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, let’s do that thing where I review a thing and stuff.
Have I read this before: No! I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time, but I’ve never been able to find a copy in a library. But we went to Fair’s Fair’s big book warehouse thingy a while back and I finally found a copy. And now I finally had time to read it!
Review: Oh my god this book is glorious. The writing is simple but impactful. The characters are very believable and the relationship between Gene and Phineas is so genuine and natural and…ugh. I love it. This is how I’ve always wanted to write close friendships in my stories.
And the “climax” (if you want to call it that) was very unexpected and thus very heart-punching. It’s a short little book but so very memorable. Love it.
Favorite part: There are a lot of little quotes and moments that I adore in this, but here are a few:
He (Phineas) was disgusted with that summer’s athletic program – a little tennis, some swimming, clumsy softball games, badminton. “Badminton!” he exploded the day it entered the schedule. He said nothing else, but the shocked, outraged, despairing note of anguish in the word said all the rest. “Badminton!”
Bombs in Central Europe were completely unreal to us here, not because we couldn’t imagine it…but because our place here was too fair for us to accept something like that. We spent that summer in complete selfishness, I’m happy to say. The people in the world who could be selfish in the summer of 1942 were a small band, and we took advantage of it.
One day he (Phineas) broke the school swimming record.
“A. Hopkins Parker?” Finny squinted up at the name. “I don’t remember any A. Hopkins Parker.”
“He graduated before we got here.”
“You mean that record has been up there the whole time we’ve been at Devon and nobody’s busted it yet?”
He said blurringly, “I have a feeling I can swim faster than A. Hopkins Parker.”