Stephen King says “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” I love reading, so no complaints here. However, after staring at more than one title thinking “have I read this before?” I realized I have the memory of a goldfish.*
Thus, about a year and a half ago I started to keep a log. This means when a friend asks “have you read anything good recently?” instead of saying an enthusiastic “YES!” followed by awkward silence, I can follow that “YES” with hours of book recommendations. My enthusiasm causes me to speak faster and faster until my words blur into a high pitched squeak and my friend ends the phone call before they get a headache. My more headache prone friends have learned to only ask me about reading over text. OK, the last two-and-a-half sentences might be an exaggeration.
For giggles, I compiled some statistics about my 2020 reading life, then make up my own totally inconsequential book awards. As of 12/20/20, I read eighty-seven books. Ten were non-fiction, seventy-seven were fiction.
The book with the most beautiful prose award:
This is How You Lose the Time War– Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. El-Mohtar is also a poet, and it shows. Here’s a quote: “I want to meet you in every place I ever loved. Listen to me. I am your echo. I would rather break the world than lose you.” The entire book is that beautiful.
The book which almost made me cry award: (two way tie)
It takes a lot for media to make me cry. Getting me to almost tears is an achievement.
The Beginning of Everything– Robyn Schneider. Human brains are complex. We can feel multiple emotions at the same time. If you need proof, read this book and prepare to feel everything. If you’ve dealt with the intensity of someone important moving into and/or out of your life , this story will make you feel seen.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe– Benjamin Alire Sáenz. This book almost made me happy cry. I can’t say much without giving it away, but holy mother of spork, this book sticks the landing.
The book which made me laugh the most award: (two way tie)
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life– Anne Lamott. This is a well respected non-fiction work on the process of writing. In my experience, writing advice tends to fall into one of two categories: “lets talk about the nuts and bolts of plot, character development, etc,” or “you can do it little writer!” Lamott’s work fits in the second category. It’s also hilarious. Her brand of hyperbole driven humor had me laughing out loud.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson– John Green and David Levithan. This story is narrated by Will Grayson and Will Grayson, two high schoolers with the same name. When they accidently meet in a porn store neither planned to enter, hijinks ensue. If you’re looking for a good example of distinctive character voice, this is the book for you.
The books which changed my worldview award: (two way tie)
The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain, And Body In The Healing Of Trauma– Bessel van der Kolk. A patient recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad I read it. In physical therapy school we learn that emotional trauma can impact prognosis. Learning about the connection between emotional and physical health more in depth and from the perspective of a psychologist helped improve not only my physical therapy practice, but my ability to be an empathetic person in the world.
No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America– Ron Powers. I knew the mental healthcare system in the US was inadequate, but I didn’t know how inadequate. It’s part journalistic exposé, part memoir of the author’s experience with his two sons who have schizophrenia.
Made up awards and colorful pie charts aside, reading helped keep me afloat in 2020. It helped me escape when I was sick of the real world, and helped me feel seen when I felt invisible. This is why I read. This is why I write.
Congratulations on having survived most of 2020, friends. May next year be easier.
*I did the research. Apparently goldfish can remember for up to five months. Thus, my memory for what I read is worse than a goldfish. C’est la vie.