I am a very slow reader – but also a very busy person, so I stuck to audiobooks where I could. Yes, this counts as reading. I checked out all of my audiobooks from my local library at no cost. So, if you don’t want to spend $20 on an audiobook you will read once, then check out your local libraries! They still exist!
I set a goal for myself back in January to read 10 books this year. With all of the ups and downs of 2020, I achieved my goal! Some of the books I read were technically rereads; but it gave me a chance to relive the stories and gain a better understanding of the literature.
1.A Tale of Two Cities – by Charles Dickens
I honestly do not know what prompted me to choose this novel as my first read of the year. Maybe it made the rest seem that much easier. Once I looked up all of the 19th century vocabulary, I was able to understand the story…a bit. Besides that, this book was more of an emotional rollercoaster than I had expected. Love, family, prison, the guillotine! As someone who majored in English, I’m happy to have to have this book in my repertoire as well as never having to read it again.
2. It – by Stephen King
I am an absolute fan of Stephen King. No, I have not read all of his books – I don’t have that much free time. But “It” was one I wanted to read since I saw the 2017 movie. The biggest difference between the book and movies is that the book is told in a back-and-forth child-to-adult structure; whereas, the movies are split up into a child part and adult part of the story. Even with the flashbacks to the young children, the book flows very well. There are many parts of the book that I find people have issues with (like a specific part towards the end that has children doing adult things) – but I try to remember that stories and just that – stories. But at the same time, things happen in life that we don’t like. King’s ability to scare us in this story is phenomenal in my opinion. You are either scared by the creature, by It, by whatever it can be and do; or you are scared by the more realistic happenings such as abuse, suicide, job failure v. success, marriage, parent relationships, and so much more. It gives the perspective of these kids that are horrified by a monster. And then it’s like returning to your high school reunion to see just how much everybody changed.
3. Dorothy Must Die – by Danielle Paige
I am a mega Wizard of Oz fan. I own about a dozen different editions of the story as well as the additional stories by L. Frank Baum and the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire. I love the musical, movies and tv shows based on the stories – and my Animal Crossing New Horizons island is named Oz with a yellow brick road through the middle, an Emerald City, a Munchkinland (the villager homes), and the Wicked With of the West’s Castle. So naturally, I picked up this book.
This book follows the story of another young girl that gets tossed into Oz. But in this Oz, Dorothy is evil.
I don’t have much to say about this book. The writing was in all honestly subpar. The story was tellable. There was a pet rat, which I thought was cool. But it’s really hard to give a great review when this book is a part of the Full Fathom Five, a book packaging company that takes advantage of the authors it represents. I was unaware of this when reading this title, and it wasn’t until I read the second book (#7) that I started learning more about it. I’m uncertain if boycotting hurts the author more or less – there is no real way to boycott the exploitation company without also hurting authors.
4. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
By far, one of the best books I have ever read. Most will tell you it’s just a craze. But like with any good movie series, there are even better books behind it. I first read the the Hunger Games series when I was in high school – 4 years prior to the first movie release. My dad got me the audiobooks to listen to and the whole time, I thought Peta was Peter and Katniss was saying it with a really weird accent. I didn’t have the text in front of me so I had no clue until I finally got my hands on a copy of the book.
I have now read this title four times. I read it this year to prepare for my first read through of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” (#5). I believe that The Hunger Games is a truly unique story, and while many other novels prior to it and some that follow, may contain similar character, setting, theme – no one will ever do it the same way Suzanne Collins did.
Having a younger sister myself, I was already entranced by what Katniss does for Prim. The story is about survival and how one girl goes from treading water to making waves.
5. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins
I really loved this book. I found that the internet had mixed reviews. But I absolutely enjoyed the anti-hero that Snow is and seeing how he goes from the same type of survival instinct that Katniss does to becoming the very thing he believes is evil. It really begs a question in all of us: “if it were me, would I be able to turn down a life of comfort and power even if it is evil?”. Maybe. Maybe not.
I enjoyed seeing how aspects of the games evolved throughout Snow’s telling. It’s like a math problem. Collins gave us the answer (the Hunger Games trilogy) and then shows us the first part of the question (Ballad of Songbirds) and it is up to us to fill in the rest of time and conclude how things turned out the way they did. But I would be welcome to another Collins novel that takes all the guess work out of it.
The first thing I notices when beginning the book, was the POV. The Hunger Games is told through Katniss’ POV. Whereas, Snow is merely a player in his own story? I wonder why she did this. Does she not want us to sympathize with Snow after giving us 3 long reasons to hate him? How might the story be different if it was told in Snow’s POV. He seems to be a very paranoid and selfish person. Would we as readers be able to relate?
6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
I have lost count when it comes to how many times I have read this story. It is very close to my heart and can be found in a lot of my life. I like to compare my life to the adventure Dorothy and her friends take through Oz.
Like the Scarecrow, I wanted wisdom. For this, I went to college. I got a degree. I learned a lot through books but a lot more through the experience.
Like the Tin Woodman (or Tinman), I wanted a heart. For this, I fell in love and married my college sweetheart.
Like the Lion, I wanted courage. For this one, I learned to understand myself better by going to therapy, advancing anywhere I could, watching my health – you’d be surprised how much courage you gain when you feel and look good.
And like Dorothy, I wanted a home. So we bought a house and filled it with furry babies.
I still work on each of these categories every day as I make progress down the yellow brick road.
7. The Wicked Will Rise – Danielle Paige
Why did I pick up the second book when I wasn’t all that impressed with the first? I wish I had the answer.
I noticed that Paige’s story structure involves the climax in the last few pages and leaves no room for resolution. Whether it’s because she knows she is writing another book or it’s just the way she writes, I’m not sure.
I wish I could say more. But I just don’t remember much about the story. I remember the SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER and that was enough for me to put it down sad.
8. Refugee – Alan Gratz
With everything that happened in 2020 (globally, nationally, locally, down to my own family), my younger brother went into homeschool rather public school during the pandemic. And not wanting my parents to have to go at it alone, I decided I wanted to pitch in and teach English Language Arts. I chose this book to start out because it was the summer reading for schools in my area and there were resources online for teachers.
It’s full of hardship. And seeing it happen to children makes it worse. And on top of that, Gratz separates the stories through time so we can see how things have changed but also haven’t changed. You follow Josef fleeing Germany during WWII, Isabell fleeing Cuba during the height of Castro, and lastly Mahmoud fleeing Syria in 2015.
While on their journeys, they lose a lot. It’s an emotional read. If a child you know is reading this, maybe be prepared to discuss the issues of refugees from different times and places and how they can help.
9. Girl Mans Up – M-E Girard
I discovered “Girl Mans Up” when Googling books about gender. I wanted to read more fiction about people like me (gender nonconforming).
The main character, Pen, is what we would call afab (assigned female at birth), but they don’t feel that way. And when people ask if they wants to be a boy, that doesn’t feel right either.
I related to this story immensely. Not being at home in your own skin or in the way others perceive you can be rough. High school is hard enough as it is. Thankfully Pen has a very supportive brother and girlfriend to help.
10. I Wish You All the Best – Mason Deaver
My last read of the year. I got a little more specific in my gender topic. I went for a story about a non-binary person written by a non-binary person. And if you can relate, have the tissues ready – because this book never went where I thought it was. It was twist after turn.
This story is perfect for the 21st century. A young non-binary person named Ben (they/them) must figure out their identity and how to navigate it around family and friends. Meeting Nathan is probably the best thing to happen to them.
This book was recommended to me by a gender nonconforming friend that passed away this year.
What books did you read this year? What is your favorite book of all time? Let me know in the comments. Have a happy holiday and a happy new year!