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Five of Sara's Favorite Reads of 2020 (Part 2)

by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)

This is so exciting! i can't wait to share my 2nd half picks with you! My 2020 reading had some ups and downs, but as I was reflecting on some of my favorites, I found that I had some definitive favorites for the latter part of 2020. (Be sure to check our mid-year posts: here's Jen's, Ashley's, and mine.)


Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi

From the publisher:

"Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the 'Ideal Indian Husband.' Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?


"Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.


"The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this 'suggested arrangement' so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?


"Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways."

Why it made the list:

I was delighted to read this book for one of our Unabridged Buddy Reads. It is no secret that I love YA, and this YA novel did not disappoint. I loved the relationship between Dimple and Rishi and how their relationship developed. In addition, I enjoyed the differences between each of their ideals about love and marriage. I think this is an excellent YA book.


Colin Jost's A Very Punchable Face

From the publisher:

"If there’s one trait that makes someone well suited to comedy, it’s being able to take a punch—metaphorically and, occasionally, physically.


"From growing up in a family of firefighters on Staten Island to commuting three hours a day to high school and 'seeing the sights' (like watching a Russian woman throw a stroller off the back of a ferry), to attending Harvard while Facebook was created, Jost shares how he has navigated the world like a slightly smarter Forrest Gump.


"You’ll also discover things about Jost that will surprise and confuse you, like how Jimmy Buffett saved his life, how Czech teenagers attacked him with potato salad, how an insect laid eggs inside his legs, and how he competed in a twenty-five-man match at WrestleMania (and almost won). You'll go behind the scenes at SNL and Weekend Update (where he's written some of the most memorable sketches and jokes of the past fifteen years). And you’ll experience the life of a touring stand-up comedian—from performing in rural college cafeterias at noon to opening for Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall.


"For every accomplishment (hosting the Emmys), there is a setback (hosting the Emmys). And for every absurd moment (watching paramedics give CPR to a raccoon), there is an honest, emotional one (recounting his mother’s experience on the scene of the Twin Towers’ collapse on 9/11). Told with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, A Very Punchable Face reveals the brilliant mind behind some of the dumbest sketches on television, and lays bare the heart and humor of a hardworking guy—with a face you can’t help but want to punch."


Why it made the list:

This book was hands down one of my favorite books of 2020. I listened to the audio, and it was fabulous. Jost reads his own words, and that is my very favorite audiobook experience. Jost is a talented writer (I mean, he is a head writer on Saturday Night Live.) and his words, humor, and intelligence shine in this excellent memoir.


Lindy West's Sh*t Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema

From the publisher:

"New York Times opinion writer and bestselling author Lindy West was once the in-house movie critic for Seattle's alternative newsweekly The Stranger, where she covered film with brutal honesty and giddy irreverence. In Shit, Actually, Lindy returns to those roots, re-examining beloved and iconic movies from the past 40 years with an eye toward the big questions of our time: Is Twilight the horniest movie in history? Why do the zebras in The Lion King trust Mufasa—WHO IS A LION—to look out for their best interests? Why did anyone bother making any more movies after The Fugitive achieved perfection? And, my god, why don't any of the women in Love, Actually ever fucking talk?!?!


"From Forrest Gump, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Bad Boys II, to Face/Off, Top Gun, and The Notebook, Lindy combines her razor-sharp wit and trademark humor with a genuine adoration for nostalgic trash to shed new critical light on some of our defining cultural touchstones-the stories we've long been telling ourselves about who we are. At once outrageously funny and piercingly incisive, Shit, Actually reminds us to pause and ask, 'How does this movie hold up?', all while teaching us how to laugh at the things we love without ever letting them or ourselves off the hook.


"Shit, Actually is a love letter and a break-up note all in one: to the films that shaped us and the ones that ruined us. More often than not, Lindy finds, they're one and the same."


Why it made the list:

I discovered Lindy West in 2020. I actually read all three of her books in reverse order this year. I have talked about her on the podcast. Although I don't agree with everything she says or the stances she takes on some issues, I admire her unapologetic approach to her truths. In addition, she is very intelligent and hilarious. Sh*t Actually is a great, low-stakes introduction to West's humor. I loved this book.


Dusti Bowling's Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (Volume 1)

From the publisher:

"Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.


"Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms."


Why it made the list:

I am always on the lookout for excellent middle grade reads. I LOVED this book by Dusti Bowling. Aven is a spunky, inspiring, smart heroine and the cast of eclectic secondary characters Aven meets during the course of the narrative made me anxious to read the next volume of Aven's story!


R. Eric Thomas's Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America


From the publisher:

"R. Eric Thomas didn’t know he was different until the world told him so. Everywhere he went—whether it was his rich, mostly white, suburban high school, his conservative black church, or his Ivy League college in a big city—he found himself on the outside looking in.


"In essays by turns hysterical and heartfelt, Thomas reexamines what it means to be an 'other' through the lens of his own life experience. He explores the two worlds of his childhood: the barren urban landscape where his parents’ house was an anomalous bright spot, and the Eden-like school they sent him to in white suburbia. He writes about struggling to reconcile his Christian identity with his sexuality, the exhaustion of code-switching in college, accidentally getting famous on the internet (for the wrong reason), and the surreal experience of covering the 2016 election for Elle online, and the seismic changes that came thereafter. Ultimately, Thomas seeks the answer to these ever more relevant questions: Is the future worth it? Why do we bother when everything seems to be getting worse? As the world continues to shift in unpredictable ways, Thomas finds the answers to these questions by reenvisioning what 'normal' means and in the powerful alchemy that occurs when you at last place yourself at the center of your own story.


"Here for It will resonate deeply and joyfully with everyone who has ever felt pushed to the margins, struggled with self-acceptance, or wished to shine more brightly in a dark world. Stay here for it—the future may surprise you."


Why it made the list:

So much non-fiction on my list! I have been banging the drum for Thomas's memoir since I read it in the latter part of 2020. In fact, it was my recommendation for Ashley in our recommendations episode. (Check out that episode here.) Although this is a collection of essays, it reads like narrative nonfiction as Thomas takes us through his life as he wrestles with major life events such as his sexuality and the intersection of that with his faith and small things such as how to delicately ask a soon-to-be ex partner about where he purchased the delicious candle in his bathroom. This collection is both poignant and a hoot to read. I highly recommend the audio. Thomas reads it, and it is perfection.


#bookishfaves #nonfiction #middlegrade #yalit #memoir

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