I realize that we are not used to hearing concession speeches after people clearly lose, but here I am…writing my concession speech (blog).
This poor blog definitely felt the consequences of the chaos that was 2020, here’s to hoping that 2021 will prove to be a better year…although we’re certainly off to a rough start. But, while the blog suffered neglect over the past six months, both Hannah and I continued to read and as always have tons of opinions on what we read; which books are worth your time and which books can be added to the dumpster fire of 2020 so stay tuned for our ‘recommended reading lists’ coming out soon!
While I clearly lost The Book War 2020, I would like to point out that Hannah, as usual, has fudged the numbers to her benefit. In her victory blog she wrote that I read 83 books in 2020. Untrue. I read 86 books in 2020! I would also like to point out, that every year since we started The Book War, I have read more than the previous year. So gonna call that a ‘win!’
Here’s a quick synopsis of my 2020 reading list.
Most Difficult to Get Through: I read a couple of books that I found difficult to get through but Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke was particularly rough. Granted it was over 1000 pages long and I had super high expectations because I had read some awesome reviews but ultimately, it took forever to get through and I was not impressed with the story. The narrative felt scattered and meaningless and even when, after 900+ pages, the story started to come together, there wasn’t anything profound or interesting that made the 1000+ page journey worth it (for me anyway).
Most Fun to Read: This one is easy for me. I listened to The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club trilogy on Audible this year and absolutely loved it! It’s all about 19th century women from literary classics (daughter of Van Helsing, daughter of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, puma-woman from Dr. Moroe’s island, etc.) who form a club of ‘misfits’ who help other ‘misfits,’ support one another and eventually write up their adventures. I loved these stories so much that I just purchased all three books so I can actually ‘read’ them this year! The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss.
Most Profound: Again, I read a number of profound books this past year, and I agree with Hannah’s picks in this category but I’ll add another to the list; How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This book challenged me to re-frame my own ideas about the source(s) of racism and what kind(s) of action are meaningful in the fight to be antiracist. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but be warned, you WILL BE challenged. It’s AWESOME!
Worst Book: Not gonna lie, I literally skipped sections of this book because there were several violent rape scenes which I am certain the author would say are true to the historical context but honestly just felt like the author wanted to write rape scenes. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett was supposed to be an epic historical fiction novel and got rave reviews but in my opinion, it was a ‘man soap opera’ in the same vein with the Game of Thrones series, written from a toxic male perspective for other men and I can assure you that I will not pick up anything written by Ken Follett again.
Honorable Mentions: As you know, I love history and read a number of excellent history books this past year. Here are my favorites!
Catherine the Great, Robert K. Massie: An epic biography of Catherine the Great! Very readable history!
The Five, Hallie Rubenhold: The stories of the five woman Jack the Ripper is credited with murdering in late 19th century London. Rubenhold does an amazing job of bringing these woman back into their own stories. (Even Hannah liked this one and she is not a huge fan of history…that’s how good this one is!)
The Radium Girls, Kate Moore: This book is about the young women who worked in dial factories during the first World War where they used radium to make clock/watch dials glow. This book tells the story of the effects that working closely with radioactive materials had on these women’s lives as well as the changes in the law codes surrounding workers rights.
So many amazing books to read…so little time. Read on my friends.