GREAT READS OF 2020
Michelle Obama's Becoming proved to me that, on top of everything else I already knew about her, she is also one hell of a writer.
"John Wayne: A Love Song," "7000 Romaine, Los Angeles 38," "On Self-Respect," "On Keeping a Notebook," and "Marrying Absurd" are five essays in Slouching towards Bethlehem that remind me why Didion is one of my literary inspirations.
DFW does it again in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. I will likely never find someone who writes about anxiety/depression/sexual tension/the human mind/life in a more poignantly badass way than he does. Nor will I likely find someone whose footnotes and meta-dialogues are more humorous, absurd, or madly genius than his actual text. RIP, DFW.
And finally, my favorite read of 2020: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainier Rilke. This German poet's intimate letters to an aspiring writer are nothing short of life-changing. I wrote my book with his writer's voice in my mind, and he is one of the reasons I have hope that writing will help me figure out who I am and who I will one day be.
People often ask me for book recommendations, so below I have shared a few of my favorite reads from this year.
Longstanding favorites are listed on the main page.
TRICK MIRROR: REFLECTIONS ON SELF-DELUSION
Perhaps the only reality TV star who has been able to eloquently analyze and critique her time on air, Tolentino electrifies with her sharp, assertive, and humorous voice in this series of nine essays.
A GREAT PROVIDER IS ONE WHO LEAVES: ONE FAMILY AND MIGRATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Like Evicted by Matthew Desmond, this book is written with grace, humanity, and emotional attention to detail. DeParle spent years following one immigrant family all over the world, from the Philippines to Galveston, Texas, and his dedication to their story shows.
DAD'S MAYBE BOOK
O'Brien embarks on his "most likely final" book in his lifetime by writing a series of letters to his children, Tad and Timmy. Unlike his best-selling books on war, loss, and grief such as The Things They Carried, In the Lake of the Woods, and July, July, this one struck a different, but wondrously endearing, chord. I'd like to write like this to my children some day.
ON THE ROAD
This book was one intense, reckless, wildly euphoric road trip full of romantic ideals, cheap diner meals, questionable hitchhiking, jazz, and drugs. Based on the actual travels of Kerouac and his crazy friends during the postwar Counterculture period, this 1957 fiction novel was just what I needed during quarantine.
WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES
This is the seventh book I've read by Sedaris, and the seventh reason why he will forever be my role model for hilarious essay writing.
Read it if you want to know what to do when a cough drop falls from your mouth into the lap of a fellow plane passenger on a plane, or if you want to know the joys of "lancing" a boil from another's backside.
FULL READING LIST OF 2020
The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman
Letters To A Young Poet, Rainier Rilke
The Defining Decade, Meg Jay
The Madness of Crowds, Douglas Murray
The Five People You Meet In Heaven, Mitch Albom
On the Road, Jack Kerouac
Dad's Maybe Book, Tim O'Brien
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
When You Are Engulfed in Flames, David Sedaris
The Art of the Personal Essay, Philip Lopate
Antifragile, Nassim Taleb
A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves, Jason DeParle
Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino
Not Another Sarah Halls, Haley Newlin
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
Minor Feelings, Cathy Park Hong
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, DFW
The White Album, Joan Didion
the life-changing magic of tidying up, Marie Kondo
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
Becoming, Michelle Obama