July was an average reading month for me in terms of ratings and enjoyment. While I had a few spectacular experiences, most of the books consumed were pretty mediocre across the board. August was a completely different story as it was when my reading rut went on a sort of rampage. Because of that, I read the fewest amount of books last month from all of 2020; a fraction of my overall average throughout the year. It can be chocked up to life just being intense and chaotic, which is totally understandable, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
For September, my goal is to try and structure my reading a bit with various tactics. I’m hoping one of them will help me work through slumps during times of great duress, and also to help me acquire patience with my reading so that I can get more pleasure from this hobby. Also, to be perfectly frank, it may also provide me with an edge with learning how to unwind and step out of the moment for a bit.
Anyhoo, regardless of how the last two months fared, I do have a few titles to share that consist of some of the best reads that 2020 has had to offer up thus far. If you’re stuck or just undecided on what to pick up next, hopefully you’ll find something here that’ll catch your interests!
The titles are linked to respective GoodReads pages and reviews shall also be linked up at the end if I’ve written one for it.
This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell & Aurelia Durand (artist): This nonfiction book is written by a Black author and discusses in great yet very easy-to-understand detail on what racism is, how it’s been established, what makes it systemic, and the actions and choices that we as a society must make moving forward in order to abolish racism ideologies and societal foundations. It’s straightforward and accessible enough to be read by young adults and adults alike and should be mandatory reading in all schools. It’s extraordinary and also interactive with activities that promote self-reflection (so people can get an intimate understanding of systemic racism in their day-to-day lives, even if they feel it’s irrelevant to them) that I greatly appreciated.
A River in Darkness: A Memoir by Masaji Ishikawa: A memoir that chronicles the life of a half-Japanese, half-Korean man who moved to North Korea with his family under false promises during a terrible time of war, and how he ultimately escaped one of the most ruthless totalitarian regimes in the world. This is such a powerfully difficult book to read, but it’s also what makes it so incredibly important. Ishikawa’s voice is candid and unfiltered, yet courageous and unyielding in the way he describes the ways that Koreans were tricked into moving to North Korea from Japan and how their denial (from trauma) of what was happening to them only worked to fuel the regime that oppressed them until they became unstoppable. If I read this many years ago, I would be in utter disbelief that governments like this existed (which definitely forced me to check my privileges). However, after the events and political climate that has taken root within the last four to five years, I fear that this is the future for many marginalised folx such as myself in the upcoming years, and that’s pretty fucking terrifying. Another must-read nonfiction for sure.
Come On In edited by Adi Alsaid: An anthology of #OwnVoices young adult stories that share the immigrant experience across many, many cultures, circumstances, and situations. This is the best anthology that I have ever read, and it does an excellent job of illustrating that the immigrant experience isn’t a monolith and it isn’t only limited to first generation folx. The book releases in October (my review will go live during its release week) and I highly urge you to purchase or rent this book (via libraries and other avenues, if you’re able) when it hits shelves. Understanding what being an immigrant means is an excellent way to ensure authentic and respectful allyship, and plus, these stories are so heart-warming, bittersweet, and inspiring in a plethora of ways, you don’t want to miss it.
Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali: This #OwnVoices Muslim young adult contemporary romance novel is my favourite book of 2020. It follows two teenagers who end up in Doha, Qatar due to individual circumstances and how fate brings them together just when they need it the most. Ms Ali just has a way of writing words that leave an everlasting imprint on the heart as well as the mind and spirit. She was the first author who ever showed me a piece of myself in her debut, Saints and Misfits, and she’s done it yet again with this incredible gem of a book. It’s fiercely feminist, wholesomely romantic, and vibrantly infused with family values and many shades of Muslim joy. Recommended to any reader out there who is searching for something to bring them hope and re-instil a passion for fighting for the future. My full review.
The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim: An #OwnVoices Korean historical fiction novel about a family who leaves South Korea for the USA during wartime and are forced to leave one of their children behind with relatives, a decision that shall have an incredible ripple effect on their family through the years. The story is as much about sisterhood as it is about the many shades of forced abandonment. It’s a multi-dimensional, heart-wrenching read that is written so beautifully. The parallels and symbolism are some of my favourite aspects about it. If you’re a fan of multicultural historical fiction, then definitely give this book a try. My full review.
Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa: An #OwnVoices Palestinian-American novel about a woman named Nehr as she reflects upon her life from her childhood until present day, where she’s in solitary confinement as a political prisoner in a place known simply as The Cube. A most-anticipated release for 2020, this did not disappoint. It shocked me and moved me and gave me hope as much as it made me angry and sad. Such a stunning portrait of loss—the loss of identity, loss of country, loss of love—that really puts into perspective of what’s happening in Palestine right now and what has been happening there for decades. If you’ve heard snippets of what’s going on between Palestine and Israel but don’t understand why it should matter to you, read this. If you’ve ever felt cultural loss, read this. If you love magnificent writing and literature read this. If you like good books in general, fucking read this. My full review.
Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo by Rory Lucey: A graphic novel re-telling of the Alien (1979)film via the perspective of Jonesy the ginger cat. There’s no dialogue in this, it’s just artwork and illustrations, and it’s quite possibly the best and most glorious rendition of the film that I’ve experienced yet. It’s hilarious and adorable as well as creepy and slightly gross all wrapped into one Jonesy package. Highly recommended for fans of the original science-fiction thriller and people who adore kitty cats.
After the Rain Volumes 3, 4, & 5 by Jun Mayuzuki: A seinen, coming-of-age romance manga series about a teenager who develops strong romantic feelings for her mid-30s to 40s boss at her part-time job. The second half of this was even more wholesome and beautiful than the first. The ending was perfect, the development of the characters’ understanding of one another was excellent, the female friendships were positive and uplifting, the artwork is just so fucking gorgeous—ah, it’s so good. If you like coming-of-age or slice-of-life narratives that are more mature in tone and expression, then definitely take time to read this. It’s also a comfortably short length, which makes it more approachable. A full review shall go live next week.
Those were all my favourite reads from July and August. September is going to be much better. I can already feel it in my bones, as well as with two of my current reads that are just blowing me away with their awesomeness. Even though I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, I’m not going to hold myself accountable for reading too much this month as I’m going to be busy with heart treatments. But October! October is going to my ultimate month of spooky shenanigans. Since it’s also my birthday month, I definitely have high hopes for great geeky mischief.
Until next time, keep reading, my chums. Much love to you all.