#Envisioning2020: Top Ten Books on This Year's Reading List

Fortunately, we’ve entered a brand new decade, the Roaring '20s 2.0! Less fortunately, though, I’m locked in a GenEd Underworld with an overabundance of non-humanities courses, which would be fantastic for some people, but with my prose-wired mind, not so much. On the bright side, I have no humanities courses to fry my literature quota -- meaning, I have time to read the books that have been lingering on my to-read list for far too long! Here are the top ten books I’m most excited to read, this year (in no particular order).

  1. 1. “Villa Air-Bel” by Rosemary Sullivan

    The Emergency Rescue Committee was a tried-and-true New York City organization founded in 1940, after discovering the war on culture that the Nazis were perpetrating, especially in France. Villa Air-Bel is a true story following three individuals: Varian Fry, Mary Jayne Gold and Miriam Davenport, as they conduct a mission that would later save the lives of 2,000 intellectuals.

  2. 2. “Little Weirds” by Jenny Slate

    Jenny Slate is permanently engraved in my mind as the eccentric Mona-Lisa Saperstein from Parks and Rec, but that eccentric voice just might be booted by the quirky set of essays published by the actress. With notes on the political climate, embracing a solid support system and the importance of self-love, it’s sure to be a winner this year.

  3. 3. “The Quick and the Dead” by Joy Williams

    Everyone needs a misty, ambiguous, thought-provoking novel that skews more literary than genre, every once in a while. Williams’s 1950 work surrounds three teenage girls and one terrifying summer spent in the midst of a dangerous, desolate American desert. With an abundance of theological, apocalyptic allusion, it’s easy to say I’m excited.

  4. 4. “The Aeneid” by Virgil

    This one might be a bit of a cheat, but I don’t care. I read roughly half of the grand epic poem for a course I took in the fall semester, and I fell head-over-heels. A third empirical propaganda, a third epic war story and a third introspection on destiny. Perfect for anyone who thinks they know where they’re going -- or anyone who definitely doesn’t.

  5. 5. “All the Crooked Saints” by Maggie Stiefvater

    As an unabashed Raven Cycle fan and someone who gobbled up the latest installment of her new trilogy within two days of receiving it, I’m a little ashamed to say I haven’t found time to pick this one up yet. A magical Western gothic, All the Crooked Saints focuses on the secrets and successes of the Soria family, concentrated in one mystical town. I expect nothing less than stellar from Stiefvater.

  6. 6. “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin

    I’m pretty sure this ended up on my list because her style has been compared to Donna Tartt, a personal writing deity in my opinion. Regardless, the plot is snazzy enough for me to get excited; it is set in 1969 and features a ragtag ensemble cast who is alerted to their respective moments of death, to the exact.

  7. 7. “A Terrible Country” by Keith Gessen

    Gessen’s prose-dominated novel discusses what it means to have a homeland and what it means to have a home. Relevant in this time of political strife, it tracks a young man, an American citizen born to two Russian immigrants, who returns to Moscow in order to serve as caretaker for his aging grandmother. I’m most excited, ironically, to see how it morphs and twists the traditional tropes of Russian literature.

  8. 8. “The History of Bees” by Maja Lunde

    I’m a sucker for multi-generational novels, and Lunde’s novel has a special twist: it’s not simply historical and contemporary literature rolled into one, but it adds an element of futuristic fiction as well. Set in 1852 England, 2007 United States and 2098 China, it balances familial drama and societal drama with a deft hand. I’m ready to get freaked out.

  9. 9. “Another Country” by James Baldwin

    A lesser-known novel that changed the meaning of taboo for the literary world. Back when it was published in 1962, Baldwin’s “Another Country” unabashedly includes interracial relationships and bisexual characters -- although, at least from the descriptors, some may delve into the territory of stereotype (period-typical bias, though). If you think the potential stereotypes would ruin the story for you, I would take a look at a different book on this list!

  10. 10. “The Parking Lot Attendant” by Nafkote Tamirat

    With Tamirat’s mysterious novel, we delve a bit deeper into the abstract; after all, the 17-year-old female narrator is never named. Is it fantasy? Is it an allegory? Is it mildly Absurdist? Difficult to say, but I’m excited to learn more about the cultural psychology of being Ethiopian -- especially Ethiopian-American. This 2020, we’re getting worldly.

Have you read any of these? Are you excited to? Let me know. Maybe we’ll have some reviews in response to this article, over the next few months...