Whew. That was a very close call. 2019 has just taken its final bow and a new (hopefully better) year has just commenced with its first of 366 pages. With the year drawing to a close, I was up on my toes because I still had goals to hit. The first, and most important, of course, is my 2019 Top 20 Reading List.

November 2019 closed out very nicely, at least, in terms of reading. With six books completed in each month, November and February were my busiest reading months in 2019. With the momentum gained in November, my reading year was shaping up quite nicely. Well, not totally as missed most of my reading challenges. Nevertheless, I have momentum on my side.

In December 2019, I was finally able to complete my 2019 Top 20 Reading List. Moreover, I have completed the last two books (I have) from my  2019 10 Books I Look Forward To List. Here’s a summary of the books I’ve read in December, and a brief review on each.


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Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is the 18th book from my 2019 Top 20 Reading List that I was able to read. Before I started doing must-read lists, I have never heard of Franzen or any of his works. But with the endless mention of his works in these lists, my curiosity was piqued, ultimately leading me to including it in my 2019 Top 20 Reading List. Was the novel impressionable. In a manner of speaking, yes. The writing was a little troubling, in the same tradition of American writers. The complexity of the subjects dealt with kept me riveted, at least for a while. I had the same issue with Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. The main theme was obscured too much that it has become indecipherable in the endless streams of politics, a bird, and promiscuity.


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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Okay. Another young adult fiction, one of three in my 2019 Top 20 Reading List; quite uncharacteristic of me. The positive feedback on the book made it irresistible to me – those two award seals were too ostentatious for me not to notice. As for the book itself, I found a bit disappointed. I know, the book deals with a currently relevant subject, especially in a time when racial tensions are prevalent. It is without a doubt that Thomas has a very important message to convey. Through her debut novel, she is inciting an intellectual discussion on the heavy subject of racial violence and discrimination. Despite her pure and sincere intentions, the prose was just bland, not even clinical. There is a power behind the book’s message; the execution was just underwhelming.

You can read my complete review of the book here.


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Normal People by Sally Rooney

Although this book was originally published in 2018, it was in 2019 that it was published internationally, hence, its inclusion in my 2019 Books I Look Forward to List. I didn’t realize how much I missed Irish writing until I read this book. Irish writers just have a different writing tact that is breathtaking yet difficult to ascribe any adjective to. Normal People was about, well, two normal people who are navigating a crucial point in their individual lives. This point in their lives was tumultuous and fraught with… well, too much sexual tension. The story, despite the stellar writing, gets too discombobulated as it progressed. It didn’t help that Connell and Marianne, the centrifugal figures in the story, were bereft of real depth. Plus those serious plot holes. This is the antithesis of The Hate U Give – shallow story and characters, brilliant writing.


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Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

I never thought I’d be reading two Irish works back-to-back. To be honest, I never knew McCourt was Irish. I kept encountering McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes in bookstores but never seriously took it up because it is a memoir. I am still navigating my way through nonfiction works. As part of my 2019 Reading Resolutions, I included this in my 2019 Top 20 Reading List (and is the final book from the list that I’ve read!). Again, the Irish brand of writing was prevalent – it was nostalgic and just captivating. The book was about McCourt’s childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Whilst the message of hope resonates all through out, there are times when it rang as superficial or partly manufactured. It was all one-sided and whilst I don’t contend with the author’s message of hope, the depiction of poverty was maudlin and over-sensationalized. The overall impact was, well, ephemeral.


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Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

The last book from my 2019 Books I Look Forward to List is the final book in my 2019 reading journey (although I am currently reading Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other). I don’t know what drew me towards this book. I guess it was mentioned too many times in 2019 Most Anticipated Releases that I just had to read it to believe it (the hype). The thing is, Gingerbread is the type of story that you either really like or really dislike. For a short book, it has got a lot of things happening – there is friendship, the elements of magical realism, mother-daughter relationship. The start was fine but the middle part is, at times, confusing. The timelines also hampered the story. Oyeyemi’s play with words, however, made the story bearable. She has a good sense with words, language, and wit. However, I still can’t get over how bizarre some aspects of the story are.


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Current Read: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

My current read (and I am nearly done with it) is the other half of the 2019 Man Booker Prize winning books; the other half is Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. It is the only reason (at least right now) that I want to read this book. I am thankful I did because I am having a wonderful and pleasant reading experience.

Like its co-winner, Girl, Woman, Other is strongly feminist. The main characters (if there actually is) are females. The book is highlighting a lot of relevant and prevalent social issues such as racism, homosexuality, the Me Too movement, just to name a few. The writing is a bit unorthodox but it is one of its charms.


Overall

December, in terms of reading quality, was just fine, not exactly the type of fireworks display I was imagining. It was neither brilliant nor mundane. Nevertheless, I am just happy that I got through my original 2019 goal. Moreover, five books in one month is quite a good number.

What to look forward to in 2020… I am currently preparing an individual post for this because I am setting goals for my 2020 reading journey. Do watch out for these posts in the coming days. Dang, I’ll be very busy in the first seven days because of my job. Do just watch out for them. 🙂

Reading Challenge Recaps:

  1. My 2019 Top 20 Reading List: 20/20 COMPLETE
  2. Beat The Backlist: 5/15 EPIC FAILURE
  3. My 2019 10 Books I Look Forward To List: 7/11 FAILURE
  4. Gooodreads 2019 Reading Challenge: 50/50 COMPLETE

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Book Reviews Published in December:

  1. Book Review # 150: Gone With the Wind
  2. Book Review # 151: The Hate U Give
  3. Book Review # 152: Underground Railroad

How about you readers? How was your Decemberreading journey? I hope you had a great journey. You can also share your experiences in the comment box.

Happy reading everyone! Happy new year everyone!

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