I have always been a vivid reader. As a child, I spent countless hours curled up on the couch or outside in the hammock with a book. Weekly visits to the library, books for my birthday, and every spare minute in school with my mind in imaginary worlds.
Truth is, my memory sometimes fails when it comes to remembering books I have read, or films I have watched. I have more than once found myself reading a book, only to realise halfway in that the reason why it feels so familiar is… because I have read it before!
But then I discovered Goodreads: a social cataloguing website for literature. So, since 2017 I have tracked everything I read on their website. One feature on their site is the annual reading challenge. At the beginning of the year, you set yourself a goal for how many books you want to read. For both 2018 and 2019 I somehow completely crushed my goals with a total number of 86 and 69 (!) books read.
For 2020, I again set myself an ambitious goal: one book for every week. Now, I’d like to blame it on my PhD and medical studying, but I did not reach that. Not even close. Still, I managed to read 34 books during the whole year. Which for some of you might already seem like a huge number.
In this post, I’d like to take you through my literary year 2020. Let’s go!
”In 1939, as Hitler casts his enormous, cruel shadow across the world, the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa. There, a boy called Peekay is born. His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment, yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams, which are nothing compared to what life actually has in store for him. He embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice where he will learn the power of words, the power to transform lives and the power of one.”
‘The Power of One’ is not an easy read, but absolutely worth every minute. In an intriguing story about a fascinating young boy, Bryce Courtenay discusses crucial South African history: the Boer war, anti-semitism, Apartheid. It’s an coming of age story, filled with tales of friendship and social issues. So much information and so much character development, this story really stood out and stuck with me. And based on the average of 4.3 stars on more than 80.000 reviews, I’m apparently not the only one to say this is a must read.
‘It’s 1944 and sixteen-year-old ballerina and gymnast Edith Eger is sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents on arrival, she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive.
The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her learn to live again with a life-affirming strength and a truly remarkable resilience. The Choice is her unforgettable story.’
For those who don’t know Dr. Eger, she is an icon. This book is her personal memoir: describing her time growing up in Hungary, the Holocaust, her struggles to settle in America, and finally her road towards becoming an amazing psychologist. Intense and inspirational:
”Time doesn’t heal. It’s what you do with time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility, when we choose to take risks, and finally, when we choose to release the wound, to let go of the past or the grief.”
‘Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel–Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence.
Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique chronicle of the city that is believed will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice – in heaven and on earth.‘
Now, this book is a job. Over 600 pages (unless you also want to read the extensive bibliography) filled with history about Jerusalem. The most amazing thing about this book is that it’s a history book, that at times doesn’t feel like history at all. Through intriguing stories about fascinating people in history, Montefiore pictures a portrait of this amazing city, in full detail and without any religious bias. Amazing.
‘Ranging around the world to draw comparisons from different cultures, and delving deep into the history of language and of western civilisation, Jonathan Sacks shows how the predominance of science-oriented thinking is embedded deeply even in our religious understanding, and calls on us to recognise the centrality of relationship to true religion, and thus to see how this core value of relationship is essential if we are to avoid the natural tendency for science to rule our lives rather than fulfilling its promise to set us free.‘
Religion and science often seem to contradict each other. In this work Lord Sacks, chief rabbi and philosophy doctorate, provides some amazing discourses on why science and religion not only coexist but even mores complement each other. I think this book is an absolute must read for modern philosophy.
Rabbi Sacks passed away on Nov 7th ‘20. His encouraging, insightful and knowledgeable words and writings will be greatly missed. BDE.
Other books that were a very close call to making it to the favourites were: ‘Toward a Meaningful Life’ by Simon Jacobsen, ‘Silent House’ and Orhan Pamuk or ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel.
For 2021 I again set myself a goal: 53 books, one for every week of the year. Let’s see how that goes!
Did you set yourself a reading goal for this year? Any specific books you can’t wait to read?