Book Review

Best Books of 2020

What a weird year this has been! I’m sure I’m not the only one who would prefer to never repeat a year such as this one. Thankfully, though, I did have a lot of time to read this year (both new books and some re-reads of favorites!) Here are the best books I read (or re-read) this year:

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

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Goodreads Description: Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here too. . . but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the highest aspiration he can imagine for a Chinatown denizen. Or is it? After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis finds himself launched into a wider world than he’s ever known, discovering not only the secret history of Chinatown, but the buried legacy of his own family, and what that means for him, in today’s America.

My Thoughts: This book was the well-deserved winner of the National Book Award this year. It is one of the most unique books I’ve read. Partially in second person and partially written with script-esque dialogue, this is a strange but engrossing reading experience all about the harmful impact of internalizing and externalizing stereotypes.

When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

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Goodreads Description: Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape. Smart, fierce and courageous When I Hit You is a dissection of what love meant, means and will come to mean when trust is undermined by violence; a brilliant, throat-tightening feminist discourse on battered faces and bruised male egos; and a scathing portrait of traditional wedlock in modern India

My Thoughts: This one was very difficult to read but I couldn’t put it down. The raw, vulnerable honesty was such a necessary addition to the wider societal conversations about domestic violence.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

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Goodreads Description: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

My Thoughts: This was a really fun book! It is an exciting mystery combined with a lot of interesting character development. I loved the exploration of the female friendships.

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

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Goodreads Description: Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dune fields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.

My Thoughts: This was the best poetry collection I read this year. The poems were exquisite and showed a lot of range when it comes to both theme and emotion. I can’t wait to read more from this poet!

My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams

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Goodreads Description: Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams’s new friend Anna Delvey, a self-proclaimed German heiress, was worldly and ambitious. She was also generous. When Anna proposed an all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakech, Rachel jumped at the chance. But when Anna’s credit cards mysteriously stopped working, the dream vacation quickly took a dark turn. Anna asked Rachel to begin fronting costs—first for flights, then meals and shopping, and, finally, for their $7,500-per-night private villa. Before Rachel knew it, more than $62,000 had been charged to her credit cards. Anna swore she would reimburse Rachel the moment they returned to New York. Back in Manhattan, the repayment never materialized, and a shocking pattern of deception emerged. Rachel learned that Anna had left a trail of deceit—and unpaid bills—wherever she’d been. Mortified, Rachel contacted the district attorney, and in a stunning turn of events, found herself helping to bring down one of the city’s most notorious con artists.

My Thoughts: This was a fascinating memoir about a woman who was conned by someone who she thought was one of her best friends. I remembered hearing about Anna Delvey’s trial a while back, and I really enjoyed learning more about this case. I think two tv shows about this are currently in-development, and I’ll absolutely be watching those too!

Did you have more time to read in 2020? What are your top picks for this year? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

-Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: The Glass Castle 

If complicated memoirs are your thing, have I got a book for you! This is one that has been in the press a lot since there was recently a movie that came out that was based on this book. With all the buzz surrounding the movie, I decided to give The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls a try.

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This memoir is about Walls’ childhood. She grew up constantly moving around as her family struggled to scrape by. Her parents were clearly brilliant, but they were also clearly unstable. They rejected the notion of holding down “regular” jobs and tried to make their own way, often illegally, every place they lived. Walls and her siblings suffered the most in this situation as they were forced to act like the adults of the family.

I found this book to be so fascinating but also infuriating because no child should have to go through this. However, Walls still spoke with love and reverence regarding her parents. This memoir isn’t like an angry rant or anything like that. Rather, it’s a careful reminiscence of the past. She’s looking fondly on her childhood while also seeking how, in retrospect, there were lots of unfortunate incidents. Still, it’s clear that her overcoming her upbringing has made Walls extremely strong. I highly recommend this one.