Favorite Books of 2020

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My reading habits came and went as they pleased in 2020, dipping to zero in both May and July as I became overwhelmed by doomscrolling or other things in life and in the world. But I still managed to read 34 books. They are shown above in roughly descending order from favorite (top left) to least favorite (bottom right).

Below are some mini-reviews for a couple of my favorites. I usually post these to my instagram stories, and they’re always available in my highlights, divided into 1-3 star ratings and 4-5 star ratings. I always love talking about a good read, so feel free to ask me about any of the books you see above! You can also see my favorite reads from previous years here: 2019, 2018, 20152014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.

Best Books of 2020

Minor Feelings Book Cover1. Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong. 5/5 book review How to convey the myriad unseen ways Asian Americans are left to grapple with race in this country? Hong’s reckoning is, in turns, subversive, questioning, liberating, dire, compelling. A must-read for all Asian Americans and for everyone else now waking up to white supremacy in America.

“Patiently educating a clueless white person about race is draining. It takes all your powers of persuasion. Because it’s more than a chat about race. It’s ontological. It’s like explaining to a person why you exist, or why you feel pain, or why your reality is distinct from their reality. Except it’s even trickier than that. Because the person has all of Western history, politics, literature, and mass culture on their side, proving that you don’t exist.”

“Minor feelings are also the emotions we are accused of having when we decide to be difficult—in other words, when we decide to be honest. When minor feelings are finally externalized, they are interpreted as hostile, ungrateful, jealous, depressing, and belligerent, affects ascribed to racialized behavior that whites consider out of line. Our feelings are overreactions because our lived experiences of structural inequity are not commensurate with their deluded reality.”

Untamed book cover2. Untamed by Glennon Doyle. 5/5 book review So many truths, plainly and powerfully spoken. Doyle calls out society’s expectations to make visible our own cages and to enable us to break free and live fully. I was very reluctant to like something so blatantly motivational speaker and self-help-y but ended up appreciating it deeply.

“I’ve done my research and learned this: Ten is when we learn how to be good girls and real boys. Ten is when children begin to hide who they are in order to become what the world expects them to be. Right around ten is when we begin to internalize our formal taming. Ten is when the world sat me down, told me to be quiet, and pointed toward my cages: These are the feelings you are allowed to express. This is how a woman should act. This is the body you must strive for. These are the things you will believe. These are the people you can love. Those are the people you should fear. This is the kind of life you are supposed to want. Make yourself fit. You’ll be uncomfortable at first, but don’t worry—eventually you’ll forget you’re caged. Soon this will just feel like: life.”

“No. That is not the understanding of brave I want my children to have. I do not want my children to become people who abandon themselves to please the crowd. Brave does not mean feeling afraid and doing it anyway. Brave means living from the inside out. Brave means, in every uncertain moment, turning inward, feeling for the Knowing, and speaking it out loud.”

“Despair says, “The heartbreak is too overwhelming. I am too sad and too small, and the world is too big. I cannot do it all, so I will do nothing.” Courage says, “I will not let the fact that I cannot do everything keep me from doing what I can.” We all want purpose and connection. Tell me what breaks your heart, and I’ll point you toward both.”

How to be an Antiracist book cover3. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. 5/5 book review Essential reading. My greatest takeaways were 1. a framework for thinking about racism and 2. a directive for taking action. 1. “Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial iniquities.” We’ve been taught that racist ideas lead to racist policy, but we have it backwards. The self interest of racist power creates racist policy, and that is what creates racist ideas to defend racist policy. In other words, racist policy creates racist ideas. 2. Therefore, the most effective way to achieve racial equity is through antiracist policy. Not by convincing enough racists to let go of racist ideas. “Knowledge is only power if knowledge is put to the struggle for power. Changing minds is not a movement. Critiquing racism is not activism. Changing minds is not activism. An activist produces power and policy change, not mental change. If a person has no record of power or policy change, then that person is not an activist.”

“One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of “not racist.” The claim of “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism.”

“The source of racist ideas was not ignorance and hate, but self-interest.”

Do you see anything here that you loved or hated? Have you read any great books this year? I’m already off to a roaring start for 2021 and would love to hear your recommendations!