Many people balk when asked what their favorite anything is, but I love picking favorites.
The first question I ask when I walk out of a movie is: “What was your favorite part?” My mom, since she spends so much time around me, is the only one who always has an answer.
I have a favorite movie (Silent Hill), a favorite color (pink), and a favorite book of all time (The Book Thief). As for animals, pigeons take my number one spot. My favorite brand is Adidas. I love Taylor Swift more than any other singer. I could go on and on. The point of my emphasizing this concept is that, when asked to rank the top books I’ve read so far in 2020, I jumped at the chance.
As of June 29th, I’ve read 10,940 pages. That’s 33 books out of my goal of 65 for the year. In March, I was easily reading two per week. I was at least 15 books ahead of schedule at that point. But then COVID hit and knocked my routine on its head. Whereas I was speeding ahead of the curve before, now I’m only one book ahead of where I should be. My reading routine is very off-kilter, and sadly, pretty nonexistent. I don’t doubt that if things looked the same as they did pre-lockdown, I’d have logged double the amount of pages or more.
But this is where I am, and this is where the world is. 2020 is a year of reset. It’s the year for waking up, recognizing privilege, and fighting tooth and nail for equity; for what’s right. So, I figure, if my reading schedule has taken a toll to compensate for the space my brain is using to learn about combating racial injustice, then I shouldn’t fret too much.
To end my rambling, here is my list of FAVORITE books that I’ve read in 2020 (so far):
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
In this life-encompassing novel, Jennifer Weiner tells the story of sisters Jo and Bethie. Their lives are realistic but not tedious, page-turning but not fantastical. This story felt like a peek into what could be my very own family.
The ending of the book reminded me a lot of the time I spent with my grandma as she was passing away. Jennifer Weiner has a knack for making her characters and the situations they experience not only relatable, but very personal.
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
I’ve been reading Jodi Picoult since I was in high school. I started off with My Sister’s Keeper and devoured as many of her books as possible. I took a break, then came back with Small Great Things in 2019. And once I started again, I couldn’t stop.
The reason I stopped reading Jodi for a while is because her work became a little formulaic for my taste. But, I discovered, with her newer works, that she’s ditched the formula and started fresh.
The ending of Leaving Time made me weep in the best way. There’s nothing like a good catharsis from an author that you love.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
From 2012-2016, my love of The Hunger Games comprised who I was as a person. I had the merchandise, a blog, the movies, the books, the soundtracks. It was everything to me. So, the fact that Suzanne Collins released a prequel this year was everything that Melissa of yore needed.
At first, I was disappointed that we wouldn’t get to experience the lives of Katniss and Peeta - I was secretly hoping for a book entirely in Peeta’s POV (a la Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun). So, I admittedly went into Songbirds and Snakes a little jaded.
It was almost better that I went in that way, though, because the surprise was all the more pleasant. Jumping back into that universe and reading in Suzanne Collins’ voice brought me back to a much simpler time. She crafted a world that I care about, and was even able to garner sympathy for President Snow (at least, at first…)
A lot of people didn’t like it. But for me, it was a huge win and a pleasant blast from the past.
Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand
This is one that I wrote a review on for TBS! Here’s a snippet from said review that sums up my feelings on the book the best:
“Hilderbrand has a way with words in general, but one of her finest talents is how she weaves the concept of family into a plot. She never shoves anything in her reader’s face; her writing is smooth in a way where her points can wait to be realized. From a distance, the menagerie of characters in Here’s To Us don’t fit together whatsoever, and the amount of people in the story can be intimidating. But in reality, after a few chapters, their personalities and backgrounds shine through so clearly that they’re impossible to mix up. With so many vivid faces to choose from, a reader will undoubtedly see themselves in one of them.”
The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
Before this, I had never read anything by Carolyn Parkhurst; it was simply a lucky grab off a thrift store shelf. This book was a story within a story, which was interesting where it had potential to be confusing. I loved the idea that it’s possible to fix what’s been broken, even if the picture doesn’t look the same the second time around.
2020 is only half over. There’s a lot left to do, to experience, and to read. I’m determined to get back in the groove and pick up my momentum today. I think Target’s book section is calling my name…