What I Read Last Month – December 2020 + Favorite Books from 2020
Hi, friends! Here I am with the first book post of 2021, or rather the last book review of 2020. Since this is the last book post for 2020, I thought it would be fun to wrap it up with my top ten books from 2020! Keep reading for my reviews for December books and for my favorite books from 2020.
QUEENIE by Candice Carty-Williams – 4.5 Stars
CW: Sexual violence; emotional abuse
Queenie is advertised as a cross between Americanah meets Bridget Jones’s Diary. While I can see how it can be compared to Americanah, I feel like it is significantly more serious and heavier than Bridget Jone’s Diary (but I’ve also seen like 10 minutes of the movie and never read the book so I could be wrong). Queenie is a 25-year old Jamaican British woman living in London, and the story begins with Queenie experiencing a couple of major losses: a miscarriage and the break-turned-breakup of her first long-term romantic relationship. As the story progresses, Queenie’s life seems to fall apart and really hits rock bottom. Queen’s story is about being a Black woman and battling and overcoming racism, sexual abuse, childhood abandonment, and more. I absolutely loved reading this book, and more people need to talk about it. (Thanks, Ellen for letting me borrow this!)
THE COMEBACK by Ella Berman – 3.75 stars
This is a Bad on Paper podcast book club pick, and I read it to cross it off the book club list. I did not have too high of an expectation starting this book, but it was more grappling than I anticipated. Grace is a Hollywood movie star, having begun her career as a teenager when her family moved from London to Anaheim, California to support her. After being disconnected with her family for years while she was working in the industry, Grace shows up to her family’s house unexpectedly and stays for a year, leaving everyone in Los Angeles wondering where she went. After years of manipulation and sexual abuse by Able, the director she has closely worked with since she was a child, Grace takes back her life and career. I felt like there was a quite a bit of buildup throughout the book with not quite enough of a resolution, but I enjoyed this book. The author does a superb job at painting the gaslighting Grace experienced and the subtle misunderstandings in interpersonal relationships.
TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM by Yaa Gyasi – 4.25 stars
I have not yet read Homecoming yet so this was my first book by Yaa Gyashi (purchased during my recent trip to Charlottesville). Gifty, the protagonist of the book, is a PhD student in Neuroscience at Stanford University, studying “reward-seeking behavior in mice and the rural circuits of depression and addiction.” Her Ghanian family of four has now become two over the years, and her mother is, once again, unable to get out of her bed. Alternating between the past and present, Transcendent Kingdom tells the story of Gifty and her family–her Ghanian parents who ultimately wanted different lives in different countries and her brother who was once a star basketball player and since then died of a heroin overdose; how Gifty (and her mother) blames and loathes herself for her brother’s death. It is also about God and religion and church.
THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS by Isabel Wilkerson – 4.75 stars
I can’t remember where I had heard about this book, but this was one of the best reads this year. The Warmth of Other Suns is about the Great Migration of Black people from the South to up North and out West. Throughout the book, Wilkerson follows the stories of three unique migrants in depth while chronicling the decades of the Great Migration and sharing many other migrant’s stories. Like The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, this book enlightened me to so much history (did you know that sheriffs would arrest Black people for not working even if it was the weekend or they had worked earlier in the day?). Besides the content itself, Wilkerson writes in a way that remains engaging despite the length of this book (it was the longest book I read this year!). I can’t wait to read Wilkerson’s new book Caste!
ENTITLED by Kate Manne – 4.25 stars
If Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit made me angry, Entitled made everything make sense. In Entitled, Manne discusses “How Male Privilege Hurts Women” and explains that men’s sense of entitlement (to be right; to be in control; to deny others’ rights and/or experiences, and so on) is the origin of the misogyny women face. It is a well-researched and well-written book. If you are someone who has experienced sexism and misogyny, I highly recommend reading this book both to feel validation and to have a better understanding of the source of the problem.
MY TOP TEN READS OF 2020 (in alphabetical order)
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – my review
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow – my review
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas – my review
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang – my review
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré – my review
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown – my review
Know My Name by Chanel Miller – my review
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Hong Park – my review
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – my review
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – my review is in this post
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