I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. In my mind, they are big, extravagant statements, with no room for failure or falling off the bandwagon. And in contrast to that, I am one of those annoying humans who will try something and if they are not immediately good at it, will drop it like it’s hot (see running, learning guitar, and meditation). Let’s apply this to my previous Resolutions. 2020 resolution? Read 50 books. Failed. 2019 Resolution? Lose two stone. Failed. 2018 Resolution? I can’t even remember, I gave up so quickly…
However, I am a sucker for setting small, achievable goals – I am a serial planner after all. So instead of falling foul to the beast that is New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I’d set myself some wee goals. I’m sure I’ll do a post about them when 2021 hits us, but for now, I thought I’d plan out my literary based goal. Begone the days of setting your Goodreads tracker to an abnormally high number! Willkommen to the days of choosing a few titles to read throughout the year! So, I’ve chosen eight books to read in 2021 – my eight must-read books for 2021, if you will. These are all titles that have piqued my interest throughout 2020, and I’ve scrawled in corners of my bullet journal or Notes app. Let’s get into it!
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – I’m seeing this on every darn book blogger’s ‘Best of 2020’ lists, and what can I say – I’m a sucker for lists. Please excuse how pretentious this is going to sound but I tend to struggle to get into contemporary novels (I know, I’m vomit inducing), BUT I am determined to change that! From the book reviews and blurb alone, Such a Fun Age has really drawn me in. This is Reid’s debut novel and her Twitter bio already tells me what I need to know – “ I write fiction about class, money, and race.” Count. Me. IN. I am so darn excited to open my contemporary literature bubble to more than just Circe and Girl, Woman, Other.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller – I think this is going to be a very difficult read for me; difficult but important. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the ridiculous failure in justice that was the Brock Turner case (white boy sexually assaults someone and only serves three months in jail because his rEpUtAtIoN mIgHt GeT rUiNeD), but this is the story of the Emily Doe in this case; Chanel Miller. I first read her victim statement back when it was released by Buzzfeed and I was blown away by what she wrote. Here is someone who has been violated, had her life flipped upside, had her every being disseminated on the internet, and she produced something so eloquent, real, and brutally honest. And that was just her statement, not the book. This book, her memoir, is about reclaiming her story, about being a survivor, and I am behind this all the way.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler -Speaking from a Literature graduate point of view, the literary canon is so – so samey. It’s mostly “important” books by “important” white men, talking about the same “important” topics. So as an undergraduate, and now postgraduate student, I’ve made it my goal to explore outside of that canon – leap into genres and novels that are revered but not in the traditional canon for whatever reason (of course, that reason tends to be gender-race-sexuality-class based). Enter Kindred. This book is difficult to pin down in a box, and is a mix of sci-fi- fantasy, historical fiction, and realism, with Butler herself going as far as to call it “grim fantasy”. It seems this book can cross all these genres, whilst still addressing the issues of racial inequality, slavery, power dynamics, and American history; I need it in my hands now.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – Remember how two minutes ago I said I wasn’t really into contemporary fiction? Well, I’m not really into romances or pre-twentieth century novels either, but here we are! I cannot deny the importance this novel has had on the literary world, and big up to Ms Bronte for sliding into that traditional canon. I just feel it’s time for me to sink my teeth into a Victorian novel with the hope of enjoying it, and not ripping it apart and serving it to the sharks for an essay. In my eyes, if Kate Bush can write a banger of a song about this book, then it must be worth reading.
Hunger by Roxane Gay – Social media has pushed this book towards me in every way, shape, and form it can. At first, I knew nothing about it, apart from people I admire calling it “quintessential reading”. So I Googled the book and the author and before you knew it, BAM, on the ‘to be read’ list it goes. The more I learn about Roxane Gay, the more I like her. She’s a lecturer, professor, novelist, activist, editor, and one of the first black women to be a lead writer for Marvel. Hunger is a memoir that focuses on body image and fat-phobia, and the layers of life that come with that. Personally, I think body-image and fat-phobia are some of the most pressing and harmful issues that this modern world has brought with it, so I am ready to learn, read, and listen.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – I’ve dipped my toes into this graphic novel before, thanks to pages finding its way on to Tumblr (oh Tumblr, I remember you well). Years went by and I forgot the name of this book – I practically jumped for joy when I saw it pop up as a targeted ad! This book stands out from any on this list because it is so different; a memoir in the form of a graphic novel. The story follows Marjane Satrapi herself, as she grows up in Iran and lives through the Islamic Revolution. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about the history of this era, and I’m a total newbie to graphic novels (apart from the Scott Pilgrim series). It’s a double-whammy of newness!
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – Jean Rhys is by no means new to me as an author – I first read Voyage in the Dark in my modernism module at university and I’ve loved that novel ever since. However, Wide Sargasso Sea is arguably her most well known book, but I’ve never crossed paths with it before. This book is described as a feminist and anti-colonial response to the Victorian novel Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. And well, you know me – I’m a sucker for anything feminist and anti-colonial….
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – “What. A. PREMISE” – That, folks, was my reaction to reading the blurb for Homegoing. Originally born in Ghana, Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel was inspired by her first trip back since she was an infant. The book in question centres on two sisters; one a slave, one a slave trader’s wife. Then, it follows their bloodlines throughout history! I still think that’s such a simple but original premise, and that drew me in alone. But the reviews have just been spectacular, and Homegoing has been deemed one of the best debut novels to have ever been written. A lot of high praise, but it’s worked – on my ‘to be read’ list it goes.
So, those are the eight books I’ve pledged to myself to read in 2021! Of course, I’ll be reading other books for my postgraduate and others for fun, but I’ll deem it a success if I make an effort to read these few. Have you read any of these books on my list? Or have you set yourself a reading list of 2021? If so, let me know! I love to hear about what people are reading!