4 Books That Helped Me Get Through 2020

In my opinion, 2020 has been an amazing year in terms of just how many thought-provoking, forward-thinking books were published. At least we can say one good thing came out of 2020 – books. Recently, I was through my bullet journal and found a book tracker that I had started in July but for some reason never continued to fill out. After digging through receipts and comparing them with my bookshelf to see how many I had read, I came to realize that I had read 17 books (not including books I had to read for school). Which to me is a lot, but I have also never kept track of it in the previous years.

This got me thinking, which books had the biggest impact on me in 2020? Which books made me cry, tear at my heartstrings, brought about those moments of clarity or realization? Well, I present to you four books that changed my life in 2020 and got me through this pandemic.

1)      Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Stepsister is a spin-off tale from the classic Cinderella story, told through the perspective of Cinderella’s stepsister, Isabelle. It will teach you life lessons that you wish someone had told you earlier, it will have you shedding a few tears, but most importantly it will remind you how beautiful and true it is to be yourself and live a life you want to live. It has fundamentally changed how I understand my past and present actions and has taught me more than some of my own life experiences. If I were to summarize the impact it had on me, all I could say was that it made me realize so many things about my own life that I had yet to fully unpack. It also brought so much depth, character, and background to one of my favourite childhood classics. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is not into self-help but needs some perspective or inspiration in their life.

2)      City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls follows the life story of character Vivian Morris from 19 until the end of her life. This book explores all the seasons and moments she experiences, the lessons learnt, the mistakes, the mishaps, name it and it’s in this book. I read the book at a point in the year where I felt helpless, stuck and quite frankly like there was nothing beyond what I was living. This book gave me a sort of reality check and taught me that our lives are so complex, full of ups and downs and each period has its season. And as we all know, seasons come and go, and they change and that too will happen to your life. It taught me that there was so much waiting for me in the years to come, so many more experiences, good and bad, that I had to go through. I truly do not know what I would have done, or how I would have gotten out of that funk without this book.

3)      The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstein

The Starless Sea is one of those books that can captivate you from the very first page. Although it starts a bit slow, the build-up to the story is filled with so many small yet important details, it is quite astonishing just how much effort was put into creating the world you will read about. The story starts with a character named Ezra Rawlins who discovers an unusual book in his library that oddly enough is about him. The rest of the story? That is for you to discover and trust me it will be an adventure. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who feels as if 2020 is a bit too much to handle (rightly so) and needs a temporary escape. But honestly, it is such a beautiful crafter world that escape is not even the right word to use, you will almost be transported to another world.

4)      The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

This book was definitely an impulse buy, but I am so glad I bought it. It was an amazing book that was so far out of my comfort zone, that it made me love it that much more. The book is set during the Second Sino-Japanese War happening from 1937-1945. Being that I live in Canada, we rarely learn about what was happening in this time outside of Europe, which is truly a shame because so much was happening around the world. For the first time in a long time, I was reading a book based on a true story, set in a context I didn’t even know existed. The book follows the story of students evacuating Minghua University, after their city was going to be invaded, all the while they must carry the library of legends to safety and make it to safety and find their loved ones. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who wants to expand their horizons and learn about something new.

Those are 4 books that have renewed my love of reading once again and have gotten me through 2020. Next year, I plan on reading 50 books. Please leave me your book suggestions in the comments! I would love to add some new books to the list for 2021.

Happy Reading!

The Journey of Belonging

From a young age, I knew that I did not fit in. I did, however, do a lot of things to fit in. I jumped on the bandwagon far too many times, obsessed over the current celebrity trend even if I didn’t like them, I begged my parents for the trendy clothes and made myself small so I can fit in. Acting like someone else and trying so badly to fit, backfired.

From a young age, I did not let myself be who I was because I thought that no one would like me – I was young and now I see that there are more nuances to it than that, but at the very core of it all I was desperate to fit in and to feel like I belonged. This mostly stemmed from a need to be seen, to be accepted and to be understood. All things I was not doing for myself, so naturally I went out into the world to find people who could see me, accept me, and understand me. Eventually, I reached a point where I still was not fitting in or feeling like I belonged anywhere or with any group of people. Even with the moments that I felt like I “belonged”, there was still a part of me that felt missing or empty.

The journey we go on to fit in or find out where we belong is not just about finding our place in the world. Nor is it about finding a purpose bigger than ourselves or joining a community, those components of our lives are tied to this but for today we are just going to put them aside. The journey of belonging or fitting in is about finding your path to accepting yourself. The journey we embark on makes us think that we need to go out and find who we are in other people or places. We never draw attention to the real truth which is, that finding who we are and where we belong starts with accepting ourselves as we are.

We go on with our lives trying to pretend we can find pieces of ourselves in different places or with different people. I did this for a long time, but there came a point where the communities I had fit into had gone, ended, or transformed into something or someplace I no longer belonged or fit into. What was I left with then? In the moments where I have had no one but myself and I was not fitting in or belonging to anything, I kind of felt relieved. I felt relieved that for a second, I didn’t have to compartmentalize who I was to fit in with the different groups and communities I had joined. I was in a situation where I could just be me, and nothing was expected from me other than just being myself.

We all want to fit in and belong somewhere, but what’s screaming out at us is not the need to belong, it’s the desire or the want for us to be accepted because we have not accepted ourselves for who we are. It’s a desire to be seen, wanted and appreciated because we have never let ourselves be that source of fulfillment, we always think that the acceptance we crave needs to come from outside sources.

When I sat down with myself and honestly evaluated what was wrong with my life, I reached the same conclusion as I had the previous times. I had never accepted who I was.

I realized that what I wanted from this journey of belonging and fitting in was to be accepted for who I was by others, but that is not how you satisfy that need to be seen, heard or understood. The only way we can give attention to that part of our life is by leaning into ourselves and understanding why we don’t see ourselves and why we can’t accept ourselves. If you feel like you have been searching for somewhere to go or be and have had no luck in the process, maybe its time for you to take a look at what is driving your journey to belong and fit in.