2020! Yikes!

There’s a lot I could say about this year – taking an unexpected gap year due to a pandemic, political turmoil, multiple 1000 piece puzzles that I puzzled over, but “Yikes!” really does sum up most of it, right?

And yet, 2020 was still a whole year, which meant that I had the privilege to read great books and write fun stories. So here are my little literary delights of the year.

One of my favorite memories of 2020 – going to a sunflower field!
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Reading

Bookstores + Masks

I met my reading goal of 52 books this year – I ended up reading 55. That’s a silver lining of suddenly and unexpectedly having more time – you can get a lot of reading done! Escapism was clearly on my mind, because middle-grade books were my leading genre for the year. It was a stellar year in books – every single Fiction book I read stayed with me for weeks after I finished it. This was also the first time I’d read a Mary Oliver collection, and after I read one, I couldn’t stop. 

Favorite Books

OVERALL FAVORITE: Mary Oliver’s Collections, Felicity, Blue Horses, and American Primitive

Mary Oliver’s collections are a quilted blanket, and time and time again I wrapped myself up in her words. The peacefulness and careful observation in her words were the complete opposite – and the perfect antidote for – the chaos, uncertainty, and stress in this year. Let me share some of my favorite lines with you:

  • “When it’s over, I want to say all my life / I was a bride married to amazement.”
  • “Except for the body of someone you love, including all its expressions in privacy and in public, trees, I think, are the most beautiful forms on the earth. Though, admittedly, if this were a contest, the trees would come in an extremely distant second.”
  • “To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
  • “Things! Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful fire! More room in your heart for love, for the trees! For the birds who own nothing—the reason they can fly.”
  • “I’ll just tell you this: / only if there are / angels in your / head will you / ever, possibly, see one.”
  • There is nothing more pathetic than caution / when headlong might save a life, / even, possibly, your own.”
  • “I don’t want to lose a single thread / from the intricate brocade of this happiness / I want to remember everything.”
  • “I did think, let’s go about this slowly. / This is important. This should take some really deep thought. We should take small thoughtful steps. / But, bless us, we didn’t.”
  • “I live / now in a sky-house, through every / window the sun. Also your presence. / Our touching, our stories. Earthy / and holy both. How can this be, but / it is. Every day has something in / it whose name is Forever.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS BY GENRE

Fiction: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (“In Vietnamese, the word for missing someone and remembering them is the same: nhớ. Sometimes, when you ask me over the phone, Có nhớ mẹ không? I flinch, thinking you meant, Do you remember me? I miss you more than I remember you.”)

Poetry: Pecking Order by Nicole Homer (“Motherhood is like / being pecked / to death / by my / favorite birds / made from my / body, torn / by beaks sharpened.”)

Play: Machinal by Sophie Treadwell (In my costume design class, we envisioned different wardrobes for the characters in Machinal!)

Graphic Novel: On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (“It’s like the older you get the more you forget that you can change things. Which is stupid because adults have money. Which means you can afford to buy a sledgehammer and break down the room you’re stuck in. Kids don’t have sledgehammer money.)

Nonfiction: Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss (Completely and totally delightful book about the paperbacks of the 80s and 90s – my favorite bit was about the Teen Angel series, which featured teen girls who were dead. The characters live in Teen Heaven, a place overseen by James Dean, and go to Heaven High. every now and then James Dean makes them go do good deeds on Earth. Can’t make this stuff up.)

Young Adult: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (“If summer was a book then I was going to write something beautiful in it. In my own handwriting. But I had no idea what to write.”)

Middle Grade: Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead (“But it’s important to think about words. You can’t understand how you feel sometimes until you know the words for it. Words make things real. You can quote me on that.”)

Total List of 2020 Books

Fiction

  1. Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
  2. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  3. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
  4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  7. The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno
  8. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Poetry

  1. American Sonnet For My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
  2. Great Sonnets (Collection) edited by Paul Negri
  3. American Primitive by Mary Oliver
  4. Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
  5. Felicity by Mary Oliver
  6. Norma Jeane Baker of Troy by Anne Carson
  7. Pecking Order by Nicole Homer

Plays

  1. Machinal by Sophie Treadwell
  2. Getting Out by Marsha Norman
  3. Hecuba by Euripides
  4. The Tempest by Shakespeare

Graphic Novels

  1. Queer: a Graphic History by Meg-John Barker
  2. The Low Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado
  3. On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
  4. Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug
  5. Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

Memoir / Nonfiction

  1. Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang
  2. How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton
  3. Elements of Style (Illustrated Edition) by Strunk and White
  4. Cut My Cote by Dorothy K. Burnham
  5. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  6. Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography by Bill Cunningham
  7. Barbie Forever: Her Inspiration, History, and Legacy by Robin Gerber
  8. Women in Clothes by Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, and Sheila Heti
  9. When They Call You a Terrorist by Asha Bandele and Patrisse Cullors
  10. Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss
  11. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

Young Adult 

  1. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  2. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
  3. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
  4. I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch
  5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Children’s / Middle Grade

  1. The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy
  2. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  3. Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
  4. To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
  5. Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  6. The Gollywhopper Games: Friend or Foe by Jody Feldman
  7. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  8. The Line Tender by Kate Allen
  9. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
  10. Writing Radar by Jack Gantos
  11. Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
  12. Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
  13. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  14. Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
  15. Blended by Sharon M. Draper
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Writing

Picnic journaling!

approx 110,000 words written in 2020

  • I finished my final edit for book #2! I rewrote around 40,000 words, then shaved off another 10,000. That’s killing your darlings for ya.
  • I won my third NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words written in November. It feels good to get back into the habit of writing daily.
  • For the second year in a row, I finished a journal! I’m finally becoming the sort of person who keeps a consistent diary. Childhood me would be so proud – back in the day, almost every entry started with “Sorry it’s been three months since I’ve last written!”
  • In the Spring, I was in a college fiction class. I wrote stories every week, and my final project was around 10,000 words. Also, one of my stories won an English Department award!
  • My short story The Haircut was published in Kingdoms in the Wild.
  • Finally, I had an incredible year with Project Write Now. I took a poetry class where I wrote weekly poems, and I co-taught two classes, the first for 3rd graders and the 2nd for teens. I also taught a virtual class over the summer called Fridays with Vivian. I can’t wait to keep teaching this year!

Resolutions

  1. Read 100 books. (This one’s a long shot.)
  2. Write a new book. (My big semester project!)
  3. Learn French. (Duolingo, here I come.)

Thanks for reading! How did you make it through 2020? What were your favorite reads? Did you too become briefly and totally obsessed with puzzles? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, you can find me on Pinterest or Instagram.

vivian-sign-off

10 Comments

  1. So many favourites,A Ghost in the Throat by Doreann Ni Ghriofa and Stories of the Sahara by Sanmao for nonfiction, The Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden for Historical Fiction and Traversing the Mangrove by Maryse Condé, The Adventures of China Iron, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara for Fiction and many more!

    Here’s my List of favourites for 2020 if you’d like to read set of recommendations.

    Bonne Courage pour apprendre le français, j’habite en France!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your impressive reading adventures from the worst year ever! At least when things are not the greatest in the world around is, we can count on good books to steadily pull us through. I haven’t read much Mary Oliver since college, but I am now intrigued to revisit her works.

    Liked by 1 person

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