In 2018, I resolved to read MORE. I don’t know how many books I read in 2017, but it was less than what I completed in 2018. In 2019, I managed to find time for 34 books (the same number as 2018). I’m happy with that number.
Then came 2020.
Sitting here, on the morn of New Year’s Eve, writing this… I feel a little like we’re all crawling toward a finish line, holding our collective breath, praying whatever is on the other side of that line is something “better” than what we’ve survived the last 12 months. A shock went through me as I typed that last bit. Not everyone survived.
I was not one of the “buried herself in the escapism of reading” folks. I was on track for a banner year in the reading department… then COVID came to town. With my kids home ALL DAY ERRRRRRY DAY, any time for personal reading vanished right along with concerts, vacations, and meeting-up for… well, for anything.
When things were “more” normal rather than “less,” like, my kids were IN actual, real-life school, I found my mental health was slightly better. I could focus. Which meant, I could read. During those weeks, I noticed an up-tick in the number of pages I turned. In the last weeks of 2020, we were able to take a trip to Arizona to visit my in-laws (Ample precautions were taken). In the week we were there, with my kids occupied in a pool and under sunshine, and with my own mind and body in “relax” mode, I devoured four books in almost as many days. It was magical.
As I’ve said before, stories are gateways to past, present, future, and all destinations imagined and real. There is no requirement for travel other than the ability to read and a library card. This portal to all worlds and vast amounts of knowledge is for EVERYONE. I think that’s part of why I’m so in love with the magic of books (and literacy). But I also learned this year, in order for me to dive into other worlds, I have to be able to leave this one behind. Mentally checking out of a place that was rife with turmoil, insecurity, divisiveness, and many unknowns… was hard for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t desire a mental check out. I did! Oh, for the love, I wanted to check out. It was like I couldn’t. My mind just refused to fully LEAVE, walk away from, the dumpster fire that was 2020.
When I was able to effectively distract myself with reading, I found I was drawn to books that would help me to feel I was learning about how to make the world a little better, or books what would take me so very far away from present day, I might get lost in the other-ness of some imagined world. You will see this reflected in my 2020 list.
How do I rate my reads? Well, good books are good for many reasons. It could be the writing, or it could be the story—or both. It could be the author’s ability to bend, pull, and push the reader to thinking beyond what is known or believed. Or it could be super steamy sex at just the right moment. Just saying.
Below you will find my 2020 READ list. They are listed by title, author, and my rating—5 being the highest rating I give.
There aren’t any 1 ratings. I just can’t do that to anyone who has the guts to publish their words for others to read. If it got a 2, I didn’t think much of it. On the other hand, anything with a 3 or 4 I thought was good and very good (respectively). And a 5, well, that means I either LOVED it or it made me dig deep into my own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs—challenging me to thoughtfully consider a different perspective. The half numbers are as you would expect—just a little more than, or right on the cusp of something one level up. The best books I read in 2020 were those rated with a 5 (obviously), but if I had to recommend just a couple, I would say EVERYONE over the age of 10 should read Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. It’s a middle grade/YA book, appropriate for a swath of ages. The information is presented in an easily digestible format and will make you think… hard… about where and how you’ve formulated your ideas about race. And if you’re a WWII junky like me, Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is also a must read. It was a “clutch it to my chest and let a few tears fall” kind of book.
You may agree or disagree with my ratings. To each their own. Here’s to hoping 2021 provides the mental space for more “travel by page” and the physical ability to safely travel… at all.
|A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire||Jennifer L. Armentrout||3|
|Between the World and Me||Ta-Nehisi Coates||4|
|Blood of Elves||Andrzej Sapkowski||3.5|
|Cilka’s Journey||Heather Morris||5|
|Clanlands||Sam Heughan, Graham McTavish||5|
|From Blood and Ash||Jennifer L. Armentrout||3.5|
|House of Earth and Blood||Sarah J. Maas||3.5|
|How to Be an Antiracist||Ibram X. Kendi||4|
|How to Stop Time||Matt Haig||4|
|In Five Years||Rebecca Serle||3.5|
|No Happy Endings||Nora McInerny||2.5|
|Notes from a Young Black Chef||Kwame Onwuachi||3|
|One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow||Olivia Hawker||3|
|Something Wicked This Way Comes||Ray Bradbury||3.5|
|Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You||Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi||5|
|The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel)||Suzanne Collins||3|
|The Bastard||John Jakes||4|
|The Book of Lost Friends||Lisa Wingate||4.5|
|The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek||Kim Michele Richardson||3.5|
|The Evening and the Morning||Ken Follett||3.5|
|The Forgotten Kingdom||Signe Pike||5|
|The Indigo Girl||Natasha Boyd||3.5|
|The Last Wish||Andrzej Sapkowski||4|
|The Light Over London||Julia Kelly||3|
|The Nickel Boys||Colson Whitehead||4|
|The Patchwork Bride||Sandra Dallas||3|
|The Power||Naomi Alderman||3|
|The Ten Thousand Doors of January||Alix E. Harrow||3|
|The Vanishing Half||Brit Bennett||3.5|
|Westering Women||Sandra Dallas||3|
|Where the Lost Wander||Amy Harmon||3.5|
|Why We Can’t Sleep||Ada Calhoun||4|