Favorites reads from 2019 & 2020 preview

We’re five days into 2020, and I’m already in too deep with my to-be-read list. My only real saving grace is that the Seattle Public Library is amazing and has almost all of the books I want to read. My bank account thanks you, SPL.

Before I write about what I’m looking forward to in 2020, however, I want to go over last year.

Let me start here by saying that if you managed to read a book last year, congratulations, you’re doing better than most people! I also want to put things into perspective for anyone who looks at my total books read and thinks that they are behind, or inadequate, or in any way judges themselves. I went from burnout recovery (where I initially was reading fewer books because I literally couldn’t focus on the words), to traveling, to moving countries, to being unemployed for months (which gave me copious amounts of time to read and write), and finally to being employed again. Some of people might look at the numbers and think I didn’t read that many books. More power to you! My 2019 was an unpredictable ride and I feel fortunate that I was able to read what I read.

With all that couching and qualifying, here is what my goal was on January 1st of 2019, with what I actually read by December 31st on the right:

  • 2019 Goals
    • 50 books
      • ‘more’ non-fiction
      • 2 fantasy books by men
      • 3 fiction that’s not sci-fi, fantasy, or romance

  • 2019 Results
    • 88 books
      • 12 non-fiction
      • 3 fantasy by men
      • 3 fiction not sci-fi, fantasy, or romance

If you’re curious about why I made these goals, I’ll give you the short version: since discovering the Sirens Conference several years ago, I began to read more and more fantasy and science fiction written by female and non-binary authors. By 2018, I realized the only books written by men that I’d read were non-fiction works. I felt that while I’d been hoping to become a more diverse reader, I’d actually begun to narrow my scope in the other direction, including limiting genre. Thus, I wanted to try to actually read diversely this year.

In compiling my list for 2019 favorites, I found that I’d already written about most of the books in blog posts from last year. So instead of taking up space writing about why I would recommend those titles, I’m linking to the original posts.

Previously blogged favorites from 2019:

My last blog post was on December 6th, so it didn’t include one of my favorite books from 2019, which I read later in the month:

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

I’d had this book on my to-read list, and on hold at the library, since I first heard about it. It took me until December, however, to get the book from the library. It was that popular. I hoped the long hold time and popularity meant it was amazing to read.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Here’s the thing with this book, the concept seems so simple that I wondered if it could hold anything unexpected, a surprise that makes it special.

The President of the United States (who is a woman by the way) has a college-aged son, Alex, who does not like youngest Prince of Whales, Henry. Alex believes Henry is a snob, who was a dismissive jerk the first time they met as young teenagers. And when the press finds out Alex and Henry don’t like one another after a very public mishap at an event in England, the resulting turmoil seems like it’s going to impact U.S. and British relations. To smooth everything over, Alex and Henry are forced to pretend they’re actually best friends, and have been the whole time. And naturally, I mean naturally to this romance lover, the two end up falling in love.

Why is this one of my favorite books of 2019? For one, it took that delivered to me that feeling of hope that I found in Michelle Obama’s Becoming at the end of 2019, when I really needed again. This book is set in an alternative 2019/2020. Not a perfect alternative world. There are still all kinds of social, economic, and environmental problems. But it’s still a 2019 with a female president and a world that’s a little more forgiving of people’s difference, and accepting of their choices. *Tip toes around spoilers*

As I read about Alex and Henry, and their very public lives, which were extremely carefully curated and not necessarily a reflection of their true selves, I fell in love with these two characters. They’re both flawed, but they’re both kind and trying really hard. I also fell in love with this version of reality. And when I was done reading, instead of feeling sad about the fact that the real world is not like the world in this book, I found my hope rekindled.

What I’m excited to tackle in 2020

I just checked and my TBR list is sitting at 134, which if I’m honest does’t include some books I bought while I was in Austin two weeks ago, so let’s round that up a bit. Most of these books are already published, but I know some of my readers and followers are interested in discovering up-and-coming books. So I’ve pulled some of the new releases for 2020 from my TBR list to share my excitement. I don’t get advance reader copies, which means I haven’t read these yet. I’ve tried to put them in order of release, but release dates change all the time.

The Iron Will of Genie Lo – F. C. Yee (January)

First off, this is a sequel to The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. When I finished reading book one back in November of 2018, I really wanted to read the next one. Note scrawled in my book journal: Excited for the next one.

The first book was a fast-paced novel with engaging characters and a new take on the ‘chosen one’ story. I’m a Buffy fan for the oh-so-relatable teenager feeling of ‘I’m just trying to make it through school, do I really have to save the world too?’ vibe from the show.

What I love about the premise for the sequel is that Genie and Quentin are doing their best to fight demons in the Bay Area, but when the one god fails to step up, they’re left to sort things out, which doesn’t sound like a metaphor for the pressures facing teenagers at all. *wink wink* The synopsis states that they learn they need sacrifice not strength to save the universe. And just like that, I’m ready to devote a day to reading this book in one sitting. Let’s hope my schedule allows that because otherwise, I see a sleepless night in my future.

Docile – K. M. Szpara (March)

“There is no consent under capitalism.”

That’s the tagline to this book. As soon as I read that, I was sucked in. Of course I instantly thought of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the book is marketed as ‘The Handmaid’s Tale meets Gossip Girl‘. The story of one man who sells himself to a rich man to save his family from debtor’s prison. Knowing only that information, and with a fierce tagline, this book went on my TBR list back in September.

Only Mostly Devastated – Sophie Gonzales (March)

I’m minding my own business, scrolling through one of the many lists of queer books coming out in 2020 (I’m so stoked there were so many of these lists), and I read a synopsis that reminds me of one of my favorite musicals from when I was eight or nine. Grease.

Tell you more, tell you more? Oh I will.

Ollie meets the perfect guy over the summer, but then he gets ghosted when summer ends. He ends up moving across the country with his family, and enrolling in a new school where he finds (guess who!) that guy he fell for over the summer.

My love for Grease and queer romance made me hit the ‘want to read’ button so fast. But it gets better! Sandy should have told Danny to shove it and moved on to someone worthy of her time when Danny was a jerk. And Ollie isn’t going to follow Sandy in longing for some guy who turns out to be someone else when he’s back to reality. Or at least that’s the plan. But then Will (that’s the heartthrob turned jerk) keeps showing up…

Verona Comics – Jennifer Dugan (April)

Indie comic book store employee meets big-chain comic book store employee at a comic convention prom (didn’t know this was a thing, but there’s a ball at the conference I go to every year, so why not) and they fall for one another. But, as the title might give away, these two lovers are star-crossed and their families hate each other.

Comic books plus Shakespeare? Yep. I’m in.

The Mermaid, the Witch & the Sea – Maggie Tokuda-Hall (May)

Complete honesty here? I read “Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man” and thought I need this in my life! I love female pirate books, and this one sounds like it’s going to be a fresh take on the female pirate falling in love while pretending to be something she’s not tropes that I’ve been digging for the last two years. I’m so excited about it that I’m even willing to ignore the mention of a mermaid. ( I know it’s in the title, but I’d hoped that wasn’t literal. Sorry, I just don’t love most mermaid books. I’m more of a sirens girl.)

Real Men Knit – Kwanda Jackson (June)

This is a ‘the cover made me want it’ book. And the title. And then, once I’d seen both of those, I read the back copy and added it to my list.

“When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop.”- Penguin Random House

Jesse wants to keep the shop running, but his brothers want to close it. Jesse seeks help from Kerry, one of the shop’s employees who knows more about the business than he does. There’s chemistry between the two as they work together, but Jesse has a past that makes Kerry think they can’t have a lasting relationship, and Jesse has to prove her wrong.

There’s a knitting pun in the back copy, so in addition to sounding like an adorable romance, it made me giggle with puns. Why is it not June yet?

What I didn’t get to in 2019

If you’re looking for a book that’s already out, here are few titles from my TBR list that I didn’t get to last year, but that I’m really excited to tackle in the first half of 2020. Hopefully I’ll have reviews for you later this year.

  • Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men – Caroline Criado-Perez
    • I’m completely fascinated to learn about the stuff around me that’s meant to be designed to keep me safe (seat belts for example), but in reality were designed and tested for men and statistically are dangerous for women to use. For one, it would be good to know more about the world around me, but the real reason I’m intrigued: morbid fascination with the insanity that is a world that defaults male and shoehorns women in as an afterthought.
  • Wild Life: Dispatches from a Childhood of Baboons and Button-Downs – Keena Roberts
    • Oh if I were only to put a list of the books I read for pleasure during college, when I was a history major with philosophy and English minors. In other words, I read a TON for school, and when I read for myself, I wanted an escape. Those escape books were largely about people who decided to take a break from the real world by buying a chicken and traveling around England with it, or buying a farm in upstate New York and trying a hand at raising ducks, or any other drastic life-style change. Anyway, when I came across this title, some 10+ old nerve was struck and I got really excited to revisit my fascination with people living very different lives from the ‘norm.’
  • Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights – Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico
    • I’m not sure I really need to say more for anyone who knows me to know why this is on my list.
  • The Labyrinth of the Spirits – Carlos Ruiz Zafron (came out in 2018)
    • In a moment of ‘I have to buy this children’s book for my friend’s kid’ insanity, I went to the bookstore while I was in Austin and I went when I had two hours to kill. I’m lucky to have made it out spending less than $100. But while I was browsing the epic selection of Book People on 6th, I came across this book that I’m only just now as I’m writing this discovering is the finale of a series. I guess that means I need to add the first book to my list! This book has a mystery that involves literature, and since I’m a little obsessed with both, I wanted to buy it on the spot, but I only had so much luggage space.

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