goals for us all. Glaude’s finely researched, compassionate book affirms Baldwin’s legacy as one of the country’s most important and prescient writers, and offers those of us working for racial equality a blueprint to change this country’s narrative and trajectory. 
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Dorothy Lazard, Librarian, Main Library 

Billy Ball: Billy Martin and the Resurrection of the Oakland A's by Dale Tafoya 
We baseball fans are so lucky to have the A's to root for and simply kick back and enjoy. We've had, for example, the one-of-a-kind experience having the local boy, "Berkeley" Billy Martin, return to his boyhood haunts, rowdy as ever, to manage a  team that after basking in dynastic glory winning three straight World Series championships at the start of the decade ended the 1970s losing 108 games with total attendance for the season amounting to a measly 306,763. Martin brought both his brash and fearless brand of baseball, along with the fisticuffs that came with his alcoholic short temper. Tafoya, 30 years an A's fan, presents an honest, loving and fascinating survey of the flabbergasting success that Martin enjoyed upon his prodigal return, saving the finances of a struggling baseball franchise and bringing the team to the post-season in only three short years. We read, too, about the troubles that beguiled him. Tafoya provides this engaging reminder of just how luck we are to have the A's to root for.     
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

Black Power Afterlives: The Enduring Significance of the Black Panther Party edited by Diane Fujino and Matef Harmachis     
Like the classic 1970 anthology Black Panther Speaks, a collection of the fundamental texts by the militant intellectuals of the Black Panther Party of the 1960s compiled for publication by Philip Foner, Fujino and Harmachis have gathered the most vital texts of the movement as it persists in the many years since. The book presents engaging accounts of the principles and practices of the party in action through the decades since its founders first drafted the Ten-Point Program for The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense at meetings in North Oakland in 1966. It will certainly stand as a brilliant sequel to the 1970 classic it resembles.     
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

Bruce Lee: Sifu, Friend and Big Brother by Douglas Palmer 
In this most recent entry in the seemingly never-ending stream of writing about the iconic Bruce Lee, comes from a former student of the celebrity martial artist who spent a summer with him and his family in Hong Kong. The author, who developed a close friendship with his sifu (translated as "teacher" in English) writes through the lens of a trusted and intimate friend, which he became while studying with Lee in Seattle. The outcome is a tender, richly detailed portrait of the "Little Dragon" as Lee was known as a child star in Hong Kong before crossing the Pacific to end up in Hollywood. Palmer devotes an entire chapter to Lee's time in Oakland, giving the biography a little local color, including a detailed account of a legendary showdown in the early 1960s between Lee, representing the new blood in martial arts, and a master of the "old school," San Francisco's Wong Jack Man. Lee's good friend from Seattle has produced a valuable and highly engaging portrait of an Asian-American pioneer with ties to Oakland. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas 
Yadriel needs to prove to his father that he has just as much magic as the cisgendered male witches in the family -- but the boy whose ghostly spirit he raises is more trouble (and a lot cuter) than he had bargained for. This queer, trans, Latinx, #ownvoices love story pulls you right in with its wry humor and idiosyncratic characters. 
Recommended for: Teens 
Recommended by: Margaret, Children's Librarian, Asian Branch 

Changing Academia Forever: Black Student Leaders Analyze the Movement they Led by Kitty Kelly Epstein and Bernard Stringer     
On November 1, 1968, George Murray, a popular African-American English professor at San Francisco State University was suspended from the faculty as punishment for the content of a speech he had given the previous summer on a trip to Cuba. Five days later, members of the university's Black Students Union, the first of its kind in the nation, called a strike. Affiliating with other Asian-and Latino-American groups on and off campus to form the Third World Liberation Front, Murray's supporters would lead the longest student strike in U. S. history, disrupting academics at SFSU well into March of 1969. Oakland's Kitty Kelly Epstein, a participant, and strike leader Bernard Stringer rely largely on interviews of strike leaders and of first-hand accounts of the event in this concise but substantive portrayal of the dramatic showdown at the Park Merced campus. The stand-off pitted the most outspoken leaders of the Black Power and burgeoning Asian-American identity movements in strident opposition to California's strident radical right-wing governor Ronald Reagan and his cronies. Besides the reinstatement of Professor Murray, the students demanded a degree-granting Black Studies Department as part of a broader College of Ethnic Studies at the institution. For that, the strike succeeded and propelled the movement forward across the country where ethnic studies was gradually embraced by colleges and universities across the country.     
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

Come Home, Indio by Jim Terry 
Come Home, Indio is a moving memoir written in graphic novel form. Terry grew up in the suburbs of the northern Mid-West and felt disconnected from his maternal Native American heritage. He struggled in dysfunctional relationships with his alcoholic parents and their subsequent early deaths. He, himself, struggled with alcoholism that started in his teen years. He has a life altering experience at Standing Rock and begins to heal.      
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Susy, Branch Manager of West Oakland Library     

Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time by Philip Clark 
Timed for the 100th anniversary of the subject's birth in nearby Concord (on December 6, 2020), British music journalist Philip Clark presents a vivid, richly detailed and simply stunning portrayal of the life of jazz legend Dave Brubeck. Clark  follows the musical trajectory of the jazz-obsessed son of a Mother Lode-region rancher as he learned to read music, embrace avant-garde European music and form a combo with an Army buddy, the San Francisco-born alto-saxophonist Paul Breitenfeld (who would adopt Desmond as his stage name). The duo formed the core of the house band, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, at the Burma Lounge at 3255 Lake Shore Ave. in Oakland. From regular gigs at that dark and long-gone Oakland bar, the combo perfected a new musical sound - "cool" jazz - that culminated in the 1959 Desmond composition, "Take Five," whose sales would reach unprecedented sales figures, becoming the biggest selling jazz instrumental recording of all time. The success of that record would propel Brubeck into the citadels of jazz legend, where he persists, as Clark so respectfully attests in this expansive study of a musical and celebrity career that established him as the model of "hip" during his youthful heyday, the patriarch of a Dave Brubeck Quintet that included four of his sons, and would not be interrupted except by death at the age of 91 in 2012.    
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

Deacon King Kong: A Novel by James McBride 
The setting is a Brooklyn housing project in 1969 and James McBride introduces us to the large cast of characters who live there.  At the center of it all is Sportcoat, a church Deacon.  Fond of the hooch brewed by his pal, he kicks off the tale by committing a totally out of character violent act. This book has layers of stories and the stories have stories - it sprawls!  At times, there's elements of farce, wit and humor but some sadness that goes with life in public housing.   My favorite parts were the skillful interweaving of the quirky characters and the dialog between Sportcoat and his best friend Hot Sausage. 
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Loraine, Library Assistant, Montclair Branch Library 

Die with Zero by Bill Perkins 
The book illustrates how to maximize fulfillment while minimizing waste with personal wealth. It aligns well with my value of efficiency. Particularly, the book points out that life experiences, not materials, truly matters. And free time, health and wealth are essential to have those wonderful life experiences! 
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Lily Chang, Library Assistant, Children's Room 

Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera
Homesick for her former life and friends in Bogotá, Colombia, fifteen-year-old Francisca is disgusted by Miami and the crappy apartment she shares with her Mom, sister and grandmother, and appalled by the evangelical church she is forced to attend. But church gets a lot more interesting the more she gets to know Carmen, the alluring pastors’ daughter. A coming of age/coming out story that is feverishly hilarious, affecting and liberally punctuated with Spanish.
Recommended for: Adults, Teens 
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré     
This was one of the most memorable books I've read this year.  Adunni is a 14 year old Nigerian girl who, like many Nigerian girls, is forced into marriage with an older man who already has other wives.  Her mother has died and her life is hard - what a downer, you might think. But Adunni's story is also filled with courage, resilience and hope as she dreams of the education her mother encouraged her to pursue and of finding her 'louding voice'.   I really loved the audiobook for the sense of Adunni speaking to me in her own true voice. 
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Loraine, Library Assistant, Montclair Branch Library 

Heart Full of Hallways by Greer Nakadegawa-Lee 
The work of this year's Youth Poet Laureate is an absolute joy and thanks to the resourcefulness of Oakland's innovative Nomadic Press, she could receive that honor with a collection of her work already in print. The teenaged student of Oakland Technical High School writes with the confidence, clarity and lyricism of a writer of far more experience. And with her gifts, she reveals and explores the passions, puzzlements, quandaries, bliss and tribulations of the transit to self-awareness.     
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America by Sarah Kendzior 
So much has been written about this out-going president and the horrors of his personality and his politics that it can easily seem overwhelming when considering a dive into the body of work on the subject. The list, from Bob Woodward to the president's own niece, is a long one. The many studies each cast a different angle of light on the social and cultural conditions in this country that produced the Trump administration in the first place. Reporter Sarah Kendzior brilliantly and with great empathy for the victims, lays out the path to his ascension, fearlessly casting blame right where it lies. Her view from her home in St. Louis, combined with her exceptional intelligence and blunt manner, will leave the reader much the wiser, and hopefully will help to spark push-back against the willful ignorance that has led to Donald Trump's tenancy in the now COVID-19 infected White House.     
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang
In the Gold Rush era American West, newly orphaned sisters Lucy age 12, and Sam age 11 set out on a quest to pursue safety, freedom and a proper burial for their father according to Chinese tradition. Sam reimagines life as a boy and an outlaw, while Lucy longs for school, comfort and security. All the while they are haunted by the ghosts of family, buffalo and tigers while fortunes and misfortunes are built on gold, thievery and whiteness. A modern western, family epic and immigrant story rolled into one, with an immersive and engrossing story, vivid language and unforgettable characters. 
Recommended for: Adults, Teens 
Recommended by: Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Invisible Men: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues by Donn Rogosin 
One of the most important and fascinating modern works in the vast canon of baseball writing is returned to print with a new introduction by the author that hints at the impacts of this landmark work, written when he was a young professor of American Studies at the prestigious University of Texas who becomes obsessed with the Negro Leagues after reading Robert Peterson's Only the Ball Was White, the groundbreaking study published in 1970.  The new edition of Rogosin's equally important study from the University of Nebraska Press assures that one more round of readers will relish the astonishing research abilities of the author who now lends his talents to public television. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Libarian, Main Library 

Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar 
Nine-year-old Betita comes from a family of storytellers. Her story crosses the border from Aztlan to Los Angeles. It's a heartbreaking story of childhood detention and  family separation. Local author Aida Salazar does not hold back, nor should she. These are the sad realities. 
Recommended for: Children 
Recommended by: Kidbrarian PT, Children's Librarian     

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam 
If you are looking for a cozy book to relax to, Leave the World Behind isn't the right choice. It is an absorbing story filled with a slow and creeping dread that gets under your skin. One half of the discomfort comes from the dynamic between the characters and the issues of race, class, and family relations that affect their assumptions and interactions. The other half of the discomfort in this story comes from an unknown, impending doom happening outside an idyllic, isolated vacation house (a blackout, strange animal behavior, and more creepy occurrences). The reason I chose this book as my top recommendation for 2020 is because the story really stayed with me. I thought about the characters and then I thought about myself... What would I do if the world was suddenly, mysteriously ending? Who would I trust when myself and my loved ones are isolated in the company of strangers? 
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Ryan Lindsay, Library Assistant, Rockridge 

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen 
Ever has grown up in Ohio, but her parents are about to send her to a study program in Taiwan where she is supposed to learn more about her culture, and of course Rick Woo will be there, the boy her parents have idealized so much that she lives in his shadow. Little do her parents know that this program has a reputation of the kids sneaking out at night to dance and party, giving the program the nickname 'Loveboat'. Ever finds herself free for the first time, and makes it her priority to break every one of the rules her parents made her follow. While there is a love story in this book, the story itself is more about Ever, and her journey in finding herself. She goes from a world where every movement has been controlled to a situation where she is actually making up her own decisions for the first time. 
Recommended for: Teens 
Recommended by: Veronica Sutter, Teen Librarian, Main Teen Zone 

Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration by Nicole R. Fleetwood 
A critical and deeply moving book about the prison industrial complex and the fraction of the two million incarcerated people in the U.S. who are driven to assert their humanity and find hope through art. The impact of their work can be felt far beyond prison walls and speaks volumes about the importance of confronting a system that has failed many. The book is based on interviews with currently and formerly incarcerated artists, prison visits, and Fleetwood's own family experiences with the penal system.  
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Patricia L. Villon, Library Aide, PPT, Main Curbside Pickup Pod C 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
A true gothic horror novel and a setting of 1950s Mexico City and the countryside where nothing is at it seems. This book will stay with you, it will force you to think and look at things in new shadows and wavering lights. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Lina H, TPT Library Aide, Brookfield 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 
How deep do the roots of your family go?  In this book the roots of this one family go very deep and into a very dark place.  The devotion to the family patriarch is chilling and dreams often speak the truth. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults  
Recommended by: Alma Garcia, Sr. LA Main-Circulation 

Modern Flexitarian by Lucy Gwendoline Taylor  
It is a cookbook that gives you a lot of tips and inspiration to start including more vegetables and variety in your meals at home. I liked it because it has beautiful pictures, everything looks very yummy and easy to make so you end up trying those recipes out. Their concept is to make gentle changes and it includes many plant-based recipes that you can add to your meals if you're a meat-eater. It also has meal planning ideas, lists of cool and nutritious items to have in your pantry, and simple explanations about why certain nutrients are good for your body and where to find them. 
Recommended for: Teens, Adults, Families 
Recommended by: Rocio, Library Aide, 81st Ave Library 

Natch by Sophia Dahlin 
Oakland poet Sophia Dahlin has established her reputation as one of the hardest working young writers in the Bay Area, with a crowded calendar hosting reading, leading writing workshops with California Poets in the Schools and her own generative workshop, and as co-editor, with the equally brilliant Jacob Kahn, of the Eyelet series of chapbooks. All this may be what has caused Natch, her first full-length collection of her shimmering, frank and sweetly lyric verse, to be so long overdue. It has quickly established her as one of the most important young poets of the West Coast literary scene.   
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad by Mike Birbiglia 
Comedian Mike Birbiglia created a Broadway show about his jealousy and struggle as he and his wife, Jen, conceived and raised a little girl, Oona.  The show became a larger metaphor about people who resist change and he added more content and stories to become this book.  Birbiglia is funny and his wife is deep.  It's a great combination.      
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Jamie Turbak, Director  

One of Those Days by Yehuda and Maya Devir     
One of Those Days is a webcomic about the journey through life with moving into their first apartment to being married. When reading this you can relate to the story. It brings happiness and a cheerfulness into life.     
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Nancy T, Library Aide, Catalog/Processing Unit 

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore 
Oona Out of Order is a delight. It takes the time traveling protagonist genre and flips it in a new way. Think The Time Travelers Wife in reverse. I found it both comforting and thought-provoking.     
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Josephine Sayers, Library Assistant, Main 

Open Book by Jessica Simpson 
In to each person's life a decent amount of pop culture should fall and be consumed is one of my strong beliefs. This book by Jessica Simpson did just that for me. I just can't help myself - good fun. There’s something to her life story that I think we can all relate to and I enjoyed hearing it. Hopefully you or someone you know might too. 
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Susy, Branch Manager, West Oakland Library  

Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran 
This book came in to my hands at just the right time this year. It's a great laugh out funny coming of age memoir. Tran immigrated to America with his family from Saigon in 1975. He struggles hard to fit in to schools where he continues to be the only Vietnamese American if not the only Asian American. He finds solace in teenage rebellion - punk rock being a big part of it. He's now a tattoo artist and teaches Latin! I love him from afar. 
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Susy, Branch Manager, West Oakland Library  

Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith 
This is a love story between a boy and a girl, but it is so much more. The boy is new and has a secret that he does not want anyone to know (he is transgender). He switches schools his senior year for a fresh start where no one knows him or anything about his past. He ends up flirting with and crushing on one of the head cheerleaders . As the feelings grow, they deal with growing up, how you represent yourself in the world, and the people that they want to be while exploring their relationship.     
Recommended for: Teens 
Recommended by: Veronica Sutter, Teen Librarian, Main Library Teen Zone 

These Ghosts Are Family: A Novel by Maisy Card 
Reminiscent of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, this debut novel presents an epic family tale. These family secrets are thrilling. 
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Pat, Librarian      

Three Keys by Kelly Yang 
A follow up to Yang's award winning title "Front Desk", we revisit Mia Ting as she navigates tween life living and working in a motel and developing her writing skills. Kelly Yang is a graduate of UC Berkeley.  
Recommended for: Children 
Recommended by: Kidbrarian PT, Children's Librarian 

Twins by Varian Johnson 
Are twins best friends forever? As Maureen and Fran(cine) enter sixth grade their interests set them apart. This graphic novel is first in a new series illustrated by Shannon Wright.      
Recommended for: Children 
Recommended by: Kidbrarian PT, Children's Librarian     

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio 
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio explores the lives and experiences of undocumented immigrants in the Unites States (including her own family's experience). She humanizes the people she interviews in ways that we rarely see in media depictions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. She also calls attention to the traumas and indignities (including the separation of families, the lack of healthcare, unsafe and unjust working environments, etc.) that so many undocumented immigrants contend with in this country. This book is a hybrid of sorts, of memoir and non-fiction, and I found it to be extremely compelling.     
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Molly, Library Assistant, Elmhurst  

Untamed by Glennon Doyle 
Glennon Doyle's latest memoir shares her transformation as a bestselling Oprah-endorsed author, renowned activist and humanitarian, wife and mother of three who falls in love with a woman and delves into deep exploration about being female in today's society.  Passionate and thought-provoking.  
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Jamie Turbak, Director 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 
This is powerful and inspiring story of twins forced apart by personal choices and a pernicious racism that permeated their community, the whole country and still does....It brings up burning questions that perhaps apply to many of us. Can a secret be buried so long it becomes a part of you? And when it's unearthed, does it threaten to liberate you or destroy you? What will you choose? The dilemma keeps you reading, and the sorrows and successes of the main characters' daughters (who take over telling the story at some point) rivet you to the page.  I think a younger person who has not lived through the decades of the 60s through the 80s may learn a lot about the liberation struggles of all of these decades. The author has contributed to an essay collection about "intersectionality" and the novel is a splendid example of why that is a key concept for our time.      
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Emily Odza, Librarian I, Eastmont, Piedmont 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 
I am a reader driven by plot and this book filled my need. I couldn't wait to see how the lives of the characters were again going to intersect. The book also gave me fabulous writing and detail. I can't wait to read Bennett's first book now and look forward to more!     
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Susy, Branch Manager, West Oakland Library 

Via Negativa by July Westhale 
Copy coming soon to OPL 
The poet's childhood experiences growing up the granddaughter of a Baptist preacher in much less than posh circumstances in rural settings of Blythe, in the Mojave Desert, and Winters in the Great Central Valley of California, richly informs her poems, and leaves an unmistakable undertone in her language. In her most recent collection of poems, Westhale presents a provocative, scintillatingly sensual and deeply personal glimpse into the psyche of a truly gifted consciousness.     
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; illustrated by Michaela Goade
Highly recommended for the amazing illustrations by Michaela Goade. This Indigenous tale of resistance against a "black snake" harkens back to #NoDAPL. We must protect valuable natural resources.     
Recommended for: Children 
Recommended by: Kidbrarian PT, Children's Librarian     

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; illustrated by Michaela Goade  
This picture book is a beautiful and sensitive tribute to the #NoDAPL movement at Standing Rock, and similar actions by indigenous water protectors. The text by Carole Lindstrom (Anishinabe/Metis, enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) honors kinship, holding water sacred and essential to life, and the power of joining one's voice to a larger movement. Watercolor illustrations by Michaela Goade (of the Raven moiety and Kiks.ádi Clan, enrolled with the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska) show water flowing in waves through rivers, oceans, and human bodies. The Dakota Access pipeline is described for young children as a black snake that people fought together to overcome, and represented by a stylized snake head and angular lines joined with rings like a pipeline. Notes in the back from the author and illustrator give more context, including a glossary for terms like Mni wiconi (Lakota for "Water Is Life"). Strongly recommended for sharing with young children and for preschool story times with themes on water, activism, the environment, family, Earth Day, and Native American heritage.   
Recommended for: Children 
Recommended by: Lisa Hubbell, Librarian I, TPT     

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry 
Pick this one up if only for the hilarity and originality of the story. The 11-member Danvers [Mass.] High School Falcons women's field hockey team embrace dark magic to end an indeterminable losing streak. Why not utilize the powers of witchcraft? They were, after all, typical teenagers living in the shadow of the Salem Witch Trials, part of local history three centuries before. With this rather corny plot, the author proceeds to keep her readers in stitches through the crowds of characters and vivid exercise of her significant stylistic skills satirizing the formulaic comedies of teenage romance of her cinematic youth.  
Recommended for: Teens, Adults 
Recommended by: Steven Lavoie, Senior Librarian, Main Library 

What It's Like to Be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing--What Birds Are Doing, and Why by David Allen Sibley 
As the foremost expert on birds in North America, Sibley has created a beautiful and captivating guide to share some of the most fascinating facts about them. Each entry begins with a beautifully hand painted and roughly life sized illustration of the bird and is followed by several smaller illustrations explaining some facet of their behavior. His writing is succinct and informative, capturing the essence of each bird and explaining how and why it does the things it does. Entries touch upon how herons use bait to draw out fish, the extraordinary and shifting colors of hummingbirds, and why mockingbirds keep you up at night with their calls. Each of the entries are easily accessible, explaining things in everyday language and favor common birds that are familiar sights around town. What It’s Like to Be a Bird is a perfect introduction for someone just getting into birding or for anyone who just wants to know a little more about the birds they see out their windows.      
Recommended for: Children, Teens, Adults, Families         
Recommended by: Stephen Shaw, Library Aide, Dimond 

Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller 
Nineteenth-century scientist David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist who is credited with "discovering" nearly twenty percent of the world's fish.  NPR science reporter, Lulu Miller, weaves the story of Jordan's passion and drive with her own existential arc and struggle for life's meaning.  The stories unfold with tragedy, suspense and delight; a magician's trick to make fish disappear.     
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Jamie Turbak, Director

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed 
Jamie is volunteering to help his cousin campaign for a candidate. This puts him in the position to meet and work with Maya, a young Muslim girl that he used to know as a child. The story itself looks at the campaign as it becomes more personal.  They learn the opposing candidate it trying to make bill that will outlaw the wearing of hijabs. This will personally effect Maya and her family because she has many family members who wear one, and they realize this is just an attack on Muslim people. As they canvass and campaign for their candidate, they learn about their own inner strength and resilience, while also falling for each other.     
Recommended for: Teens 
Recommended by: Veronica Sutter, Teen Librarian, Main Library Teen Zone 

You Had Me at Hola: A Novel by Alexis Daria 
It's super obvious that ambitious Jasmine and cloaked Ashton hook up... but when and how.... steamy!  Recommended for romance readers; and fans of 'Jane the Virgin" and telenovelas.      
Recommended for: Adults 
Recommended by: Pat, Librarian     

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
As the days have gotten darker earlier and we've been sent back in to shelter in place, this book was light to me. The main character lives in a prom obsessed Midwestern town. When she loses her pass out of her doldrums town (a scholarship to a music school) she decides to run for prom queen. She falls for the new girl at school and has to decide what’s most important in her life. Is it the guaranteed path out of town or taking a chance on love?      
Recommended for: Teens 
Recommended by: Susy, Branch Manager, West Oakland Library