Our Best Books: Staff Favourites of 2020

2020 has given us time to reflect, innovate, reminisce on the "good old days," and of course...read! We at Halifax Public Libraries take pride in our reading achievements and love sharing recommendations with our fellow literary lovers.

Check out some of our staff members' favourite stories, old and new, read within the past year.

Åsa's Picks

Chief Librarian & CEO

The Splendid and the Vile

This is a non-fiction book, but it reads like a great novel, balancing political analysis, an in-depth assessment of Churchill’s leadership, and vignettes of daily life in a time of personal and political crisis.

Talking to Strangers

I’ve been a longtime fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s; his books always leave me thinking differently about the world around me. In Talking to Strangers, he explores miscommunications and misconceptions that have tragic consequences. From Hitler to Fidel Castro to Bernie Madoff to Amanda Knox, he illustrates how the strategies we turn to in interpreting the intentions of strangers are often flawed.

The Historians

One of the emerging stars of Nordic noir, Cecilia Ekbäck was born in northern Sweden and now makes her home in Canada. In her latest thriller, The Historians, Ekbäck takes readers back to Sweden in 1943 a time during WWII when Sweden’s neutrality was being challenged. Three storylines intersect in a conspiracy, undercurrents of racial supremacy, and secret negotiations between the Swedish government and the Reich.

Ali's Picks

Youth Services, Woodlawn Public Library


Invisible Women

It was astounding to read about all of the spheres in which women are not being considered in research data, and the often devastating impacts of this ignorance of half of the population. For example, cars are only safety tested based on male drivers. Perez explores this massive data gap in an engaging and completely accessible manner.


This fast-paced novel tells the story of one woman's reaction to a future where all women and girls are permitted to speak only 100 words per day. Vox is perfect for lovers of The Handmaid's Tale who want a little more action.

Perfect Little World

I picked up this novel because I wanted to escape the not-so-perfect world of 2020 and it perfectly cocooned me in a commune for a new type of family. Of course, nothing is as perfect as it seems, but at least the issues on the commune are far from those plaguing most of us today.

Amy's Picks

Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

A funny and gripping memoir on what it's really like to be a therapist. 'Listen in' and learn as the author talks to her patients, and to her own therapist. 

Digital Minimalism

Because, well, Internet! But also, in order to do our best work and live a purposeful life, we need to be intentional with how we spend our time.

Such A Fun Age

A thought-provoking and funny read about woke-ness,  privilege, class, and social media. 


A sometimes hard to read book that sheds light on why alcohol consumption and abuse in women is on the rise. 

Trick Mirror

A smart collection of essays, covering everything from religion, drugs, feminism, and the 'cult of the difficult woman'.

Daughter of Family G

A local read! Beautifully written, a fascinating and true story about the author's family history of hereditary cancer. 

Cheryl's Picks

Tantallon Public Library


(Plus the rest of the trilogy!) It's the age of immortality where no one dies, where "deadish" means going to the revival center, and the population is outgrowing what the earth can provide. Scythes are created in order to maintain the size of the population. Of course, power such as this can and does go to the heads of some chosen Scythes.

Never Let Me Go

People don't want to know about things that disturb them such as how their meat is treated while a living creature. In this world, people are cloned for the sole purpose of providing parts to the living who need them. The teachers at Hailsham boarding school have a secret goal, to prove that their children have souls like any human.

When She Woke

This is a futuristic Scarlet Letter where offenders are punished on a molecular level with chroming. Hannah is convicted of murdering her unborn child through an abortion and made a "red." Once released back into the population, such offenders are faced with with the stereotypes and biases of the non-chromed populace. 

Claudia's Picks

Information Services, Halifax Central Library

The Nocturnal Brain

In this book, a Neurologist tells their patients sleep stories. As a sleepwalker myself, I find the habits of others while asleep fascinating.

Blood in the Water

This story shows how events when looked at in the singular can be seen as trivial, but when compounded can lead to murder.

A Gentleman in Moscow

Towles tells the story of a Count held under house arrest who is still able to have a world of experiences. It is a love story for humanity.

Colleen's Picks

Marketing & Communications

Dear Edward

Hands down, my favourite of the year. It will make you laugh, cry, and ponder the meaning of life. Not since Room by Emma Donoghue have I read such a touching story written from a child's perspective.


I'm getting more and more into Non-Fiction, and this was my favourite Non-Fiction read of the year. If you believe that life is more than meets the eye, you'll look at your surroundings differently after reading this one.

The Heart's Invisible Furies

This was just so beautifully written. The characters will stay with you long after you read it.

Ilea's Picks

Borrower Services, Keshen Goodman Public Library

Red, White & Royal Blue

This is a light, fluffy RomCom that had me grinning the entire book. I was rooting for the prince and the FSOTUS from the first to last page.

Meg & Jo

A great reimagining of Little Women, and a great reminder that no one's family is perfect, even if it looks that way.

Carry on

Being a Harry Potter and Supernatural fan, I couldn't pass up this novel. It's a perfect enemies to lovers tale that has me excited to start the sequel, Wayward Son.

Ivy's Picks

J.D. Shatford Memorial Public Library

Starry, Starry Night

The short stories tell us that Christmas isn't all about presents and decorations. It's about people, love, new perspectives, and putting others before yourself.

Turtle Under Ice
This story shows that everyone deals with grief in their own way and that it can take a long time to move forward after the loss of a loved one. It also shows that you are not alone.

Charlotte's Web

This book is about friendship and helping each other. The characters are lively and bring out the inner child in you.

Laurel's Picks

Fund Development

Anxious People

This book made me laugh out loud and shed a couple tears. It has a big heart, and reminds us that a little compassion and understanding goes a long way. 

The Death of Truth

If you believe "truth is a cornerstone of democracy" and that" there is no such thing as harmless disinformation" and see a growing concern with "populist contempt for expertise" then this book is for you. How did we get here and what does a post-truth era mean for democracy? 

The Vanishing Half

Two sisters living different lives. What will bring them together, and what will push them apart? This book dives deep into family, sisterhood, race and identity. I've thought about this book long after the final chapter. ​

Leah's Picks

Adult Services, Keshen Goodman Public Library

The Great Successor

A very readable book that delves into the life of North Kora’s leader, Kim Jong Un. The author interviews a number of people who were once very close to the leader and, while it’s interesting to read about the bizarre propaganda around him and his family, it’s upsetting and infuriating to read about the conditions that the people of North Korea are experiencing. Highly recommended for people wanting to know more about the operations of this highly secretive country.

This Is My America

This was far and away my favourite book of 2020. It had been on my list for a while, and now I wish that I had picked it up sooner. It is a powerful and heartbreaking novel about racism and the justice system. Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give and Just Mercy.

Frankly in Love

This beautiful coming of age story explores first love, family, racism, privilege, and identity. I cried, I laughed, I highly recommend it!

What were your favourite reads of 2020? Tell us in the comments below!