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Staff Picks of 2020

Staff Picks of 2020

Staff Picks of 2020

2020 was a year in which many of us found our anchor, our answers, and our companionship in literature and film.  We would like to share with you some of the things that sustained us in 2020.  Here is a sample of what the staff at the Cedar Rapids Public Library read and watched this year.


A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, by Holly Jackson. 

A fantastic small-town murder mystery. This young adult novel is about a girl who decides to investigate a murder case that was closed years ago. “The book keeps you on your toes and I didn’t want to put it down.” 

The Exiles, by Christina Baker Kline   

A young woman in 19th century London is wrongfully charged for a crime and sent to an island to carry out her prison term.  “Dramatic and powerful.” Written by the author of the New York Times bestseller “Orphan Train.”

Where the Lost Wander, by Amy Harmon   

Historical fiction. The story of a young woman and her family and their incredible journey traveling the Oregon Trail.  “A reminder of the power of family and the strength of love.”

The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay

A collection of lyric essays written by an award-winning poet.  “I recommend everyone read this book because it reminds us to notice and hold tight the tiny delightful moments happening in each of our days.”

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, Edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Fifteen authors present their own twist on classic tales and give a short two-page explanation of what inspired them to adapt it the way they did. “Each story is a gem with a lasting impression.”

The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin

A description in Haiku:

City comes alive

Evil wants its destruction

5 stand to stop it

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the Marsh Girl have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. This book is both a coming of age story and a haunting mystery.  “I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did. Plot twists and details kept me interested and guessing until the end.”

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May

The perfect seasonal read.  This book brings the beauty of literature, the cycles of nature and the sublimity of self-acceptance together in a thoughtful recounting of the author’s transition through some difficult times. “A catalyst for self-reflection without want or need for changing yourself.” Welcome to your Winter.

American Cheese: An Indulgent Odyssey through the American Cheese World, by Joe Berkowitz

The words on the cover scream CHEESE, INDULGENT, and ODYSSEY. What’s there to think about? The book was meant to come home with me. “I now have a list of cheeses I want to try, a coordinating list of cheese travel sites and new words like ‘turophile’ to use.”

Gentle On My Mind:  In Sickness and in Health with Glen Campbell, by Kim Campbell

This is a no-details-left-out biography of the lives of Kim Campbell and her husband Glen Campbell, one of the greatest musical talents of the 20th century. Kim details the celebrations, awards, substance abuse, victories and defeats, and the hardest of goodbyes when she loses her husband to Alzheimer’s. “A must read for anyone who has, or is dealing with Alzheimer’s.”

Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership, by Steven Levingston
The fascinating story of how the president and vice-president bonded during their eight years in office and became closer than brothers. “Full of details I didn’t know, and a very emotional read.”

The War That Saved My Life
The War I Finally Won

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
These are children’s books set in World War II in England. They are about a ten year old girl named Ada.  The first book deals with the evacuation of Ada and her brother to a caring woman in a small village where they experience German bombing, but are loved for the first time in their lives. The second one details Ada’s surgery on a clubfoot, and the deprivations and heartbreak everyone suffered through during the war years. “Very eye opening and heart-wrenching, but there is a happy ending!”

Tiny Habits:  The Small Changes that Change Everything, by BJ Fogg, PhD

A simple method to achieve your goals through small, doable habits. “I tend to be change-resistant and this book was a big help for me.” 


The Names of Love (2010)

A young, extroverted left-wing activist sleeps with her political opponents to convert them to her cause. She is successful until she meets her match.

The Brand New Testament (2015)

A hilarious and irreverent tale that turns the origin of God story on its head. (French with English subtitles.)

Little Women (2019)

The coming of age tale of the four March sisters, adapted for a new generation.  This is a story about being young and finding your way in the world and it continues to strike a chord today.

Pain and Glory (2019)

The film narrates a series of reunions of Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), a film director in his decline. Some of these reunions play out in real time, others are recalled through flashbacks: his childhood in the 1960s, moving with his family to the primitive village of Paterna, his first love in Madrid in the 1980s, writing as therapy, the discovery of cinema, etc.

Antebellum (2020)

Janelle Monae is superb as a successful woman kidnapped by those who wish to subjugate both her and other voices that intend to make change.  An original, disturbing, twisting masterwork.  “I recommend EVERYONE watch this extraordinary movie.” 

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