I had another fabulous reading year filled with new authors and old standbys, and I am excited to wrap up 2020 by sharing more of my favorite books published this year.

The best sophomore effort I read was “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, a multigenerational book centered on themes of identity, sisterhood and family. It is the story of twins Stella and Desiree Vignes, who grow up in the 1960s in a Louisiana town in which the residents are black and have very light skin. The sisters run away to New Orleans and then lose touch.

Desiree marries, has a daughter who has very dark skin, and returns to her hometown to flee her abusive husband. Stella marries a white man, has a daughter, and passes as white in an affluent Los Angeles neighborhood. The narrative then shifts to the daughters, Jude and Kennedy, and the effects of their mothers’ secrets play out in their generation. I also highly recommend Bennett’s first book, “The Mothers.”

The most charming book I read was “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, which takes the time travel trope and creates a unique novel. The entire book occurs in a small Tokyo café with a limited cast of characters. The location became semi-famous when word got out that people can time travel when they sit in one particular seat.

However, there are rules, the strictest being a traveler gets only as long as it takes for the coffee to get cold to come back to the present. Those who venture seek a do-over, solace, answers — all the reasons a reader might imagine — and their stories intertwine in lovely and unexpected ways. I recommend this book for fans of Fredrik Backman and Matt Haig.

My favorite historical novel was “The Pull of the Stars” by Emma Donoghue, partly because she is a great writer and partly because the book reminded me that the world has survived times like 2020. In fact, it was just 100 years ago that influenza ravaged the world, and Donoghue focuses on a maternity ward in a Dublin hospital to shape our understanding of that moment in history.

Over the course of three days, Nurse Julia Power, Dr. Kathleen Lynn and Aide Bridie Sweeney create a powerful bond to care for ill women who are about to give birth, and I was caught up in the rollercoaster of life and death through the actions of these amazing women.

Finally, the young adult novel I am telling everyone about is “We Are Not Free” by Traci Chee, who fictionalized her Japanese American family’s experiences in incarceration camps during World War II.

Fourteen teens share the physical losses of homes and belongings and the emotional toll that being dehumanized takes as they are forced from San Francisco to Utah to the frontlines in Italy and Germany. Amid the tragedy and chaos are joyful moments that brought me to tears, and any book that makes me cry earns my highest praise.

All of these books are available at the library. Place holds at roseburg.biblionix.com. Happy reading.

Kris Wiley is the director of the Roseburg Public Library. She can be reached at kwiley@cityofroseburg.org or 541-492-7051.

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