Monday, December 21, 2020

What I Read: 2020 Books of the YEAAAAAAR




As of this post, I have read 103 books this year-- not my best year. In fact, it's my lowest number of books since I made the resolution to read 100 books way back in 2013. Since I started setting reading goals, I have read 1115 books, or 159 books/year. WOW!

Once again,. I read most of the titles that appear on this year's best of lists.  And, once again, I didn't pick most of those books. Some notable "best of"s that I enjoyed but have left off my list: The Vanishing Half, My Dark Vanessa, Mexican Gothic, Real Life, A Burning, The Glass Hotel, Rodham, Hood Feminism, Weather, Catherine House, Anxious People. Why are these missing below? I liked other books better.

Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman: I adored this funny little book. It had me from the very opening line, and I randomly thought about-- and laughed about-- a couple of the incidents Zigman dreams up months after reading it. You will not find this on other best of lists, but I think you should.

Death in her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh: Wow. This was a singularly dark and thoughtfully composed book. It was sad, funny, scary, and wholly original. I loved every carefully chosen word.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: I read this early in the year but knew it was great. Not only is it an engaging plot, but Reid does an excellent job of untangling issues of race and class in a really engaging and deceptively breezy way.

The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward: I am a real sucker for the dysfunctional family on vacation dramedy. It might be my favorite escapist genre. This book is funny and sad and quirky with characters who are both entirely relatable and entirely original-- a difficult combination. 

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler:  Not only did this book keep my interest in miserable lat pregnancy, but I have thought about it several times since them, mostly while reading the newspaper. It's a sad story, and the characters are so realistic I feel like I know them and can imagine them living outside the book's pages.

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan: I continue to be a sucker for an author who can write totally different books. Her last one was historical fiction, and I loved it, too, but this book is very zeitgeist-y, and it does not disappoint. It is one of those books that I love where the main character is extremely unlikable but also extremely compelling. I am drawn to those characters in the best way.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd: This book is wonderful. So sad and spare and lovely. Even though we all know how this story ends, the end of this book feels like a revelation. Reading this story was a gift.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This was so, so, so scary. Like SO SO scary. I think because it was so sparsely written, I was even more scared. And some of the images! Stayed with me for days. I also loved the attention to race and class, which often gets rung out of terrifying books.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich: Confession: I love Louise Erdrich and would probably always put her books on my top 10. I love how the title of this one has multiple registers of meaning. I loved these characters and thought of them again and again after the book was over. I love the way Erdrich writes, so precisely, rendering whole characters with simple turns of phrase or neat little descriptors. This book is really wonderful, and it would be an excellent book club pick.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi: This book is brilliant, and the characters have stayed with me for months. I admire this author so much. Her first book was a sweeping, multi-character history, and this one is a really granular look at one woman's life. She does a brilliant job of standing inside this one body and only knowing what her flawed character knows and sees. At the same time, she is able to let readers know how unreliable Gifty is at talking about herself and knowing her own motivations. I really loved this one.

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