Howdy hoes, 2020 is halfway over and I am a delightfully stressed-out mix of hallefrickenlujah and “HOW?!?!?!?” I had an incredibly long hiatus from reading and writing during quarantine because anxiety makes me watch a lot of New Girl and Grey’s Anatomy instead of gravitating me towards new books. But, I am back to my semi-calmer self and am actually right on track to match my reading stats of 2019—103 books. I have read 52 books so far in 2020 which puts me in a great position to finish out the year strong with (hopefully) another 50 amazing books.
I hopped on the #ReadingWomen challenge and have completed almost every initiative for the year and read a lot of books that I maybe normally wouldn’t have chosen due to subconscious biases or the nagging thought of “Oh, I’ll get to that someday…..” and then it’s two years later and you still haven’t read it. This led me to read books that were collecting dust on my shelves as I made googly-eyes at shiny, bright, new releases. Some good ones were It’s Not Like It’s A Secret by Misa Sugiura, What The Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha, and Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson. I also tried to really focus on LGBTQIA+ reads this year and loved Real Life by Brandon Taylor, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, and Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby. But, ultimately, just like moms and dads even though they won’t admit it, we all have our favorites. And mine just mostly happened to be backlist titles because I got hella skilled this year at reading what I own. So below I have compiled a list of my Top Five Favorite Books of 2020 (So Far) and I hope you add them immediately to your TBR.
Sula by Toni Morrison
A major goal I had for 2020 was to start diving into the Black literary canon, and the top of my list was Toni Morrison. I had never read any of her books. Now, I’ve read three. Sula was my first and I have never dropped farther down into a metaphorical rabbit hole more than when I finished Sula. The amount of literary analysis that could be done on this book is endless. The characters, the setting, the writing, everything is handcrafted with absolute perfection and care and I have never, ever in my life been so moved by a story. I was gobsmacked by the talent of fitting so much story in a compact 192 page book. I want to set my old high school ablaze for robbing me of a discussion that could have been undeniably impactful for every single human being in the classroom. Sula is a timeless tale of two Black women within a small Ohio community and how their lives forge two different paths as they explore how to reconcile with both their gender and their Blackness and all the limitations that come with it. The women are complex and multifaceted and given so much nuance. This was the second book I read in 2020, finishing it on January 5th, and I have not stopped thinking about it since.
By Toni Morrison
192 pages. 1973.
Buy it here.
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
This book took me a bit to get into, but once I was fully submerged into Zadie’s fictional world, I was starstruck and never wanted to leave. It is so goofy, but I struggle sometimes with reading fiction. And I don’t know why because three out of five books on this list are fiction and I almost always end up loving what I pick up. I always gravitate towards nonfiction because I am such an annotative reader and while I used to tell myself I read an equal amount of fiction and nonfiction, my list of books completed in years past tells a different story. But On Beauty by Zadie Smith was a gorgeous reminder as to why I need to pick up more fiction and deliberately prioritize it. It still offers so much to learn about the world, in race, class, gender, sexuality, and academia but also serves up a huge offering of what it means to navigate through the world as a human being with feelings, flaws, and fuck-ups. The dialogue in this book was extraordinary and it truly makes you feel like a fly on the wall listening to the absurd, hilarious, awkward, and at times….absolutely explosive conversations between some of the most asinine characters you will ever have the privilege of knowing through the written word. They are all irrationally behaved, yet you find yourself rooting for all of them. The analysis this book gave me on performativity and the appearance of intelligence as a mask for patriarchy and racism was powerful and it made me look at my college diploma in a completely different and more nuanced way. She alters and radicalizes your view on academic institutions and makes you realize the patriarchal, white supremicist power they wield in a capitalistic society. And the tango she choreographs between intellectuality and toxic masculinity is a rendezvous I will never forget.
By Zadie Smith
443 pages. 2005.
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
The BLM movement has pushed the argument left in response to police murder. Many who were “Blue Lives Matter” or nonchalant about the movement before are now saying things like “Defund the Police” or “Reform the Police.” Another writer this year I wanted to explore more was Angela Davis, a lifelong activist who has been fighting for Prison Abolition for decades, because police reform is NOT enough. So many people find police and prison abolition to be too radical, but it is not. Angela breaks it down into a community-first, community-led initiative that makes sense and is 100% achievable if we collectively say it is. This book was phenomenal and really opened my eyes to neoliberal ideology that is just right-wing rhetoric dressed up in democratic suits paid for by corporate money. In this book of speeches, she emphasized that focusing on individual grievances and individual heroes is not what is going to save the world, it is the masses in the streets who will cause liberation. Racism is so embedded and entrenched in every crevice of society that an entirely new foundation needs to be built. The abolition of prisons and police is not just about crime and punishment, it is an extension of history that sought to lock up and eradicate the freedoms of Black and Indigenous people. Working with a narrow framework of crime being why we need to have prisons ignores the fact that homelessness, poverty, lack of mental health care, and a collapsing educational system are the real problems. You can remove the chains, but if you do not develop the institutions that would allow for the incorporation of previously enslaved people into a democratic society, then slavery has never actually been abolished. We are incredibly lucky to be alive at the same time as Angela Y. Davis and I know I have a lot more to listen and learn from her. Next, I’m going to read Are Prisons Obsolete? And I’ll bet that it makes my top ten list at the end of the year.
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, And The Foundations Of a Movement
By Angela Y. Davis
176 pages. 2016.
Buy it here.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This book hands down ruined my life. I read the first third and actually had to shelf it because I thought I straight up could not handle how unfathomable it was. I picked it back up this spring and devoured the remaining 500 pages in less than two days. This book has a trigger warning for just about every subject you could possibly imagine: self-harm, suicide, sexual assault/rape, child abuse, domestic violence/intimate partner terrorism, etc. and you must do mental health check-ins with yourself or you will not be okay. Yet, and I cannot stress this enough, this book irrevocably changed my life. It elevated my empathy to altitudes that I didn't know were reachable and I felt mourning for characters that will remain by my side for the rest of my existence. It is overflowing with trauma and some have referred to it as “trauma porn,” and I do not agree whatsoever with those reviewers. Yes, it is traumatic and it is so unbelievably fucked up, but it is also flooded with so much fucking love. It will make you think about the selflessness involved in friendship and the magnitudes and depths those partnerships can reach and it will hopefully open up your mind to the realities of what it is like to live with so much chronic pain and engrained sexual trauma that it makes you want to die. I have cried in books. I have cried at movies. I cried at Monster’s Inc. for god sake, but I SOBBED for over 200 PAGES IN THIS BOOK. My pulse was the same rate as an Olympic runner and I had the shakes for an entire R.E.M. cycle after finishing. I would read it again, but I honestly think it would kill me.
A Little Life
By Hanya Yanagihara
832 pages. 2016.
Buy it here.
White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad
Every white person on the planet needs to add this book to their TBR. White feminism has been a weapon of white supremacy and patriarchy deployed for centuries against Black and Indigenous women. I learned a lot about how white women use their own patriarchal oppression to display innocence, but center their own whiteness to still hold authority and power over POC. I will have a long-form review filled to the brim with statistics, anecdotes, and actionable items coming soon to The Book Slut, so I hope you subscribe to my reviews so you can get it right in your inbox.
White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color
By Ruby Hamad
304 pages. 2020.
Pre-order it here.