My 2020 Bookshelf - vol. i

Saturday, August 1, 2020




That's right, we're back to talking about one of my favorite things - books!

Back in January, I shared my favorite reads of 2019. I'd planned to make it an annual post, but quarantine hit, and suddenly I found myself with far more time to read than I would ever have in a normal spring. My goal for the year was to read 40 books, and when I hit 20 back at the beginning of July, I decided that we might as well split things up into two posts this year. 

I didn't include all twenty in this post, because frankly, they weren't all worth mentioning. Still, I read some really great books over the past few months, and I'm excited to hear everyone's thoughts on them! Here are some of my most memorable reads from the first half of 2020. :-)

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Anomaly by K.A. Emmons

I've talked about The Blood Race series on my blog pretty extensively over the years, so it's no surprise that when Kate announced that a prequel would be coming out, I was pumped. Kate's been one of my dearest blogging friends for years now, and I've been in love with her series since the very beginning. 

If you've somehow missed the entire blogging world screaming about this series, The Blood Race is a YA sci-fi/thriller trilogy. The books are jam-packed with an action-filled plot and beautiful, complex characters, and I'll always be shouting them from the rooftops. 

Anomaly, the prequel to The Blood Race, dives deeper into the backstory of Ion, one of the main characters of the series. We get a glimpse into the upbringing that shaped him into the character that we follow throughout the rest of the books, with teasers of what's to come sprinkled throughout. It's short but sweet, and a great addition to the world of The Blood Race. 



Little Women by Lousia May Alcott

At the beginning of the year, it was pretty much impossible to go anywhere on the internet without hearing about Little Women. While I actually didn't see the movie until this past week (shoutout to Hanne for being the best movie watching buddy and finally getting me to sit down and watch it!!!), I knew that I would want to reread the book first, and quickly dove back in to Alcott's world. 

I could write essay after essay about my adoration for Little Women. Growing up in a house of girls myself, I think that I will always love this story, and always see so much of my own life in the March sisters'. It so perfectly captures what it's like to live in a house of women, with all of the energy and petty bickering and talking a mile a minute. While my love for classic lit is eternal, Little Women is one that holds up better than most, I think, because it's simply such an honest portrayal of life. It gave a true voice to women in a time when they were supposed to fade into the background, and showed them for all of their nuances and quirks and humanity. 

Much of my love for Little Women also stems from the fact that I love Jo March with every fiber of my being. She's one of those characters that I just click with - her feisty passion for the things and people that she believes in, her determination to do great things, her desperation to keep life the same as it's always been. She's messy and she's flawed, but I understand her so completely and love her more than I can say.


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I truly don't know how I went so long without reading this, because wow - what an incredible book. My cousin had recommended it to me years and years ago, but it was only this past semester that I finally got around to reading it, as a part of a young adult literature class that I was taking. 

I'm generally not a huge fan of dystopian literature, but Fahrenheit 451 is absolutely brilliant. I found myself with an unexpected free afternoon one day and ran to the used bookstore to pick up the selections I'd need for the semester. I ended up reading the entirety of this one in a matter of hours that same afternoon. It's truly eerie in the way that it parallels so much of of our world today, and is such a thought-provoking exploration of technology, privacy, desensitization and censorship. It's wonderfully written and really makes you stop to consider what a world void of beauty and art and independent thought due to an overrun of technology could look like. In the world we live in today, it's one that I think everyone needs to read.

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron

I almost didn't add this one to the post as it wasn't one of my absolute favorites, but at the end of the day - it's Nora Ephron. How could I leave her out? 

You've Got Mail is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I have endless respect for Nora Ephron as a writer. She had a style like no one else, so funny and quirky, direct and poignant. When I found this book of essays for fifty cents at a book sale, there was no way that I could pass it up.

I have to admit that I've enjoyed her movies more than I enjoyed this book. There were several select essays that I absolutely adored, but the book as a whole wasn't my favorite. Still, I'm pretty sure that I'll read or watch anything with Nora Ephron's name on it at least once. :-)




I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

I love love love this book.

I've been thoroughly and completely obsessed with Anastasia since I was nine years old. The movie was a favorite of my mom's, and I'm pretty sure that I started checking every Anastasia book that I could find out of the library the very week I watched it for the first time. By that time, Anastasia's death had long since been confirmed, but still, I couldn't help but wish - like so many people - that maybe, just maybe, she was still out there somewhere.

I Was Anastasia is a work of absolute brilliance. It's told from two perspectives with opposing timelines (very The Last Five Years-esque) - a young Anastasia, and Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed until her dying breath that she was the lost princess herself - spanning nearly eighty years.

The book is written with all of the intrigue of a thriller, constantly making you question anything you thought to be true. Brilliant really is the only way to put it - Lawhon's writing, her storytelling, her structure. I Was Anastasia is definitely one of the best books that I've read all year, and if you haven't read it yet, it needs to jump to the top of your list.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

I don't think I'll ever be able to express just how much I love Turtles All the Way Down. I've tried, time and time again, but words always fall short for me on this one.

Confession time: this was the first John Green book that I have ever read. He's been so drastically overhyped for so many years that I was just never drawn to his work. I watched The Fault in Our Stars with some friends back when it was the most beloved YA movie around and I thought it was fine, but it was never a favorite. (Could I talk for way too long about the tendency to prey on teenage emotions with things that are sad just to be sad? Yeah, don't start me.)

But when I discovered Turtles All the Way Down, I couldn't help but be intrigued. It was actually one of the first books that I did heavy promo work for when I started working for the bookstore, and while at the time I didn't want to buy it to read it for myself, I could see myself enjoying it.

When I suddenly found myself with more time on my hands than I knew what to do with, it seemed like the perfect time to find out if I'd like it or not, and so I finally picked it up.

Wow. I absolutely fell in love with Turtles All the Way Down. It's realistic and heartfelt and hopeful in a unique way that few books I've read are. Bittersweet, but what else can you expect from a book from John Green? The characters are genuine and well-developed, intensely flawed but intensely lovable. It's a solid contemporary with a twist of mystery and important themes. Written in the quirky, thought-provoking style that John Green is famous for, it gives one of the most incredibly realistic depictions of mental illness that I've ever read in a work of fiction. It meant a lot to me for a lot of different reasons, and it’s one that I’ll definitely be returning to again and again.



The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The more time that I have away from this book, the more I really think that it simply wasn't what I expected.

I had really been looking forward to reading this book, but when I actually read it, I felt it was a bit overhyped. It's received a lot of popular acclaim in recent years, but I was not as impressed with it as I expected to be. However, the more that I've thought about it, I think this came down to two things:

1. I didn't know that it was going to be an epistolary novel. Not to say that there's anything wrong with epistolary works, but personally, I've never enjoyed them as much as I do traditional novels. 

2. I thought that the book was about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society's work during the war, when in reality, it was simply about their lives after the war.

So I think that honestly, I just had an idea of it in my head that was completely different from what it was, and that ended up disappointing me. The book, objectively, is a good one - the characters, particularly, are wonderful. The biggest complaint that I had about the ending itself was that it was extremely abrupt - my ebook copy had a bunch of extra content pages at the end, so I thought that I had a lot further to go in the story than there actually was, and the ending felt really sudden and rushed.

Still, a sweet book. I'm curious to see the movie - I think I might end up liking it better than the book!

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir written in verse, gives a really interesting insight into what it was like to grow up as a young black girl in the 1960's. This is another one that I stumbled onto as a part of my young adult lit class, and I really enjoyed it. I loved the style, and as someone who's spent her whole life in the south, I loved reading more about the area where I've grown up. So much was familiar from hearing stories from my parents and grandparents, and yet there was so much to it that I knew nothing about. This book was a pleasant surprise, one that wasn't on my radar at all but I ended up really enjoying. 




To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I feel like it's impossible not to love To Kill a Mockingbird. 

I hadn't picked this one up in years, but as I reread it, I couldn't help but fall in love all over again. It is such a powerful, important work of literature. It makes you think in a really unique way, and I found myself wanting to reread it the second I turned the final page. What a world we would have if there were more people like Atticus in it, eh?

 


Home Work by Julie Andrews

I love Julie Andrews with my whole heart.

I read her first memoir, Home, several years ago, and was SO incredibly excited when a second one came out. (I still have my fingers crossed for a third...this one ends prior to The Princess Diaries + her Broadway return, and you already know how much I want to read about that) This second memoir chronicles her time from Mary Poppins up until her return to Broadway. Much of it was taken from her diary entries, and my next goal is to buy the audiobook - she narrates it herself.

Julie Andrews will forever amaze me with her kindness, strength, courage, and class, and reading about the behind the scenes of her life only made me love her more. The grace that she exudes spills off the page, and it was so much fun to get to know her a little better through this book.


Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I honestly don't remember for certain how I stumbled onto this book, but I want to say that it popped up on my Pinterest feed and I became intrigued. A quick library check revealed an available ebook, and I dove in. The premise almost reminded me of You've Got Mail - a guy tasked with monitoring the emails that are sent within a company's server finds himself falling in love with an employee solely based upon her emails. While I can't say that it was my favorite book that I've ever read, it was a cute story. The plot felt a bit flat at points, and because the two main characters had no real relationship for the first 2/3 of the story, it could be a little hard to connect with at points. Still, it was a sweet, light read, and I loved the concept of it all. Not a reread, but enjoyable all the same.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I went into The Great Alone knowing absolutely nothing about it - I'd noticed it at work before and thought that it looked interesting, and I knew that several of my coworkers had really enjoyed it. I also knew that I'd heard friends rave about Kristin Hannah's writing for ages. But as far as the story itself, I went in with zero expectations.

As someone who's never even been anywhere near the Northwest, just reading about Alaska in and of itself was oh so fascinating. It truly sounds like a whole other world - one that I don't think I could ever live in, but am now both more intrigued by and terrified of than ever before. The setting was a character all on its own, creating so many tangled up circumstances throughout the novel.

I think that the biggest thing that I didn't expect going into this book was just how much it would wreck me. I struggled to get into it initially, and found parts of it to be a bit cliched, but still I found myself hooked. It gives a powerful perspective into the horrors of codependency and toxic love, and the portrait that it paints of domestic abuse is shattering.

At its core, The Great Alone is a book about love, in all of its forms - beautiful, toxic, romantic, platonic, familial. It's about the strength of a community and the love between a mother and a daughter, and it explores falling in love when you aren't sure that you know what real love is. It made me smile, made me angry, and made me think - sometimes all at once.

The Great Alone isn't a book that I would naturally gravitate towards, nor is it one that I believe I'll end up rereading, but it is one that I'm glad that I read nonetheless.



The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

You all know how much I love World War II fiction, and I had high hopes for this book, but I have to say that they weren't quite met. While I did enjoy it, it lacked depth, and the immaturity of the characters annoyed me. I did very much like the differing perspectives that the book provided, and loved watching the relationship between Odile and Lily develop - their dynamic kept me reading. As a whole, though, this one fell a bit flat for me. 

- - - - -

These days, my TBR is about a mile long, and I'm desperately trying to read as many as I can before the insanity of the semester starts up again in just a few short weeks. I've got some books stacking up that I'm really excited about, so it will be fun to see what the second half of my 2020 bookshelf looks like!

Currently, I'm juggling Fountains of Silence, Uninvited, and The Engineer's Wife, and my upcoming TBR includes The Book of Lost Names, A Thousand Perfect Notes, The Ministry of Ordinary Places, and The Four Winds. I'm excited dig into them all!

What about you? What are you reading these days? What's on your TBR? I'm always down for suggestions (as if I really need them - my TBR is probably going to fall on top of me any day now.) Have you read any of my recent picks? Let's have allllll the bookish chats in the comments below! 

9 comments:

  1. These are all such great recommendations! Anomaly, Little Women, I was Anastasia, and To Kill a Mockingbird are all books I've loved! I'm also dying to read Home Work, The Great Alone, and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but I'll have to pick up the rest of these too!

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    1. You'll have to let me know what you think of them when you do read them! :-)

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  2. Love all of the classics - and I'm definitely putting the WWII fiction ones on my list! I have already read Guernsey though and I felt the same way about it; it didn't really do it for me. Right now I'm reading Katharine McGee's trilogy The Thousandth Floor and absolutely loving escaping into the futuristic tech and rich kid drama XD And I'm also about to start reading Placemaker on the nonfiction side of things, it looks so good!

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    1. Ooh, I'll have to add both of those to my TBR! You know I always love your recs. :-)

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  3. Love your list. I too am so interested in Anastasia. Some of my reads in 2019. "The Thanksgiving Treasure",William Bradford Pilgrim Boy","SHINING WINDOWS"
    Joan

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  4. Here are some of my reads for 2019. All 28 "Elsie Dinsmore" Books,"Some Kind Of Wonder","Ballet School" Books 1-3,"The Nutcracker', :Miracle On 34th Street". i recommend these books. "George Washington and The six Secret Spies', "Sam Houston and The Alamo Revenge""Andrew Jackson and The Battle Of New Orleans".
    Marion

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  5. I have the lloonnggeeessttt list of books I want to read, but your recs are always on the back of my mind. Particularly Anastasia...I need to jump on that soon.

    I do think The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a better movie (a bit too halmarky for my taste, but a cute movie nonetheless). Little Woman and TKAM are nonnegotiable reads also.

    I am about to start Inspired by Rachel Held Evans. I've been eyeing her work for a while now, and I'm finally getting to it.


    lovely post, as always, friend.
    k.

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    1. I'm definitely curious to see the movie version of Guernsey. My sister and I are going to try to watch it soon!

      I haven't read anything from Rachel Held Evans before - you'll have to let me know what you think of Inspired!

      xx love you, friend!

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