On the last Sunday of February, at 5pm Lisbon time, I logged into a video call, joined by four of my friends to run my first digital book club and discuss Tara Westover´s memoir – Education. I had announced the interactive book club edition on Instagram and though more people signed up (I kept the limit at ten), we ended up being just five – and this turned out to be the perfect number so that everyone would be heard and voice their opinions. The conversation flowed for almost two hours, moderated by me and supported by some questions I prepared before hand, and so I thought I´d share them here, along with my review of the book, as I left it out of last month´s book club review article.
February is Black History Month in the US and Canada and so I chose for this month´s #bookclub three colourful books by Black and coloured authors, telling stories of identity, heritage, belonging and one´s roots. Noah´s autobiography follows his South African upbringing as a coloured person, while Wayétu Moore´s fictional story accompanies three Africans reuniting from different parts of the world in what will one day be Liberia. Bernardine Evaristo traces the story of twelve black women in Britain. And despite two out of three being fiction writings, I found all three books highly educational, touching in their own way and essential to anyone seeking to become an ally and educate themselves on this matter.
PS: I am still finishing a fourth book of this month, but since it will be the topic for this Sunday´s digital book club conversation, I am not adding it here, and instead reserving it for a future article perhaps.
I can imagine what you´re thinking upon reading that title – Choice of Magic has gone avantgarde and this month´s topic makes no sense. Well there´s little I can say to defend myself. January started off with two murder stories – Robert Galbraith´s Troubled Blood and Richard Osman´s Thursday Murder Club. I loooooved both of them, as I love pretty much any good crime novel, and I would have continued with the theme, if only I had had more crime novels around the house. But I did not, so I went for a book on marriage. My boyfriend should be concerned, I know. Marriageology is a book I read a couple of years back and reread now because I just love the author´s sense of humour so much, and the content of the book will never seize to be useful. As I am writing this I realise how it´s going to sound, but next I went for the heartbreaking classic Sense and Sensibility. I reread Austen every couple of years and this one I read in 2016 for the last time, but since my memory is just awful, it was wonderful to reread it now. And finally, I ended the month with some poetry (so far keeping to my resolution of reading more poetry and classics this year) and I read a beautiful bilingual edition of Pessoa´s TaBaCaRia. Here´s what I thought of them all.
Looking back at 2020 is quite a chore in itself – a year filled with unknown, ambiguity and anxiety, in which the expectations were as low as just surviving it. When the pandemic hit, I, like many others, set some goals for myself and remarkably enough, I actually met them – every single one of them, indeed. I divided them in a couple of categories: emotional goals (closely related to my family and friends), intellectual ones (related to my career, the blog and my self development), financial ones (related to my savings and debts) and physical ones (related to my eating and working out habits). My reading goal falls in the intellectual realm and is a thing that I have been setting for myself every year for the last couple of years, if not decade. This year I aimed to read 40 books – a goal I achieved a couple of days before 2020 ended, but what made this year special is the fact that all year long I stuck to monthly themes and every month I came to the blog with an article reviewing what I had read. This was most fun and will culminate into this article showcasing my absolute favourite books of 2020. As for next year, I plan to set a more ambitious goal as well as have some goals related to reading both classics but also contemporary writers more frequently, as well as poetry and plays. And now, let´s look back on the books I most loved during this most hated year and the reviews I wrote upon finishing them.
I regularly find myself drawn to books written by great women – just today I started a book just on magnificent women´s work habits. And so, November has been a month where I immersed myself into three memoirs of some of my biggest contemporary role models – Maya Angelou, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama. Their books, all different and wonderful, have definitely inspired me through a period that hasn´t been exactly easy to navigate. I think this November´s #monthlybookclub might as such be the first book club where I rated all books I read a 5/5 without batting an eye. Here´s what I thought about each of them.
Last month, as I was searching my bookshelves for books to read in October, I cheerfully realised I don´t have that many unread books hanging around anymore. This year´s system – of choosing monthly themes for my #monthlybookclub seems to have enabled me to choose books from my library that were long waiting to be picked up. And so, I am happy that soon I´ll be able to buy new books without the underlying guilt of having a huge to read shelf at home. For the month of October I ended up picking books without a particular theme, instead just ending up with a small pile of “new” books – books by contemporary writers. Here´s what I thought of them.
July has been the live testimony that while other people read a whole library during summer, I am an utter failure at it. I have not finished one single book which I started in July and I could kick myself for it. After months of confinement, July has finally been a super sunny month of friends´ visits and even a small getaway to Évora . Unfortunately for the monthly book club, that meant little time for books. In all fairness, I do prefer reading when it´s dark, rainy or cold outside, so my failure is somewhat justified. As such, this month´s book club will be a bit different and it won´t have neither ratings, nor proper reviews (except for Pessoa´s Forever Someone Else with I am on the last pages of and as such feel comfortable reviewing it). The theme of the book club has been Portuguese classics and here are the books I´ve wanted to read and partially started, and what I thought of them or why I chose them.
This month´s book club theme kind of unveiled to me only towards the end of the month, when I started drawing a line through the books I had read. I intended them to be books by strong women, about strong women. As I was finishing the fifth book of the month, it dawned on me though, that I had somehow chosen books about strong women and their journeys. The journeys transcend geographical borders as well as emotional phases of these women´s lives. They are journeys of self-discovery, a process that sometimes goes unnoticed by our heroines, but never seizes. A couple of the books are extraordinary, a couple are really good and one is just plain bad. There´s fiction and non- fiction, there are American writers and a Turkish one, there are white writers and a black one. I tried to keep it diverse, in an effort of educating myself. I hope you enjoy it and if you read any of these books, I would love to hear your thoughts on them in the comment section.
After April´s book club being focused on non-fiction, psychological readings, I kind of felt like choosing novels this month. But then again, I always had a taste for non fiction books ,which I try to incorporate in my routine. And here´s something you might not know about me: I usually read three books at the same time – one novel, one business book and one book about science. I do this because depending on where I am or what I´m doing I might feel more inclined for one or the other. If I am in the subway, I won´t be able to focus on a book about science and might prefer a light novel for example. If I have total silence and can focus, I´ll enjoy a science reading. And if I have highlighters closeby, I´ll go for a business book. However, since I´ve started the monthly themed bookclubs, I have tried to stick to one category. And since last month on my Instagram the majority of you chose the business book theme, here we are.