Books 2020

All titles linked to Goodreads out of the goodness of my heart. 

Goal: 60      Read: 26     Ditched: 1

Currently reading: Rereading Chosen Ones …

May 22: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. This is the story of two sisters during World War II. They both respond to the war (and are affected by it) in different ways. As I was reading, I was reminded why I don’t particularly like stories about WWII (so many atrocities) as well as why it’s important to read stories about WWII (so many atrocities). It is stunning what cruelties humans are willing to inflict on each other. It’s also stunning how brave and strong humans can be in the face of that. How maybe there’s no such thing as a happy ending, but we are able to decide how we respond. I didn’t particularly enjoy this book, but I do recommend it.

May 19: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth. I bought this one — most of what I read comes from the eLibrary, but I got impatient. I really enjoyed the story and was surprised to see it got so many negative reviews. There’s a lot going on in this book and I can’t say I saw most of it coming (I can usually sniff out a plot pretty quickly). We’ve got the whole “How does a Chosen One live with herself after victory?” question, plus “What if the good guys are really the bad guys?” plus some undead soldiers, magic and another dimension (made me want to read “Regarding Ducks and Universes” again — perhaps I will). Five out of five.

May 16: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling. I’ve read this one many times and I assume I will read it many more. I usually read the whole series once every couple of years, but I thought that the seventh book would be good pandemic reading and I was right.

May 9: The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll. One of the Goodreads reviews says this is less about bullet journaling and more about the philosophy behind it, and I would agree with that. My journals are more longform writing and less bulleted lists, but eh, to each their own. Anyway, it’s an interesting read and I’m incorporating some of Carroll’s ideas into my journal.

May 2: Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. Hey, I read another “real” book! This one is off of Abby’s bookshelf. She loves Backman — “A Man Called Ove” is one of her most favorite books ever (I agree, that is a fantastic book). I really enjoyed this one, too. Britt-Marie is another one of those characters with a satisfying arc. And the more you learn about her life and what is important to her, the more you understand why she acts the way she does. Recommend.

April 29: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. I really enjoyed this book — Moriarty has a fun writing style and she tells the reader exactly what she’s doing through the character of Frances, who is a romance writer. Supposed to be a thriller, maybe? Can a thriller meander? I found it entertaining.

April 25: The Library Book by Susan Orlean. A book that covers the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire (didn’t know there was one, but then again, Chernobyl happened the same week and also I was an 8th grader and not prone to paying much attention) as well as the history of the library, its many librarians, benefactors and services. Interesting, but it took me some time to get through it. I think mostly that was because I am ready to take a break from nonfiction and head back into make-believe.

April 17: Know My Name by Chanel Miller. There’s a reason this is on the Best Books of 2019 list. Miller was the victim of sexual assault at Stanford University — and she details that experience and the aftermath. Well written, honest, crushing, hopeful. Not an easy read, but an important one. I highly recommend this book. Have your sons read it.

April 15: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. I picked this one off of Abby’s bookshelf. I’ve never read it before, although I’ve heard about it — it was featured in that one episode of the new Gilmore Girls, after all. 😉 I didn’t expect to enjoy it that much (why did I pick it then? I have no idea) but I did. Strayed had to overcome a lot, and not just on the PCT. It’s an interesting look into what life throws us and how we overcome obstacles. I’m glad I gave it a go.

April 9: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. This was not an easy book to read, but I rated it five-stars on Goodreads. It’s a fictionalized account of a real-life boys reform school in Florida: ’60s, Jim Crowe era, abuse beyond imagination. Uh, and having to confront the fact that America hasn’t changed as much as maybe we’d like to think. It’s written in a matter-of-fact tone, and when the hits come, they HIT. Just crushing. Recommend.

April 5: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This is the third time I’ve read this book, although it’s been a couple years. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing havoc around the globe, it seemed a fitting choice. I enjoy her straight-forward and unsentimental writing style; she tackles tough issues, but lets the reader figure out how they feel about it all. One of my all-time favorite books.

March 24: One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus. I read “One of Us Is Lying” last year and enjoyed it — so when I saw there was a sequel, I jumped on that train. And I enjoyed this one too. It’s a good look at what it’s like to be a teenager and it makes you think (these are mysteries, after all), but it’s not taxing.

March 20: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I’ve read this one before and I just really like it. (So much so that I purchased it after checking it out from the eLibrary.) I like her voice; I like her character arc. It’s not always easy to read — Eleanor has been through a lot and she’s had to make it on her own — but she gets there in the end. Recommend this one.

March 14: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and I know there are many people who adore it. I’m just not one of them. It was fine. I found the storyline contrived and a bit unbelievable. I felt for Kya. I loved Jumpin’ and Mabel. I thought Tate was too good to be true. It is a testament to inner strength, I suppose. Not for me, but a good enough distraction.

March 5: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I have mixed feelings about this book. I really, truly enjoyed the beautiful and lyrical quality of the writing, even if many of the characters were a bit hard to empathize with (not all, but many). You have Theo, whose mother is killed in a terrorist attack on a museum and is bounced around. He makes terrible choices, but then again, he is traumatized. The adults in his life are mostly affluent, although his mother wasn’t and his father certainly is not. The best character is Hobie, with whom Theo eventually finds a home. But around 500 pages in, I started getting antsy. SURELY we were going to come to a conclusion soon and wrap this thing up. SURELY Theo would make a good choice for once. Nope. This one weighs in at 773 pages, which is about 250 too many. And the ending — so much philosophizing (WE GET IT, life is terrible and fantastic, GET TO THE POINT) and “no one will ever read this because it’s just for me ha ha,” which annoyed me. (Why start with that at page 760?) Yay, he tried to make things right, but at that point, I no longer cared. This is one I will not be reading again.

Feb. 24: Life by Life by Kate Atkinson. I’ve probably read this one half a dozen times already. I like it because it’s an interesting concept. And an entertaining read.

Feb. 12: Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Here’s another book I’ve read before — although maybe not as many times as “Attachments” (below). I just like it: A couple talks to each other 15 years apart (um, he’s in the past, she’s in the present) and somehow manage to remind themselves why they’re together in the first place. It’s an easy read. It’s funny and touching.

Feb. 9: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Read it before, will read it again. I picked this one because I needed something light and entertaining after a rather heavy news week. Maybe it’s because it takes place 1999-2001 and the characters are the same age I was at that time, maybe it’s because it takes place mostly in a newspaper office, maybe it’s the breezy way Rowell writes. Who cares. It’s a great book.

Feb. 2: Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken. If you like words more than plot, then this book is for you. I guess there kind of is a plot — woman falls out of the sky, builds a bowling alley, everyone associated with it feels cursed, etc. etc. There’s some interesting side notes about the expectations we place on others tossed in for good measure. About the paths our lives take. I like it better now that I’m finished than I did when I was reading.

Jan. 27: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. I knew nothing of this book going in, just that it came highly recommended. It’s an interesting story, in three distinct parts: A writer, a book, an interview. I liked the middle section the best — the story of a Muslim man whose brother has disappeared. Can a person write about what they don’t experience for themselves? I mean, of course — I do it all the time at the newspaper, although yes, I concede journalism is different than fiction. Maybe the point is that reading about what we don’t know firsthand is more interesting than that which we do have a general knowledge. I liked this book, but didn’t love it.

Jan. 21: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I’ve read this book a half-dozen times at this point, and I’m still not clear on WHY this secret society decided THIS particular kid was a threat to their organization, but who cares? It’s touching, clever, hilarious and just great. Also, when are the bad guys going to realize that by trying to stop a prophecy, they’re really just fulfilling it? Hopefully never because THEN where would we be? Will most likely read again.

Jan. 18: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This book should have been right up my alley: Feminists and abolitionists, sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke kicked some serious ass and plowed right on through the conventions of the day. But the story seems to drag — lots of telling, not much showing, whole years gone by in sentences. Not for me, but I don’t regret reading it because I learned about the Grimke sisters, whom I’ve never heard of before.

Jan. 14: Opal (A Raven Cycle Story) by Maggie Stiefvater. I read the four-book series last year and enjoyed it, so when I saw this short story about events in Henrietta after The Raven King ends, I couldn’t resist. While it’s only 38 pages, I’m counting it as a book because “The Goldfinch” (read March 5) is so damn long it really should count for two. And this is my list and I can do whatever I want.

Jan. 12: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Well, I can certainly see what the hype is all about. This is a great book — every single one of my guesses as to how the plot was going to shake out were completely wrong, which I appreciate. (I’m usually a very good guesser.) It’s about friendship, being true to yourself, the consequences of making a (really big, really awful) mistake, family, theater and sex. Compelling characters, well written and as entertaining as it is poignant. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to give anything away. Recommend.

Jan. 7: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. Manson has a lot going on here that I appreciate: That as a society, we’ve bought into the idea that things should NEVER suck or be painful; that this emphasis on being happy all the time really just puts all our shortcomings into focus, so we overcompensate / numb to make ourselves feel better; and that we’re bombarded with constant messages that we should care about everything, all the time, which means that really, we care about nothing. He says that happiness comes from solving problems — not by NOT having problems — and “to not give a f*uck is to stare down life’s most difficult and terrifying challenges and still take action.” His solution: Care about the things that matter to you the most — what aligns with your values — and let the rest go. (Pick the hills you’re willing to die on, in other words — and make sure those hills are ones you have control of, because if you are looking to control others, you are going to be miserable.) This is a great book and I highly recommend it, although, if you couldn’t tell from the title, there is MUCH swearing going on, so if that kind of thing bothers you, you’ll want to pass.

Jan. 5: Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. This is the third in a series (I read “The Cruel Prince” and “The Wicked King” last year after having found them on the eLibrary site). Fantasy with a strong — and very human — female protagonist. Some of the story seems a little contrived, but eh, it’s entertaining and a satisfying conclusion to (what I think is) the end of this series.

Books I gave up on:

Less by Andrew Sean Greer (it was recommended somewhere). I gave up about 20 pages in. I didn’t like the main character guy, the sentences stretched on for miles and I was already bored. It won a Pulitzer so I can’t help but think I’m missing out, but eh, victory for not making myself slog through something I wasn’t enjoying.