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Favorite Books of 2020

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posted by Kirstie Shanley alias kirstiecat on Tuesday 29th of December 2020 06:21:54 PM

Did you know that cats have favorite authors and genres? Jarvis Cocker prefers non fiction and so his favorite authors are Claudia Rankine, Sasha Geffen, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Broadcast prefers experimental Asian fiction and so her favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Ryu Murakami, Bae Suah, Can Xue, Banana Yoshimoto, Kazuo Umezz, Shin Kyung-Sook, Karen Tei Yamashita,Keiichirō Hirano, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Krys Lee and Banana Yoshimoto. PJ Harvey prefers poetry so her favorite authors are Rumi, Hanif Abdurraqib, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ocean Vuong, Nikki Giovanni and Eve L. Ewing. When I asked her what she thought of Nick Cave’s lyrics, you should have seen her reaction! What all my cats can agree on is that Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rainforest is a masterpiece and so, I always have to read that one out loud to them during cat story hour. Though I didn’t read Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor this year either, it’s still a solid second choice for our story hour together. I have to always preface these lists by making the disclaimer that while no human being can read all of the books in existence put out in one year, I read even less this year having only finished a little under 150 books (I read 365 last year). Not all of these books were released this year and some of these books may be released in the future depending on which alternative timeline of reality you exist in. The pandemic really put a dent into my reading because I typically read while on the elliptical at the gym for a couple of hours every day but, with the gyms closed, I had to turn to memorizing K pop dance moves off of Youtube for my exercise for several months (I am not good at this), which caused me to almost get murdered by my downstairs neighbor until I straight up invested in an elliptical a couple of months ago and saved myself from the sudden doom that would have rivaled any gruesome ending of a Chan-wook Park film. These books represent a few different genres-nonfiction, fiction, graphic novels, poetry-and are in a general order but I decided not to number them as I kept changing the order depending on my mood and that didn’t seem very efficient (I am not a journalist) Feel free to share your favorite books that you read this year. You may be stuck in a black hole reading books that we don’t even have in our reality. I want to hear about those too! And, without further ado, my feline fanatic friends and literature lovers, gather around for this is my Favorite Books of 2020: The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin Sometimes it’s actually hard to take science fiction seriously….why? Maybe because it’s so fun and engaging….either way, it’s actually quite hard to write something that is very inventive and also relevant in our modern times. In a way, it speaks to the high ability of the author to also be able to make it grounded in reality enough to be just believable but imaginative enough to get truly lost in a unique story. Such is the case for The City We Became, which has all of the NYC buroughs represented by different humans with vivid personalities fitting their areas who have to work together to stop an evil takeover and, of course, have a really tough time with that pesky and racist ignorant Ms. Staten Island. N.K. Jemisin creates a world of actual monsters and proud boy like art dealer/real estate mogul monsters (the kind we don’t actually have to work hard to imagine because they exist in real life). This looks like what will be the first in hopefully a long series of riveting books! Tropic of Orange: Karen Tei Yamashita I read Through the Arc of the Rainforest last year and this year Tropic of Orange was my exceptional read by this Japanese American author who is so imaginative in the way she writes both memorable characters and interwoven plots. I can’t predict any endings for any of their lives and that is quite something indeed. If you don’t like magical realism or complex storylines, you may miss out on the brilliance that is Yamashita and the bulk of her work. But, if you find yourself wanting to explore what creative literature is capable of, please look no further! Pet by Akwaeke Emezi- Just released this year and highly recommended by me! This book was philosophically engaging from start to finish. Set in the fictional town of Lucille, the residents have conquered all of the “monsters” (who are basically Trump voters and the like) until an angel (who looks like a monster) emerges from a painting to find a “family monster” who is abusing a child. The protagonist is a trans adolescent whose mom reads the great Nnedi Okorafor to her and speaks through sign language. I loved the layers of moral complexity here. Pet gets into what truly makes a monster and how insidious monsters (again, basically republicans) can hide in plain sight and if a monster is redeemable too. I liked Freshwater (Emezi’s 1st novel) but this was 100x better imo Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi This novel is both imaginative and also heart breaking…its main plot involves a country overtaken by American forces who also can’t trust their own government and a corpse that reanimates from other corpses to seek revenge. Though it delves into a little bit of black comedy and takes on a creature who may seem more familiar to those who enjoy the horror genre, it’s the horror of reality with the violence of the American invasion of Iraq that the novel is actually about. What Saadawi does is to create a vivid metaphor that evolves throughout the book and forces us to think deeply about morality. We must remember that Saadawi may also be coming to terms with his own grief, mortality, and the modern reality of living in Iraq. He has had friends lost through suicide bombs that he narrowly missed being killed in himself, for instance. Catherine Lacey: Pew I am always a little hesitant to promote the work of someone who is white when there are many women of color who are under-recognized and struggling to earn both critical acclaim and also just a living. So, I will just say that I found Catherine Lacey’s very recent novel Pew incredibly moving and relevant for our times. She writes about race and gender identity in a way that feels fully realized. This book is about identity that words cannot define and the frustrations that result in a white community (who considers themselves super religious) because they cannot take ownership over human identity. There’s a real sense of the frustration of language and lack of it and of not being in control and the way these humans handle that feeling. It is a postmodern masterpiece and I would highly recommend it. On a side note, it doesn’t really matter or seem worth mentioning the personal romantic life of a female author but, in this case, I must mention that she is currently the partner of one of my favorite authors who also resides in Chicago, Jesse Ball, and has a funny statement about him at the end in the thank-you section that is worth taking a look at. Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World This novel is fiercely feminist following so many female friends from all walks of life in Turkey and the way the body lives on after death. This book starts with death but is really filled with life! As our heroine protagonist, murdered yet still filled with extreme senses, dies a little more on each page, we find out a little more about her and what in her life brought her to this point. And therein lies the largest devastation of this novel because we fall in love with dear Leila but it’s too late to save her. Her life was doomed from the beginning because she happened to be born female and poor and did not have any rights to make her own happiness despite having all the ambitions to do so. Imani Perry: Breathe, A Letter to My Sons: This book was a little reminiscent of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me” but I actually was even more moved by this mothers take on raising her two boys in America with it’s racist past and present. Really wise and incredible. This was such a gift to be added to the canon of American literature and as a resource to help nurture the modern African American family and was both honest and insightful. Yaa Gyasi: Transendent Kingdom Yaa Gyasi’s second novel is quite a bit different than her first, Homegoing. This one is about a family from Ghana but one that lives in Alabama and struggles to make their way in the American South. It is a portrait of a family in turmoil as the family unit as a whole is severed in a couple of major ways…and, I am hesitant to say more on that end as I don’t want to spoil the novel. Gyasi writes us a very strong female protagonist in Gifty who is a neuroscientist studying mice and both reward seeking and inhibition in her quest to understand and make sense of addiction. It is one of those soul searching types of books that is well worth reading and without artifice or cliché, which is sometimes quite a challenge to find in literature. The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen In some ways, this was not as profound as an earlier fiction work by this Israeli author, Waking Lions, but is still however very meaningful and relevant about lies that take on a life and storyline of their own between Israel and Poland and between both a young and a much older female protagonist. To me, this book was incredibly relevant especially in these times about how a little bit of dishonesty ends up leading to incredibly different results in the lives of humans. It’s a short read but very worthwhile in the way it makes you think of the role of truth in one’s life. Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Dr. Monique W. Morris This was a really difficult read by the Founder and President of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI). Yet, it was also an important read for me not just as an educator but as someone who also wants to do right by all students I support. Morris gets into some of the facts behind racial profiling in schools and does well to expose how it is often overlooked what impact early racism in schools has on young women (although, it is often acknowledged and still very damaging for young Black men). The treatment of young women in a place of learning is very important and could be instrumental in nurturing and encouraging these girls to succeed and to set ambitious yet achievable goals but they have to not only be taught skills but believe in their own worth. We also need to recognize signs of trauma and ensure that we are addressing the whole child. We cannot ignore these facts and we cannot assume that every educator before us was kind and acted within the best interest of every student. So, when we consider what a child’s perception of education may be, for a student of color especially a young human who may be Black, there may be a lot of work to do in changing a negative sense of school. What we see in our schools is not “safe spaces” but punishment that sets the stage for a cruel future. Do we really want this as a society? We must accept that we have failed and that we must change. We must actively change schools across America! It is a gift to be able to teach and nurture and abuses of power are the most heinous kind. On a personal note, I spent much of my time this summer protesting against police brutality and cops in schools. Our mayor and Board of Ed. in Chicago has kept a few incidents of racially motivated violence against students in schools from the public and, instead of hiring nurses and ending our contract with the cops, tax payers are still footing the bill. They’ll make us take a mandatory online training about stopping the school to prison pipeline but, in terms of policy and where our tax dollars are going, Chicago is far from walking the same walk they are preaching. Brit Bennett-The Vanishing Half This reminded me of a modern day Passing by Nella Larsen and a great follow up novel to The Mothers. Bennett shows a portrait of two sisters, one who decides to pass and leads a much different life than the other who ends up having a child with a man who has a much darker skin tone than herself and returns to their small town in Louisiana where there is an obsession about shades of skin. This novel is as much an examination about race as it is about the human desperation driven by racism and what humans are capable of denying about themselves and others they love to continue to live safely within a certain space and level of comfort. There is also a second layer that is about transitioning genders that adds to the storyline and characters overall. The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar The story of racism that a Bengali immigrant family experiences in the American south (in a suburb of Atlanta) is important but what elevates this work is the unique writing style. I literally felt like I was slipping to and fro through time and seeing these glimpses of a vivid life in all its joys and sorrows. Laskar is incredibly poetic in her exploration of police violence and trauma and was also herself a victim of racial profiling. She’s another author who I hope continues to gain readers and write more books. For a debut, this is exceptional and really reads like it come from an author who has written her whole life. Disability / Visibility edited and FW by Alice Wong This is nonfiction at its finest because it has the power to open your mind to the struggles of a group of humans you may not have had a clue about before you opened the first page. Wong did an excellent job of finding an incredibly diverse group of perspectives not just in terms of race, class and religion but also in terms of ability level and opinions on ableism and world perspectives. Keah Brown and Haben Girma are probably the most well known authors in this collection but each of these essays is enlightening in a different way-some focus more on technological aspects, others on fashion, others on abortion, and still others on deficits in terms of public transport. All of these perspectives are valid and insightful and should give able bodied humans a clue as to what obstacles need to be examined and removed in our society to make a better world exist. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho. In an alternative reality where white American born humans also need to pass a citizenship test, this would be required reading. Acho comes from Nigerian parents and grew up in Texas. I didn’t realize he wasn’t just a political science philosopher type of author (He’s also an NFL player) when I started reading as I don’t really follow the actual sports game but he does a fantastic job with these questions, which are actual questions submitted by white people in America. Some of these questions show a huge lack of understanding of history and privilege. Other questions are more related to wanting to help and be anti-racist but not knowing where to start. Acho calmly rewinds and takes us through some background and gives suggestions on how to live differently and be better as well as some valuable resources. And, in order to keep in mind white privilege, I will say that it is definitely not the responsibility of Black or African American humans to educate us but when they do make an effort (and hopefully like Acho are compensated for it), it’s definitely our duty to listen. As ignorant as some of these questions seem, we must all be humble and willing to ask questions and all the more willing to listen to the answers. It’s also worth noting that this nonfiction was written after the murder of George Floyd so it is incredibly current and Acho also writes very calmly and in a way that most people probably won’t find having a huge adverse reaction to when confronting white privilege and entitlement. A Man by Keiichirō Hirano What an engaging read! I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that so effectively skirted the line of experimental fiction in its exploration of identity and story lines before. First, there is the identity based on an exchanged one and a lie for a human being who lives a quiet life as someone else. But, then there is the exploration of identify of what it means to be S. Korean and living in Japan and the xenophobia experienced by humans in this predicament. In some ways, A Man reads like a thriller and mystery novel but in many other ways, it is a deeply philosophical work that cannot be contained by genre but makes you wonder about and question the human stories were are assigned, we tell ourselves, and that we make up altogether. I can’t wait for At the End of the Matinee to be released April 15th, 2021! Hidden Colors by Nillu Nasser The book explores the struggles of Syrian refugees in Berlin putting on a magical circus but after a couple of years. the anti-immigrant sentiment rises and politicians and journalists have to choose which side to take. This book feels fantastical in the sense of the circus production but realistic in its depiction of the hardship of existence as a mere pawn in politics and left vulnerable to political whims and opinions of the public. There’s a great deal here about the ethics of journalism as well and the responsibilities in terms of telling of the human story. Though this book is technically a work of fiction, it is highly relevant to our current world. A Fortune For Your Disaster by Hanif Andurraqib I didn’t do as much poetry reading this year as I did last year but this one definitely stood out. I read it for book club. Full disclosure-I love everything by Hanif and would recommend Go Ahead in the Rain, his nonfiction regarding A Tribe Called Quest if you are fan of the band. I follow Hanif on Twitter and am a fan of him both in terms of his politically conscious side and his human side where he bakes and talks about his love of music and Columbus, Ohio. He’s also great to see speak. He’s an incredibly lovable human. Anyway, this poetry is so rich with imagery and soul and, though it definitely explores topics of racism, I would also say that it explores the full range of what it means to be human and does so artfully. So many of the lines should be read more than once and contemplated. Read a poem and put it down for a while and think about the full complexity of what Hanif was exploring and picture the photograph he created with his masterful words that appears in your head. Just Us by Claudia Rankine: Rankine is an extraordinary poet who is also insightful when it comes to race in America and her observations based on both casual encounters and a whole lot of systemic racism. At the end of the day, Rankine is aware of the damning impact of white supremacy and she wants humans to heal and for the world to become a better and safer place for all human to exist in. And, that isn’t going to happen without some conversations taking place that are sometimes challenging to initiate and to explore. We find ourselves sometimes in situations that might at first seem perplexing but have a history based in reality. If you haven’t read Citizen, the collection of poetry by Rankine, you might be blown away but this work of nonfiction. If, like me, you have read Citizen, you might at this point be more impressed by the fact that with all of the facts and insights Rankine has, she still is willing to have conversations about race and that speaks to the kind of beautiful human being she is. The Drifting Classroom Volume 1-3 by Kazuo Umezz This is a riveting 700+ page graphic novel about a school that disappears from the present and travels to a desolate future with a lot of human psychological issues of those trapped in this new reality. I will say one key thing in this epic journey through the minds and choices of these young children is that both the surreal storyline and the art work are captivating and I was soon hooked and couldn’t wait for the third volume to be released a couple of months ago. I devoured it like a piece of decadent chocolate cake while soaking in my bathtub for night after night. I became very invested in these creatures who first had to fight for their lives when there was a struggle for power and then when their dreams came alive and then when there was a plague and then when there was still extreme scarcity of food and water….and somehow our hero and protagonist is able to community at some points with his mom living in the time and reality they came from even though they are far from it. Just a fantastic imaginative series for Japanese graphic novel fans especially. Myla Goldberg’s Feast Your Eyes- Tis is a very well done and complex portrait of a photographer living in NYC in the 60s-70s who didn’t actually exist but you’ll be convinced did exist by the way this book is laid out describing her photographs with fictional journal entries and fictional accounts of friends and family. This is a lot about artistic rights and the line between art and child protection. Interesting philosophically and based on several other female photographers who actually did exist like Vivian Maier and Diane Arbus. It really reads like a very engaging nonfiction work instead of fiction, which is an interesting experience for the reader. Sharks in the Time of Saviors: by Kawai Strong Washburn I had two books by native authors, this one and Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun become available around the same time from my Chicago Public Library holds list and they couldn’t be more different. But while I did love the imagination of Black Sun overall, I didn’t feel as connected to the characters and just saw it as a starting point for hopefully a long series whereas Sharks in the Time of Saviors feels like a truly stand alone work. This book is, in many ways, a portrait of a native Hawaiian family struggling to get by and having a son with healing powers. There is a bit of a leap in terms of what you can believe here but it is written with enough reality that the surreality is very effective. Our hero Noa is trying to find himself and come to terms with a crucial error he makes. In the meantime, his brother and sister are also floundering between not being the most brilliant basketball star (former) and with same sex preferences (latter) and no one has any money to fly home to Hawaii from college because, of course, it’s just far too expensive even for the natives to get home. What is the most interesting to me is how the relationships between family members is explored and the idea that you shouldn’t ever encourage someone to define their identity with just one main thing or being good at one thing because it destines them to an unhappy sort of life and failure. I found the writing here very engaging and it dealt with some of the real issues Natives face in our country, especially in areas where cost of living has become insurmountable. A Burning: by Megha Majumbar This was a very difficult book to read, primarily because Majumbar writes us a story where you easily feel connected to and devastated by the chain of events that bring our heroine, Jivan, a poor Muslim girl in the Indian slums to a prison cell wrongfully accused of being a terrorist. In some ways, it made me think of a modern day Kafka-esque tale where it just seems all odds are stacked against our protagonist and it just keeps getting worse. Majumbar explores the corruption in modern day India but also interestingly enough explores the life and rise of a transgender fried of the protagonist at the very same time. This book is filled with politicians and political opportunists and liars who don’t seem to mind making Jivan a fall girl for their own political agenda and it made me wonder how possible all of this might actually be, especially as Majumdar was born and raised in Kolkata herself though is now living in NYC. This is Majumdar’s first novel and shows a promising career. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson One of the reasons why this nonfiction is so powerful is because these voices are so often not heard or misheard. Johnson takes us through his life and what it was like to grow up with two identities, sometimes at odds with himself and what it meant to be both an African American and one who questioned his gender and preferred humans of the same sex to his biologically given gender. Johnson takes us through his very harrowing struggle to fit in and the relief of finding members in his family who at least partially understood what he was going through. He takes through what it’s like to be sexually abused and have assumptions made about him. It is harrowing and honest and makes you grateful that he has created something that shows us the whole range of humanity and helps some of us find comfort in who we are and others of us understand how to be better and more compassionate humans. Glitter up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary by Sasha Geffen Sasha Geffen is a human who has devoted countless hours to exploring how we came to this exact moment in music history and all of the steps that led us here in an all inclusive non fiction epic journey examining how, in just about every genre of music I can think of, gender identity and transforming gender norms was a part of both image and sound of musicians. I am a huge fan of music and many of these musicians and bands I was already familiar with and own albums by. However, Geffen caused me to view many songs, concerts, and even album covers a different way and I also learned about many artists I was not familiar with. This is a must read for those who love music and for those who seek to accept and appreciate all genders (male, female, and non-binary) and their artistic contributions within this very flawed yet sometimes quite beautiful world. A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois This book fascinated me….Irina knows she is going to die and it is going to possibly be horrible and painful when she does the genetic testing and finds out she inherited Huntington’s Disease. She knows what the future holds because she saw her father progressively lose abilities and she starts to lose control in ways that signal to her what her future could hold. And so, she decides she’s going to go on adventure to Russia in order to find a chess master who is an active political opponent of Putin because, after all, what exactly does she have to lose? This book is about the idea of taking your life into your own hands and controlling your destiny instead of letting genetics define you. It is also about trying to make the most out of a life that many others would consider doomed. It also has a really great joke about Adam and Eve actually being soviets and it takes a lot to make me laugh in the middle of a pandemic. Vivian by Christina Hesselholdt This work explores all ll different points of view including Vivian Maier’s own on life and photography with interesting narrator interjections and musings based on what is known of this photographer. I have to admit that I have a personal bias of loving many of Maier’s photographic works so this was a very engaging read for me based on my familiarity with and admiration of the photographer that was the focus of this technically “biographical fiction” work. I think it might be a key point to get acquainted with some of Maier’s photographs and read this book if you are enamored. But, you might also enjoy this book if you in general love photography and think often about what might a photographer be like as a human and what makes for a good photographer as well. Empire of Wild: Cherie Dimaline This is the first novel I have read by a Métis (Native French Canadian) author and I really loved it. It was definitely wild and centered around the traditional Native myth of the Rogarou as it kills and steals souls. This was as much about human deception and religion and racism as it was about this creature and it was impossible for me to not visualize the horror while, at the same time, see Rogarou as a metaphor for white opportunists who will do whatever it takes to steal Native land. I had my heart in my throat for a lot of this journey and I think the power of the writing really showed its effectiveness. Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves edited by Glory Edim. Fantastic autobiographical accounts of prominent African American female authors of today and how they were inspired by literature that uniquely spoke to them. This book does well to emphasize the importance of representation and I would advocate that those who define curricula across the country on every level should start considering whether we are really celebrating our current list of authors because they were talented and had something relevant to say then and now or whether it goes within our nation’s history of white supremacy to promote primarily white male authors as the definitive standard even though they had every advantage over their women of color possible colleagues. What is hopeful is that now more than ever talented women of color are being published and truly heard but, in my opinion, there is still a lot of history around celebrating only or primarily only white male authors that should be challenged in this country. In any case, this collection features a great deal of talented contemporary female authors such as Jesmyn Ward, Jacqueline Woodson, Zinzi Clemmons, N. K. Jemisin, Tayari Jones and more and speaks to the power of literature and it’s transformative qualities! The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep by Guy Leschziner. I thought this was nonfiction about dreams but it was mainly about different sleep disorders…still very interesting and informative though! Did you know you can have something called Restless Chest Syndrome? Yikes! I tend to love neuroscience and yet besides this book and The Telomere Effect by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, I didn’t read nearly as many science oriented books in 2020. I read far more nonfiction books about race, gender, and immigrant memoirs. Still, I love to learn about all facets of the human brain and I believe in life long learning. The case studies in this book were especially fascinating and made me feel like my reoccurring insomnia is really not so bad at all compared to what it could be! Wow, No Thank You: Samantha Irby This nonfiction collection of essays made me laugh so hard (especially the chapter on cat vs. dog ownership) that I instantly fell in love with Irby as both an author and as a human being and, though she no longer lives in Chicago, it was cool to see what living in Chicago twenty or so years ago was like through her eyes. Irby is happily married and has encountered both homophobia and racism in her life and these essays showed both an intellectual and a quick witted approach to dealing with it. Irby is so candid and does not hold anything back when it comes to her own biology, either, which is almost shocking (and also appreciated) at times in its brutal honesty and well worth reading. Irby is also my age so I could relate to some of these chapters quite a bit because of that. Hello 911, filled with imagined 911 calls as well as Love and Marriage where she answers ridiculous questions are also not to be missed chapters if you want to laugh hysterically. The Monk of Mokha (Story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali) told by Dave Eggers I actually led a two hour remote book club on this book last month and, though I love discussing books, what is odd is that I liked the book better before the discussion. This is an incredible story of a Yemeni American man who risks literally his life more than once to bring back viable coffee beans and establish a coffee trade between his homeland of Yemen and the United States. Dave Eggers insists emphatically that this is 100% nonfiction and it is unfathomable the lengths that Mokhtar goes to. There’s an undying sense of the human spirit that can be both courageous and also lucky in this book. There’s also a component of the struggle itself against both the violent conflict situation in Yemen and the racism encountered in America. In any case, if you are interested, here’s an article about the book. I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me: Juan Pablo Villalobos Good, because they probably won’t! This is an adventure in surrealist experimental fiction walking the line between humor and existential dread. In the end, you honestly don’t know exactly what really happened and if the protagonist is even still alive. There are doubling of characters, journal entries, a talking dog, and lots of unsavory types I wouldn’t trust with my favorite pencil (or even my least favorite pencil). Our extremely flawed hero is a Mexican intellectual who wants to study humor in literature in Catalonia, Spain but is side tracked before he can even get there by a group of mafia like henchmen in an impossible scheme his cousin roped him into involving seducing a woman identifying as a lesbian amongst other crazy shenanigans. This is a wild ride! If you’re an intellectual who dislikes thrillers, try this one out to see if maybe it was just the writing style in those other books wasn’t enough for you in the first place. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens I expected a lot from Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens because of the human (a coworker and friend) who recommended it to me and I did think it was worth reading. I like the sense of looking into isolationism and classism as well as the justice system in the American South plus there’s a courtroom cat! (Sunday Justice) but probably best of all was the fierce individualism of the female protagonist, Kya, the “Marsh Girl” who learns to make her own way in life. Kya’s unusual personality and talents drew me into the story line as a whole but it was the ending that made it truly worthwhile and landed it on my best of 2020 list. Junji Ito’s Yon & Mu: This is a super adorable autobiographical #catlife graphic nonfiction about his wife’s 2 cats that he learns to 💕 and who turn him into a cat person. I loved the drawings in this book and the little stories about getting his cat neutered, going on a business trip and missing his cats, cats around his chair where the heater was, cats on his lap, cats in his bed….you know the drill. A lot of these are relatable and silly but sweet and the book also includes photos! I’ve read Ito’s harrowing fiction, graphic horror novels and this was quite a departure but it gave me a glimpse into his lovable human side. Though this was maybe not the best book I read critically, it was still definitely one of my favorites as someone who is a fan of Ito’s graphic novels and cats! Cats of the Louvre: Taiyo Matsumoto Full disclosure here that I didn’t really think anyone would take me seriously if I started with these last two books/graphic novels because, honestly, I love cats and so I cannot be objective about extreme cat topics and/or cat protagonists. This one is perfection-a wildly imaginative storyline centered around the cats that live in Le Louvre. What more do you need to know? Ok, there’s a human trapped in a painting and also all the cats take on human traits at night when no on is looking. Is this not a good enough reason to read this book right now?!?! Oh wait, you’re a dog lover??? Well, forget you anyway! 😹 Honorable mentions: Ok, so again this list only represents about 30% of the books I read this year. I can’t write about 100+ more books but here are the books I would still recommend: Little Gods by Meng Jin I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya Eatheater by Dolores Reyes Dear Girls by Ali Wong (so funny!) Telephone by Percival Everett The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire by David Mura The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates The Telomere Effect by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn 1919 by Eve L. Ewing **All photos are copyrighted**

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