I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Best Books of 2020

Best Books of 2020

My list is not extensive by any means, but I need to share out my favorites from 2020 like I have the past six years. I read a bit for myself, along with many books I thought my 7th graders would enjoy or books they recommended for me.
     2019 Favorites
     2018 Favorites
     2017 Favorites
     2016 Favorites
     2015 Favorites
     2014 Favorites

Here are the books I would most recommend from my list of 81 books I've read this year... I tried to whittle it down to one or two per genre, but I read some genres more than others! I'm not going to describe them for you - you can check out the complete list with my thoughts for this year here. Another note: One of my goals again this year was to read many more books by authors who are not white.

Biography / Autobiography / Memoir
     Such a sweet story of innocence, humility, and effort. My Name Is Tani… and I Believe in Miracles was one I will purchase and share with my students. I also believe I'll be rereading Between the World and Me.

Graphic Novel
     I only read two this year. Guts is relatable to my seventh graders on so many levels.

Historical Fiction
     It was another good year for historical fiction for me. I'd recommend Saving Savannah by Bolden, Death Coming Up the Hill by Crowe, and Show Me a Sign by LeZotte for my own seventh graders, for sure.

"How to"
     One for my students and me: This Book Is Anti-Racist Here are my notes for this book
And one for educators (and any other adult, really): Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less    I wrote about that one here.

     One of my six nonfiction books this year... and I read it twice: So You Want to Talk about Race    My notes from this one are here

     I loved listening to the teacher in this audio book. I'd have to take notes as I drove. Once I got over the fact that it was a sequel of sorts, I could just focus on the lessons. The Courage to Be Happy: The Japanese Phenomenon that Shows You that True Contentment Is In Your Power

Realistic Fiction
     Always so many. So Done by Paula Chase, I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kelly Jones and Gilly Segal,  SLAY by Brittney Morris, Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes, This Side of Home by Renee Watson, and my adult favorite was The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

     New for me was a bit of romance this year. Two more mature reads I enjoyed: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (adult), and Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (YA).

    I only read four (and that's good for me!), so I'll share them all, as I think they all have different audiences... How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trohy by Crystal Allen is for 7th grade on up, Bear Town by Fredrik Backman and Painting the Black by Carl Deuker are both for high school on up, and Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt is for middle schoolers who understand the witty references.

My reading gap this year? I only read two new science fiction books (the rest were re-reads for our scifi unit), and even though I tried a couple of short story collections, I abandoned them due to their mature content. I'll look for a couple more graphic novels next year and also a couple more mysteries.

What awesome books should I put on my list? Please share your favorites in the comments below!

For the quotes I love, check out this slideshow that I update with each quote that touches my heart or soul:


  1. Wow, Joy! You are committed! I love that. I had read more in the past four years than I had for a long time. However, 2020 was a bit of a bust for me. I didn't read much at all. I was so surprised that I wasn't motivated to read more books to take my mind off the doomscrolling I did instead.

    Anyway, I did get a few books in. The best I read are a memoir, A Knock at Midnight by Brittany Barnett, and a poetry book, The Tradition by Jericho Brown.

    Do you read many poetry books? Or novels in verse? I know sometimes poetic novels are more accessible for young readers too. I always like them!

    I enjoyed looking through some of your quotes too. That's a good idea. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hiiii, Denise!
      I'll put your favorites into my "to read" list. As for novels in verse, I only read two in 2020 - Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X and Lois Lowry's On the Horizon. I've already (today) read one for 2021, though - Jacqueline Woodson's Before the Ever After. I love novels in verse! Thanks for sharing your favorites for the year - I did have a dry spell in April that I'm glad I got over. Phew! Here's to more in 2021!