Books I Read in 2020Saturday, January 9, 2021
One of my new year's resolutions was to read more books last year. I was aided in this effort by a global pandemic that dissolved by social life. But give me credit - I was on track before April!
Staying on track was fairly simple - my family organized a weekly library night. I checked out one book at a time. I set a goal of 12 books for the year. By the end of the year, I had read 18 books. Here are my favorites:
Dune (Frank Herbert)
The movie was delayed, which gave me some time to read the book before the movie comes out (now in late 2021). It's generally heralded as being a pioneer for many plot devices used in science fiction today. The downside to being a pioneer could be, well, that books nowadays have done the same things, but better. (Side note: I do prefer to listen to Video Killed the Radio Star as covered by the Presidents of the United States of America). This book did not disappoint. It is a long read, but really does not waste time with details. The characters are all complex, and I can imagine it will make for a great movie.
How to be an Antiracist (Ibram X. Kendi)
In 2020, America had a reckoning of the past. The current generation saw a wave of violence related to its racist roots. The treatment of black, indigineous, and colored people has long been ignored by people who were both unaffected and apathetic.
This book teaches about the history and experiences of racism in America, both through Dr. Kendi's life story, and through more academic teaching. I really appreciated learning about these topics in such a complete way. I highly recommend it, especially if you have learned about racist history by reading social media posts.
Mexican Gothic (Silvia Moreno Garcia)
This book is quite a ride! I'm not the most qualified to say this, but the story is quite unique. Without revealing too much, it is a great, unique blend of horror, suspense, and drama. It will make for a great TV series soon.
Exhalation - (Ted Chiang)
Ted Chiang, as far as I can tell, has a day job as a software engineer. But he writes short stories when he can think of them. Some are long, and some are short. They're all extremely insightful. You can take any story out of this book and have a discussion about ethics, or the externalities of the characters and situations. This was one of the most thought-provoking books I've read.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Suzanne Collins)
No Katniss in this prequel set years before The Hunger Games. The book builds some loveable characters, set again in heartbreaking circumstances. It shows how one can be part of a system that they hate, and ironically become the very monster they tried to avoid.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Stieg Larsson)
Larsson wrote three books in this series before he died, and this was the last. I read this book in the course of 4 days. That's about all I need to say. The previous book in the series leads straight into this book. You think you have all the answers figured out, but it's much more complicated than that, as usual. I love the ingenuity of the characters in this series.
The Guardians (John Grisham)
I picked up this story not knowing much about what was in it. Little did I know how much it would tie into justice for so many who had been falsely convicted. While this story is fictional, it is somewhat loosely based on a real life lawyer who works to free those who have been falsely-convicted, many of them on death row. Not only was the premise good, but the story was engaging as well.
The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for it Every Time (Maria Konnakova)
This book was highly recommended to me, as Maria is a frequent guest on The Gist (my favorite podcast). This book explores confidence games in detail. It details both the people who run them, and the people who fall for them. There are great tidbits about how to become more persuasive, but also recognize how confidence tactics abound in our everyday lives.
This Book is Anti-Racist (Tiffany Jewell, Aurelia Durand)
I tried hard to learn about racism this year. While Ibram Kendi's book above is more academic, this book is more practical. It's much more approachable for younger audiences. We repurposed many of these lessons to teach our children, with good activities and journal exercises included.
The Bone Collector (Jeffery Deaver)
This is a classic detective style mystery. I always felt one step away from figuring it out. The characters are pretty fun, and very smart. You can tell that the author knew his facts about detective work in creating a real mastermind.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
I can't remember the last time I ended a book laughing so hard. That's all I have to say.