2020…what a year. It has truly been a difficult time for everyone, as we’ve all been dealing with the tragedies, losses, and hardships that this year has thrown at us. I won’t attempt to romanticize the struggles of the past 12 months; to do so, in my opinion, would be completely inconsiderate of the very real pain that people have endured, and of everyone and everything people have lost this year.
One thing that can be said, though, is that there have been bright spots within this year. Those bright spots are proof of people’s incredible resilience and perseverance. To have the strength to continue choosing to carry on and to love and to support and to uplift those around you, even after hardship and loss—that is the good that has persisted in the darkness of this year.
That includes you, whoever is reading this. I’m so glad you’re here.
In my personal life, I think I’ve grown a lot this year and have learned more than ever to adapt to change. 2020 was a memorable year for me (even beyond the reasons this was a year we will all probably never forget). I graduated high school and started college, for one. Navigating this huge shift in my life—while adjusting to ending my senior year at home, having an unconventional graduation ceremony, and starting university remotely—has been a true test of my strength. I would never wish to have to go through this experience again, but I am proud of myself for having done it, and I believe I’ve reached the end of this year a stronger person than I was when I began.
I also started a new job this year, my first “real” job! I work at a bookstore and it’s been a true learning experience, one that I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of. I’ve made new friends, and have built so many new relationships that I am grateful for. And as for my closest friends, I was only able to get through this difficult year because we endured it together.
I’ve learned so much this year, and have had my eyes opened in so many ways. I am grateful for teachers, for activists, for community, for authors, for leaders…these people who have poured their souls into educating others. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn and grow and fight.
For me to be here right now, safe and able to say that I’ve grown and have had bright spots in this year, is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. To still have my family and friends here and healthy is something I cannot be more grateful for.
I was able to get through this year because of my loved ones, but I was also able to get through this year because of the incredible book community. In this dark year, you were such a shining beacon. You were supportive and loving; you raised up underrepresented authors and creators; you offered hope and encouragement.
In my own experience, I feel closer to everyone in the community than I ever have before. I’ve had so many wonderful interactions with other readers, creators, and authors this year. Those interactions mean everything to me. Thank you for helping me to grow and learn this year.
Thank you for showing me some of my favorite books this year. Thank you for encouraging me to find solace in words and in community. And to the authors especially, thank you for offering some of the warmest and most comforting sources of good this year. You’ve been a healing balm. Your words have constructed spaces of learning, adventure, joy, resilience, and fellowship.
This year, I read 50 books! For the past few years, I’ve set my Goodreads goal at 50 books, but have never been able to reach it. Finally, this year, I decided to be realistic with myself and I set my goal at 25 books. Of course, I had no idea that I’d end up being quarantined at home for most of the year…and perhaps that may be the main reason why I was able to read 50 books this year, but to me it feels different. To me it feels like I truly prioritized reading this year, and found joy in it again. It’s been a while since I’ve been so excited to pick up my next book, since I’ve actively chosen to read over another activity. It feels good, and I am proud of myself for having done it.
(I discuss my Goodreads goal further in my summer 2020 roundup, which also includes some of the books in the list below!)
I’ve read truly superb books this year, some of which have become new all-time favorites. Here are the books I read in 2020:
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz 5/5 – A beautiful and captivating story of two boys learning about themselves, family, friendship, and love.
- The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams 4/5 – A melancholy play, with beautiful writing.
- Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle 3/5 – A fun and festive collection of three interconnected YA stories.
- The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher 5/5 – Carrie Fisher’s last memoir, which is tragic and witty and poignant.
- Little Gods by Meng Jin 3/5 – A story set forth by the June Fourth massacre, an exploration of memory and mother-daughter relationships. I liked the premise but was slightly disappointed by the execution; I think my expectations were too high going into the story, and the book failed to captivate me.
- A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams 4/5 – Classic, thought-provoking.
- Note to Self by Connor Franta 4/5 – A beautiful collection of photography and words.
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 5/5 – There’s something about Plath’s writing that just captures emotions and thoughts and states-of-mind perfectly.
- The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle 3/5 – This is a really amazingly executed story about class and immigration.
- Lovely War by Julie Berry 4/5 – A romantic historical fiction with some Greek deities mixed in.
- Persuasion by Jane Austen 5/5 – This is probably one of my favorite Austen novels now. I loved all of the characters and relationships so much, and the classic Austen wit really shines through.
- Love, Creekwood by Becky Albertalli 5/5 – A really cute novella that takes place in the Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda universe. I loved stepping back into this world. Read my full review here!
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad 5/5 – This incredible book truly led me to dig deep in self-reflection, and assess how white supremacy has rooted itself into my own life/thoughts, and what I can do to stop perpetuating that.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker 5/5 – An incredible exploration of womanhood, selfhood, and sisterhood.
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 5/5 – An epic and gorgeously written tale.
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 5/5 – A poetic and poignant story of growing up as a queer, Vietnamese adolescent. Read my full review here!
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 5/5 – A cute and heartwarming story of sisterhood and growing up.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison 5/5 – Morrison’s writing is masterful and every word just leaps off the page in all of its captivating and lyrical glory.
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 4/5 – A compelling story about class and race and the harm of performative activism. Reid is amazing at weaving plots, and I really loved the way she tied together the characters’ backgrounds and revealed it little by little.
- When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon 4/5 – Pure rom-com fun, I loved the romance and the premise, as well as the explorations of growing up Indian-American.
- The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang 5/5 – One of my favorite reads of the year; this book is an incredible fantasy novel that blew me away with every word.
- In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan 5/5 – Another new favorite, I loved every aspect of this book, which is a fantasy-but-not. Read my full review here!
- Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston 5/5 – Cute and hilarious and triumphant.
- Normal People by Sally Rooney 4/5 – It’s been months and I still don’t know how I feel about this book. I’d call it a character/relationship exploration.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 5/5 – Another top read, every aspect of Thomas’ writing is incredible—her pacing, voice, ability to draw out every emotion, her amazing humor.
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson 5/5 – Thought-provoking, eye-opening, powerful; reading about the broken criminal justice system was discouraging, but reading about how Stevenson is creating change was inspiring.
- Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino 5/5 – I can’t say enough about this book. It is definitely one of my favorite reads, and every essay is absolutely incredible.
- The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang 5/5 – The second installment of The Poppy War trilogy, Kuang’s storytelling goes even further in this stunning tale.
- Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan 5/5 – Hilarious and surprisingly touching, I loved this last book of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy.
- The Burning God by R.F. Kuang 5/5 – An epic end to The Poppy War trilogy.
- Dasher by Matt Tavares 4/5 – A cute children’s book about the reindeer Dasher.
- Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed 4/5 – An inspiring and cute story about grassroots change-making.
- There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon 4/5 – Loved this couple, their stories, the characters’ personalities, and the theme of showing the world your worth.
- Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares 4/5 – A lovely and heartwarming picture book about two birds and the Rockefeller Tree.
- The Drowning Faith by R.F. Kuang 5/5 – Devastating and superb, as with all of Kuang’s other writing.
- These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong 5/5 – LOVED this Romeo & Juliet retelling that takes place in 1920s Shanghai. Could not put it down, and everything about Gong’s writing is amazing.
- Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen 4/5 – A fun story of a girl and her summer experience in Taiwan. I liked the discussions of growing up as an Asian-American kid.
- Frankly in Love by David Yoon 4/5 – A cute YA novel about a teen boy finding love. I thought the main couple was cute and liked a lot of the explorations of what it’s like to be an Asian-American kid, and of interracial relationships.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 4/5 – Hilarious, classic, British.
- The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander 5/5 – A beautiful and inspiring tribute to being Black in America.
- As Kismet Would Have It by Sandhya Menon 3/5 – I liked getting to revisit Dimple and Rishi’s relationship in this novella!
- Love at First Fight by Sandhya Menon 4/5 – Loved this peek into the trio of relationships from Menon’s books.
- Sweet Laba Congee by Qiusheng Zhang 5/5 – A cute story that pays tribute to Chinese tradition and family.
- 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon 4/5 – Another Indian-American rom-com story from Menon, I loved the relationship, the plot, and the exploration of family dynamics.
- World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil 4/5 – A wonderful series of personal essays that ties together nature and Nezhukumatathil’s life experiences.
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu 5/5 – Such an interesting collection of wisdom about war stratagem.
- Ten Little Dumplings by Larissa Fan 5/5 – A cute and inspiring and uplifting picture book about making your voice heard.
- Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho 5/5 – I adored this tribute to Asian beauty and culture.
- New Kid by Jerry Craft 5/5 – A really fun and captivating graphic novel about a kid of color navigating a new, prestigious middle school.
- Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas 5/5 – A heartwarming and triumphant story of Maverick Carter learning what it means to be a man. Thomas again takes us on a roller-coaster of emotions, with her sweet, devastating, hilarious, and proud writing.
For 2021, I’ve set my Goodreads goal to 30 books. I’m hoping the pandemic will be over before the end of the year, and I won’t have to spend so much time at home. However, I think this year I’ve really trained myself to prioritize reading even when life gets busy, and I can’t wait to continue pushing myself to explore more books!
This coming year, I’m hoping to read more books by BIPOC, POC, and other underrepresented authors. I also plan to join along in the Down Memory Jane Readalong, because I’ll take any excuse to read one of my favorite authors!
I also want to branch out of my comfort zone and read more non-fiction texts, and books from genres I don’t typically read. I did a bit of that this year, with reading essay collections, and absolutely loved them!
I’m also excited to delve into texts for my university classes. I really loved my British Literary Traditions class that I took in my first quarter of college. I didn’t include the texts from that class in my list of books for this year, but I’ve learned so much through analyzing and discussing them!
I want to continue growing my Bookstagram this year, because I’ve really emphasized that in the second half of 2020 and it’s been amazing connecting with so many others in the community, and using my creative juices. I want to work on forming and strengthening relationships, whether one-on-one or through community spaces like book clubs!
Here’s hoping for a more balanced and forgiving year; here’s to even more support and love and movements for good in 2021.
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