So 2020 was a year that certainly happened.
I don’t want to write much about the year on a personal level. I used to do that with these reflections, but the last couple of years have been rough, to say the least, both on a personal scale and, you know, a global one, and I find myself with little energy to expound much on the hardships of life at the close of it all. I doubt there’s much I can say that hasn’t already been said by thousands of others, anyway. We’re all passengers on Spaceship Earth after all; we’re all going through the same kind of bedlam.
So I talk about books and stories. It’s the best I can do.
Books are — and they always have been — the beams of light that break through the darkness of any given time period, after all. I can’t think of a better, more appropriate way of saying good riddance to this plague year than by putting forth a small selection of these bright, shining beacons. These talismans against despair.
THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH by Philip Pullman
The world of His Dark Materials has long been a safe space for me. Every visit is a pleasure and a privilege, and I return home feeling comforted and fulfilled.
My dæmon would totally be a grackle, by the by.
SEVERANCE by Ling Ma
I read this unconventional zombie apocalypse novel shortly before our own brush with a plague. I was already impacted by just how relevant this satirical story seemed to be (we’re all sort of zombies shambling through life already), but I certainly didn’t expect it to become even more relevant as the year went on.
We can be more than zombies, y’all.
DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was the best book I read last year. I didn’t love this one as much, but it still managed to jam its way into my soul.
Taylor Jenkins Reid writes beautifully flawed and human characters that you can’t help but fall in love with.
I listened to the audiobook for this and it really did enhance the experience.
DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone
A tragic, hopeful, painfully relevant story about a young Black man trying to grow in a society that constantly tries to stamp him back down.
In a world that is tragically full of stories like that of this book’s protagonist, author Nic Stone urges to bear witness and be better.
THE CARDBOARD KINGDOM by Chad Sell, Various
Nostalgia was another recurrent theme in the media I consumed this year. It’s what initially led me to this graphic novel.
That it turned out to be far more progressive, optimistic, and kind than any story I grew up with can only be, I believe, a good thing.
Today’s kids get a bad rap, but they’re going to save the world.
DRAGON HOOPS by Gene Luen Yang
I may have stopped caring about basketball a short while after Space Jam came out, but I’ve long been a fan of Gene Luen Yang and will read anything he puts out.
Just as well this turned out to be his best, most compelling work yet.
The Last Dance documentary came out right after I read this and I loved noticing how well the two different pieces of media complemented one another.
STAMPED by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi
The Jason Reynolds remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s primer on racism and antiracism is, quite simply, an essential read.
Ostensibly written for younger audiences, it can make an excellent entry point for adults (like me) who may find Kendi’s weighty tome a little intimidating. Reynolds has a casual writing style that flows effortlessly while still packing quite the emotional punch.
HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggers, Shawn Harris
A sort of thematic companion to Stamped. Dave Eggers’ lyrical deep dive into the history and symbolism of the Statue of Liberty is another perfect thing to read in these cruel, fractured times.
We have to do better, y’all.
DEVOLUTION by Max Brooks
My favorite Hallowe’en read this spooky season. A story about humanity’s futile attempt to gain mastery over nature just hits different in these times of viral and climatic upheaval, you know?
But also this book about people versus bigfoot is just a hell of a lot of gory fun.
PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke
This was the last book I read this year. It seemed fitting to end this dreary period characterized by lockdown and isolation with a story about a man trapped inside his home and his head.
It might just also be the best book I read this year. I need more time to dwell on it. But suffice it to say Susanna Clarke is a mage and anything she writes is a gift to the world.
This story ends on a note of hope. I can only wish our story this year does, as well.
I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year. ⠀
I’ll see you on the other side.