This is an impossible task. Tortured with the personality of liking most things, I greatly enjoyed 97% of the masterful one hundred books I read this year. They ranged from backlist to brand new. Educational nonfiction to contemporary lit. Poetry to comic books. I chose to go through my list of finished goodreads shelves and pull out the ones that had a profound effect on my life—books I still bring up in daily conversation, books I am still passing on to my friends, and books that still sit on my nightstand because I can’t fathom letting it collect an ounce of dust on my bookshelf.
Also, I did not go home for Thanksgiving this year for the first time in my life and the number of texts I received from high school friends whom I haven’t exchanged words with for years made me nostalgic for high school so we are doing a “Most Likely To _____” high school yearbook-esque list. I was voted Most Likely To Quote A Movie and Most Likely To Make Excuses in my yearbook. First of all, *picture me with a bowl cut driving a dog van* it’s a cardigan but thanks for noticing! And second of all, *Stephanie Tanner voice* how rude!
Most Likely To Make You Seem Smarter In A Bar Argument With A Stupid Stranger
White Negroes: When Cornrows Were In Vogue And Other Thoughts On Cultural Appropriation by Lauren Michele Jackson
Picture this. It’s Cinco De Mayo 2020. You’re at the bar just trying to have a beer and not have to yell at anyone in a sombrero. And who walks in? A dude with a mustache, maracas, a poncho, and…...a sombrero. And he totally voted for Donald Trump to build the wall. You read this book after listening to me telling you to read it and now you are ready to tell this dude why he made a big ass mistake walking into THIS bar that YOU are at.
This book gives an overarching review of cultural appropriation. She discussed white people in cornrows, the Kardashians, Paula Deen, meme culture, Christina Aguilera & Miley Cyrus profiting off Black art, the rise of white YouTubers, beauty gurus stealing drag looks, the 2016 election, the marijuana industry, and more. I learned an immense amount of knowledge that will help me convince people of the deep impact of appropriation and how it intertwines with the larger structure of oppression and is rooted in capitalism destruction and anti-blackness. I would recommend this book to everyone, especially those who put a sombrero on their heads on Cinco De Mayo, dress their white kids up in Pocahontas costumes, dread their non-ethnic hair, consider obtaining a legal marijuana dispensary license in a predominantly white neighborhood, throw “Dirrty” on that birthday playlist, buy a Kylie Lip Kit, or engage in any kind of consumption. The word ‘appropriation’ has taken on so many interpretations and interpolations and Jackson peels back the curtain on the most hidden, complex corners of culture.
Get woke here.
Most Likely To Make You Cry Like A Little Bitch
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
I remember reading Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement and crying in my bathroom in my apartment my senior year of college. The power this book holds! The Brock Turner rape case turned the world on its head and Emily Doe came out and stunned millions with her victim impact statement in court that was later published by Buzzfeed. It was later translated into languages across the globe, it was read on the floor of Congress to help enact law changes in California, and her statement ended up forcing the judge to be recalled from her case. Thousands of people wrote in to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time, including me. After I finished this book, I posted a photo of the dress I was wearing when I was sexually assaulted the summer after my sophomore year of college and announced to the world for the first time that I was a survivor. The power or reclaiming your identity is not to be diminished and I know this book has saved hundreds, if not thousands of survivors’ lives.
Fill with rage and tears here.
Most Likely To Make You Cry In Your Car On Your Work Commute
Heavy by Kiese Laymon
I started this memoir by Kiese Laymon without knowing anything about it or the author. Have I been living under a rock, or what? I now have his two other books in my queue. I agree with Roxane Gay and her review—“astonishing, difficult, intense, layered,” just... wow. In Heavy, Laymon writes vulnerably about growing up a stubborn Black son to a complicated Black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual trauma, to his cruel college experience, to his cross-country move to New York as a young professor, Laymon delves into his complex relationship with his mother, an eating disorder, sex, writing, and falling in love. By attempting to name cover-ups and lies he spent his entire life avoiding due to his mother's secrets, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us, the readers, to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to love responsibily and openly, and even fewer what it’s like to live under the weight of actually becoming liberated. The entire book is written as though he is talking to his mother. He refers to her as “You,” so it feels as though you, the reader, are being spoken to. Laymon’s prose is insanely mesmerizing. I found myself lingering in my car for extended periods of time because I didn’t want to stop listening to his voice or his word (would highly recommend on audio). Narrating it himself added to the powerfulness. Anything I write could not do the work justice. If you think you aren’t into memoirs, you’re sorely mistaken...this book is for you. And for you. And for you. And yes, you too.
Get ready for the tears here.
Most Likely To Make You Break Up With Your Loser Boyfriend
Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski
IF HE AIN’T MAKING YOU SCREAM WITH HIS PEEN, DUMP HIS ASS. But seriously, if you are dissatisfied in your sex life and you read this book and it rejuvenates you like it did for me and you ask your significant other to read it and he doesn’t………...there are so many good vibrators in the world and you do not need that kind of negativity in your life.
Get your break up excuse here.
Most Likely To Cause Tension With Karen At Your Monthly Book Club
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
There is not a book that came out this year that is more perfect for your book club. This book was a war zone for literary women this summer. You either love it or you hate it with every smoldering bone in your body. No matter if it resonates with you or makes you want to fight Lisa Taddeo, it will give you a lot to think about and you are going to have to discuss it with somebody or you might combust.
Fuck off Karen here.
Most Likely To Make You Punch A Hole In Your Wall Like Adam Driver In Marriage Story
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
I hate how much I loved this book. People left lots of reviews saying the characters are unlikeable and selfish, which is true, but it’s realistic because... let’s face it—everyone is narcissistic to varying degrees. It’s like when you take a shit at work and you anxiously think that everyone is wondering why you’ve been gone so long and then you come out and realize no one’s even noticed because they are busy being fucking obsessed with themselves. The characters simultaneously love each other and also want to make each other suffer, especially if they themselves feel as though they are suffering. It is messy yet sharp. It is subtle in its plot yet complex if you focus too long on an excerpt. I have never participated in an extramarital affair yet I felt very seen and understood and the writing made me feel as though maybe I HAD been involved in an affair and just blocked it out of my memory? That makes no sense but it feels like Rooney implanted an experience into my life. The ending made me throw my book because it wasn’t a cookie cutter give-you-closure-nor-satisfaction type of ending, but that’s also why it works. This book would have been twenty pages long if the characters were just mature and fully communicated with each other, but don’t we all sometimes want someone to just fucking understand us without having to explain ourselves? God, this fucking book. I need a Xanax.
Click here if you feel like throwing a book across your bedroom at 2 AM.
Most Likely To Dissolve Your Imposter Syndrome and Convince You That You Could Totally Hang In Silicon Valley
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
Might fudge around and buy a black turtleneck from Goodwill before it’s covered in my cat Targy’s hair, lower my voice an octave, and fraudulently convince dudes to give me billions of dollars for a device that doesn’t work and could potentially kill sick people. Seems very Silicon Valley-y! Elizabeth Holmes is.....horrible. A large concept that I haven’t seen too many reviews touch on is the fact that healthcare will never move forward when capitalism and greed is at the forefront. In the beginning of this investigative journalism bombshell, Holmes as a child was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Without hesitation, she said, “a billionaire.” She dropped out of Stanford with two chemical engineering classes under her belt and at 19, founded Theranos—a biotech startup that fooled investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a machine that takes minuscule amounts of blood to run tests faster and easier....THAT DIDN’T WORK. They were days away from signing a contract with Walgreens and their 8,000+ locations and wellness centers designed SOLELY for Theranos to provide sick people with INCORRECT results. The imposter syndrome, fear mongering style of management, and abuse of power in this book just floored me. Shoutout to Carreyrou, the investigative journalist at the Wall Street Journal who broke the first story about this corrupt, fraudulent, sociopathic company. I hope Sunny and Elizabeth spend years and years behind bars. Thousands of people could have died because Holmes was so obsessed with becoming the next Steve Jobs. The fact that her workplace was SO toxic to the point that one of their employees died by suicide is horrid and I had anxiety hearing about the hiding former employees had to go into because they were scared of the blacklisting and lawsuits Theranos was threatening them with when they internally tried to stop Holmes from moving forward with faulty medical devices. This is a definite HIGH RECOMMENDATION from me. Innovation in healthcare needs to change because it shouldn’t be led by white, morally incompetent, funded-by-power-and-familial-networking individuals. Because that’s how we end up with Theranos.
Fill yourself with rage and become the next Steve Jobs here.
Most Likely To Make You Feel Like You Got A Graduate Degree Without Going
$100,000 In Debt
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
Jia took my ass to church, talked me out of getting married, convinced me to try ecstasy, made me hate Donald Trump even more, and made my brain grow thirty seven times in size. This book is MARVELOUS. She writes with such intricacy and intimacy and I would read her to-do lists if I could, because even those would more than likely be life-debilitating. I also watched her in the Hulu Fyre Festival documentary after and she is just as dazzling in person! I also subscribed to The New Yorker halfway through this book because her name popping up in my inbox is like getting shot with a horse tranquilizer and a dose of epinephrine all at once.
Make your mind explode here.
Most Likely To Make You Quit Your Job That Makes You Miserable
No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder
No lie, I almost quit my job to go back to school to get a degree in women’s studies, psychology, and social work to dedicate my life to ending intimate partner terrorism and domestic violence after reading this book. And I am still highly considering it because of the authors call to action. I was currently volunteering at my local domestic violence shelter as I read this and it changed my life. There is so much that is not talked about in regards to reporting DV and this book popped the discussion wide open.
Quit your job here.
Most Likely To Make You Think Running For Office Sounds Like A Good Idea
One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson
This book focuses on voter suppression in America in regards to gerrymandering, purging voter rolls, restrictive voter ID laws, minority-majority poll closures, ill-equipped polling stations, and more. It took me a long time because it is packed with citations & facts that I often found myself simultaneously researching. Carol Anderson is a professor of African American Studies at Emory University and she has written many books on this subject. She touches on Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, and Mississippi and the rampant suppression tactics the GOP has succumbed to to stay in power and there needs to be a much higher collective effort to fight this. No more retweeting travesties on Twitter and then going about your day. No more sitting out voting or campaigning or canvassing. Let’s run for office, sluts!
Read this book first.
Run for office here.
This was so hard! Books are so good! Please let me know if we share any top books or if there’s anything I MUST read in 2020.