My Top 7 Books of 2020 So Far: A Mid-Year Reading Recap

7.23.2020


It's hard to believe that 2020 is already more than halfway over. Amidst the uncertainty of coronavirus and what lies in store for my college semester, I have found solace in my books. This year, I set a goal to read 52 books: one per week. For the first time in several years, I am actually ahead on my Goodreads reading challenge (by six books, what?!). Although the halfway mark has already passed, I wanted to dedicate some time to reflect on the books I have read so far this year and share my favorites with you. A handful of these thoughts were originally posted on my bookstagram account.

1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah 
Trevor Noah, the child of a Black woman and a white man during Apartheid, was quite literally "born a crime." In his memoir, Noah describes himself as a chameleon, learning multiple languages to navigate separate Black, mixed, and white communities, but never quite fitting in with one. Still, he observes that language can allow us to defy racism: if you speak like me, you must be like me. Noah's willingness to be vulnerable with the reader makes this book emotional and evocative. But what distinguishes this story is the author's ability to find meaning and even humor in tragedy and inequity, largely due to his mother's powerful and loving influence. I laughed and cried while reading this book.



2. Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Minor Feelings deeply resonated with me. I actually first borrowed this book from the library. As I read, since I couldn’t highlight in the borrowed copy, I took pictures of so many quotes that moved me that my camera roll is now filled with pictures of pages. (I've since acquired my own copy to re-read.) In a series of essays, Hong explores what it is like to be Asian in America, to be both a victim and a perpetrator of racism, and to endure "minor feelings", or negative emotions resulting from having responses to everyday instances of discrimination belittled and ignored. Hong's experience is different from mine: the author was born to two Korean immigrants; I am half-white, half-Korean, and I only grew up speaking English. Hong beautifully articulated her nuanced and complex Asian-American experience, something I admired so much because I continue to grapple with how to do it.


3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
If I had to pick one word to describe The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, it would be "addictive". Reid invites readers to a series of intriguing interviews between Evelyn Hugo, an aging former celebrity infamous for having seven husbands, and Monique Grant, an up-and-coming journalist struggling with divorce. Hugo's life story is rich and compelling. Now a renowned actress, Hugo claims that she controlled the world: since she was a teenager, she knew she aspired to fame and she relentlessly pursued it. Yet the prevalence of racism, sexism, and homophobia throughout her career, from older male producers that promise her roles for sex in her youth to taking on seven husbands to conceal her sexuality from gossip columns suggests that the world, filled with discrimination and judgement, may have controlled her, too. I want to re-read this book soon.


4. Know My Name by Chanel Miller
In this memoir, Miller recounts the pain that she experienced after being sexually assaulted by Brock Turner. Miller's victim impact statement, in which she denounced the systems of privilege and power that first allow "boys to be boys" and later enables rapists to walk free while victims suffer, went viral after it was published on Buzzfeed. Originally, the statement was published anonymously. In this book, Miller claims her identity. Her writing is lyrical and made powerful by her vulnerability and honesty.






5. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
In this book, Kantor and Twohey, reporters for the New York Times, recounted their journey to investigating and publishing Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct. I read She Said shortly after Know My Name, and it frustrated and inspired me. I was frustrated by how ingrained sexism still remains in our culture that men who have sexually harassed and assaulted women can continue to hold positions of power. I was inspired by the women that chose to share their experiences with Kantor and Twohey, and the reporters' efforts to pursue the story despite the personal risks. The latter half of the book explores the authors' interactions with Christine Blasey Ford. I was struck by the personal costs Ford made, including having to hire private security to protect her family from angry dissenters, to give her testimony against Brett Kavanaugh.


6. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Miracle Creek is a courtroom thriller that interrogates both suspects in the murder of two hyperbaric treatment patients and the obstacles that Asian immigrants encounter in America. I made the mistake of reading this book while at college. I became so invested in the story that I happily ignored all of my work for the day. I loved that I could relate some of the experiences of Mary, a Korean-American teen and the daughter of HBOT owners Pak and Young Yoo, while also questioning what her character's role was in the deadly arson.






7. Becoming by Michelle Obama
Three aspects of Becoming stood out to me. First, the author's description of her difficulty balancing time with her daughters with work and campaigning for her husband felt familiar. So many women juggle careers with raising a family, and these challenges deserve more credit. Second, Michelle Obama's media experiences reinforce that women are still held to harsher standards of appearance than men. I read this book around the same time I watched the Hillary Clinton documentary on Hulu. In both works, the women have to spend hours on their appearances with a full staff, including a hair stylist, a makeup artist, and a wardrobe expert, before making public appearances. Their husbands simply did not face this same scrutiny. Becoming also delves into criticisms Michelle Obama received about being too aggressive or not emotive enough in her speeches and & the personal toll her statements being taken out of context took on her. Finally, the strength of the author's community, comprised of members in and outside of her family, were beautiful.


Readers, share with me: what have been your favorite books of 2020? What books should I add to my to-read list?

5 comments :

  1. My cousin just recommended Born a Crime to me yesterday and I think I really need to read it! I've heard a few of my creative writing professors talk about it as well and overall it seems like a really well written memoir. Glad you enjoyed it, Claire!

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  2. Born a Crime was my favorite book of last year! I haven’t made this year’s “best” list yet because I’m lazy, but Becoming and Evelyn Hugo will be on it. I still need to read Miracle Creek.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. Oh wow, you have fantastic titles there Claire! I have them all on my TBR, especially She Said and Becoming. I can't wait to read them all once I get a copy!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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  4. I've heard so many great things about Minor Feelings, definitely have to check it out! This list is so great, I really need to step outside my normal reading circles and consume more non-fiction/memoirs :)

    Riv @ Small Stained Pages

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  5. I can't believe how fast 2020 has been flying by despite some months feeling incredibly slow, at least for me. I remember feeling like March lasted for a year, haha. Anyhow, I've only read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo from your list, but I do adore that one. I need to read Becoming and Miracle Creek. I've had so many favorites this year, oh my god, but most recently I adored Felix Ever After (it made me SO HAPPY by the end) and Home Before Dark, which is my favorite mystery-thriller this year. Great post!

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