Hi everyone! I hope you’re doing well, and having a great start to the new year. I thought that today, I would share with you the most notable books I read in 2020, as well as a few of the songs I’ve had on repeat and my recent favorite movies & shows.
I took the Goodreads Reading Challenge last year (we can finally say 2020 was last year…) and read about 40 books out of my goal of 30. I can’t really say I read a lot of any one particular genre or two, because my reading taste is very diverse and almost chaotic 😅 I mean, one day I could read a heavy science fiction, and the next, a YA contemporary, then perhaps a classic after that…and you can see how that would go on and on.
So for this post, I decided to start with sharing my favorite reads in each of the age categories (MG, YA, and Adult—yes, I read Adult last year…are you proud of me? 😁😂) before moving on to the genres (sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, etc.).
If you click on each book cover, it should take you to the associated Goodreads page, so you can view the summaries and such. I decided not to include the synopses in the post, apologies!, but if I did, I think it would get quite long 😅
I guess we can get started then!
My favorite middle grade read:
So…I read around 6 MG books last year. I know, it’s not a lot! But I’m hoping to read more this year, don’t worry. There’s something so heartwarming and beautiful about MG books that I miss and need more of 😊
But back to A Long Walk to Water. Told in alternating POVs, from a young girl who spends her days collecting water from a far well to a growing boy who flees from place to place, looking for his family, A Long Walk to Water was a moving work, told in lyrical prose and touching on heavy topics in an effortless way. I especially enjoyed how the ending played out—it was very rewarding and full of hope. The book is based on actual events as well, and the author handled it beautifully.
My favorite young adult read:
I read a lot more YA than MG last year, around 12 or so (wait why does that seem like such a small number?! I thought I read a lot more than that…anyways).
Six of Crows is one of the most lauded YA books…ever. Besides, the TV show is coming to Netflix in April this year, to prove my point, and I AM VERY EXCITED. The book features magical heists, found family, a complex plot, and characters who you will sob over (Kanej, anyone?) Plus, the banter was so good 😭 and if there’s one thing anyone can agree on, it’s the power of necessary banter.
My adult reads:
Last year, I dipped my toes into the land of adult science fiction and fantasy with these two novels, and it was a very nice experience, thank you very much 😁 Technically, though, the more “adult” science fiction I read last year (The Three Body Problem Trilogy, Dune, This Is How You Lose the Time War being notable reads) could also be counted as adult science fiction, but I think they’re more science fiction than adult…if that makes sense.
Anyways, I really liked The Bone Shard Daughter, I thought it was a wonderful read of identity, privilege, loss, memories, and the depth of the relationships we form. The magic system was also unique and enhanced the character development and plot very well. And of course, the novel featured political intrigue realistically and beautifully, which is what I’m here for 😁
I read A Darker Shade of Magic after debating for a while whether it was YA or Adult and how should that influence my decision of reading it. After some time, I finally decided to pick it up. There is some violence and language, though, with a cast of adult characters, which is probably or most definitely why it is labeled Adult (The Bone Shard Daughter though, was cleaner than some YA books, so that was a relief lol). The book itself though, had very interesting worldbuilding, although in terms of plot, there was a lot of build up and a few parts where I wasn’t sure what the characters were doing and why. But as it’s the first book in a trilogy, I wasn’t too put off, and I think I might want to continue the series, as I saw from a lot of people that it gets really good.
My favorite science fiction read:
Yeah don’t mind me just obsessing over how absolutely GENIUS this entire trilogy was.
With lyrical prose, alternating POVs, and most importantly, huge concepts in science that have rarely been explored before, The Three-Body Problem is not to be missed. I finished the entire trilogy within a month, with bated breath and trembling fingers. Please, don’t be put off when you see that this is about contact with other species—I know it’s a trope explored a LOT in science fiction (I even got to do a post about this), but the way The Three-Body Problem does it is absolutely original and breathtaking. And honestly, I like to joke that the virtual game featured in this book is the only way to put Isaac Newton and Qin Shi Huang in the same room in a way that makes complete sense.
My favorite fantasy read:
The untold fictional story of piano prodigy Mozart’s sister, that reaches beyond our world into another of both lush and frightening magic, The Kingdom of Back was a fascinating read. Nannerl’s perspective was a really good one to read from, and her relationship with her brother Wolfgang was beautiful and compelling. Not a lot of YA features music as an integral part of the plot, so as a student of music, I was really happy to see this book using it.
My favorite contemporary read:
This was such a lovely read! First off, the sibling relationship here was so beautiful, and such a necessary part of the book. Plus, The Henna Wars tackles heavy social topics really well, while maintaining heart throughout. I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, but it is books like these that make me want to read more in the genre.
My favorite aka ONLY classic reads:
I read only 3 classics last year—not my prime time with classics for sure—and I couldn’t choose between them! The Alchemist was unlike any story I’d ever read before in terms of voice and structure, but I found the discussions on dreams, Personal Legends, and our place in the universe to be very interesting ones. Persuasion had very accessible prose, and I found a really likeable protagonist in Anne, although to be honest, I wanted her relationship with Wentworth to have more angst—yes, I’m thinking too Elizabeth and Darcy but still 😅 Emma had a very interesting protagonist and a cozy small town setting, and despite Emma’s flaws, the way she was so sure of her place in her little world was compelling.
My favorite nonfiction read:
I didn’t read a lot of nonfiction last year (and by this, I literally mean…3…shhhh), but I really want to change that this year! Still, I wanted to shout out Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire: The Biggest Ideas in Science from Quanta because 1) Quanta Magazine is one of the best publications out there, no questions asked and 2) The discussions on physics, biology, and machine learning were all so fascinating—especially the ones on physics. An engrossing read, and highly recommended!
So there you have it…my favorite reads of 2020 across all these categories.
This year, I hope to read a lot more middle grade and nonfiction, while keeping up with all the badass young adult political fantasies and science fiction out there (or coming out this year). I’m hoping to occasionally read an adult SFF as well! And of course, I want to continue to read diversely. I’m so thankful that the book blogging community has exposed me to so many such books. It’s been eye-opening to read more about characters of color, characters of different sexualities, and characters whose disabilities serve to make them stronger. I hope we can continue seeing more and more diverse books from marginalized authors, because our stories are needed and they deserve to be recognized. There can never be more than enough!
Before I sign off for the day, I did promise at the start of this post that I would also share a few of the songs I’ve had on repeat and my favorite movies & shows from last year. So here we go!
Songs on repeat…
I’ve definitely had End Game by Taylor Swift, with Ed Sheeran and Future, on repeat. It’s the second song on her album Reputation, and I really enjoy it. It has such an interesting melody, and while the lyrics Swift sings are more repetitive than many of her other songs, she still makes it really catchy and infuses it with a…sassy longing, if that makes any sense!
I’ve also been listening to Whistle by Blackpink a lot. It’s such a great song, always taking the listeners in new directions (lol did that even make sense), and the raps were amazing. The song goes through a lot of lyrically and melodically diverse sections, and I really admired that. (also, don’t make me choose which of these talented ladies did the best with this song, I REALLY DON’T KNOW).
I haven’t been listening to this next song as much, having been introduced to it only recently, but it’s such a poetically melancholy song with incredible lyrics and melody. I can already tell that I’ll be listening to The Truth Untold by BTS for a very long time 😅
Plus, Queen Taylor dropped right where you left me a few days ago, and I am…not okay? I loved the second verse especially.
Did you ever hear about the girl who got frozen?
Time went on for everybody else, she won’t know it
She’s still twenty-three inside her fantasy
How it was supposed to be
Did you hear about the girl who lives in delusion?
Breakups happen every day, you don’t have to lose it
She’s still twenty-three inside her fantasy
And you’re sitting in front of me
She’s a master of songwriting, isn’t she?
But I also wanted to make a comment about Taylor’s songwriting. I know a lot of people are talking about how “normal people say this” and “she says that” as an emphasis on how “genius” her song lyrics are And I do think Taylor is extremely talented with her lyrics, but it’s not just in the type of words she uses. Last year, I learned from my incredible mentor, that with verse and poetry, you have to be extremely selective with your words and transitions. I’m pretty sure that applies to songs as well. If you look carefully, in the song right where you left me, when Taylor sings “Glass shattered on the white cloth”, she does it in a context where that line would be taken as the narrator being so angry she upset her glass of drink. “I could feel the mascara run” is an obvious reference to the fact that she is crying, and I applaud how she used the lyric “Dust collected on my pinned-up hair” to show the passage of time while the narrator is still expecting something (pinned-up hair usually signifies that). Basically what I’m trying to say is that when people say things like “normal people say this” while “Taylor says that”, I know it’s meant as a funny comment, and that’s totally fine, but I think it’s more interesting to think about Taylor’s thought processes behind the song rather than just what shows up as the final set of lyrics. The reason that she is so queen at songwriting is that each sentence in her songs are carefully chosen such that they contribute their own meaning to the theme and narrative, while relying on us listeners to make inferences and do a little thoughtful thinking.
This is becoming very analytical and nitpicky…sorry not sorry 😅
Favorite movies & shows:
Now for the movies & shows! (Was that what you all were waiting for? 😂)
So last year I finally started watching Chinese TV dramas and I am obsessed with them 😀
Notable favorites are Langya Bang (or Nirvana in Fire) and Xiao Huan Xi.
I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend them, you can watch them for free on YouTube with English subtitles. Both shows are very different, as Langya Bang is set in around 7th century China and handles political rivalries and court, with many lovable characters, while Xiao Huan Xi is set in modern times and follows three families as their high school students prepare for the college entrance exam. While they’re both very different, both succeeded in making me cry…one…or two…or five…or ten times 😅 and made me laugh…one…or two…or five…or ten times 😂
I also really enjoyed watching She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix. While there were some plot holes and a few unrealistic, cheesy scenes, I loved so many of the characters, especially Glimmer, Bow, Catra, Scorpia, and Double Trouble.
Another incredible TV show was Agents of Shield, again on Netflix. This show takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and while I’m not the biggest Marvel fan, this show was gold. To be fair, I only watched Seasons 1, 5, 6, and 7 but whatever 😅 This show is a primarily sci-fi action drama (my favorite, if you couldn’t tell) and explored so many sci-fi tropes in extraordinarily unique ways, covering everything from virtual reality to dystopian futures to time travel. What I enjoyed was that this show didn’t shy away from the scientific detail and explanation needed to solidify the plot—rather, it embraced it and made sure it was both accessible to audiences while challenging them to think further. Also, the characters were absolutely incredible, and well-cast. My personal favorites were Coulson, Deke, Enoch, Fitz, and Simmons. This show did have a couple mature scenes but I just skipped them 😅 Watching this show is sure to be very tense and suspenseful, so do be sure you have the time to binge-watch…😂
Moving on to movies! I know I watched a number of movies last year but suddenly I can’t seem to remember my immediate favorites…? The first I can think of is Inception, which is on Netflix, and it’s a sci-fi action (I don’t want to say thriller because I’m not sure what that would entail but whatever it seems to fit so) thriller. Not sure if I watched it last year or the year before, but either way, it is a wonderful movie, and while the plot becomes more complex as you watch more of it, there is still room for characters to shine. The film explores dreams, grief, and the subconscious in intriguing ways—I suppose that’s the best way to describe it!