2020 was a terrible year for almost everyone and everything. However, books were a silver lining for many of us and confinement is definitely an excuse for reading through the day. Although I wasn’t one of those people who doubled theuir amount of books read, I found myself reading so many great books that gave me hope and perspective through the year. These were my favourite:
The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust II) by Philip Pullman
This is the second volume of The Book of Dust trilogy, a continuation of His Dark Materials. The plot is quite complicated but I’ll try to outline it. These books are set in an alternate world that is very similar to ours except for a few details, the most important being that people’s souls walk beside them in the shape of an animal —they’re called daemons. In this world, the Church controls knowledge and it has been discovered that a particle known as Dust is what creates consciousness. So there’s a whole plot to control Dust and therefore people’s consciousness and knowledge. All of this concerns a little girl called Lyra Belacqua that lives in that other Oxford and causes her best friend to go missing. This is seriously one of the best fantasy series of all time, both His Dark Materials (3 books) and The Book of Dust (2 books out of 3 are out) are great works of fiction.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A novel I became obsessed with! I wrote a review here.
Voices form Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
Another very moving and very haunting read about which I wrote a few words here.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
So far I am a big fan of Ishiguro. This novel is the perfect mix of introspection and nostalgia for a cloudy day. This book is written as a fictional memoir of a butler in a very important household in England that has been sold to an american millionaire. Think Downton Abbey but with less actual drama and more inner drama. This is a very moving novel about tradition, fathers and sons and sense of duty in an era in which values were changing completely.
Light in August by William Faulkner
A classic I should have read long ago. This was my first time reading Faulkner and I understand why he’s considered a master of the stream of consciousness. The plot is about two men, a mixed-race man whose life is marked by racism in the south of The United States and a white man who is basically a very shitty person whose lives are connected by a crime. Faulkner’s way to tell a story is both crude and poetic and his characters and scenes of the rural south are incredibly vivid. A must read.
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
This is my third Hardy and probably my favourite one so far! It is basically a love story. We have two characters, Bathsheba Everdeen and Gabriel Oak. Gabriel falls in love with Batsheba when he’s quite a successful farmer and Bathsheba rejects his marriage offer because, even though she has no money, she’s a free spirit and would like to make a living by herself. Later their positions in life change suddenly: Gabriel looses his sheep and his farm and Bathsheba inherits a large state… in these circumstances they meet again. Seriously read this book. It is lovely and thought provoking.
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
One of the Halloween books of the year and one of the best vampire stories I’ve read. Imagine a little town in Maine is suddenly infested with vampire and nobody can really do anything because they don’t believe in vampires. Creepy and scary.
Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson
Another creepy one. This collection of short stories is very, very unsettling. I wrote about it here.
Estas ruinas que ves by Jorge Ibargüengoitia
A local author I love. This very short novel is about a teaches who comes back to his hometown after some years in Mexico City. He’s soon involved in a love triangle that is both funny and sad. Although Ibargüengoitia is known for his political sarcasm and wit, this book is at times nostalgic. I really enjoyed, perhaps because I was very familiar with the scenery and the context, but if you’d like to read Mexican literature, I really recommend Ibargüengoitia.
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
This book broke my heart. I had read some things by Rilke before, but this one helped me understand his poetry. The introduction is really cool for it offers some literary analysis and a brief biography. I speacially enjoyed his late poetry and his prose.
The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
I just finished this one and loved it. I had read A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Solnit before and it changed my life, so I had high standard for this book… and it delivered. Rebecca Solnit is probably one of the best non-fiction writers alive and to read her is a delight. She could write about anything and make it compelling. This book in particular is about the power of stories and narratives, empathy and may other subjects that arise from Solnit getting three boxes of ripe peaches delivered to her home from her mother who was suffering from Alzheimer disease. This book is painfully personal ad universal, a proof that the personal is indeed political.
The year is not over yet, though. I am currently reading (and loving) Once Upon a Time in the North, which is a spinoff of the His Dark Materials trilogy focusing on Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison! A wonderful read for this cold December; I haven’t finished it but I can tell it will be one of my favorites too. I also bought my first Ursula K Le Guin book to finish the year with some very needed fantasy stories. Have you read her? I have only heard good things about her books and bought myself A Wizard of Earthsea.
What are you guys reading and which ones were your 2020 favourites?