2020 is finally coming to an end. This was one of the most miserable fucking years ever and it can piss right off. While my life wasn’t really impacted all that much by any kind of quarantine – I’m practically a shut-in in my daily life anyway – I did miss traveling. I am incredibly lucky and grateful that I have a job that allows me to work from home and that my daughter and I have remained healthy. So has my mom, though the rest of my family didn’t come through the pandemic unscathed. Everyone is doing ok so far, though, and I am happy for that. I feel terrible for the many millions of people who have lost their jobs, for the over 300,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19 (and the more than 1.6 million worldwide), and everyone who is struggling in ways large and small during this very strange and awful time. My grandmother would have said, “This, too, shall pass,” and I know she is right. Sometimes it is hard to see that, though, in the middle of events.
Of course, even the worst times have some bright points. Or, as Emperor Georgiou quoted in “Terra Firma part 2,” “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” The BEST thing has to be Biden kicking Idiot Hitler’s fat ass. A related bright point to Biden’s election is that we also get Kamala Harris as our first Madam Vice President. I can’t wait! Having a compassionate, intelligent, engaged, literate President and Vice President in office will surely be a sea change after the past obscene four years of the sub-literate, cruel, anti-science, racist, misogynist, corrupt excrescence currently squatting in the Oval Office. Can’t wait for that creature to become irrelevant again, and likely imprisoned.
For me, books and reading are always a refuge and solace. I can travel by way of books, even if I am physically stuck in Arizona. I can go to other parts of the world or to new worlds entirely. I can encounter people who are facing the same struggles I face, or I can learn more about others who face completely different challenges in their life. I always aim to read 100 books a year. According to my Goodreads Year in Books, I didn’t get to 100 this year, though if I were to add up all the articles I read for research, I would probably get to 100 books total easily. But I didn’t count articles. I’m done researching now, though, and my manuscript is in to the publisher and I hopefully never have to think much on it again! Never thought I would be sick of medieval Europe, but here we are.
Also, as anyone who spends any time with me at all knows, I love reading challenges because they stretch my comfort zone. I love learning about authors and cultures I’ve never been exposed to before. I am passionate about supporting and amplifying the voices of women and authors of color. So to try to do all of these things, I always participate in Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge. I don’t always get through the whole list, depending on what all is happening, but I did this year! I even reviewed almost all of them. I try hard to write a review for every book I read, but sometimes I don’t get around to doing it. But at least I finished it, even WITH all the research and work I was doing to write my own book. I’m pretty proud of me. How did you do on your various reading goals this year? Mine are below the cut.
- Read a YA nonfiction book: #NotYourPrincess, edited by Lisa Charleyboy.
- Read a retelling of a classic of the canon, fairy tale, or myth by an author of color: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi.
- Read a mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
- Read a graphic memoir: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Originally, I had thought to read Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero. I’m glad I read Fun Home instead. It seems I didn’t get around to reviewing it, though. Whoops.
- Read a book about a natural disaster: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.
- Read a play by an author of color and/or queer author: Angels in America by Tony Kushner. Even though I knew the audiobook version didn’t have Jason Isaacs in it, and his being in it on stage was the reason I read this, I still enjoyed it very much. I’d never listened to a play on audiobook before and had wondered how it would go. It worked out just fine!
- Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWII: The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman. This is still a funny task to me. Almost none of the things I read are set during WWII. I’m sick of WWII. There are lots of other time periods one could focus on.
- Read an audiobook of poetry: The Poet X by Elizabeth Aceveda. I had originally planned to read If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar or The Poets’ Corner by John Lithgow. I’m still interested in reading the two I had initially thought I would read. I went with The Poet X simply because I decided to start listening to it – I got it as an Audible Daily Deal – and quickly realized it was written in verse, so I used it for this task.
- Read the LAST book in a series: Big Sky by Kate Atkinson. Listened to the audio version of this literally because Jason Isaacs narrates it. That was the only good thing about it. Otherwise I thought it was boring and weird. I really just don’t like Atkinson’s writing style. This was the third book of hers I read and that is the last. I’m done trying to like her.
- Read a book that takes place in a rural setting: In the Country of the Young by Lisa Carey. Originally planned to read Gilead by Mary Robinson or The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth. We read In the Country of the Young for my work’s book club and it was an awesome book, one of my favorites of 2020. It also happened to be set in rural Maine.
- Read a debut novel by a queer author: Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead. It’s hard for me not to like a person who refers to themself as an NDN Glitter Princess.
- Read a memoir by someone from a religious tradition that is not your own: Educated by Tara Westover. Yep. Those are some seriously fucked up folks.
- Read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before: A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain. I was originally planning to read Longthroat Memoirs by Yemisi Aribisala. I even started reading it. But I decided that I wanted to revisit A Cook’s Tour instead because I miss Anthony Bourdain.
- Read a romance starring a single parent: Home Again by Kristin Hannah. UGH. I do not understand why she is popular. I’m still trying to recover my lost IQ points from reading this book.
- Read a book about climate change: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.
- Read a doorstopper (500+ pages) published after 1950, written by a woman: The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman.
- Read a SFF novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Originally I’d planned to read Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire or Last Summer at Mars Hill by Elizabeth Hand. I’m so glad I read Wells’s book because I utterly adore Murderbot! I am going to buy myself the whole Muderbot series for myself for Xmas.
- Read a picture book with a human main character from a marginalized community: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o. I had no plan of any sort for this task. I picked up Sulwe when I took my daughter to the bookstore and she was browsing.
- Read a book by or about a refugee: Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung. I actually did read Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai for this task originally, but I recently read Homes and loved it more.
- Read a middle grade book that doesn’t take place in the US or UK: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Nigerian witches. MORE, please!
- Read a book with a main character or protagonist with a disability: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. Originally planned to read House Rules by Jodi Picoult or Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I wish I had read one of those instead. I fucking hated The Cuckoo’s Calling.
- Read a horror book published by an indie press: After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones. I slept flat on my back with the covers up to my chin for a week after I read this. Creepy AF.
- Read an edition of a literary magazine: Arthuriana, the scholarly journal for Arthurian studies.
- Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author: #NotYourPrincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy. Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead also went toward this, and I probably would have just used it alone except I read #NotYourPrincess first.
Also, my favorite books that I read in 2020 were:
- The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman (linked above)
- In the Country of the Young by Lisa Carey (linked above)
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, narrated by Jason Isaacs
- The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood
- All Systems Red by Martha Wells (linked above)
- On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin
- Recursion by Blake Crouch
- Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (linked above)
- Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, narrated by Sandra Burr
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, narrated by Michael Crouch
- And Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bergman, translated by Elizabeth Manton and Erica Moore.