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January 1, 2021 / Rabbi Laura

What I read in 2020

There’s got to be some irony that in 2020 I read 45 books. Yes, 45. And the bulk of those books – probably 40 of them – I read between March 15th and December 30th, as a way to occupy my mind and body during the pandemic and our stay at home orders.

As I review the list of books, I am reminded of what 2020 offered me. First, even before the pandemic I needed to up my game in online learning so I spent part of the winter getting my feet wet with that. Was that prescient? Then come the summer and knowing that I would be teaching online all year, I spent several weeks reading and thinking about how to craft educative online learning spaces and experiences. Only two books are listed here, but they were accompanied by many blog posts and journal articles as well.

Escape. I devoured many of these reads via audiobook borrowed from my library via the Libby app. Through the spring and summer I found myself walking in my neighborhood, exploring streets I’d not seen before, walking our newly adopted dog Bella, and listening to a compelling, funny, or touching story. The need to walk enabled me the opportunity to escape the fear, loneliness, and stress of reality and reenter that fictional world. And the draw to the imaginary pulled Bella and me out the door each day.

Doing the work of understanding systemic racism. I have been speaking and writing and allying against racism for as long as I can remember. Yet, like many of us, after the murder of George Floyd, I felt that I was failing, falling far too short in understanding what it means to truly be and act as an anti-racist (Thank you Dr. Kendi for that language). So, I took upon myself the task of delving deep into the literature. This is hard internal work. I have noticed some of my own racist tendencies to which I have been socialized, whether I like it or not. I am not done doing this work. You will notice in my list of books that there are quite a few by black authors, and about the experience of being black in America. I have several books still to read. I will write more about this soon.

I am grateful to my loving, tough, smart, and curious book group who selected some of these books you find on my list. The conversations we had together were challenging and heart-warming, mixed with empathy and laughter. I pray for the time when we can greet each other with hugs and sit together in one of our living rooms with glasses of wine and plates of homemade treats exchanging ideas and stories.

Last April I made a trip to my office at the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles to grab books I needed for work and books that had been sitting on my shelf waiting their turn to be read. Some of those books are here in my home office still waiting their turn. I promise, in 2021, I will get to you!

My 2020 Reading List:

  1. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro
  2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
  3. The Color of Love: The Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl by Marra B. Gad
  4. Going Online with Protocols: New Tools for Teaching and Learning by Joseph McDonald, et al
  5. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  6. An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones
  7. The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz
  8. Calypso by David Sedaris
  9. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
  10. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
  11. The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
  12. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
  13. On Division by Goldie Goldbloom
  14. Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction by Rita-Marie Conrad and J. Ana Donaldson
  15. Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout
  16. The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes
  17. The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
  18. The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Christy Lefteri
  19. There There by Tommy Orange
  20. Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu in 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney
  21. After You by Jojo Moyes
  22. The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  23. The Coffee Trader by David Liss
  24. This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  25. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
  26. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker
  27. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  28. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore (1st in series)
  29. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  30. You Suck by Christopher Moore (2nd in series)
  31. Bite Me by Christopher Moore (3rd in series)
  32. A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
  33. Open Your Hand: Teaching as a Jew, Teaching as an American by Ilana M. Blumberg
  34. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  35. Still Me by Jojo Moyes
  36. A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
  37. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
  38. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
  39. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
  40. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  41. Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
  42. The Tattooist of Auschwitz  by Heather Morris
  43. Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps by Sarah Bunin Benor, Jonathan Krasner and Sharon Avni
  44. Leveling the Playing Field: Advancing Women in Jewish Organizational Life by Shifra Bronznick, Didi Goldenhar and Marty Linsky
  45. Humility is the New Smart by Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig


  1. Marsha Novak / Jan 1 2021 3:11 pm

    Amazing! I’m kvelling! How do you do all you do???? I love the list. A “few”Lots I hope to read. May I share it (the book club type) with my book groups? I just finished “The Girl With Seven Names”, and recently Caste and American Dirt.

  2. / Jan 1 2021 11:46 pm

    I am so impressed. This is one long list. As you know, I am not a book reader. I am a current events person and thrive on the news, good or bad.

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