As it gets to be mid-November, I find myself thinking more and more about thankfulness. Like every year, there’s been commercials on TV, ads on social media, and conversations between friends and family about being thankful. Since it’s getting to be the end of the year, its also the time we start reflecting on what we have been grateful for throughout the year. Unlike every other year though, 2020 has been full of turmoil and chaos. From COVID-19 to murder hornets, to the recent wildfires, it hasn’t always been an easy year, and sometimes it’s been downright difficult to find things to be thankful for.

For me, that’s where books come in. Whether it’s escaping into an exciting, extraterrestrial fantasy or a slice of life that’s a little less chaotic than our present day, reading more this year has helped me get through the times when life was a little too crazy to handle. This has especially been true for reading LGBTQ+ books and other books with minority representation. After a particularly stressful or chaotic day, reading books that highlight the growth of diverse representation gives me hope, and that’s something to be thankful for. And with that in mind, today I wanted to share a few books I have been thankful for in 2020:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

I have actually read Carry On before 2020, but it felt like a great time to read it again. In a time when author J.K. Rowling has continually disappointed me on LGTBQ+ issues, what better way for me to reject her narrative than to read a book that began as gay Harry Potter fanfiction? Full of magic, mystery, and mayhem, this book loosely follows the chosen one plot, but with the main character falling in love with his nemesis classmate. It also depicts class struggle, mental health struggles, and dragons and vampires for good measure. Bonus reason to be thankful: it was turned into a trilogy!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Despite never thinking of myself as a fan of the romance genre, I read a lot of romance. That being said, I mainly read young adult, coming of age stories that feature romance, not adult fiction where the main plot is about falling in love, like in The Kiss Quotient. I was surprised at how much I loved this book, from the sweet and energetic family dynamics of the male lead character to the realistic portrayal of the autistic female lead character. This was the first book I have ever read with an autistic character described in a way that didn’t once make me cringe, and I was grateful that she didn’t need to hide her autistic traits to be loved by the other characters. I’m pretty sure I went to the library on my day off to pick up the sequel, because the first was good enough I couldn’t wait through the weekend to start the next one.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Every year I make it a goal to read more nonfiction, and every year I fail. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck and only tried to read nonfiction that was dry and laid out like a textbook, but I’ve never really had nonfiction books capture my attention and desire to find out more the way a fiction book so often does. Stamped is definitely an exception to this rule. This book is Jason Reynolds’ young adult adaption of the adult nonfiction book Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, and it is approachable, fast moving, and educational without feeling like I am studying for a test. It provided insight I hadn’t considered myself, accounts of historical events I had never heard of, and had a way of connecting to the past while providing context for the protests and discussion of racism in the United States today. And after reading some of Jason Reynolds’ fiction works in previous years, I’m not so surprised this book was so engaging and impactful.

For more diverse books staff at JCLS are thankful for this year, check out this list.