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  • Writer's pictureamanda

Reads (2020 edition)

Reading more has been on my “new year’s resolution” list for years, yet I tend to only grab a book when traveling/on vacation...and that’s all of my reading for the year. Having finished 15 books in 2020 (not a record high but a start), my new goal is to consistently write my takes as I tend to jump from one book to the next without reflecting, as seen by this post being published in Jan 2021.

I jumped from one book to the next early in the year. I traveled twice early in the year, having helped finish 4 titles by March. Early quarantine definitely helped with the consistency in actually finishing titles before the 21 days e-book library loan ended as well, although there were a few that never were finished (sorry to Life of Ove and Circe). Luckily, most were finished, here they are!

  1. Dominicana by Angie Cruz

  2. Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

  3. The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger

  4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

  5. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Ardrn

  6. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

  7. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

  8. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  9. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

  10. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  11. If Beale St Could Talk by James Baldwin

  12. The Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

  13. Sourdough by Robin Sloan

  14. Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

  15. American Like Me by America Ferrera (audio)

My rule is always to count audio books because they are amazing and I need more of them in my life. Honestly, I'm pretty proud of this list. I enjoyed all, although some more than others. Going to dig deeper into my faves, stick around if you want to hear about my take on dinosaurs.

My faves have been:

  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

  • Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  • Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Honorable mentions:

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

  • Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Possibly a 2019 read so I left it off, but read this!! Also becoming a Amazon series)

Jurassic Park

I loved all of it, so where do I begin? It’s most definitely moving to my favorite books in my lifetime. I picked it up after asking Conor what his favorite book was and then after getting the same recommendation from my friend Amanda. Conor and I have been dating a full 5 years and I’ll admit it was shocking that I didn’t know his favorite author and book before this year. In my defense, I bought him my favorite book and made him read it early in our relationship (it’s The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho).

I had never seen the full original Jurassic Park film either, so I really had no idea how good it was going to be. The one scene I had seen while flipping through TV was with the kids & raptors in the kitchen. It was just as good in the book. I also feel like many kids go through a dinosaur-loving phase when they’re younger. I remember my sister was hooked on the Land Before Time movies, but I missed out on this obsession. I basically know nothing so when I started the book I started double checking facts that characters (primarily Alan Grant) would share. Since I have no background I had no clue if the book was going for accurate early on...well I stopped googling facts pretty much immediately.

I’m sure if you haven’t read it you’ve seen the movie so explaining the plot may be silly. I will say though if you’ve only watched the movie, it’s an amazing read and some aspects are different. Both hold up as amazing and the book is just as suspenseful and action packed as the movie. I do like when films make changes from the book that work better for the medium. Some of the first book plot was used in the second movie and honestly I didn't even finish it all. I do wish more of Laura Dern’s character Ellie, she was great and I needed more of her overall. Honestly just give me a book about her point of view, thanks! Next franchise - Jurassic Universe, 2030. We want just Laura Dern.

This story holds up because the themes are not only universal, but extremely relevant in society today & at the end of the day honestly a fun and exciting book to read. The action between the dinosaurs & amazing foreshadowing throughout had me engaged the entire time. I was reading in the morning, during breaks, before bed. I was hooked, and not many books are able to keep my attention for that long. I constantly felt like I needed to know what was going to happen next.

Between the World and Me

I was introduced to Ta-Nehisi Coates when picking up The Water Dancer ebook from my library in April. The cover caught my attention and I haven’t read many slave era stories outside of what was taught in schools so I thought the summary was interesting. The first few pages caught my attention and it paints a beautiful scene of spirituality immediately.

The Water Dancer follows Hiam, a slave on a Virginia plantation and his upbringing after his month and family are taken from him. Ultimately leading to his journey into his spirituality again as he gets involved with the Underground Railroad. Overall, I thought it was an okay read. I would recommend in support of the author, but where I really thought he shines was in this title Between The World and Me.

In Between The World and Me, Ta-Nehisi shares a letter to his son, giving insight into how it is to grow up as a Black man in America. From his upbringing in Baltimore to time at Howard, it was all so interesting to peek into his life and point of view. It is beautifully written and so poetic. I could not recommend it enough to everyone to read. It wasn’t a difficult read either, which is why I also think schools would benefit by teaching it. I don't feel like enough non-fiction is shared and especially not enough Black writers. Most of us will never be able to fully understand how it is to be Black in the US, so these stories especially in the honest perspective of a Black man are extremely important.

Ta-Nehisi is just one person, but it was genuinely a gift to be able to hear his experiences and how it shaped his world view in this form, as a letter to someone he loves. It is also a short read and I just discovered there's an HBO special for the title, so there's another format for all of us to enjoy. Haven't watched yet, but will this weekend.

(For consistency I should upload an image here and I will probably come back to it soon)

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

One of the difficult parts about using the library to read books is that most books I hear about or want to read have long double-digit week holds. Yet, I love it because the constraint also allows me to discover gems that I may not have heard about before looking through pages of available titles. That’s how I stumbled across Minor Feelings.

Similar to what Ta-Nehisi Coates did in Between the World and Me, Cathy Park Hong gave insight into her upbringing, experiences and perspective. It begins with her very honest expression of her depression and struggles to find a therapist, immediately letting you in. Although a series of essays, it felt cohesive and I thought each chapter flowed perfectly to the next. She intertwined Asian American history with her personal experiences, shining light to and criticizing the “model minority” sentiment towards Asians, while sharing her own & Asian peer struggles and in their own lives and sadly harassment in academia. It was especially interesting to hear about events that I remember happening, but hadn’t given much thought (another attack followed by horrible PR following that quickly left the new cycle) - for ex: in 2017 when a Vietnamese-American man was forcibly removed from an United Airlines flight.

I loved references to Richard Pryor and the sentiment that we tend to aspire to be like other living people, but tend to forget a bit of who we are as individuals while doing so. Now writing this reminds me of a Chef’s Table episode (season 1 ep 4) of Niki Nakayama, owner of the LA restaurant n/naka. I was deeply moved by the ep because throughout her career Niki always had to prove herself as a woman chef (I’m still wrapping my head around this because did the other chefs not eat their moms/grandmothers cooking? urggh!!?!). However, now she’s found the most happiness (and success) in opening a restaurant that is such a creative output for herself and she’s let go of that pressure. I genuinely believe Cathy did the same with this title (and continues to do with the work she puts out in the future).

Back to Minor Feelings, It was an engaging read and made me realize that I should continue reading new perspectives and more non-fiction. History was probably my least favorite subject growing up, probably because what we were taught centered around the reverence of white colonizers. Minor Feelings left me wanting to hear more immigrant/ children of immigrant stories. I picked up the audio book for American Like Me by America Ferrera and my first 2021 read was The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. Please read all 3!


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