So in 2020, I read 100 books. My average rating was 3.5, which means I am a picky bitch. What does it take to be a 5 star for me?
If it’s fiction, it needs to have compelling writing, interesting characters, a believable plot and detailed world-building and/or scene setting. Bonus points if it can make me have a physical reaction (ie. tears…and one of these did!).
If it’s nonfiction, it again needs to have compelling writing but it also needs to keep my interest, have legitimate citation (if it’s one of those types of nonfiction), and it needs to teach me or inspire me.
And sometimes, a book just has that je ne sais quoi and I just love it because I love it! Below are the 8 books I absolutely loved in 2020.
I read this as part of my work for a committee I was on, and I am so glad I did. We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival by Jabari Asim is a must read in the catalog of books written about the Black experience in America. A short, poignant collection of essays that fans of Ta-Nehisi Coats’s Between the World and Me may enjoy.
This was my first from author Akwaeke Emezi, and it dit not disappoint. Pet is a short young adult novel about a young girl named Jam who lives in a world where monsters no longer exist. Until one day a horned, clawed creature emerges from her mother’s painting and tells Jam they are there to hunt a monster. And the monster lives in Jam’s best friend’s house…
One thing I liked about this book is how stunning the writing is in that Emezi can convey deep meaning with simple writing. A quote I liked was “There is the unseen, waiting to be seen, existing only in the spaces we admit we do not see yet”. This is an excellent read AND listen, as Christopher Myers does a great job narrating the audiobook.
Ooh boy this one made me emotional. The Midnight Library is the story of Nora Seed, a woman who feels she has only ever made wrong choices. When one of her choices lands her in The Midnight Library, Nora discovers the different directions her life could have gone based on different choices she could have made. Such a compelling read that explores depression and the choices that make up our lives.
Witchcraft and suffragettes. Like need I say more? The Once and Future Witches follows a trio of sisters with magical capabilities who get entangled with the suffragette movement of 1893 New Salem and end up fighting an old enemy who is determined to keep witches from regaining their power.
Ok so this is the one that made me cry!! The Last Train to London follows multiple characters who are connected to the Kindertransport, which was an effort to get as many Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied countries after the events of Kristallnacht. One of the main characters is Tante Truus, who was a real woman who helped with getting children out of Vienna. I think I cried because it’s horrendous to know that this is based off of a true story, but I think it’s testament to Meg Waite Clayton’s skill in being able to write that urgency into the story. And I definitely recommend this on audiobook, as John Lee does a great job.
I listened to this one on audiobook because Bahni Turpin narrates it (and she is my fave audiobook narrator). This is a must read for everyone but especially white people. Racism is real and it has consequences. White privilege is real and it has consequences. White supremacy is real and it has consequences. Oluo is frank and direct in what white people need to learn and do to help eradicate racism. This is definitely one I’ll need to reread the physical copy so that I can highlight and take notes.
N.K. Jemisin is queen. The first in a trilogy, The Fifth Season is about a woman who discovers that her son has been murdered and her husband may be the killer. But he’s kidnapped their daughter and is on the run. Essun must traverse a ruined land to find them before the world enters another Fifth Season. Jemisin’s writing is compelling and the world-building complex. At times I felt I was too dumb to get it but I didn’t care. The whole series is *chef’s kiss*.
This is another important read for everyone, but especially white Americans. As it covers the entire history or racist ideas in America, it is dense. Kendi has done the work and the research to craft a well written text on racism in America. There is a youth version that I hope will be added to the curriculum for American high school history classrooms in the future.
So those were my 5 star reads of 2020! I will follow up soon with my favorite fiction and nonfiction of 2020, because I did read other great books! They just didn’t have that *thing* that makes a book a 5 star read for me. Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? What were your 5 star reads of 2020? Comment below!
Until next time,