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!

Listening To Your Heart

I recently finished reading Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly and I wish this book was being turned into a movie. It made me reflect so much and the book has such a good message that I think everyone needs to hear.

Still tied to the classic tale of Cinderella, Stepsister explores the story of Cinderella’s stepsisters, Isabelle and Octavia after Cinderella got married to the prince. Not only does the book give us insight into what happens after the fairy tale ends but in true classic redemption style it explores what happens to characters that are categorized as “bad” or the “villains” of a story. But as we all know, villains are not born as villains, they become villains. Isabelle, one of the villains in Cinderella, discovers that the person she has become stems from the category she has been placed in by society.

How do we allow someone else to dictate who we can or will become? Why do we let people determine who we will be? Why do we listen to them?

The thing about society is that the constraints it imposes on people are so ingrained in everything we do and engage with that if we break from those constraints we are shunned and cast aside by society. How do we unlearn something so ingrained in us? We begin by listening to the parts of the heart that we have quieted so much. Often what we want most and who we truly are, are buried deep down in the depths of our hearts because it was a way to protect ourselves.

This is not a way to live a life, and it surely was not what Isabelle or Octavia wanted anymore. Isabelle had a magical fairy queen appear to her with a place to start, but unfortunately, that isn’t something we all have access to. 

Please allow me and this post to be the magical fairy queen that you need. Take a moment to just be and listen to yourself. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and open yourself up to what you want most in your life. You might find this hard because we have suppressed it so much. But take a moment or even a few days to reflect on what you have been pushing down because it did not conform with what people expect from you. Or, it might come to your mind right away no matter how hard you have tried to push it away.

When those feelings, dreams and goals come to your mind I want you to take a moment and envision who the person with those goals and dreams is. That is who you truly are and who you want to become.

Now from here, I can only tell you to be vulnerable and brave enough to follow that version of yourself and those goals. You need to face why you are the way you are now, and you have to realize that who you are from now on is entirely up to you. It’s time to deal with the things that have broken and shattered your heart and the walls you have put up to protect yourself. Because they haven’t protected you, they have hindered you from succeeding.

Those broken pieces can be fixed and all of the mess that you will go through is beautiful and so true to you.

I challenge you to start listening to your heart and work on reworking your life. You are under no obligation to stay in the mold of society and you do not need to abide by societal norms of what is expected from you.

As always, this is easier said than done. But I do recommend reading the book for a bit of inspiration, and motivation to become who you are and to listen to your heart.

I leave you with one last, abbreviated, quote from the book: “There is magic in this sad, hard world. A Magic stronger than fate, stronger than chance. [..] It is magic of a frail and fallible creature, one capable of both unspeakable cruelty and immense kindness. It lives inside every human being ready to redeem us. To transform us. To save us. If we can only find the courage to listen to it. It is the magic of the human heart.”

Thanks for reading. Stay safe! x