So I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing this earlier (though I guess it’s only January 3rd…), but I want to give you my top five books of 2020. As you know if you’ve read my blog, I got a treadmill and a Kindle last year in preparation for a possible COVID lockdown that would basically leave us housebound. This never happened (luckily), but there were enough days of crappy whether where the treadmill came in super handy. On these days, I got to read for about four hours straight while I walked. Thus, I ended up reading a lot of books last year (at least in comparison to previous years).
So let’s look at the best ones! From fifth best to best.
#5: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Wolfe)
I think this is my #5 because of the writing style. The story itself is good, of course, but the way Wolfe writes is engaging, funny, and very poetic in places. It definitely influenced the style of my 2020 NaNo, which I started writing about a month after I read this book.
#4: Exodus (Uris)
This is a hard book to get through because of the subject matter, but I think it’s also a very important book to read for the same reason. Uris does a really detailed history of the Jewish people through several characters and their experiences and he shows how it all connects in one way or another. I’m excited to read QBVII when I get to my “Q” book.
#3: I, Claudius (Graves)
I love the style of this book. Like I mentioned in my review of it, I had no knowledge of this time period in history and so I was expecting to be completely unengaged with the book itself. But it was written in a very approachable way that also helped to put you in the time period so that you knew who everyone was and what was going on even if you had ZERO knowledge of it prior to reading.
#2: A Separate Peace (Knowles)
I love how organic and pure the friendship is between Phineas and Gene. This is a relatively short book, but that friendship is so fleshed out that it makes the story seem longer, if that makes sense. It makes you feel like you’ve known the characters and their relationship as long as they had known each other. I think “natural” relationships can sometimes be hard to write or at least hard to introduce, but Knowles does it beautifully here.
#1: A Prayer for Owen Meany (Irving)
I have yet to read a book that more perfectly takes every little aspect of the story and puts it all together in a two-page climax. It just…everything just comes together at that one moment and it’s not contrived, it’s not lacking, and it’s not unbelievable (even though it’s a pretty dramatic climax). It’s everything I’ve always wanted to get out of the climax of a story.
It’s a long book, and there’s a lot to it, but read it. It’s worth it for that climax. Trust me.
Hey, duders! So this was a super long book, which is why it took me about a week to get to another review, but let’s do it.
Have I read this before: Nope! I can’t remember if this was a book I had trouble finding in libraries or was one that just kept getting overlooked on my list, but I this was the first time I’ve ever read it.
Review: you guys. READ. THIS. BOOK. This is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read; it’s probably going to replace the The Ox-Bow Incident as my fifth favorite book. Like I mentioned, it’s a long book. It details the relationship between Owen Meany, a boy who feels like he is god’s instrument and believes that he’s foreseen his own death and the circumstances around it, and John, the narrator. The book goes back and forth between John in the present day (late 80s) and when the two were growing up together as boys/teenagers. It’s hard to summarize because there’s so much that happens and so many little scenes and ideas and phrases and actions, but all of it – all of it – comes together so beautifully in one single ending scene that it’s just perfect. So perfect. So good.
Favorite part: I love the way everything that the book had been working towards comes together in that one scene near the end. It’s done so well that I don’t know if I’ll ever be more satisfied with a “tie together” as I was with this book.
But I won’t spoil that for you. Instead, I’ll list a few humorous moments, because despite the seriousness of everything in this book, it actually is quite funny in places.
Hester, Noah, and Simon are the narrator’s cousins. They’re rambunctious little buggers:
“Last one through the house has to kiss Hester the Molester!” Noah said, and he and Simon were off running. In a panic, I looked at Hester and took off after them.
The narrator discussing why he was hesitant to let his cousins meet Owen:
It seemed to me that they would be driven insane by the sight of him, and when he *spoke*–when they first encountered that voice–I could visualize their reaction only in terms of their inventing ways for Owen to be a projectile.
Owen obviously believes in god, but he is critical and somewhat troubled by the organized church and its approach to belief and the interpretation of the Bible.
“JESUS ALREADY TOLD THE DUMB-SHIT DISCIPLES WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. ‘THE SON OF MAN WILL BE DELIVERED INTO THE HANDS OF MEN, AND THEY WILL KILL HIM…” REMEMBER? THAT WAS IN MARK—RIGHT?”
“Yes, but let’s not say ‘dumb-shit disciples’ in class, Owen,” Mr. Merrill said.
Owen and John attend Gravesend Academy. Everyone there loves Owen except for the headmaster, and there’s a whole big scene where Owen gets the basketball team to move a teacher’s car into the school’s auditorium, which the headmaster has a hell of a time trying to remove. The whole scene is pretty hysterical.
He (the headmaster) sat behind the wheel—with apparent jolts of extreme discomfort assailing him from the region of his lower back—and commanded the faculty to push him.
“Where?” Dan Needham asked the headmaster.
“Down the Jesus Fucking Christly stairs!” Headmaster White cried.