#2020RoundUp: Best Books

Thursday, 31 December 2020

I may be halfway through essay season right now, but did you really think I was going to leave you without my best books of 2020??? HA. Although I will admittedly be keeping this rather short, I hope you appreciate my witty, verbose (aka my tutor's way of calling me a condensing twat) eloquence and that it hopefully retains some of the charisma of previous years... Although, with the year (and my brain) being as it is, I can't imagine that is very likely.

Oh, how do I talk about Boy Parts? Think Normal People mixed with a non-misogynistic American Psycho; the life of every millennial ever with a sharp, dark and shocking twist. I laughed, I cringed, my stomach rolled. I do not think I have ever related so much to a book so damn weird. And I have to wonder what that says about me. 

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me this year will not be surprised that this is on my list of favourites: I have used it in a grand total of 3 (!) lockdown pub quizzes, and I have referenced it in basically ever conversation I have had since February. Like most non-fiction I love, it is dedicated to the quirks, tomfoolery and utter idiocy of humanity, and how those traits are present no matter how back you look. 
Which, admittedly, was a comforting thought in the shitshow that was 2020.

Before picking up this book, I knew next-to-nothing about albinism: its symptoms, its cause or how it is viewed around the world. But, now my eyes are open and my world is changed. Emily traveled the world to find out more about her daughter's genes and what she learned will always stay with me: the hurt, the torture, the almost-familial camaraderie. The pain and the love rolled off every single page, making it a book that hurt and warmed me in equal parts. And, one that will have a place in my heart forever.

So many people told me that I wouldn't like Milkman: that it was too niche, too abstract, too confusing to ever be eligible for such a mainstream prize. Hell, even the committee that awarded it the Booker basically said so. But, in all the time I spent immersed in this novel, I never seemed to have that problem. 
This book is extremely funny and witty and sharp; it is an introspective look into The Troubles in Northern Ireland from a distanced (both purposefully and situationally) perspective. I laughed, I cringed, I screamed in both recognition and frustration because anyone who has lived for any amount of time in a small village, must surely relate to the problems of Milkman's narrator. 
Because small-town politics and gossip does not stop for anything, not even social upheaval. 

I have stayed away from Plath for a while: tumblr’s weird obsession in the author in the past decade or so, made her feel too overwrought and melodramatic in my mind. But, she is a legend for a reason and I was a fool to allow a fad to keep me away. This book is dark and sharp and at some points, weirdly amusing; its unrelenting spiral into darkness and depression feels simultaneously oppressive and freeing. It showed how a flash of light can light up the sky and makes me morn for a woman I never knew and the work she never had the chance to create.

Tayari Jones’ is a marvel: this book is a searing examination into how the incessant pursuit of family can have a devastating impact on all those involved, the harm that is inflicted upon us by the failures of our parents, and the shattering of illusions that come with growing up. It is rich and beautiful, and its characters come alive - even the ones whom I would perhaps rather had stay hidden.

This is not an easy book to read, but it is one that, in this present world, has never been more timely. I have always been open about my struggles with PTSD, but I have never come across any book (or really any other sort of media) that has been able to capture the feelings that accompany that level of trauma. Napolitano manages it in a way that is at once both deft and tangible; something like this wraps darkness over everything in a person’s life, and to watch someone stumble through it, was heartbreaking and unimaginably cathartic.

Tiffany McDaniels' Betty is a book like no other, and it is the one that will probably leave me the last out of all the books I read this year. Every page is touched by honesty and heartbreak (the breadth of the novel taken from the life of McDaniel's mother): it whirled and swirled, ebbed and flowed, and managed to place magic and misery into the early life of a girl who knew too much. 

Head on over to https://tidd.ly/2LaTVlL for these books, as well as all of the others featured in my reviews, complete with the added bonuses of free worldwide shipping and bringing a little joy to my life.

*Thanks to NetGalley and/or the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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