April & May Books


Hi everyone! It's been quite a while but I've moved over to Youtube for monthly books reviews, so just wanted to link this here :)

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart Review

Title: Shuggie Bain
Author: Douglas Stuart
Genre: Historical Fiction
Blurb: Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Shuggie's mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie's guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. Under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink. Agnes's older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is "no right," a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her--even her beloved Shuggie. A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. 

Me: This debut novel about a young boy and his mother in 1980s Scotland has taken the literary world by storm. It just won the Man Booker, and I was excited to finally pick it up and get to read it myself. The praise is so well-deserved; the book was unapologetically beautiful and real. 

Another Country by James Baldwin Review

Title: Another Country
Author: James Baldwin
Genre: Fiction
Blurb: Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, among other locales, Another Country is a novel of passions--sexual, racial, political, artistic--that is stunning for its emotional intensity and haunting sensuality, depicting men and women, blacks and whites, stripped of their masks of gender and race by love and hatred at the most elemental and sublime. In a small set of friends, Baldwin imbues the best and worst intentions of liberal America in the early 1970s.

Me: Continuing my Baldwin kick with one of his later novels, Another Country. He just not only never fails to disappoint, but always manages to amaze me and pull out something new. And the way he writes about love is unparalleled. 

The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh Review

Title: The Magical Language of Others
Author: E. J. Koh
Genre: Nonfiction
Blurb: The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness and love—letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.

As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history—her grandmother Jun’s years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the horrors her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre—and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words—in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language—to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love?

Me: This book was a truly beautiful memoir, interlacing mother-daughter relationships with our experiences with mother tongues. I felt Koh's story to be deeply personal and vulnerable, and the added letters & translations added a fascinating layer to the whole book. 

The Best Books I Read in 2020


2020 has been a wild ride of a year. Before anything, whether this year has grounded and lifted you or really deeply challenged you, I just want to say I'm so proud of all of us for making it through. For me, it's been a year filled with ups and downs, but one single constant has been reading. I read around 70 books total this year. The last time I read even close to that number was in 2016, 4 years ago. I'm always grateful to literature for being an escape and a comfort, but especially this year.

That being said, what were the incredible, mind-blowing, will read-again and treasure forever reads of this year? It was hard to narrow down, but here are (in the order that I read them) the BEST books I read in 2020: