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Every year my goal is to read 50 books. Depending on the year I usually end up right around that mark. In 2020 I passed my fifty book milestone in October and have kept right on reading. Here is what I’ve been reading and some reflections on the books I’ve found most impactful in 2020.

Every book I read this year impacted my mood, my headspace, what I was thinking about, and how I view the world. We are an amalgamation of our thoughts and experiences and reading is always a big part of that for me, particularly this year when I spent more time alone and with my own thoughts.

Every book has your attention as you are reading it but some stay with you longer, dancing around the edges of your thoughts long after you have turned the last page. Some add a new tint to the lens through which you see the world. Here were some that stood out for me in 2020:

Hood Feminism really changed that why I think about and understand both feminism and racism. It gave me a more intersectional and integrative understanding of the interplay between gender, race, and socioeconomic stability. Kendall highlights the ways in which women of color are overlooked in our current systems and in doing so points out many things that I thought were progressive yet are unintentionally exclusive. NPR wrote a great summary that does a better job than I could of highlighting Kendall’s points. The fact that it was so eye-opening is an indication of how much more work I need to do to be a better, more intersectional feminist and ally.

A friend sent me an interview Jia Tolentino did back in July that resonated so strongly with me that I immediately read her entire essay collection titled Trick Mirror which blew my mind repeatedly. Her thoughts on the social internet and marriage really rang true to me. Really on-point cultural criticism.

Did you know that caffeine has a half-life of seven hours?? This book blew my mind and made me extremely anxious all at the same time. Despite how often sleep is discussed and lauded, I had never really dug into the science previously. Walker, a research neuroscientist, explains sleep science and what happens when we sleep. He goes into the positive benefits of sleep as well as the numerous and terrifying side effects of not getting enough sleep. I was stunned to learn about research suggesting that if you don't get enough sleep before getting a vaccine it is less likely to be effective, a detail that stuck with me during this pandemic. After reading it I have been making a consistent effort to give myself at least nine hours of “sleep opportunity” as Walker calls it aka time in bed that I could be sleeping. But I’ve also gotten extremely anxious when I don't get enough sleep, now knowing the irrevocable damage I’m doing to both my brain and the rest of my body. I’ve stopped drinking coffee after 9 am and switched to decaf or part decaf a lot of the time. Really interesting science, worth the read.

Both Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood were unnerving to read during 2020. They were probably not the smartest to read during a global pandemic but perhaps the setting made them all the more vivid. Station Eleven is a novel about a “Georgia flu” pandemic that rips around the globe and leaving only a scant number of people behind to fend for themselves. It was startling to read early on in the pandemic despite being a good reminder that things could be worse it mostly served to heighten my stress and anxiety. Atwood brought one of my nightmares to life in The Testaments even more so than in A Handmaid’s Tale. As I feared for the future of the American democracy this fall I had flashbacks to how I crafted Gilead in my head. I’m thankful I’ve had the self-control not to watch either movie.

I loved this quick read. I was so happy for Alex and Henry in this novel that I read it twice. It brought me so much joy to imagine a world where a Latina single mom is president and young gay romance is celebrated. It was fun to get lost in this book and imagine a different, more hopeful world.

Overall reading was a great escape for me this year. I'm thankful for all of the things I learned from these books and the opportunity I had to slow down and enjoy them. Here are all of the books grouped by topic and numbered by the order that I completed them:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Pull of Stars by Emma Donoghue

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

All of these were excellent, thought-provoking, and moving. I highly recommend them all.

The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehsi Coates

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women the Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Little Big Lies by Liane Moriarty

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Agency by William Gibson

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Chances Are… by Richard Russo

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

The Books of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen

Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Double Whammy by Carl Hiaasen

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes

Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves

Native Tongue by Carl Hiaasen

The Reversal by Michael Connelly

The Drop by Michael Connelly

The Black Box by Michael Connelly

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly

The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly

All thoughts are my own. This piece was not sponsored by anyone and I receive no benefit for promoting these books.

Geologist & Writer. she/her. I write about the intersection of society, energy, and the environment. Open to collaboration / freelance: chase.m.joy@gmail.com

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