Nobody will ever forget 2020; it’s one for the history books unfortunately. Yes, things have been a garbage fire, but — with everything — there’s always a silver lining. For example, in 2020, I finally decided to go to therapy and invest in my mental health; being quarantined together has been the ultimate validation that Kyle and I are true partners and can get through anything together; and the world has even given the environment a break — albeit a small one.
With so much self-reflection, it’s impossible to not reflect on all of the positives in 2020. One bright spot is that all this time at home has given me a new appreciation for books and allowed me to see new literary themes that bibliophiles and the world over need. With Thanksgiving coming up, I wanted to express my literary gratitude to the books, the authors, and the readers who made a difference this year.
Mental Health Themes
As I mentioned before, mental health has played a big role in my 2020, and I have literature to partly thank for that. More and more authors are writing mental health as core themes in their books, which only promotes more conversation about it. This then works to remove the taboos and stereotypes surrounding mental health. We need that now more than ever.
It’s also refreshing to meet characters who share similar experiences with yourself. Maybe the characters I read about this year don’t exactly have the same anxiety, stress, trauma, etc. that I have and vice versa, but being able to relate to characters not only makes a book more enjoyable, but it also makes you, as the reader, feel a kinship with them and their authors.
Here are my picks for some stellar mental health literature that I’ve read so far this year:
- A Little Life
- The Vanishing Half
- The Existence of Amy
- Red, White & Royal Blue
- Transcendent Kingdom (review coming soon)
The one downside to mental health becoming a consistent literary theme is that sometimes it can downright depress you. When you have your own issues going on, it’s OK to need an escape. And chick lit — the most underrated genre of all time — provides that.
Too many times this year I struggled to finish a very good book because it took over my emotions that were already taxed from a wild year. So as soon as I turned the last page of sadness, I picked up a page of light-hearted joy.
These chick lit novels were an escape and just damn good reads. We need chick lit on our bookshelves too, and I’m so happy I came across these finds in particular this year:
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
- Red, White & Royal Blue
- City of Girls
- The Lies That Bind
Another silver lining to 2020 has been the increased conversation about and action against systemic racism — even though we have so far to climb. This past summer was an enlightening one, and I opened my eyes to my many shortcomings.
With this national conversation has come recognition of how we can support artists and creators in all fields rather than defaulting to the white names and faces we know so that we can have greater representation. (Here’s a great article about Black sommeliers and another about Black chefs that you should read.) My only hope is that this push and these conversations don’t slow down now or after this pandemic.
Here are some Black authors who are new or new-ish to the literary scene who I’m very excited about and grateful for and whose books you should order right now.
- Brit Bennett
- Yaa Gyasi
- John Vercher
- Three-Fifths (debut novel)
- Lauren Wilkinson
- American Spy (debut novel)
- Kiley Reid
- Such a Fun Age (debut novel)
- Nicole Dennis-Benn
Virtual Bookstore Events
It’s no secret that bookstores are suffering financially, so we all need to do our part and shop local. If you can’t visit them in person or order from their own websites, purchase literary gems from Bookshop.org. On this site, you can buy books from specific local bookstores or allow Bookshop to split a portion of its profits among a large pool of independent bookstores. Pretty cool, right? (It’s also a great way to support Black-owned businesses.)
A third option to support your favorite biblio brick and mortars is by attending their virtual events. I used to enjoy doing this in the flesh when a virus wasn’t wreaking havoc on the world, and I found the beauty of participating in them while in sweats and with my blankie and other virtual book nerds.
In particular, I attended Greenlight Bookstore‘s Virtual Reopening and All-Star Revue where I got to hear from incredible authors, such as Nicole Dennis-Benn, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Colson Whitehead, Min Jin Lee, Ann Patchett, and others, read their writing. What a treat! I also attended Greenlight’s talk with Yaa Gyasi where she discussed her latest novel, and wow, just wow. To still hear directly from these authors touched my heart, and I’m thankful I had those events this year.
Community of Book Lovers
How could I write a #thankful post without mentioning the amazing community of fellow reading fiends, including all of you? From the guests on and listens to my new podcast, The Biblio Files, to the random, everyday conversations I have with family and friends. And from all of the book gifts and rentals I’ve received to all of the social media interactions with people near and far.
I am so thankful that 2020 has given people the time to reset and fall in love with books again. It sure has been fun to see, and I always treasure these literary connections. I hope they don’t slow down.
So thank you.