Every New Year I make the same resolution: read more. Since dropping my daily office commute in lieu of my freelancing and parenting juggle, I struggle to carve out windows of time to keep up with my book habit. After all, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” says Stephen King.
So, here’s a list of the books I read in 2020. My goal this year was to turn back to my bookshelf and catch up on all the stories I had yet enjoyed. There are still many more to get to — but I am proud that I made a start. I’ve got so many great titles in my Yet To Read pile that 2021 is also looking interesting.
If you find any of these titles thrown around at Book Club or stacked by your bedside — here’s my take. Enjoy!
1. “To Shake The Sleeping Self” — Jedidiah Jenkins
I followed Jedidiah Jenkins all the while that he pedalled from Oregon to Patagonia. His posts from the road were such a highlight in my feed — thoughtful and raw, yet crafted and poetic. I hit ‘buy’ on ‘To Shake The Sleeping Self’ as soon as it hit stores. Then, I waited. Eager to relive the adventure via the book from the snippets we saw before, I didn’t want to start the story until I could read it without distraction.
So, I started it towards the end of 2019 and finished it in January 2020. Let me say, I did enjoy the book. In fact, it’s truly an eloquent and charismatic journey from ‘normalcy’ to the optimism of adventure. A South American escapade has long had my heart, so following Jedidiah and his bike was self-indulgent. Plus, throw in his pearls of wisdom and reflection into the prose and its hard to dislike this book. So yes, I did enjoy the book. A lot. But I didn’t love it (the way I jumped to the conclusion I would).
Now, it’s the end of the year and I’m still thinking about it. I see that the chasm between what I read and what I hoped to read was just my expectation: I had hoped to read a straight-up travel memoir. I love those. But what Jenkins delivers is his version of that: it’s a memoir on how travel impacts a life. Writing outside the usual lines — to make you stop and think — is truly part of his talent. His Instagram posts remain a highlight in my feed and I can’t wait to read his next book (due out February 2021).
2. “A Long Way Home” — Saroo Brierley
‘Everything is written’, the Hindi proverb, is the apt undertone of this unbelievable, yet humbling story. At the surface, it’s the journey of a little boy lost — yet truly it delivers a reminder that sometimes life is what it is because it was meant to be so. Even if it doesn’t seem it should be so. Right now.
Also: what luxury we enjoy to reconnect with others around the world thanks to technology. “A Long Way Home” reminds us that it wasn’t that long ago that loading the satellite view on Google Maps was a mega data task. Not today.
I wanna see the movie, Lion, again.
3. “Big Little Lies” – Liane Moriarty
This was a slow starter for me. Having already seen the TV adaption, I picked the book up and put it down a few times. With each passage, I could only see Reese Witherspoon as Madeline, Zoe Kravitz as Bonnie, Nicole Kidman as Celeste. But not in Monterey, California — they were swanning about in Sydney’s “insular peninsular” in my mind. The mash of book and TV had me stuck for a bit, I think.
Once the book hooked me; it took me away and I raced through the pages. My eyes popped from my head as I hit “the twist.” (TBH, I missed said ‘twist’ during the series). My first go at Moriarty’s storytelling, Big Little Lies exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed every work and witty remark. Left wanting more, I dove into my iTunes account to watch the HBO series again and follow the characters into Season 2.
4. ”Amnesty” – Aravind Adigo
First things first: Aravind Adigo’s rhythmic narrative style had me from the get go. His pulsing storytelling of Danny, an undocumented immigrant who cleans homes in Sydney’s inner west suburbs, is captivating at first. As I read I continued to enjoy its rhythm, though felt it was longingly pulling me to an unexpected twist … that didn’t quite happen.
Yet I found elements of “Amnesty” fulfilling. As a previous Sydneysider, Adigo’s insights into the Harbour City’s social fabric were spot on. It’s also a heartbreaking reminder about the choices illegal immigrants are forced to make and that their simplest desire it to simply live freely in a ‘fair’ and ‘safe’ society.
5. “Damascus” – Christos Tsiolkas* (UNFINISHED)
An unapologetic, raw and confronting journey back in time based on the letters and gospel of St. Paul. I’m a historic literary wannabe reader — yet, having read the slap and appreciating Chris Tsiolkas’ gifted storytelling I wanted to give Damascus a go. Plus, my Book Club set it.
Yet, I never quite finished it. I couldn’t struggle through the more violent and gory descriptions as they entered the story mid-way through. History can be unappetising for sure, but I couldn’t push through it on this occasion. As an aside, my Book Club loved it.
*Read with my Book Club.