2020 Patron Picks

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

Some of the books, films, and TV series you and your neighbors have enjoyed this year.

  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

    2020 by Wilkerson, Isabel

    It got to a more foundational layer of some of our interconnected social challenges in a way that is helpful for addressing them systematically. We knew these things, but this is a fresh framework for seeing them—one that recognizes blame but doesn't make that the main topic of discussion or allow it to paralyze action. Beautifully combines the historical, systemic, and personal aspects. Recommended by Caroline P.

    Get this item
  • Deacon King Kong

    2020 by McBride, James

    McBride captures the rhythms of a particular neighbor in the aftermath of a shooting. It was very satisfying discovering how the fates of all the characters are connected. Recommended by Delores N.

    Get this item
  • Oona Out of Order

    2020 by Montimore, Margarita

    It is light reading, an imaginary story. I enjoyed seeing what the author highlighted about each year and decade. It also had the reader relate to their own lives at that time. I am 65. I think you would have had to live through these decades to appreciate Oona's time travel. Recommended by Sheryl G.

    Get this item
  • Station Eleven

    2014 by Mandel, Emily St. John

    This was an exceptional selection for my "pandemic reading." It is a post-pandemic tale telling what happens if the virus is so contagious and acts so fast that society can't survive. The survivors have no electricity, running water, or gasoline. What happens to people who are forced to live under such conditions? I found it absolutely riveting. I am thankful that COVID-19 isn't as deadly. Recommended by Sharon F.

    Get this item
  • Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

    2019 by Criado-Perez, Caroline

    To me, reading it had something of the flavor of the feminist books that came out in the 1970s: a feeling the author is telling you that what you experience and feel and know isn't crazy, but real and grounds for the loud complaints some of us have been making for many decades. Recommended by Caroline P.

    Get this item
  • Game of Stars

    2019 by DasGupta, Sayantani

    The book was very imaginative, had humor, and exposed me to a new culture. It also gave me story ideas of my own. Recommended by Reed L.

    Get this item
  • Heavy: An American Memoir

    2018 by Laymon, Kiese

    The author details not only his turbulent relationship with his mother but also all of the racism and prejudice he had to deal with growing up in Mississippi and throughout his life. This is an amazing story and so relevant for our times. Recommended by Mary C.

    Get this item
  • The Child Finder

    2017 by Denfeld, Rene

    I love detective stories. This one is very different from my usual ones. The main character, Naomi, is so interesting. She searches for missing children, and while being great at that, she is searching for her own sister. They were held captive but escaped when she was about 9 years old, but her much younger sister got lost. I'm reading Denfield's next book, The Butterfly Girl, right now. It continues Naomi's adventures. Recommended by Earl S.

    Get this item
  • Mister Invincible

    2020 by Jousselin, Pascal

    This superhero is an everyman who buys groceries, does his housekeeping, visits his mother, and chats with his neighbors. His unique comic book power lets him bend time and reality to solve problems and catch crooks. The characters and scenes are beautifully drawn. Recommended by Bill N.

    Get this item
  • Apeirogon

    2020 by McCann, Colum

    Based closely on true events, this book tells the moving story of two fathers, one Israeli and one Palestinian; each has a young daughter who has been killed. The two men eventually find common ground, understanding, and friendship as they work together to end the violence that has deeply wounded both of their families and so many others. Recommended by Phyllis N.

    Get this item
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over

    2019 by Holmes, Linda

    Loved this book so much! The dialogue is amazing. It's wonderful to see two people building a relationship through conversations. This book really has it all— characters, plot, romance—it's a great read. Recommended by Mary C.

    Get this item
  • Leadership in Turbulent Times

    2018 by Goodwin, Doris Kearns

    Goodwin is a national treasure. Her books on LBJ, T.R., Lincoln and his cabinet, are time capsules and their truth and accuracy represent those times as well as the current times. Themes of character, duty, sacrifice, and honor mean something in Goodwin's worldview. Her clarity is sorely needed in these times of shifting "truths." Recommended by Gary K.

    Get this item
  • Imaginary Friend

    2019 by Chbosky, Stephen

    This book was such a thriller. The 700+ pages seemed like they basically turned themselves! What an experience it was to read through your own worst fears and want more of it. This wondrously thought-provoking, eerie book leaves a haunting lasting impression and has become one of my favorites of all time. Recommended by Kris B.

    Get this item
  • Near Dark: A Thriller

    2020 by Thor, Brad

    This is a military thriller with story lines that apply to the current world. It is part of a continuing series about the same character, but you do not need to have read the previous one to enjoy the current. Recommended by Steve R.

    Get this item
  • Finn Family Moomintroll

    2010 by Jansson, Tove

    This is a really cute Finnish book about imaginary creatures called Moomintrolls and their lovable family. Recommended by Esther L.

    Get this item
  • Parting Shot

    2017 by Barclay, Linwood

    Two well-paced plot lines intersect in a surprising climax. Well-constructed, believable characters and plot twists. An absorbing read, but very dark. I recommend for adults only. This book is a later title in the author's "Promise Falls" series, so I would also suggest those books be read in published sequence (to put some allusions in the plot in context) but this is not required to engage with the novel. Recommended by Bill N.

    Get this item
  • My Dark Vanessa

    2020 by Russell, Kate Elizabeth

    This is the most intense book I read this year. I also read Putney much earlier in the year, which deals with the same subject matter: pedophilia and the relationship between victim and abuser. Both were eye-openers regarding how much the young teenage female victims were unwilling to admit that the relationship had been abusive. Recommended by Christine H.

    Get this item
  • The Americans: The Complete First Season

    Imagine, if you will, a suburban couple raising two children in the 1980s. Now imagine that they are Russian spies who also run a travel agency. They have to do many difficult things in service to their mother country: planting bugs, getting secret government information, and sometimes they do kill people. Did I mention that their next door neighbor is an FBI agent? It's very entertaining and engaging. Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. Recommended by Barbara C.

    Get this item
  • Downton Abbey


    Rewatching this series has been comforting because the Crawley clan endured a world war, a pandemic, and numerous other challenges, but stayed fabulous. Also, all their hours spent dressing and undressing and lounging around the house are suddenly more relatable during the stay-at-home times (though infinitely more glamorous than me changing from leggings to pajamas and back again!). Recommended by Jane H.

    Get this item
  • An Inspector Calls


    It was a thought-provoking film, making you think about how your actions can affect others. It was also a type of mystery. Great dialogue and acting. Recommended by Esther L.

    Get this item
  • The Vietnam War


    Very informative and insightful. Made by a great documentarian who not only speaks history but is also a strong and emotional storyteller. Recommended by Maria H.

    Get this item
  • How about Adolf?


    This is a funny German comedy about family secrets and quarrels. Recommended by Esther L.

    Get this item
  • 1917


    It's a war movie, but not as violent as other war movies. It helps you gain perspective on what trench warfare in Europe was like during WWI. Recommended by Esther L.

    Get this item
  • Emma


    I enjoyed this take on Emma. It was a little quicker than other adaptations, but also funnier at times. The chemistry between the two leads was enjoyable. Recommended by Esther L.

    Get this item
  • Lucy Worsley's Royal Palace Secrets


    Lucy Worsley gives us tours of the Tower of London, Hampton Court, and Kensington Palace. She's a fun host who tells good stories. Recommended by Esther L.

    Get this item
  • Resurrecting Richard III


    This "Secrets of the Dead" documentary tries to figure out how much of an impediment Richard III's crooked spine would have been for him. It's a great way to learn more about Richard III and the magnificent discovery of his grave in an England parking lot. Recommended by Esther L.

    Get this item