I’m going to go ahead and say it: I’m proud of my reading this year. November and December may have been an unholy embarrassment, but they were more than compensated by July, when I had a month off work and proved it by going crazy and reading four books a week. I seem to recall flaming out at the end of last year too, and I really hope this isn’t going to become a regular thing with me because right now I feel super lame. In my defense, 2020 was a fucking weird ass year and the jury’s still out on whether 2021 is going to be any better, so I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.


December Reading Summary

Books Finished:

  1. Black Sun – Rebecca Roanhorse
  2. Ming’s Christmas Wishes – Susan L. Gong
  3. You Can’t Hide from Chriskahzaa – Sean Gibson
  4. The Thirty Names of Night – Zeyn Joukhadar
  5. The Burning God – R.F. Kuang

Total Pages Read: 1,732

I didn’t have the strongest finish to either the month or the year, but I did manage to cram The Burning God (R.F. Kuang) into the final three days of December after putting it off for a month. I had to start that one completely from scratch, which in retrospect turned out to be the right decision, but in the end I did finish it in time and it was………really something. A full review is coming, but for now suffice it to say that I’m really upset. The book was good, but holy shit that ending made me mad. I think it doesn’t help that my patience and attention span tend to fizzle with series, even if they’re relatively short. It doesn’t take long nowadays for series fatigue to set in, and I’m pretty sure that contributed to my waning interest in The Burning God, even though I thought it was well done.

On the other end of the book spectrum, The Thirty Names of Night was one of the best books I read this year, and I cannot believe I let it sit for a month before I finally picked it up. Joukhadar is one of my new favorite authors. I’m not kidding when I say he’s on a par with Margaret Atwood in terms of space in my heart. (You ever seen my Margaret Atwood collection? It’s borderline embarrassing.) His writing is gorgeous, his stories heartwrenching, and his romances (so far) very tolerable. I am about 99.999999999% aromantic, but I am 10000000% onboard with the romances in his books, possibly because they’re not obnoxious. I don’t know how he did it, but he got me to believe, which is a feat in and of itself, and I am planning to read everything he publishes – in the future, of course, because at this point in time and space I’ve read both his novels. He does have a short story, which I will attempt to get my hands on, but in the meantime I’m in wait mode. If you’ve never heard of him, look him up. He’s so good.


Yearly Challenge Stats

2018
Books Pledged: 36
Books Finished: 54
Total Pages Read: 13,267

2019
Books Pledged: 48
Books Finished: 51
Total Pages Read: 18,022

2020
Books Pledged: 60
Books Finished: 107
Total Pages Read: 33,056


2020 Book List

Asterisk Key

*          recommended
**       highly recommended
***     my love for this book knows no bounds and YOU WILL READ IT

Assume that all the mangas are recommended, because I haven’t bothered asterisking them. Hyperlinked titles lead to reviews.

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire* – J.K. Rowling
  2. Soul Eater 1 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  3. Soul Eater 2 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  4. Soul Eater 3 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  5. Soul Eater 4 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  6. Soul Eater 5 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  7. The Merry Wives of Windsor* – William Shakespeare
  8. The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker
  9. Soul Eater 6 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  10. Soul Eater 7 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  11. Soul Eater 8 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  12. Soul Eater 9 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  13. Soul Eater 10 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  14. Soul Eater 11 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  15. Soul Eater 12 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  16. Soul Eater 13 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  17. Soul Eater 14 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  18. Soul Eater 15 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  19. Soul Eater 16 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  20. Memory of Fire: Genesis** – Eduardo Galeano
  21. Soul Eater 17 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  22. Soul Eater 18 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  23. Soul Eater 19 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  24. Soul Eater 20 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  25. Soul Eater 21 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  26. Soul Eater 22 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  27. Soul Eater 23 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  28. Soul Eater 24 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  29. Soul Eater 25 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  30. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine*** – Gail Honeyman
  31. The Great Passage*** – Shion Miura
  32. Snow & Rose – Emily Winfield Martin
  33. The Lake – Banana Yoshimoto
  34. The Girl in Red* – Christina Henry
  35. The Dove’s Necklace – Raja Alem
  36. Purple Hibiscus*** – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  37. Three Souls* – Janie Chang
  38. Chocolat** – Joanne Harris
  39. Neverwhere*** – Neil Gaiman
  40. Herding Cats*** – Sarah Andersen
  41. Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China* – Jung Chang
  42. To Helvetica and Back – Paige Shelton
  43. The Secret, Book & Scone Society – Ellery Adams
  44. Brownies & Broomsticks – Bailey Cates
  45. The Map of Salt and Stars*** – Zeyn Joukhadar
  46. The Book of Longings*** – Sue Monk Kidd
  47. The Girl with the Louding Voice*** – Abi Daré
  48. SPY x FAMILY 1 – Tatsuya Endo
  49. Dune* – Frank Herbert
  50. Heart Berries** – Terese Marie Mailhot
  51. Homegoing** – Yaa Gyasi
  52. Miss Iceland* – Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
  53. The Forest of Wool and Steel – Natsu Miyashita
  54. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins
  55. Dune Messiah – Frank Herbert
  56. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  57. Catching Fire* – Suzanne Collins
  58. Monkey Beach** – Eden Robinson
  59. Children of Dune – Frank Herbert
  60. Girl, Serpent, Thorn* – Melissa Bashardoust
  61. God Emperor of Dune – Frank Herbert
  62. The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True*** – Sean Gibson
  63. Conjure Women** – Afia Atakora
  64. Americanah* – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  65. The Butcher’s Wife – Li Ang
  66. Monsieur Pamplemousse on the Spot* – Michael Bond
  67. A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea* – Masaji Ishikawa
  68. The Year of the Witching* – Alexis Henderson
  69. Sharks in the Time of Saviors*** – Kawai Strong Washburn
  70. The Map of Time* – Félix J. Palma
  71. The Name of the Rose* – Umberto Eco
  72. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
  73. The Strange Task Before Me: Being an Excerpt from the Journal of William J. Upton* – Sean Gibson
  74. Opium and Absinthe* – Lydia Kang
  75. The Lost World: Being an Account of the Recent Amazing Adventures of Professor E. Challenger – Arthur Conan Doyle
  76. The Map of the Sky* – Félix J. Palma
  77. The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells
  78. The Book of Night Women** – Marlon James
  79. The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells
  80. The Map of Chaos* – Félix J. Palma
  81. Fangs*** – Sarah Andersen
  82. Girls Made of Snow and Glass* – Melissa Bashardoust
  83. How Much of These Hills Is Gold*** – C Pam Zhang
  84. Adulthood Is a Myth*** – Sarah Andersen
  85. Big Mushy Happy Lump*** – Sarah Andersen
  86. The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon
  87. Macbeth* – William Shakespeare
  88. SPY X FAMILY 2 – Tatsuya Endo
  89. Black Butler 29 – Yana Toboso
  90. Macbeth*** – Jo Nesbø
  91. Mexican Gothic* – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  92. The Poppy War* – R.F. Kuang
  93. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead** – Olga Tokarczuk
  94. The Dragon Republic* – R.F. Kuang
  95. Alice – Christina Henry
  96. Red Queen – Christina Henry
  97. Dearly*** – Margaret Atwood
  98. The Lost Queen** – Signe Pike
  99. Wicked / Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire
  100. Gideon the Ninth*** – Tamsyn Muir
  101. SPY X FAMILY 3 – Tatsuya Endo
  102. Catherine, Called Birdy*** – Karen Cushman
  103. Black Sun* – Rebecca Roanhorse
  104. Ming’s Christmas Wishes – Susan L. Gong
  105. You Can’t Hide from Chriskahzaa – Sean Gibson
  106. The Thirty Names of Night*** – Zeyn Joukhadar
  107. The Burning God* – R.F. Kuang

2020 Favorites and Least Favorites

I always hate it when book bloggers/vloggers put up lists with names like “Worst Books of 2020!!!1one!” I think this is unnecessary and unkind, which, given that I am a proud Slytherin, should really tell you something about the general practice. As an aspiring novelist, I hate the idea that my books will eventually end up on a “Worst Books” list somewhere even though I know objectively that they will – not because I intend to write them badly, but because I simply cannot please every reader I encounter. I know that every author has their detractors, but, while I accept this as a fact of life, I don’t feel like I need to contribute to it unless the book in question is really bad. (Case in point: I have no qualms about putting Fifty Shades of Grey on any Worst Books list because it is literally the worst.) With that in mind, I’m titling my list “Favorites and Least Favorites.”

Part of the reason I changed the labels is that I didn’t hate Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), but I didn’t love it either. I thought it was slow, boring, and about 200 pages too long. It started with Ifemelu reminiscing on her past in a hair salon and covered her life from her upbringing in Nigeria to her experience as a foreign student in the U.S., including her relationships with American men, but it seemed like every 50 pages or so I’d be like Okay, so where is she now?…oh, right, she’s still in the salon. That doesn’t mean the book is bad; it just means it wasn’t for me. And, even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, I still think it needs to be read because it is a nuanced portrait of racial attitudes both inside America and out of it. As an exploration of race, it is informative and tremendously well done. I may not have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Purple Hibiscus, but I don’t regret reading it. The same cannot be said of A Companion to Wolves, but that’s an issue for another day.

Favorites

  1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
  2. The Great Passage – Shion Miura
  3. Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. The Map of Salt and Stars – Zeyn Joukhadar
  5. The Book of Longings – Sue Monk Kidd
  6. The Girl with the Louding Voice – Abi Daré
  7. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  8. Monkey Beach – Eden Robinson
  9. The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True – Sean Gibson
  10. Sharks in the Time of Saviors – Kawai Strong Washburn
  11. The Book of Night Women – Marlon James
  12. How Much of These Hills Is Gold – C Pam Zhang
  13. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead – Olga Tokarczuk
  14. Dearly – Margaret Atwood
  15. Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
  16. The Thirty Names of Night – Zeyn Joukhadar

Least Favorites

  1. The Dove’s Necklace – Raja Alem
  2. Brownies and Broomsticks – Bailey Cates
  3. Dune Messiah – Frank Herbert
  4. Children of Dune – Frank Herbert
  5. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon
  7. Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire
  8. Red Queen – Christina Henry

2021

I’ve pledged 72 books for the merry year of 2021 and set myself a TBR of 79. Gods help me, because I sure don’t seem to be helping myself. ?? Last year I said I didn’t feel up to 72 books in one year, but, given that I just read 107 books over the course of 12 fucking months, my earlier reservations have gone out the window. I was considering bumping my challenge up to 75 and then going in increments of 15 books per year, but then I realized that was stupid because it’ll go way easier on me if my goal is divisible by 12. As a more informal goal, I want to see if I can get past 107, but a lot of my other hobbies and goals got sacrificed to get me to that number and I don’t want to keep sacrificing them, so we’ll see.

If there’s one thing I want to work on, it’s that my posting habits have been kind of a clusterfuck during the last couple of weeks of the year, but I’m planning to get back onto a once-a-week schedule once we get into January proper. I have several draft posts lined up, it’s just that I have to actually finish them. Wish me luck!


Miscellaneous Reading News

My reviews are now tagged by rating. The new tags can be found in the sidebar, or here:

And now for a tiny rant…

Ugh. Because people are people and people do stupid things, I now have a fake BIPOC shelf. This is exactly what it sounds like: a list of white authors who pass themselves off as BIPOC because, I don’t know, they think it makes them cool or something. I am thankful that it currently has fewer entries than my legit BIPOC shelf, but I’m still annoyed because this is a shelf that shouldn’t have needed to be created.

A couple of quick notes on list criteria and goals:

  1. Fake BIPOC does not include authors who are part white and part BIPOC. It does not include white authors who write about BIPOC characters. It was created solely for white authors who falsely claim BIPOC heritage.
  2. There is nothing wrong with reading and enjoying books on the fake BIPOC shelf. This isn’t a “don’t read” list. This is a “be aware that this author is lying about their heritage” list. Should that tell you something about their character? Yes, it absolutely should, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the books themselves are bad.
  3. Fake BIPOCs who made it onto my BIPOC shelf will be moved. Now that I’ve found out that Joseph Boyden is not actually Native American, I will be auditing the rest of the BIPOC shelf to make sure I haven’t made any other mistakes. Unfortunately, I am relying entirely on author photos and bios, but I’m confident that there aren’t any other hidden fakes.

You can argue that race is a social construct. It is. It is literally the most meaningless system of classification, and it should never have become the basis of American hierarchy – but it did. If you are a member of the dominant race, you need to realize that people who look like you have spent centuries telling the rest of us we were genetically destined to be exploited and abused. You don’t get to come back and tell us that genes are meaningless. You don’t get to treat us like your personal Halloween costume. You don’t get to tell us that you don’t “identify” with your birth race. Almost every American BIPOC has struggled with identity, belonging, and exclusion at some point in their lives. You’re not special. You don’t get to pretend that you can be one of us, to speak for us and over us until all the world hears is your voice.

If you are uncomfortable with the level of privilege conferred on you by a system designed by Anglo-Saxon men several hundred years ago, good. You should be. Absolutely pitch in and help us make something better, but don’t try to pretend that you can stop being white when your predecessors have seen to it that none of the rest of us will ever be allowed to forget what we are. I realize this is not your fault and that no one alive today had any part in creating the broken system under which we currently live, but the fact remains that it’s not going to dismantle itself. This isn’t unfixable; it’s just going to take time and a lot of hard work.

And if you’re tempted to ask me or other BIPOCs for a list of resources to better your understanding of race in America, don’t. Your education is your responsibility. I’m happy to talk about my specific experience and books that I personally have found helpful, but I can’t and won’t speak for others. As with anything else, some people are ready to share their stories; others aren’t. Do not badger us for touching anecdotes. Do not expect us to have a list of anti-racism resources in our back pockets. Do not assume that we can be pressed into service as cultural tour guides.

Now, with that said, I actually do have a recommendation if you’re really stuck: read Caste (Isabel Wilkerson). I haven’t finished this one yet, but it is excellent. I find the subject matter rage-inducing, but that’s the point. It’s supposed to make you angry and uncomfortable. Of course, I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t point out that reading alone is not going to save us. However, progress starts with understanding, and the better we understand what has already been created, the better we’ll be able to dismantle it.


Final Thoughts

Aside from a few setbacks, I’m really happy with my 2020 reading progress. My motivation is creeping back out of its cave (I’m chalking that up to the shiny new year we’ve just unwrapped, though we’ll see how long that lasts), and I’m super excited for 2021.

Happy new year, and, as always, thank you for reading. ❤️

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