Don’t think I’m going to finish another book by the 31st, so here’s my summary of books read in 2020.
1. Sour Heart — Jenny Zhang
2. Monstress Vol. 2 — Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda (illustrator)
3. Pug Davis — Rebecca Sugar
* 4. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel — Alexander Chee
* 5. Junji Ito’s Cat Diary — Junji Ito
6. Are You Listening — Tillie Walden
7. Enter the Aardvark — Jessica Anthony
8. Uzumaki — Junji Ito
9. Death Stench Creeps — Junji Ito
10. Head Lopper Vol. 1 — Andrew Maclean
11. Beautiful Darkness — Kerascoët
12. Stargazing — Jen Wang
13. A Fire Story — Brian Fies
* 14. Exhallation — Ted Chiang
* 15. Minor Feelings — Cathy Park Hong
16. Rascal — Jean-Luc Deglin
17. Brooklyn: The Once and Future City — Thomas Campanella
18. Another Country — James Baldwin
19. Sports is Hell — Ben Pasamore
20. BTTM FDRS — Ezra Claytan Daniels, Ben Pasamore (illustrator)
21. Grease Bats — Archie Bongiovanni
22. Unf*ck Your Boundaries — Dr. Faith G. Harper
23. My Baby First Birthday — Jenny Zhang
* 24. The Low Low Woods — Carmen Maria Machado, DaNi (illustrator)
25. Intimations — Zadie Smith
* 26. Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm — Isabella Tree
* 27. Born a Crime — Trevor Noah
28. A Song Below Water — Bethany C. Morrow
* 29. Luster — Raven Leilani
30. Showtime at the Apollo — Ted Fox, James Otis Smith
31. Parable of the Sower — Octavia Butler
32. You & a Bike & a Road — Eleanor Davis
33. Axiom’s End — Lindsay Ellis
34. Optic Nerve — Maria Gainza
* 35. Bestiary — K. Ming Chang
36. The Intimacy Factor — Pia Mellody
37. I’m Waiting For You — Kim Bo-Young
38. A Twenty Minute Silence Followed By Applause — Shawn Wen
39. The Woman Warrior — Maxine Hong Kingston
40. Bad Friends — ancco
* 41. The Vanishing Half — Brit Bennett
* 42. Interior Chinatown — Charles Yu
Titles with asterisks are my top picks, which means I think YOU should read them and would really like them!
Shit I don’t expect anyone else to read:
While it looks like I read less than last year, it’s probably about even. Last year I caught up with a comic series that was like 20 volumes long, and I didn’t have that this year. Also, that massive history of Brooklyn book took about six weeks to complete. So yes, even.
My personal stats would tell you that my book of the year was Junji Ito’s Cat Diary. It came up in conversation the most; it was my staff pick at my book store and one of my book group titles; it’s self-memeing and hilarious and full of the truth on how loving a cat is its own sort of hell.
My non-ironic book of the year though? Gonna go with Minor Feelings. I related to this book so hard that it made me realize how hard my brain works to relate to mainstream media, and how said media doesn’t give a shit about someone with an identity like mine. And this is some of the first writing that people will read that actually includes Asian Americans in the race relations conversation that’s normally a “Black/Brown VS. White” dynamic. Important yet accessible writing. The fact that others feel the same just proves that the book’s release is a cultural event, and not just me hiding in my niche hole. (If you want a fiction title with themes of what Asians do when people think racism is only about White oppressing Black, that’s totally Interior Chinatown!)
Notable abandoned books.
Audiobook of The Sandman by Neil Gaiman — I read the actual comics in high school and was surprised by how much I remembered. Kinda interesting to watch a younger Gaiman cranking out stories to a real and constant deadline. I’d have finished this if I could find the rest of it online.
History of Religion in Korea by Dr. Kim — Dr. Kim himself gave me this book when I visited Korea. I figured after reading the Brooklyn by Campanella, hey it’s a lock down, why not keep going with the big history books. But this one was bad by many angles. For one, there are straight up typos, grammatical and typographical errors, pages were out of order. More troubling was the obvious imbalanced reportage. He celebrates the shrinking of Buddhist and Taoist populations and their conversions to Christianity, and has much more to say about the history of Christianity in Korea because he studied much more of what he likes than what is actually quantitative info. It was an awkward translation too, but maybe that was a good thing, since the literalness kept the colonialism internalization in plain sight, and a better translator could have slyly hidden this.
In Praise of Shadows — oh god lol. It was only forty pages and I still couldn’t do it. Most of my exhaustion comes from dodging Japanese exceptionalism, so I did not have time for this.
Asian and Asian American writing is now present in my life in a way that I don’t have to hold it down… it will always just be there (publishers are starting to send me advanced reading copies of books by Asian American women, hoping I’ll handsell them to bookstore customers… I don’t know how they find out where I lived, but it’s awesome!) So now I think I can branch back out in 2021. It saddens me that my list completely lacks drama, letters, and especially Indigenous and Latinx authors.
Bonus! Non-book Things that sustained me through quarantine and beyond:
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
You’re Wrong About
Why Are Dads?
Stephen Universe Future
The Repair Shop
Thank you to my friends who have given me their streaming passwords.
My Analog Journal
Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert working from home
BAM animation’s live streams
Nintendo Switch/Breath of the Wild
Moving away from a delusional dullard who thinks I steal her shit
Grant Ginder’s Twitter feed
CGMA 2D Animation Course
Discord… just Discord