Some time in the hazy realms of 2019 – oh how I miss that glorious year of mundane normality – I decided that I’d be more intentional with my reading this year. Inspired by lots of book bloggers, I pledged to read 12 specific books in efforts to tick some titles from my to-be-read list. And now that we’re nearing the end of the year (thank God), I thought I’d recap how it went and my thoughts on these 12, long-awaited reads.
Was a ‘book pledge’ useful?
Of course this has been a pretty tumultuous year across the board. Personally I found it really difficult to focus for long enough to make decent progress with pretty much any book that I picked up, meaning I’d only be reading in drips and drabs… a.k.a. slow! I found this hard to get my head around, having always been a speedy reader but tried not to beat myself up about it too much – we are in the throes of a badly managed global pandemic after all.
The book pledge did help me to know what to pick up when I wanted to read, though. There are hundreds of titles that I want to read, and having already picked out 12 I wanted to get through helped me to instantly pick one up from the shelf. What’s more, as I write this on Tuesday night (8th December 2020), I’ve read 10 of those books and the remaining two are patiently waiting in my bookcase.
My 2020 book pledge also helped me to be more intentional about what I was reading; planning out my eagerly anticipated books meant that for the most part, I enjoyed the books I’d chosen. There’s nothing worse than getting 50 pages into a book and realising it’s not quite for you. All in all, I found it useful, and I’ll definitely be sharing a similar pledge for 2021.
The Books I Pledged to Read in 2020
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I have fond memories of reading Little Women at Harvey’s parents house when I moved in with them before our house was ready. I’m still astounded that it took me this long to get round to reading this novel, because it’s surely a great. There’s a more comprehensive review in this post, but all in all, I’m glad I added this classic to my list for it’s a charming feminist novel full of beautifully written characters.
Tai-Pan by James Clavell
James Clavell’s Shogun was one of my favourite reads last year, and I was keen to read the next in the series, especially because it’s set in Hong Kong. However I’m not sure what exactly it was that felt so off about Tai-Pan. I remember it felt like an uphill struggle to sift through chapters and where the meandering prose really suited the former novel, it left me confused and uninterested in the latter.
The Insecure Girl’s Handbook by Olivia Purvis
Having anticipated lovely Liv’s debut book for months and months, I can safely say it was worth its wait. In fact, I have really fond memories of gobbling up this book in just one or two commutes to and from London. In it, Liv shares her own experiences with feeling insecure as she grapples with life. She masterfully weaves in anecdotes from The Insecure Girls’ Club members, and there are a plethora of interviews with experts to distill what it means to feel insecure and how to take hold of those feelings. I’ve dipped back into it a few times this year for some much-needed advice, and it’s one of my favourites of 2020.
The Confession by Jessie Burton
Another book that holds fond memories, I read The Confession on our train up to Edinburgh for Harvey’s birthday. When I first picked it up, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the story is really beautiful. It unravels slowly and gently, and I enjoyed the plot, the characters (mostly) and, importantly, the pace. Again, there are more coherent thoughts in this post.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Such a Fun Age is another book that I had been anticipating, but I remember it falling short of my expectations. Something I say a lot is that I think often when you read a book is as important as the book itself. Having already read many titles tackling anti-racism and awareness of social issues, I suppose this felt a little lacklustre and not quite as deeply insightful as I expected. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read and I’d love to reread it once I’ve given it some distance.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
I’ve spent a LOT of time thinking about this book lately. What I’d expected to be a cute, fluffy YA novel with East Asian protagonists (we love to see it!) ended up being a searingly important look into mental health and how it’s perceived in East Asian, particularly Chinese, communities. There are so many more layers to this novel than ‘YA’ and I couldn’t recommend this book more.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Editor’s Note: Since reading and reviewing this book, I discovered that Adichie holds dangerous transphobic views and therefore will no longer be supporting her work.
I mean, yeah. That happened. I really enjoyed Americanah and the themes presented and so joyfully shared. That being said, I can’t personally advocate support of her work for now.
Double Cup Love by Eddie Huang
The first book of my ambitious stack that I abandoned, I couldn’t quite get on board with Huang’s tone of voice in this exploration of love. Often vulgar, I remember finding Fresh Off the Boat bearable, and must have picked this up when I felt not so good.
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
As I write this post, I’m yet to read Searching for Sylvie. It’s beside me right now though, and I’m planning to get stuck into it on my ‘annual leave’ next week, where you’ll find me sat on the conservatory sofa instead of the normal front room one. I’m excited for this one!
Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
MY GOSH. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I usually start formulating ‘star reviews’ and vague commentary about novels a few chapters in, and that was true of Howard’s End. I shelved it as a favourite just four chapters in. This book is widely thought of as an important classic that captures the turning of the century. Author E.M. Forster writes of Howard’s End, a gorgeous house that he grew up. Fun fact: it’s right in the middle of my hometown! Of course this means I feel sentimentally bound to this story, but aside from that, it’s a lyrical novel that sings with life and personality.
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
Another on my December TBR list, I’m thoroughly excited to read this over the holidays!
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Last but by no means least, The Overstory has had – dare I say it – a profound impact on me in 2020. The Overstory follows six people, connected by trees. From environmental activists to an old couple in their lifelong home, it masterfully weaves a story that you really connect to. Whilst slow (very slow) for about two thirds of the novel, I found that this book has left me with a wider knowledge of the world around me. And I take more nature walks now, where I whisper to trees.
Will you be making a 2021 book pledge?