I didn’t expect to read very much this year. In the past I have read over 100 books a year, topping my record at 193 in 2017. In 2020, I completed a measly 36 books; several of which were for my online college classes.
Choosing a “Top 10” books for the year tends to be an arduous task, but given the low number to choose from, this year it wasn’t difficult. Usually to be considered for my “Top 10,” I have to feel as if the book has changed my life in someway. These are the books that unequivocally, hands down changed me just by reading them.
Here we go:
10. Georgia Rules — Nanci Turner Steveson
Full Disclosure: My friend and mentor, Nanci Turner Steveson, wrote this middle grade novel, so I might be biased. That being said, I found it to be a really touching story.
I legit cried in my car on my way home listening to it. Very smart and showcasing a refreshingly diverse set of characters.
9. The Rise of Genderqueer — Wren Hanks
A must-read for anyone in the LGBTQ community with pieces exploring and developing in the concept of sexuality and gender identity.
8. Aphrodite Made Me Do It — Trista Mateer
This collection of poetry by Trista Mateer depicts love, loss, sexuality, feminism, and some topics in between. I really loved the thread of mythology sewn throughout the entire collection and inspired some of my own mythological poems.
7. I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood — Tiana Clark
I met Tiana Clark when she came to Teton County for a poetry workshop focused on healing trauma. She explained when discussing her book that she can’t see trees without thinking about the generations of Black people who came before her who were lynched. Instead of closing herself off from this generational trauma, she allowed herself to sit with its discomfort in order to try and heal some of those wounds. This collection of poetry is one of the fruits of that labor. Her direction and insight in that workshop, along with this collection, inspired me to sit in the discomfort of my own trauma and to write about it honestly and openly. This practice is the reason I have my own collection of poetry currently looking for a home.
6. The RBG Way: The Secrets of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Success — Rebecca Gibian
I started reading this before Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away and finished after. It was surreal to learn of her death right when when I was learning about her extraordinary life. I loved the way Rebbeca Gibian organized RBG’s life into chapters, and after her death, it pained me to read about her in the present tense. Her legacy will live on thanks to her hard work and to authors like Gibian for taking the time and care to craft her story.
5. Cut to Bloom — Arhm Choi Wild
Another brilliant poetry collection. I participated in a month-long poetry workshop with Arhm Choi Wild in the spring of this year and subsequently purchased their debut published collection Cut to Bloom. So glad I did. I literally sat in bed reading saying “Daaaaamn” over and over. Some of the pieces stabbed me in the back, some stabbed me in the front. I learned about Korean-American culture that I have very little exposure to, and felt the collection was well-organized and “taught” the reader how to read it. So beautiful and smart just like Arhm.
4. Before Green Gables — Budge Wilson
I had very low expectations for this book before I read it. Having had read the entire 10-book series of Anne of Green Gables before knowing of this book’s existence, I didn’t think a prequel written in 2008 by an author NOT L.M. Montgomery would be good. I have deep personal ties to Anne of Green Gables. Anne is my namesake. My mother was adopted later in her life from a poor family into another poor family. She was often made fun of in school, and she felt an affinity with Anne Shirley as she grew up. Their birth last names even rhyme. I didn’t think this prequel written by Canadian author, Budge Wilson, would do the series justice, but I gave it a shot anyway. And loved it. I absolutely loved it. It was beautifully written and if someone had told me it was written by L.M. herself before she died, I would have believed that person. I think it’s important for each author to have their own voice, of course, but if you’re creating a prequel for a well-established series written by a different author, I think it is even more important to make sure your prequel weaves in seamlessly to the others. Believe it or not, Budge Wilson achieved this feat. I am very impressed and immediately bought the book for my mother to read.
3. The Science of Storytelling — Will Storr
Will Storr’s very short guide to storytelling was so good, as soon as I finished it, I immediately read it again. It explains the science behind why certain story strategies are successful, why human brains are wired to like them. And most importantly, it’s concise. No fluff. I hate self-help books that are mostly filler, blah blah blah, and you’re left feeling “oh my god, just tell me what to do already!” This book just tells you what to do, why to do it, and then ends. Highly recommend for any aspiring writer.
2. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma — Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D.
I thoroughly enjoyed this scientific, in-depth look at the affects of trauma on the human brain and body and the treatments that have successfully helped millions of people regain their lives after trauma. My therapist recommended this book a couple of times before I finally picked it up. Now I want everyone to read it. An extraordinarily important read for anyone who is a victim or survivor of trauma and/or the family member or caretaker of a victim or survivor of trauma.
1. Hotel Almighty — Sarah J. Sloat
This collection of visual poetry is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Sarah J. Sloat created poetry/visual art from the pages of Steven King’s Misery.
Sarah was invited as a guest speaker in my Creative Writing Class this fall and she explained her process and how she “uncovers” the poem in the puzzle of words.
Here is an example of one of her creations:
fluid the promise
strange the discipline
I like the story…
you like what will happen
This collection of poetry and listening to Sloat in class inspired by own visual poetry collection exploring and experimenting with my own style of erasure using, of course, pages from Anne of Green Gables.
And those are my Top 10 books of 2020.
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