So…that’s it. Another year done and dusted. Not just a year. A new decade. The 2010s are over. Can you believe it? It still feels like 2000 was only ten years ago. Bring on the roaring ’20s! I haven’t read any F. Scott Fitzgerald, but maybe it’s time to read The Great Gatsby or The Beautiful and Damned. But the year 2019 is over, and my main hope heading into 2020 is that people will finally say the much easier “twenty-twenty” over the long, drawn-out “two-thousand-and…” trend that should have died a whole decade ago. Wow. Can you believe 2010 was a whole decade ago? I expect great memes in 2020. Cue the jokes about 20/20 vision! Insert bottom text.
2019, much like the years before it, had a lot of exciting stuff happen. For once, people were less focused on Donald Trump, except when they were, because…wait, is he gonna get impeached? Any second. Any millisecond. The entire dramatic shitshow that is U.S. politics never ceases to be exactly like reality TV. Scott Morrison was re-elected in Australia, and no-one cared, except when he did a Harold Holt and vanished during the horrific bushfires, simply because he’s in denial about the reality that is climate change. To him and his supporters, it’s totally normal to have raging bushfires in the middle of spring. On the other hand, a specific subset of the population, headed by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, seems to think the world will end in the next decade. Brings on a whole new meaning to the “roaring” ’20s. Any other Australians looking forward to 50 degree summers? If you want a thorough wrap-up of 2019, you can watch YouTube’s WatchMojo list. Or don’t. It’s pretty forgettable, according to that sentient collective known as the internet.
The joy of Netflix was usurped by streaming culture becoming exactly like what it despised. We all moved to Netflix and YouTube to get away from the overpriced, ad-ridden trashhole that is regular TV, and now, in the words of Harvey Dent, “You live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. YouTube has become corporation-friendly (just see all the Late Night With James Yetanotherjames recommendations on its homepage), but we also have Amazon Prime, Disney+, Stan (for Australians), Hulu (for Americans), and all the numerous U.S. cable networks that have their own streaming services. Great job, guys! But at least seasons 2 of The End of the F***ing World and You came out. I watched some decent movies (Cruel Intentions, A Clockwork Orange, Dismissed, Up) and some horrendous ones (what was I thinking watching Bratz: Rock Angelz? Thanks, YouTube. Plus a slew of average Netflix Original thrillers. The Student had me rooting for the villain, and Only Mine was horrendous.)
In regards to my blog, I kept up the one-post-a-month rule I’ve implemented for goodness knows how many years. According to my WordPress stats, my most viewed blog post was my review for Fiona Barton’s third Kate Waters book, The Suspect. Reading wise, 2019 was a very good year. I didn’t exactly follow through on my March blog post of finally getting through all those damn unread books in my bookshelf, and out of the 14 books I read in 2019, only one was a non-library book (and that was All Quiet on the Western Front, a book I technically started in 2018). Out of those 14 books: 10 were nonfiction, two were thrillers, one was a middle grade fantasy, and one was historical fiction. Much like last year, I started a lot of books, and didn’t finish them, but I’m more positive about finishing them than 2018’s batch.
In writing news, I finally finished the first draft of my current work-in-progress. Sitting in at just under 90,000 words, it tells the story of a rich college freshman who escapes to the South to get away from his overbearing father, and from there, begins his slow descent into utter madness. I’ve worked on multiple projects over the years, but this is one I’m finally proud to look at the finished product. I’m looking forward to the next steps: editing, submitting, wherever the future leads me, and most of all, giving you, the reader, an enjoyable, unforgettable read.
What do you think? What are your writing plans for 2020? As my last book of 2019 suggests, we shouldn’t head into the New Year with static, dot-point list goals; instead, we should focus on the journey, on what we want as a whole in life. Focus on the journey, and you’ll find yourself so much happier.
As usual, like in my previous December 31 blog posts, here’s my 2019 Reading Wrap-Up:
Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford. I heavily dislike Ford’s emotional, us vs. them language and the way she manipulates her unassuming audience into falling for a carefully-chosen narrative. I’m always open to increasing my objectivity through education, and that includes reading books by people I disagree with. Boys will be boys‘ major flaw is that it is hypocritical: It’s a guide telling us to allow men to have emotions and be more open, but also critical about men who have emotions. Ford believes she is better than patriarchy, but if there is patriarchy, she appears to willingly reinforce patriarchal behavior. While there were important issues outlined and hypothesised solutions for, this hypocrisy stained the read-through. 2.5/5
The Suspect by Fiona Barton is not as great as The Widow, Barton’s first book, but I feel like it was far more engaging and better than her second Kate Waters story. While one of the plot twists may be exactly what you were expecting, the rest of the reveals will surprise you, and I enjoyed this one more than I expected to. It was a slow read, but worth it in the end. I reviewed it here. 4/5
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, is a decent read for anyone already interested in the addictive nature of social media and the internet. It could have been condensed, but it’s still interesting to read an account by someone who’s never succumbed to the lure of social media. On the other hand, I felt it made his tips and tricks on how to reduce social media usage a little hollow. The tips and tricks, and testimonials from ex-internet addicts, and the 30-day digital detox, however, were useful. I just disliked his holier-than-thou attitude that permeated the book: that somehow digital media (video games, YouTube) are lesser than “true” interests like books. I reviewed it here. 3.25/5
As part of a concerted effort in 2019 to educate myself about badly-portrayed and stigmatised mental illnesses, I read two books on Borderline Personality Disorder: Stop Walking on Eggshells by Paul T. Mason & Randi Kreger, and I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus. BPD is probably one of the most badly portrayed mental illnesses (most people think Fatal Attraction, which is far from the truth), and these books were both decent reads that helped me learn a lot. In 2020, I hope to learn more about other stigmatised mental illnesses, in order to help reduce the shame associated with them. This is especially important when there are so many bad depictions of mental illness in fiction. 4/5
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing is the Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith thriller that I immediately requested from the library because I love both Dexter and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. If you want to read about a fucked-up couple who keep their marriage alive in murderous ways, then have to deal with the repercussions, this is the book for you. It’s a slow burn, but I enjoyed that, and the only disappointment was the ending, with its unrealistic final confrontation, and the unnecessary flashbacks only served to draw the book’s page count out. Looking forward to reading more from this author! I reviewed it here. 4/5
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann is a nonfiction about the Osage Native Americans in Oklahoma and the horrible events that befell them in pre-FBI United States. It took a while to read, because of the disturbing reality of this whole story—the fact that so many people, many in places of influence—covered up so many murders, and Grann’s writing only added to the horror. The way he writes about the life and death of both Osage Mollie Burkhart and the main FBI agent Tom White, made me invested in their lives. The last part of the book feels drawn-out, but I really enjoyed this book, and learned a lot about U.S. History (such as their longstanding distrust of police). I reviewed it here. 3.5/5
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. Thanks to my binge watching of a YouTube channel called Lia’s Loft (now Clear Your Mindset), I was inspired to read a bunch of minimalism-y books she recommended. This was a quick read and a heartwarming story written by an elderly Swedish woman, mixed with sage advice. 3/5
Less: A Visual Guide to Minimalism by Rachel Aust is another book I read in my minimalism binge. I’ve watched Aust’s YouTube channel, and enjoyed some of it, but this book was an example of style over substance. It was a pretty book and it was all about “aesthetic”, but the minimalist stuff was just Minimalism 101. The only bit I found useful was her section on fashion and creating your own sense of style. 2.5/5
The Joy of Less by Francine Jay is yet another minimalist book I read in 2019. I said I went on a binge! Jay, also known as Miss Minimalist, was one of the first minimalists I discovered back near the start of the decade (Wow, can you believe 2010 was a decade ago?!), and her book was a decent read. Nothing tops Marie Kondo, though! 3/5
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is a book I procrastinated reading for 10 years, and I read most of it in 2018 and finished it back in October. I don’t know why I procrastinated for so long; it’s a haunting, emotional ride, and Remarque perfectly encapsulates the horrors of war in a not-so-neat 200 page novel War is not heroic and neat and beautiful and amazing. In Remarque’s case, it is barely-adult boys fighting wars on behalf of richer men who do not give a fuck whether they live or die. By the end of the novel, the deaths of young men—regardless of which side they are on—is a travesty. While the end of the novel is not as heartbreaking as the 1979 film, perhaps that is what makes it stronger. The film tries to be artistic, and while it is still haunting, the novel portrays the bleak reality. I reviewed it here. 4.5/5
Obsessed: A Memoir of My Life With OCD by Allison Britz is a YA memoir I wish I had discovered earlier, and I’d recommend it to people who want a simple, easily to read account about life with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that focuses on some of the less common obsessions and compulsions that make up the disorder. While I wish it was longer and focused more on Britz’s recovery, I’m thankful I read this memoir, and hope more people will both read this book, and write their own stories, so we can end the stigma of debilitating mental illnesses. I reviewed it here. 5/5
Pages & Co – Tilly and the Bookwanderers, Book 1 by Anna James is a book I first heard about in late 2018 from the English BookTuber Lucy Powrie. I remembered thinking: this is a book I would’ve loved back when I was a kid. It was still a nice little read as an adult, and I promise a more in-depth review ASAP. It put me in enough of a reading mood that I started rereading Anne of Green Gables, one of my favourite books as a kid, which I’ll definitely finish in January. Thanks, Tilly Pages and her fellow Bookwanderers! 4/5
The End of Procrastination by Petr Ludwig and Adela Schicker is a book that I ironically procrastinated until the last days of 2019, reading all 250 pages across December 30 and 31. It offers good advice, mostly that the way to success is to focus on intrinsic journey-based motivation over goal-oriented thinking. Time to put some of the tips into practice in the New Year! Yes, you too! 3/5, but let’s wait until 2020 to see if the rating will increase…
I did read a children’s book in 2019, Everything I Need to Know About Christmas, I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow, but it barely counts as a “novel”. Still a nostalgic trip down Golden Book memory lane.
I also started a few books—Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery being the one I’m most excited to finish, and aim to read the rest of the Anne series. I’m halfway through Man Drought, and will start Lost Without You, both by Rachael Johns, as part of a personal challenge of writing a genre (Australian romance) I’ve never written before, so Johns was recommended to me by my mother as the perfect inspiration. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, Marley and Me by John Grogan, and those two whole unread shelves of books, are also high priority on my to-finish list. As for 2020 releases, I’m tentatively excited for the new Hunger Games book (just have a look at J.K. Rowling to see why I’m tentative about new releases in existing popular series), as well as He Started It by Samantha Downing, author of that Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith thriller I was hyped about before.
What do you think? Have you read any of the same books as me this year, or plan to read any of them? If you’re a writer, what are your reading plans for 2020? Maybe you can use your 20/20 vision to have a look into the future and see if the new Hunger Games book will be any good. Geddit? I’ll let myself out. Haha. Happy 2020!