Every year I make grand plans to read a bunch of books that seem like they would be really good, and then I promptly forget them because a new book comes along. I’m like that guy in the meme… honestly.
I’m a mood reader and 2020 was a year full of incredibly difficult days, so my escapism was reflected in my reading choices. I chose books that were simple, happy, funny, and predictable to get away from the insanity that was the past year.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – I really wanted to read this one, especially since it is such a small book, but it came out in September when the store was ramping up for early holiday sales. We also had a much smaller staff so I was quite busy.
Synopsis: Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – This was Indigo’s Book of the Year for 2020, so I sold it to a lot of people who asked me what it was about. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to read it before the holidays. Some of the staff are holding a mini-bookclub now, but I don’t think I’ll be able to participate.
Synopsis: The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – While A Man Called Ove is one of my all-time favourite books, I have yet to read another book by this author that has the same depth. I’m really hoping that this will be the next book that I shove into the hands of every person who comes to the store.
Synopsis: Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – All I have heard from everyone is that it is one of the best books they have read in their lives. Some say that the beginning is a bit slow, while others love the lush descriptions, but everyone agrees that the end is amazing.
Synopsis: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her. But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue – When this book came out we all thought that it was a bit on-the-nose for a year with a pandemic. Little did we know that the author had been writing this long beforehand.
Synopsis: Dublin, 1918: three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – When I first saw the cover of this book I was entranced, as I’m sure many people were. I’ve heard from friends that it is a great read, but that it took them some time to get through.
Synopsis: After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Educated by Tara Westover – This is a book that I’ve been meaning to read for more than just the last year. I don’t know why I keep forgetting about it, but it’s been on the bestseller list for ages and I will eventually get around to it.
Synopsis: Tara Westover was seventeen when she first set foot in a classroom. Instead of traditional lessons, she grew up learning how to stew herbs into medicine, scavenging in the family scrap yard and helping her family prepare for the apocalypse. She had no birth certificate and no medical records and had never been enrolled in school.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama – I am not all that interested in most politicians, but I find the Obamas to be very compelling people. I look forward to reading this monster of a book when I can finally wrap my head around it. I will likely have to wait for the audiobook, as I did with Michelle.
Synopsis: In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper – I’m not really sure how I stumbled across this book. I think it might have been mentioned on one of the true crime podcasts that I like. It’s incredible how often women are killed and then blamed for their own murder.
Synopsis: 1969: the year that Jane Britton, an ambitious 23-year-old graduate student in Harvard’s Anthropology Department and daughter of Radcliffe Vice President J. Boyd Britton, would be found bludgeoned to death in her Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment. Forty years later, Becky Cooper, a curious undergrad, will hear the first whispers of the story and spend the next 10 years uncovering a tale of gender inequality in academia, a “cowboy culture” among empowered male elites, the silencing effect of institutions, and our compulsion to rewrite the stories of female victims.
Burning the Books: A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge by Richard Ovenden – I’m always interested in reading books about books. With the current political climate in North America looking more perilous by the day, I’m sure we will see more book burnings by those people who refuse to learn and grow, who only want to hear their own voices repeated back to them.
Synopsis: Libraries and archives have been attacked since ancient times but have been especially threatened in the modern era. Today the knowledge they safeguard faces purposeful destruction and willful neglect; deprived of funding, libraries are fighting for their very existence. ‘Burning the Books’ recounts the history that brought us to this point.
What book did you intend to read last year but never got around to?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week a new Top Ten list for anyone to answer. Just add a link to them on your post, and add your name to the weekly linky!