One of the things I’ve repeatedly told my son, and my students, and people attending my meditations, and have probably said before in this blog, that when thinking about 2020, instead of focusing on what we can’t do, we should focus on what we can do. For me, one of the upsides of staying home more is that I spent more time reading, which is something that I love but can take a backside to my social activities. This year is definitely a less-social-activities year, which is a bummer, but it has freed up my time for books!
So, for example, this summer when I COULDN”T spend almost every Friday or Saturday night from Memorial Day to the 4th of July at Summerfest, the outdoor summer concert series by the North Carolina Symphony that is our biggest summer tradition, at least I had books. Thank GOODNESS the Wake County Library system opened up its contact-free Books on the Go book borrowing system so that I could satisfy my thirst for reading for free. I also decided to develop two new literature classes based on World Mythology, which I don’t think I could have done if I hadn’t had so much time to stay at home and read all these great foundational stories from cultures all over the world.
It’s a hard choice, but I think the fiction book I appreciated the most this year was Circe by Madeline Miller (you can read my original post about it here). For non-fiction, of which I read must less this year (I was in a more escapist mood this year, plus I was researching fiction books for a new literature class), the most outstanding book for me was Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. Her basic premise is easy to summarize; that despite our claims, dreams, or myths about social equality, that the United States has as rigid a social caste system as does India, with African Americans permanently consigned to the lowest caste. Of course, she explores this in much more depth with high persuasive data, arguments, and prose. I found it very convincing. It explained a lot to me not only about the Black community, but also the White–particularly the less-educated, blue color workers whose lives I really know very little about and whose politics and other beliefs I have a hard time understanding. Both of these books were groundbreakers for me, and I recommend them wholeheartedly.
I’ve logged 56 books on Goodreads this year, but I’m sure I’ve missed a few along the way. Plus, I only add my new reads to Goodreads; if I added all the books I reread, I’m sure I would be up to at least 75 books this year. Not a bad way to spend a year sheltering at home…