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.
Have I read this before: I…think so? Maybe? Perhaps this is a book that I started but didn’t get very far into, because I remember like the first twenty pages but nothing beyond that (and there’s a lot beyond that). So let’s say…no.
Review: Oof. This book. This is basically “let’s tell the long history of suffering of the Jewish people through a handful of characters.” It’s super heavy and very disturbing at parts. I think that it’s definitely something people should read, especially people who aren’t very familiar with all the stuff Jewish people have had to go through throughout history (not just right before/during/right after WWII). Apparently Leon Uris wrote this with the goal to tell the story of Israel, but a lot of praise for the book acknowledges it as propaganda for the existence of Israel as an independent state. And beyond that, I don’t even really know what I can say about this book. It’s long, it’s dense, it’s disturbing, and it will stick in your memory for a long time. Read it.
Favorite part: there’s basically zero humor in this book due to the subject manner, but I did like the bit of humor at the end when the Jews from Yemen were being brought to Israel via plane. They had never seen a plane before and there’s a few pages of lighthearted chaos describing how they are acting while on the plane (lighting fires to celebrate, opening windows, etc.). It’s a bit of levity that really feels earned once you get to that point in the book; it’s like finally there’s some end to some of the suffering.
There’s also this line: Anti-Semitism was synonymous with the history of man, Johann Clement reasoned. It was a part of living – almost a scientific truth. Only the degree and the content varied.