2020 End of Year Book Survey

January 1, 2021

Hosted, as always, by Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner

(Also, I cannot believe I did not post this last year! I may have to do last year’s anyway. I started it but never finished, which ruined my streak. AND ALSO I DON’T KNOW HOW I FELT ABOUT BOOKS. What a tragedy.)

I’m trying something new this year, which is not repeating answers. So even if a book fit more than one category, I put it in the one I felt it best fit.

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 48
Number of Audiobooks: 6
Number of Rereads: 4
Number Unfinished/Abandoned: 6 (2 of these were audiobooks)

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read In 2020?

The Vanishing HalfThe Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, this was just awesome. I loved the narrative voice, the seamless transitions from past to present, and the characterization. That Stella is something else, but I think Bennett deftly shows how though her world seems larger, it’s actually just as small–if not smaller–than Desiree’s. I also appreciated the skewering of moderate racist White people.

All the characters here are sympathetic, and this just further proves my point that fiction can be a better entry point into anti-racist teaching than nonfiction. Also, as always, all Black lives matter and the reminder that “unimportant men were killed to make the point that they were unimportant–that they were not even men” (179) was as true in the 1960s as it is now.

The title works on ~levels~ and I am here for it.

View all my reviews

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Unforgivable Love: A Retelling of Dangerous LiaisonsUnforgivable Love: A Retelling of Dangerous Liaisons by Sophfronia Scott

1/7/20: This book is getting on my nerves, and I can’t tell if it’s the narrator (I feel like she’s doing an affectation for the voices, and it bugs) or the actual story. So, anyway, I’ll give it a try in print before chucking it completely.

I made it to chapter 5.

View all my reviews

3. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I assigned Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale to my classes both semesters, so that’s going to have to be my answer.

4. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2020?

you should see me in a crown by leah johnson

5. Most memorable character of 2020?

Sadie from Sadie, definitely. Stella Vignes from The Vanishing Half is probably a strong runner up. Steve’s cowlick from Book Scavenger would be in third place.

6. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2020?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is probably the best self-help book I’ve ever read. It’s grounded in spiritual practices like gratitude, and it has clear, actionable steps that can be taken immediately.

I listened to the audio, so A+ on the narration as well. This is a book in translation, so some of the terms were awkward to my American ears, but I got over that pretty quickly.

Also, my favorite part about this book is all of the stories about a tween Marie Kondo trying to tidy her family’s home, so it was like having a bonus middle grade story in the pages of a self-help book. Hot tip: I would 100% read a good middle grade novel about a girl trying to tidy up her family home while realizing that she really needs to deal with her own stuff instead. Come to think of it: that’s probably why I liked this book so much. I saw the adorable middle grade novel within. Also, of course, I can now easily find all my clothes because I use the KonMari folding method.

View all my reviews

 7. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2020 to finally read? 

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounding up.

This is like every self-help book you’ve ever read except in an engaging story format–these are a few of my favorite things. Super easy to read, super fast and engaging.

View all my reviews

8. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2020?

9. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2020?

I read a couple of picture books that were 32 pages, so no real clear winner there. The longest book I read this year was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

 10. Book That Shocked You The Most

Ship ItShip It by Britta Lundin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun plane read, wholly engaging and a fast read. The author’s note says this was originally a screenplay, and I can see that because all of the scenes were super vivid and the dialogue was on point.

While I really enjoyed reading the book, I am torn on a rating. See, the thing is Claire engages in a lot of Very Bad Behavior, and she never faces any consequences for any of it–in fact, she is REWARDED for doing things that are ethically challenged and, in some cases, borderline illegal. As another matter of fact, the other characters suffer for her actions, and she still somehow…doesn’t care? The character engages in zero self-reflection and is only genuinely hurt by the things that happen to the fictional characters in her world, and no one ever calls her on the fact that she does Awful Things. I mean, more than one character enables her! And, I mean, that’s certainly a choice for the author to make.

Also, and it can’t be said enough: Tess deserves so much better. You can take that in any way you like.

So, 3.5 stars, rounding down

View all my reviews

11. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Jude and Reese from The Vanishing Half

12. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

James and Kat from We Used to Be Friends, obviously (sob)

13. Favorite Book You Read in 2020 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Goodbye from NowhereGoodbye from Nowhere by Sara Zarr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is what I love about YA fiction: just regular teens doing regular teen things, which in this case means Kyle dealing with the fact that his parents are people who make terrible decisions which turns him into a people who makes terrible decisions. It’s great! (That is not sarcasm, btw.)

Great characters, beautiful writing as always, and a nice, complex cast of family characters. I would read a whole book about Megan or Emily. And what was going on with Martie? Also, I was actually intrigued by the grown-ups’ drama. I don’t know if I’d care to read a book from their perspectives (the whole time I would be like, “yes, yes, but what about the TEENS?”), but I think I might and that is honestly high praise.

4.5 stars

View all my reviews

14. Best Book You Read In 2020 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

The Water DancerThe Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Look, this is a well-written book with beautiful language, but my rating/review is probably (mostly?) more about WHEN I am reading it than the book itself.

The truth is this is a book club pick and if it were up to me, it is not what I would be reading. I have also read a lot (A LOT) of slave narratives and books about slavery. If I were new to the game, I might feel differently about it.

I liked the language, I liked that this was about the power of stories, and I liked the examination of what family really means. I especially appreciated the way the women in the story were written and the commentary on whiteness.

I am not sure how I feel about conduction being actual magic because the fact of surviving and/or escaping from slavery IS a form of magic and, again, having read actual slave narratives, I don’t want anything to diminish that fact. (I’m not saying that’s what Coates is doing here AT ALL–I’m just saying that’s how I feel about the fantasy element.) Again, if I focus on it as a metaphor for or commentary on the importance of storytelling, it works. If I take it as fantasy, meh. Actually, if I take it as fantasy, it makes me really, really angry, so.

That said, I did finish the book and I was invested in seeing how it ends. I’m just not super interested in books about the systemic and historical violence against Black people in this country right now.

View all my reviews

15. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2020?

The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked all of the characters in this one. They are all interesting and fully realized. Also, I want Samson to be my boyfriend, which is really the highest praise I can think to give a romance novel protagonist.

View all my reviews

16. Best 2020 debut you read?

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was super cute, and I loved that Yumi wanted to be a comedian and the look at comedy camp. Comedy camp! Amazing.

View all my reviews

17. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

You Should See Me in a CrownYou Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, this was just a joy and a delight. And you already know that I am 100% in love with that cover.

Also, I super dug making the prom king and queen contest have higher stakes than just popularity. It made it actually make sense that people care so much about actually winning. (At my school, the king and queen were chosen out of a hat, so.)

View all my reviews

18. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Book Scavenger (Book Scavenger, #1)Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was super cute and fun, especially if you like any of the following:

– books
– puzzle mysteries
– smart girls being smart
– smart kids being smart
– word play
– ciphers
– friendship books
– geocaching
– Edgar Allan Poe

Also, I was very stressed about whether or not the big emotional issue in the book gets resolved at the end or not (re: the family structure), and it does! So just know that you and Emily will know by the end what the family is going to do.

View all my reviews

19. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

We Used To Be FriendsWe Used To Be Friends by Amy Spalding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The ending of this book DESTROYED ME in the best possible way.

Okay, so the thing about this book is that because it’s about a friend breakup told in two POVs and in two different orders (James’s POV moves backwards in time, starting after the breakup; Kat’s moves forward pre-break up), Spalding had to do two things to make this work:

1. Make you believe that these two actually were/are best friends
2. Help you see why they would no longer be friends

ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Oh, and she had to do both without making either girl a villain because mostly probably if you’re me, you just don’t want them to ever break up even though you already know that the breakup has happened.

So anyway, this worked for me. A lot. First of all, female friendship is my jam. Second of all, I just really love realistic YA lit that isn’t about teens trying to save the actual free world but just doing regular teen things and trying to live and survive in high school or deal with their families. Or both! All at once! I MISS READING BOOKS LIKE THIS. Regular teens doing regular things are so important! The mundane is important because FEELINGS are important. (Ugh, speaking of feelings, I obviously have a lot of strong feelings about this topic.)

I only got lost in the timeline once and that may have been because I set the book down for a bit as I dealt with *gestures around* all of this. Or it may have been the timeline. The point is I can’t be an accurate judge of why I got lost in the timeline.

Oh, I will also say that I put off reading this book for a while because I thought it was going to be sad, and I shouldn’t have been worried because it has a lot of Spalding’s trademark humor throughout. (I mean, yes, obviously, there are sad moments, but in general, it is not!)

Plus also, I related to both girls! Sometimes at the same time! I have had friends like Kat and I have been a friend like James but also I have been completely blindsided by a friendship breakup before.

Did I mention that the ending DESTROYED ME? Because it did. In a good way.

4.5 stars, rounding up

View all my reviews

20. Most Unique Book You Read In 2020?

SadieSadie by Courtney Summers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio, and I love a full-cast audio, so this really delivered. Rebecca Soler (narrator of The Lunar Chronicles) narrates all of Sadie’s parts, and she is the actual best so that was A+++.

This was a very cool concept, and though I am not a fan/listener of true crime podcasts, I liked the way this was plotted and the way the timelines overlapped and converged. I also like that I could trust that Summers would come back to what seemed like dropped plot threads throughout the course of the novel.

I’m also very, very glad we actually got to hear from Sadie herself and not just people talking about and around her.

View all my reviews

21. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is so, so, so, so, SO, SO BORING. Nothing happens in the first one hundred (100! One hundred! O N E H U N D R E D!) pages.

Also, Lisbeth is the most interesting character in this book and instead of learning anything about her background, I get extensive biographies on *checks book* the Vagner family, most of whom are dead. DEAD! Just…why?

I am mad at myself. I should have stopped reading but I wanted to be a good book club citizen after abandoning the past two books.

PLUS ALSO, there are three graphic rape scenes back-to-back that literally made me sick to my stomach, and I still don’t know why they were there. To show me that Lisbeth is a badass? To show me that there are sexual predators out there? That some of those sexual predators are sadists? I could have gotten that same information without graphic rape details, thanks. (And I did later in the book and while those details were gruesome, there was no play by play of the rape, so I know the author could have done it.)

I guess this is a payoff book in that it gets super interesting in the last 20% of the book, but you know, then it goes back to being boring in the last 7% or so as well.

And I get that there was supposed to be intertwined corruption or whatever, but, seriously, how many plot threads did there honestly need to be here?

I liked Lisbeth (obviously), I liked Mikael, I liked Erika. The rest of the book I could quite honestly chuck in the bin. I skimmed most of it anyway because of all the details about things I didn’t care about that honestly didn’t even factor into solving the one, two, three with a possible four mysteries in the book.

Also, at some point, I realized I probably could have read three books in ALL THE TIME I spent avoiding reading and then forcing myself to read this.

I’m going to go scrub my brain with a middle grade book now.

1.5 stars, rounding down because I’m still mad I actually read the whole thing.

View all my reviews

Blogging/Bookish Life

1. Most popular post you wrote in 2020?

Black Book, TV Show, and Movie Recommendations #BlackOutTuesday

2. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

Well, the global pandemic didn’t help. I had to move all of my classes online which took a lot of work and left less time for both reading and blogging. Blogging was especially hard because my poor eyes were so exhausted by staring at a screen all day. Reading was hard because I didn’t want to read anything particularly upsetting, and it was hard to read new books because I didn’t know if they were going to depress me before I started–not to mention the lack of car time for audiobooks. So, yeah, not surprisingly, the pandemic affected everything.

3. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

#AMonthofFaves Happy Moments from This Year

4. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Okay, this is not technically a BEST, but it was very important. Apparently the Hoopla app is incompatible with the gen three Kindle Fire. Terrible.

5.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

screen shot 2021 01 01 at 12.25.18 am

I revised my Goodreads goal, so yes. Yes, I did.


You May Also Like…

Ten Top Three Lists #SOL24

Ten Top Three Lists #SOL24

Apparently, the trend is to do top-three lists. It looks like it started with WOWilkinson, so I'm just going to riff...


  1. Katy K.

    Just realizing I meant to comment on this earlier… you made me laugh out loud with your comments on the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I have not read and do not intend to.) But I really do want to read You Should See Me in a Crown! Listening to Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, and recently finished The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin and Class Act by Jerry Craft – all good, and at least so far on the first one!

    • Akilah

      I think my book club is going to wind up reading The City We Became, so I should have that one done soon. I want to read Class Act, obviously, so hopefully will get to it soon.

      You Should See Me in a Crown is such a delight. I think you’ll like it.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *