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reads through 2020 (updated!)

Updated: Jan 1, 2021


I’m challenging myself this year to read as many books as I can. At first my goal was to read 10 books, but I quickly passed that benchmark, and have just found myself being interested in reading more. I’ll continually update this list as I read on. So here’s a list of the books I’ve read so far.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

PACHINKO BY MIN JIN LEE Pachinko was super hyped in 2019. So when I got a chance to borrow a copy of it, I decided to grab the near 500 page book and give it a go. I’m not usually attracted to thick books, but I had time and didn’t want to judge.

I love this book for the author’s writing and ability to storytell ever so effortlessly. It’s a story of a multi-generational family, primarily focused on the matriarch. We do get chapters from other character’s perspectives, and we get to know more about the reality of people’s lives during the Japanese occupation of Korea, life when Korea was one, as well as the early days of Koreans living in Japan.

The main character goes through a lot, though she doesn’t really express it on the outside. The author brings us into her thoughts and her desires and fears, showing us the complexity of the main character. One example of this is seen whenever she’s around her first love:

“She would always believe that he was someone else, that he wasn’t himself but some fanciful idea of a foreign person; she would always feel like she was someone special because she had condescended to be with someone everyone else hated. His presence would prove to the world that she was a good person, an educated person a liberal person.” MIN JIN LEE, PACHINKO

The thing I especially didn’t like was the sudden cut-off of story arcs. Like, we would be introduced to some character and get to know them for a while, then suddenly their story is over, and we go back to the main storyline. I don’t know if that’s a stylistic thing, but that’s something that bugged me enough to not fully love this book.


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU BY CELESTE NG This book was very manipulative - which I think worked for it. This is about a daughter who goes missing and ends up being found dead. Actually, that’s the premise, but it’s really about how a dysfunctional family comes to be. And what I like about that is that it’s not so obviously dysfunctional - there’s no big drama, no drastic event - it all kind of happens gradually and quietly, which I found very realistic. The writing was impeccable - the revealing of this picture perfect family’s heartbreak was emotional and really sad, to the point that I focused more on the issues than how the daughter died. Then in the end, I realized it really didn’t matter how she physically died, she was kind of already destined to die, the way we go to see her family history. That’s why I mean that this book was so manipulative! At first I thought my goal was to solve the mystery of this girl’s death - but actually, there’s nothing to solve.


Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers

FALL FOR ANYTHING BY COURTNEY SUMMERS I think there was a point where I stopped reading this one for a while and picked up another book before returning to finish it. I really wanted to love this book… It’s about this girl trying to figure out why her father committed suicide. This book was similar to Everything I Never Told You in the sense that there was no concrete answer to the mystery, which would be fine, but I felt the way it was executed was a cop out. It was the equivalent to, “Well, we never know what people are thinking anyway, so let’s just accept the fact.” And this is true, but it’s just so unsettling, and I didn’t understand why that did not transfer over to the main character at the end of the book. Anyway, this book has some good writing. The author does a good job of creating a minimal world, with few people, few distractions. She also does a good job presenting a teenage girl voice, and some of the dumb things they do because of complicated feelings or things they don’t really know how to place or handle.


My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER BY OYINKAN BRAITHWAITE So during the break I took during Fall for Anything, I spotted the book, My sister, the serial killer, and grabbed it, hoping that it would cure my reading dissatisfaction. And it did.

This book was so hilarious, I think I laughed out loud a couple of times. This book was so easy to read, it was smart, fun, and emotional at times. I really loved how this author didn’t cater to the cliche Africanness one might find in many African fiction. It’s not nichey African. It really could be a story placed in any setting outside of Nigeria.

It’s a story about familial bonds - the lengths one finds themselves going to save a person just because of the unchosen relationship that makes them overly loyal. It’s a story about choosing that relationship every time even if it means taking the fall for it. I read that this was the author’s debut book, and I was so shocked, because if her first book is this great, then wow, her future work will be so amazing.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

READY PLAYER ONE BY ERNEST CLINE This book. This book restored my hope in the search for books that I find enjoyable! This book is a gem! I know a movie came out, but I saw the trailer and got so disappointed, so I’m not even going to try and spoil the interpretation I have of this book. This book is about so many things. It’s about internet addiction, depression, all things mental health, government failure, society failure, corruption, finding meaning, avoiding reality. It’s about so much that I really can’t sum it up. It’s beautiful, sad, emotional, funny, fun, enjoyable, entertaining, exciting, educational, possibly prophetic, satirical.

It takes place in a dystopian world, and in this dystopia there is a utopia once anyone logs on to the internet as an avatar of their real life self. This book took me into the world of this utopia, where my imagination just flared and went wild. It was so rich with description and imagery that I get why this was given a movie adaptation.

It reads like a 500-600 page book, though it’s only 300ish pages. A lot is crammed in these 300 pages, though, which is why I needed to take a break every now and then. This book is very sci-fi/fantasy/gaming/80s pop culture nostalgia oriented, though it’s not really necessary to be inclined to any of those areas to enjoy this read. The author is very generous in not sounding stuck up to those who may not be familiar. He also explains and gives references that to me didn’t seem overwhelming, but I get how it could be for some people.

I loved the main character, Wade, from the get go. He was so easy to support and root for. I felt for him and his troubled reality, and cheered for his successes. This was quite an emotional rollercoaster just based on how much I was emotionally invested in him. I think I teared a bit. I was so sad when it was over, but in a good way.


There There by Tommy Orange

THERE THERE BY TOMMY ORANGE This book just silenced me.

In fact I don’t think I can write anything about it, because I don’t know if I’m supposed to have a response.

Tommy Orange portrays various Native people living in (or having a tie to) Oakland, California. All these characters all end up at a powwow - which is a big event showcasing Native American heritage. The stories are very raw and unkempt, somewhat hopeless. Every story reads as though there’s a curse hanging around these characters’ lives, which acts as symbolism through the entire book.

The ending is so abrupt, paralyzing, and a little overwhelming, just because I was not giving time to react. It was kind of like, “Wait. Did what I think just happen actually just happened?” I had to read it again, because my reaction time was too slow to accept an outcome that I didn’t want to believe was true, even though there were many signs pointing to it. There are so many issues this book includes: mental illnesses, dysfunctional families, teen pregnancy, addiction, death, crime, abuse. Though it doesn’t specifically talk about them, these themes are kind of just part of a story, they are not the focus.

I loved this book. There were so many beautifully written moments. There were so many hopelessly sad moments. There were so many moments to where I just had to give all my attention - mainly because the pace was slow and steady - until the end.

There’s a scene where a character is talking amongst a group about Native American youth and mental illness, and how it’s society’s fault. He says,

“We’ve boarded up windows and made better nets to catch them, found more convincing ways to tell them not to jump. They’re making the decision that it’s better to be dead and gone than to be alive in what we have here, this life, the one we made for them, the one they’ve inherited. And we’re either involved and have a hand in each one of their deaths, just like I did with my brother, or we’re absent, which is still involvement, just like silence is not just silence but is not speaking up.” TOMMY ORANGE, THERE THERE

Tommy Orange fills this book with such quotes - ones that are so deep yet so plain for everyone to see and understand - but not really enough to be able to fix it.


Looking For Alaska by John Green

LOOKING FOR ALASKA BY JOHN GREEN I finally got on the John Green band wagon and read two of his books. The first one, Looking for Alaska, I was excited about just because of the description I read about it. So of course I got my hopes up. Bad idea. This book ended so bland for me.

The first half was great - I was into the main characters, the supporting characters, their world, their interests and all - then the second half came. I honestly thought this was just going to be a fun story of bored and overachieving well meaning kids in a boarding school, but no. When I realized the direction it was going in, the second half till the end just killed it for me. I felt like the second half had an identity crisis, where it wasn’t sure what it was trying to be - and that sort of weighed it down a little more for me.


Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN BY JOHN GREEN I was hoping this would be my John Green redemption book. I liked it a lot better than Looking for Alaska, but not enough to recommend it. The premise was great, the story was great. I liked how we got to see the world of a teenager with OCD. There was nothing dramatic about her illness (except for the one part where she has a massive breakdown). But besides that, I think Green does a good job of trying to show us a normal life for our main character. It’s a good story - sweet, simple.


My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION BY OTTESSA MOSHFEGH I read this book because of one youtuber who really hyped it up. It’s such a strange book, honestly, I don’t know if I liked it at all.

Our main character is a young girl who becomes a pill addict in order to sleep as much as she can - it sounds really funny, which it is, but there’s more to it.

It’s full of humour, satire, very realistic pointless relationships, memory, and weirdness. I especially liked the dialogue, the irony of having a best friend (or any relationship, really) that the character doesn’t really care about for the most part but is dependant on. This entire book shows us a character who’s tired of forcing the life that’s been set up for her, and she decides to get rid of that life by sleeping through it. At first, I thought I had this character figured out and knew why she was doing what she was doing, but it’s a little more complicated. Through flashback and memory, we try and understand this character who sort of goes through a journey of renewal.


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

THE ROAD BY CORMAC MCCARTHY This book. (It’s going to be a good book if I start out with “This book”!) Seriously, this book I think needs to be on those lists of what to read for every year. It’s so good. This book, I can’t even describe it.

McCarthy seems to break all the rules of being a writer, and writing a book that people will enjoy. He doesn’t use speech marks, he doesn’t give us information we don’t really need to know about, he doesn’t give much setting. This book should be boring, like really boring! For 85% of the book, we are following the two main characters walking on a road. That’s it.

But! The road is a dangerous, unpredictable place. This book is about a father and son trying to survive in a post apocalyptic world. It is gritty, it is scary, it is sad. I wanted to cry at the beginning, just because I was feeling so much anxiety of what would come in the end. And that’s what makes McCarthy so amazing. Because he starts with nothing, then makes my mind do all the work in believing there must be more to what he’s shown us on the page.

Then the end came. It was totally not the ending I had predicted with certainty from the beginning. But then when I saw the actual ending coming, I wondered where in the story it had “changed”. This author is a genius. I don’t know if it’s manipulation or what. But he’s so sly about changing the story without changing it. This book is a GEM! Must read for writers.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND BY LEWIS CARROLL This book is a trip! I only read it because I found it free online and thought it would be interesting to read this fairytale(?) that everyone knows about. This book made absolutely no sense at all! I didn’t get it - I was laughing through most of it, because all the characters around Alice are so confused, which only made me more confused.

I was going to read the sequel, Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, but now I’m not so sure. This one is definitely an overrated children’s book. Maybe it’s just best to be a film or an art piece.


As Simple As Snow by Gregory Galloway

AS SIMPLE AS SNOW BY GREGORY GALLOWAY It’s books like these that make me mad - -Books that start off with a bang, then end with such lackluster.

Basic teenage boy with a basic life falls in love with nonsensical goth girl, who adds excitement to his life. Girl disappears, leaving strange clues that drive boy insane trying to figure out what happened.

The first third of this book was great - full of suspense and mystery, wit, interest - all that. The second third, too much focus on supernatural/fantasy-like things that all seemed to be untrue or made up. Too much focus on the girl the main character likes, and the push for me to care about her.

The final third was a complete waste of my attention. Way too much speculation/theories/randomness/strangeness that never seemed to resolve or do anything for the story. The ending was such a dud, that I can’t even say I’m underwhelmed. Ughh. This book was recommended to me a while back, and now that I’ve finally come to read it, I can’t say how disappointed I am.


Hiding In Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT BY NURUDDIN FARAH I’m trying to be purposeful in reading more authors of colour, in particular African authors. Nuruddin Farah is an author I’ve been wanting to read - therefore the book, Hiding In Plain Sight. This book was alright: somewhat enjoyable if looking o read something light. Told is the story of Bella, a half Somali, half Italian woman who recently loses her brother in an Al-Shabaab attack, and has to relocate to Nairobi to take care of his two children. Most of the story took place in Nairobi, so it was interesting to read the descriptions of the various settings.

The way the story is set up is in a way that Bella is a promiscuous, sort of careless, life loving woman. But I found the opposite to be true; in fact I found her quite careful and safe, so I was a little tired of the way Farah kept on telling me every now and then of her various boyfriends around the world, without any proof in how her character was described. There was nothing I found particularly appealing about her, but it seemed that the author’s exoticization of her looks was supposed to be enough for the reader.

Another thing I thought was problematic was the dialogue - particularly that between the two kids and Bella. Their conversation was way too formal for me and quite unbelievable, to the point that it got me wondering if the book was translated into English; the language sounding so formal and not quite right. But still, I don’t know any teenagers who talk with such politeness and civility to each other no matter what language they’re speaking in. Here’s an example from when the older kid is asked about how he would feel about moving to the UK:

“Black boys my age have big problems in England. Often, they run into trouble with the school authorities or with the neighbourhood police. I’d be viewed as a threat to the established order run for the benefit of those of a color different from mine.” NURUDDIN FARAH, HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT.

What kid talks like that? It sounds like something an older parent would say about their kid, but not the kid themselves. The book was filled with old fashioned language like this, even when the kids were berating each other. So it bothered me, because the story seemed to take place in the mid 2000’s, where iPhones are supposedly in the same world as fax messages. A lot of this book read as if the author struggled in trying to make the world a modern one - maybe separating his voice from the actual story.

One thing Farah tried to explore was the complexity of the Somali identity, particularly that in Kenya, which I don’t think he explored fully. Again, there was a lot of telling us rather than showing us through his characters and their story, which I think was a lost opportunity. That was the biggest let down for this book, not enough “show”, and way too much “tell”.


Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE BY DIANA WYNNE JONES I didn’t like this book. At. All. This is the story of the infamous film of the same title. Most anime lovers or animated film lovers know Howl’s Moving Castle to be an amazing work of art. I’m also one of those people who really like that movie, and in fact I think it was one of the first anime I was introduced to as a child.

One of my favourite Youtuber’s had mentioned having read the book and absolutely having loved it, so of course I decided to look for the book and give it a try. Unfortunately for me, this book was so hard to finish. I struggled to enjoy it. Although I did appreciate a lot of it - the old school way of storytelling, with language reminiscent to that from old Disney films. But that wasn’t enough to keep me engaged. I just didn’t get it for the most part. I had to try and remember the movie as best as I could to follow along with the written story.

For the most part it follows the movie: girls gets a curse put on her that turns her into an old woman. She ends up living at the moving castle of a supposed evil wizard with a bad reputation. Eventually she learns more about this wizard and realizes he’s not actually evil. She goes through a lot of adventures or scenarios helping the wizard and his colleagues.

I found the descriptions very hard to imagine - especially the action scenes and character portraits. I got lost in a lot of the narration - very mind boggling and presumptuous. The end came and I didn’t even realize it was the end. I found myself skipping through a lot, because I was tired of trying to keep up with the complex language and situations of what was really taking place.

I imagine this is the type of fairytale gravitated towards children, but still, I don’t know if it’s because I’m not a child, but I really could not get into the world created by this author. (And I had no trouble doing that with Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland!) Apparently this is part of a 3-book series, so I’m wondering how much further it will delve into the story of the movie. Honestly, I’d rather watch the movie ten times over than read this again.


They Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

THE WALKING DEAD BY ROBERT KIRKMAN This next one needs no introduction. I admit I have been a follower of this comic series since circa 2015, and finally finished it this year. The comic has been going strong for more than a decade and a half with 193 issues to show for it. It came to a conclusion in 2019, but with my reading inconsistency I finished it a couple of months ago.

I absolutely love this comic: everything from the writing, the characters, the storylines, the cover art (check some out below). This series is so full of wit, cleverness, humanness, diversity, action, emotion, and more. I used to watch the TV show, but found it started getting too redundant and off track. The comic is the complete opposite, as there’s always a new threat hovering over our heroes. I truly cared for these characters like I knew them so well, and would get so invested whenever one of them died - and there are a lot of deaths! So it was very bittersweet for me as I read the final issue.

I love how this series portrays humanity in its raw form and in its animal form; humans in survival mode. There’s so much questioning about good and evil, necessity versus materialism, commodity, convenience, survival. There’s a lot about what it means to be a good person and who is a good person given the situation of the world these characters live in. It shows how far humans can go and are willing to go in order to make sure they survive.

It’s a great comic to read for fun and to get drawn into the post-apocalyptic zombie-ridden world. I absolutely love it and would recommend it to anyone.


If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton

IF YOU LEFT BY ASHLEY PRENTICE NORTON I cringe as I write down my thoughts for this book. I can basically summarize it as an author’s attempt at erotica in disguise of literary fiction. So this is about a woman with bipolar disorder who seems to have a good life, good husband, money, etc. She spends the summer at her beach house trying to get to know her daughter and find something to keep busy with, all the while handling her illness.

The premise is good, BUT it just fell apart about a third of the way in. The first third was very clear of the character we were dealing with and her manipulative, controlling jerk of a husband. We got to see what her struggles looked like, even the most simple things like getting a mug for her tea. It’s very clear that she’s been hold up by this disease to the point that she doesn’t even know where crockery is placed in her own kitchen and what things her daughter does and doesn’t like. Then it fell apart!

She and her family and her husband’s colleague go to their beach house, where her husband’s colleague is supposed to help her redecorate the house. After some frustrations she takes the redecorating into her own hands and hires a painter to fix the house, and somehow uses him to have a breakthrough with what she wants in her life. Then it kind of ends. After the painter was introduced into the story, there was hardly any further mention of her daughter or her illness. She eventually abandons her accustomed life, including her daughter, and seems to be okay with it; like that’s what sets her free at the end. And I felt like I as the reader was also supposed to be okay with that decision she made, no questions asked, end of story. There was so much potential here.


Hand To Mouth by Paul Auster

HAND TO MOUTH BY PAUL AUSTER AND SQUEEZE PLAY BY PAUL BENJAMIN My previous experience with Paul Auster was when I read his nonfiction essays in The Red Notebook. I loved how he wrote and have been wanting to read more of him since. I saw Hand To Mouth on a Youtuber’s list of favourite books and got excited at the chance of reading something nonfiction. Auster didn’t disappoint - if anything I grew to love this genre of writing once again. I love writing non fiction, and in fact, I find it agrees with me more than fiction. In Hand To Mouth, Auster writes about different times in his early life that he considered failures. He worked many jobs trying to make ends meet, starting new projects and businesses, which didn’t pay off as he’d imagined. I like this book because it’s very straightforward and hopeful in a way that doesn’t sound pretentious or self-helpish. He’s very honest about his setbacks and doesn’t seek empathy or sympathy, really. He’s just telling his story as it happened, without giving additional details or other aspects of his life that aren’t relevant to the points he's making.

I appreciate the humor he adds, his prose-like writing, the fact that he reads like someone sitting down with you to tell them some interesting story that happened to them.

At the end of the book are some appendixes of some plays he wrote, a game he invented, and a short story which were all considered part of his failures. Squeeze Play is the short story - a crime/mystery piece of fiction, authored by his pseudonym, Paul Benjamin. The premise is interesting, and of course the writing is great, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Honestly, I prefer his nonfiction stuff a LOT better.


STATION ELEVEN BY EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL I absolutely loved this book. It’s been a week since I finished it and still, I cannot come up with the words to describe what this book did for me.

It focuses on a group of people who are all connected somehow due to the sudden death of an actor. This sudden death is also when the pandemic breaks out. The chapters go into the different character’s perspectives, ranging from life pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. The writing is so immersive, I was hooked from the get go.

This is not exactly a post-apocalyptic book in the sense a la The Walking Dead, but the same threats still exist which compel the human condition, which is what I love about apocalyptic genres. Exploring the human condition; bringing humanity closer to home, despite who these people are. This book did such a good job of that. There were no bad guys or good guys; they were just humans. And I was so emotionally clung to them.

Easy to read, occasional short chapters (like two pages), great use of flashback, would highly recommend this book!


Love From A To Z by S.K. Ali

LOVE FROM A TO Z BY S.K. ALI I wanted to love this book. I wanted to love it soooooo badly. But by the third day of reading it, I had barely reached page 60 just because I was straining to truly get into a rhythm with this book. Ugh. I had such high hopes: 2 people of colour as love interests? A setting that takes place in Qatar? Sign me up! But the romance fell flat for me. Honestly, I must say it was non existent - yet there was a warning at the beginning of this book saying, This is a love story. With that, my expectations were super high, BUT I have to say I didn’t get any sense of romance at all in this book! Like, the interactions these characters had with each other read like just to people being civil with each other. That was it. Like how you might be waiting for a train somewhere and strike up conversation with a person who is also waiting for the same train.

But I kept reading this book, if only for the education of wokeness: that is, knowing what’s okay and not okay when in the context of different cultures. This wasn’t enough to let me give this book a special place in my heart, and I must say though I skimmed a lot of it, it did have some good moments.

It’s written in diary form from the two perspectives of our love interests. It gives us insight into life after death, illness, the third culture kid life, what it’s like to fight for a cause at a young age, the question of justice, experiencing racism, and other familiar challenges that become normal for many different people.

I think this book would have been so much more interesting to me if the main characters had their own stories, because mashed together seemed like a big confusing thing that didn’t totally make sense to me at all.


Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

DRAGON PEARL BY YOON HA LEE Filled with great storytelling, I found this a very pleasant read. I would highly recommend it for younger readers, as it’s very light and reader friendly.

It’s about this girl who has the ability to shapeshift who goes looking for her brother, who she has just found out has deserted from the space military. She’s from a family of shapeshifters living on a poor planet and has hopes to change her fate by joining said space military. One thing leads to another and she ends up joining sooner than she thinks, but under the disguise of someone else who she has to help in addition to solving the mystery of her brother’s whereabouts.

A lot of the fantasy element is based on Korean folklore, which is refreshing, as I didn’t feel like the same tropes were used that are often found in fantasy books. But it also had a sci-fi element to it as well, which was seen heavily in the world Lee created.

I must say I was impressed with the structure of this book. I felt everything was executed well and balanced. Nothing felt heavy or overboard: the dialogue, the writing style, the pacing, the crossover of two genres, the inclusion of modernity plus tradition - everything was well polished.


SIX OF CROWS DUOLOGY BY LEIGH BARDUGO Well. Usually books with covers like these put me off. Usually books that are part of a series put me off. Usually books that are more than 300 pages put me off. BUT, these two books have defeated my usual prejudices.

The best YA I’ve read so far.

My biggest issue going into these books was having expectations and thinking I knew what would come next - trying to solve everything as though my input mattered. And even after finishing the first book, I still had to be a step ahead! These books require the reader to trust it, and read.

Six of Crows introduces us to a gang of teenagers living in a corrupt town who embark on a life or death heist, which leads them into a whole new world of magic, secrets, and more corruption. Crooked Kingdom is the continuation of, let’s say, the heist gone wrong. New complications have risen that the group have to deal with to save their lives. Each of these characters have their own motivations and secrets and pasts they may be hiding from or trying to make amends with. These characters go through abuse, grief, crime, violence, tragedy, and so much more to become the survivalists that they are. Each of them grow in their own way as they break the law to get what they need to get done; to restore a sense of justice and purpose for whatever good is in them.

What I love about Bardugo is how she creates these multilayered characters whom the world sees as trash, but who the reader gets a chance to really feel for and embrace them amongst their flaws which make them human. She did a good job of creating hope for these characters and actually allowing them to attain it. But not just in an easy way - in a way where they were confronted with some tough issues, then with the help of each other, being able to decide for themselves whether they wanted this hope or not. I grew somewhat attached to these characters, especially two of them, whose backstories were so moving, that I teared up.

In as much as this book is a fantasy genre, the realistic themes that are portrayed are hella eye opening. There are many moments where we see these people as good-for-nothing criminals, but there are also many moments where we see them as just kids. And it makes me question the type of world we live in where there are kids whose only way to survive is through a depraved world view. Sigh. This book has left me with a bunch of heavy thoughts, new opinions and questions that I’m grateful for. With plenty of action scenes, illusions, adventures, and tests on friendships, this book is one I had a hard time putting down.


One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

ONE DAY I WILL WRITE ABOUT THIS PLACE BY BINYAVANGA WAINAINA Whenever I did read books of my choosing back in primary, I tended to gravitate toward biographies. And I usually read books about people who had gone through some hardship! Eg. Sojourner Truth, Corrie ten Boom, Immaculée Ilibagiza. Then when I started to read stuff by Kenyan writers, I was quickly enthralled by Binyavanga Wainaina, whose How To Write About Africa piece made me a lifelong fan. So of course I had excitement when I got a hold of his memoir.

In this memoir, Wainaina writes about so much: his grapple with his national/ethnic identity, his love for novels, his early school years, Kenya’s slow decline during post-independence, political unrest, his university years in South Africa during its unrest, his love for his family, and even the early days of his writing.

I appreciated a lot of this: mainly the warmth he depicted with his family relationships. There’s a section where he writes about his mum, who had died when he was in South Africa, and it’s so moving and touching, one would have to not have a heart to not feel anything.

I do recommend reading this in multiple settings though, because as I was eager to finish it, I realized I didn’t fully appreciate the stand alone chapters


The Secret History by Donna Tartt


This book. So intense. So dramatic. So extra. I loved it. This story is about a group of Greek students at a small Northeastern US college ie. Very preppy, very intelligent, cold, high society, patriarchal. They murder a fellow classmate - non-spoiler, it’s given at the beginning - and have to face life in the aftermath. By the way, they don’t get caught for the crime, which makes the story more interesting, because the more I read, I almost felt empathy for them in where I hoped life would have treated them a bit better if they were caught and put in jail. Yes, this book is that intense!

Slowly, predictably, their once elite super exclusive facade crumbles, as each member of the group panics in their own way. Our narrator is a transfer student who joins this group and slowly builds an obsession with each of his classmates, as well as his beguiling professor, in an attempt of trying to fit in. Soon he regrettably learns too much about each of them, their pasts, their depraved mindsets – basically who they truly are underneath the guise they give off. And this unfolds in a way where my attention was 100% given to the story, because I feared if I zoned out, I would miss key points that made this story the thriller that it is.

It’s funny, because it’s not really a thriller in the “whodunit” sense. But it’s a thriller in the sense of not knowing what people are capable of when you uncover their character driven by their perversions. I was constantly anxious for our narrator, worrying he was way in over his head, which leant to some dark humour added in the writing. But I had to trust him, because he was our only lead to fully get through the story.


The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING BY JULIAN BARNES I had high hopes for this book. One, because it’s less than 200 pages, and two, because I think I remember reading good reviews for it? But no….the only reason I finished it, is because it was less than 200 pages and because I was hoping the ending would redeem the flatness in which this book read to me. Gosh, I was let down! Like, I get it was supposed to be mysterious and confusing and disorienting. But, after paying so much attention, I don’t understand the point of it at all. I can’t even say what this book is about.

A guy’s memory sort of playing tricks with his mind? Was all that he remembers actually real or just some nostalgia he created? This book read to me like some literature a college English professor would assign and have us come up with some essay on it. If there’s a part of this book where I feel I sort of had a hint to what it was about, it would be this passage:

“Does character develop over time? In novels, of course it does: otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story. But in life? I sometimes wonder. Our attitudes and opinions change, we develop new habits and eccentricities; but that’s something different, more like decoration. Perhaps character resembles intelligence, except that character peaks a little later: between twenty and thirty, say. And after that, we’re just stuck with what we’ve got. We’re on our own. If so, that would explain a lot of lives, wouldn’t it? And also – if this isn’t too grand a word – our tragedy.” JULIAN BARNES, "THE SENSE OF AN ENDING"

????? Honestly, I don’t know. I have nothing to say, except, I have no clue what I read in those 163 pages.


The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo