We suggest: Best of 2020 adult fiction & nonfiction

Introducing Oak Park’s Best of 2020, a librarian-curated selection of titles, featuring some of the titles most requested and checked out by Oak Parkers! See our adult fiction and nonfiction favorites on this page or browse more using the links below.

Adult fiction | Adult nonfiction | Teen fiction | Kids books | Picture books
TV shows, movies & music

Adult fiction


Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Why you should try it: “I read this during the height of the 2020 quarantine and instantly related to all the anxieties and societal pressures each character faced. I especially enjoyed the narrative style that weaved each character’s story together.”—Rose, Adult Services Librarian

Description: Taken hostage by a failed bank robber while attending an open house, eight anxiety-prone strangers—including a redemption-seeking bank director, two couples who would fix their marriages, and a plucky octogenarian—discover their unexpected common traits. 

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Boyfriend Material by Alexis J. Hall

Why you should try it: “This is the gay Bridget Jones’ Diary replete with a cast of quirky side characters that give it a uniquely British charm.”—Ed, Adult Services Librarian

Description: Fabricating a respectable relationship with a man with whom he shares nothing in common when his rock-star father’s comeback leads to unwanted attention, Luc stages publicity friendly dates that become complicated by all-too-real feelings.

Stream & download with: Hoopla (ebook, digital audiobook), Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

Why you should try it: “This story is so heart-wrenching but written like smooth poetry—it shows how many teenagers shield their true selves from their parents and the world. So relatable for Black and brown LGBTQ+ teens.”—Megha, Children’s Services Library Assistant

Description: In the wake of a southeastern Nigerian mother’s discovery of her son’s body on her doorstep, a family struggles to understand the enigmatic nature of a youth shaped by disorienting blackouts, diverse friendships and a cousin’s worldly influence.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

His & Hers by Alice Feeney

Why you should try it: “You’ll never see the ending coming.”—Mary, Library Clerk

Description: Sacrificing everything for her hard-won BBC presenter career, Anna teams up with DCI Jack Harper to investigate a childhood friend’s murder in her sleepy hometown village. 

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Why you should try it: “This novel dives into topics, including race and privilege, while presenting a world thrown into chaos, which feels very familiar. A great time for this book to come out.”—Margita, Adult Services Librarian

Description: Sheltering in a New York beach house with a couple that has taken refuge during a massive blackout, a family struggles for information about the power failure while wondering if the cut-off property is actually safe.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Network Effect by Martha Wells

Why you should try it:  “Murderbot is one of the most complex main characters I have had the privilege to read about. Set in a dark future, Murderbot and its friends gives me hope and made me love them.”—Jeanine, Neighborhood Services Supervisor

Description: When Murderbot’s human associates are captured and need its help, it must choose between inertia and drastic action, in this first, full-length standalone novel about a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

Why you should try it: “A dark novel of a woman’s struggles to create a better life for her daughter in a world greatly impacted by climate change. I read this in a weekend. Couldn’t put it down. Shortlisted for the The Booker Prize.”—Lori, Director of Public Services and Programs

Description: A first novel by the author of Man V. Nature finds a desperate mother in a world ravaged by climate change joining a hunter-gatherer initiative to test humanity’s capacity to survive in the wilderness without destroying it.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower by Damian Duffy

Why you should try it: “Butler’s Earthseed series is reawakened through this graphic novel installment. It is a bit on nose at the moment, but it takes an interesting look at defining values and a strategy for the survival of civilization in a post apocalyptic world.”—Dean, Children’s Services Library Assistant

Description: The award-winning team behind the number one best-seller Kindred: A Graphic Novel adaptation now offer an adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s dystopian novel Parable of the Sower

Stream & download with: Hoopla (ebook), Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

Why you should try it: “I’ve read most of this series, and this is the one I loved just as much as the first. I rooted for Olivia and Max unreservedly as they were fully rounded out characters with compelling points of view.”—Shelley, Children’s Services Librarian

Description: Going against her better judgement, LA lawyer Olivia Monroe secretly starts dating a hotshot junior senator until their romance is made public and her life falls under intense media scrutiny, jeopardizing everything.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Why you should try it: “My favorite book this year! So gothic and so queer. Smart and funny and sometimes grossly horrific.”—Jenna, Collection Management Librarian

Description: Follows the release of a best-selling book about an early 20th-century New England boarding school where gender-diverse students died under suspicious circumstances.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Why you should try it: “Twisty and turning, this novel weaves together multiple tales. Similar to her first hit, The Night Circus, author Erin Morgenstern uses elements of fantasy to create words and stories that keep you turning the page.”—Alex, Adult Services Manager

Description: Discovering a mysterious book of prisoner tales, a Vermont graduate student recognizes a story from his own life before following clues to a magical underground library that is being targeted for destruction. 

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digtal audiobook)

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Why you should try it: “A remarkably sharp and engaging examination of race and privilege. I especially enjoyed the multi-layered unfolding of secrets, prejudices, and performative activism that spotlights the depth of the story.”—Rose, Adult Services Librarian

Description: Seeking justice for a young Black babysitter who was wrongly accused of kidnapping by a racist security guard, a successful blogger finds her efforts complicated by a video that reveals unexpected connections.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Why you should try it: “A slow burn masterpiece that weaves intricate plot lines between years of family drama, trauma, and acceptance.”—Rose, Adult Services Librarian

Description: Separated by their embrace of different racial identities, two mixed-race identical twins reevaluate their choices as one raises a Black daughter in their Southern hometown while the other passes for white with a husband who is unaware of her heritage.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick by David Wong

Why you should try it: “A totally unique reading experience by David Wong who masterfully blends genre fiction and sci-fi concepts with all-out hilarity and chaos.”—Michael, Adult Services Library Assistant Michael

Description: A sequel to the award-winning Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits finds Zoey declared the sudden ruler over the world’s most decadent city, where a public murder accusation leads her to suspect someone on her own team.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Adult nonfiction


18 Tiny Deaths by Bruce Goldfarb

Why you should try it: “The story of a fascinating woman makes for fascinating reading! Plus you learn about the development of forensics and a dash of Chicago history.”—Kathy, Collection Management Librarian 

Description: An account of the life of the woman best known for creating the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death dioramas describes her transition from a wealthy socialite to a leader in modern forensics whose methods are still used today. 

Stream & download with: Hoopla (ebook), Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

How Not To Diet by Michael Greger

Why you should try it: “I’ve encountered so much misinformation about dieting. It’s felt almost impossible to figure out what is healthy to eat and what helps with weight loss. How Not to Diet (Dr. Greger’s sequel to the excellent How Not to Die) gives healthful and sustainable advice that is strictly evidence-based. It’s changed the way I eat!”—Jack, Information Technology Specialist

Description: Dr. Greger hones in on the optimal criteria to enable weight loss, while considering how these foods actually affect our health and longevity.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand (ebook, digital audiobook)

My Life as a Villainess by Laura Lippman

Why you should try it: “Filled with sharp observations, tight writing, and a little bit o’ justified rage. I felt like I was talking to myself.”—Ann, Access Services Library Assistant

Description: A first nonfiction compilation by the award-winning author features original and previously published essays on subjects ranging from her childhood and education to her achievements as a reporter and crime-fiction author.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten

Why you should try it: “The author has given a nice twist to some familiar recipes. It has great photos as well. My favorite chapters from this book are: ‘Lunch’, ‘Dinner’, and ‘Dessert’.”—Rashmi, Adult Services Librarian

Description: A collection of 85 all-new recipes by the James Beard Award-winning host of the Emmy Award-winning Food Network series features comforting twists on childhood favorites, including cheesy chicken enchiladas, tomato and goat cheese crostata, and banana rum trifle.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Prison by Any Other Name by Maya Schenwar

Why you should try it: “A must-read for people interested in abolition and police reform, all the more relatable in today’s political and social climate.”—Megha, Children’s Services Library Assistant

Description: Situating this book in the context of criminal justice, two activist journalists reveal the way the kinder, gentler narrative of reform can obscure agendas of social control and challenge us to question the ways we replicate the status quo when pursuing change.

Stream & download with: Hoopla (ebook, digital audiobook), Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Wisdom From a Humble Jellyfish by Rani Shah

Why you should try it: “Zoology meets psychology. The animal facts, humor, and illustrations keep it interesting and light. Plus, who couldn’t use a little self care right now?”—Dean, Children’s Services Library Assistant

Description: We need look no farther than nature—from the habits of the porcupine to the sunflower to the wombat to the dragonfly—for small and simple things we can do to slow down, recharge, and live more thoughtfully, lovingly, and harmoniously.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

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