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  • Chantelle Tatyana

my 2020 reading list

"Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are" - Mason Cooley.

I wouldn't have thought that amidst all of the doom and gloom that 2020 brought, that I'd make so many positive changes. Reading has always been something I never spent much time doing; as I would typically make excuses about it. In retrospect, it's so silly but I just honestly found any reason to not pick up a novel or complete one that I'd started. I've "read" for my degree as a medical doctor and medical literature is a lot to digest, but it was one task I took seriously.

2020, however, allowed me some much needed time to pause and reflect on things that add richness to my life, of which reading has been one of them. I know now that my issue in the past was reading books that didn't provide solace or taught me the lessons I was yearning for. Finding the "right" books has made a significant difference in my approach to reading.

I'm fond of non-fiction books; preferably memoirs and autobiographies. But I've been finding newfound love for fiction, and the balance of both worlds makes reading much more wholesome. Since April of 2020, I've made it through eight books and I believe they were as inspiring as they were thought-provoking. I give my personal review of each book and why I think they're worth adding to your bookshelf.

1."The Millennial Mind" by Daniel M. Francis

From simply hearing the name, I was already intrigued. Daniel M. Francis is an entrepreneur and new local author from Trinidad & Tobago. His book was created by a millennial for millennials. Undoubtedly, this book hit the nail on the head, covering every single aspect of life as a young adult transitioning into the professional world; and trying to figure out one's purpose and how to fulfil goals. It was quite a simple read, but it contains a wealth of knowledge to help sail through the uncertainty of life as a young adult and how to unlock one's full potential.

2."Influencer" by Brittany Hennessy

If you're a blogger, content creator or influencer (of course), this book is a must read! Think of it as a beginner's guide to social media. It covers everything from finding your niche, growing your following, responding to emails and pitching to brands. I read this book in about a week's time because it was extremely relatable to what I do as a relatively new content creator. I even found myself making notes and sticking them throughout the book as reference points; because I enjoyed all that it offered. It's a book I will undoubtedly read and refer to time and time again.

3."When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi

If there's one book that you must read from my list, it'll have to be this one. I reached a personal record with this book; reading the book in just 5 days! The story was so captivating. I feel lost for words at times when people ask me about this book because it's a beautiful tragedy. It's based on the life of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon that faced death head-on after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

On a personal note, being a medical doctor myself and seeing the author describe himself as a patient, it changed the tone. There are so many wholesome lessons to be learnt from his story and it's one that's touched my heart and soul in a special way. We often hear the saying "life is short" and Dr. Kalanithi faced that reality but with acceptance and grace.

4."Born A Crime" by Trevor Noah

If you haven't heard of the South African comedian and talk show host, Trevor Noah, please do me a favour and go watch his talk show "The Late Show" and his stand up comedies on Netflix. They are golden! Trevor chronicles his life as a mixed race child born during the apartheid in South Africa to a South African mother and Swiss father. He discusses the many challenges he faced growing up and never truly fitting in.

He speaks highly of his mother throughout the book; who was a steady positive force throughout his life. This book intertwines the hardships of black people in South Africa and racism with comic relief to create a brilliant masterpiece. I found myself fully engrossed in his life story. It's a truly indescribable memoir. I purchased this book through a local subscription box service; curated by a lovely local, female and black owned business called All Book'd Up.

5."An American Marriage" by Tayari Jones

This book was a very timely read as it highlighted the many injustices of the law in the United States; especially where black people are concerned. We're introduced to the newlyweds Roy and Celestial and how their lives were forever changed by an unexpected event. When Roy is wrongfully accused of a crime and sentenced to prison, his wife turns to a longtime mutual friend for solace.

After Roy's release from prison and the realization that his marriage may be in jeopardy, they must all make a decision as how they move forward; as partners and friends. It's a compelling story of love, trust, hope and strength and was a brilliant read.

6."The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett

Set between the 1950s to 1990s, this book is an emotional read that explores race, gender, identity and independence. It is based on the Vignes twin sisters, who ran away from their small hometown at the age of 16. However, they both take on different life paths. One sister identifies as black and one passes as white, unknowing to her new family.

This book demonstrates how a person's decision making can become contrived by events of their past. With many unexpected plot twists, this book leaves you stunned with a desire to know more.

7."Milk and Honey" by Rupi Kaur

Vulnerability is the theme of this book. Indian-Canadian author, Rupi Kaur, literally shares her trials of sexual abuse and heartbreak, alongside her triumphs of self love and acceptance. As she says, it is her blood, sweat and tears on every page as she beautifully pens her life's journey. Reading poetry was never really on my radar but this book has changed my perspective and I'm looking forward to reading more of her material.

8."Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi

A book that highlights the many struggles of black people from slavery days to present. It gives stories of two sisters of an Asante tribe in 18th century Ghana - one that was sold into slavery and one that was married into a more privileged lineage.

With each chapter, it shares the livelihood of their descendants; those living in Africa and those now living in the United States as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the hardships faced for being black. It's a book that has allowed me to appreciate where I am in life today, because of my ancestors and the hardships they have faced.

"The world belongs to those who read" - Rick Holland.

One of my next steps is reading 'Caribbean'. I know that we have a wealth of creativity, talent and artistry in the Caribbean and I would love to experience the literature. So let's see where 2021 takes me on my book journey. What books will you be reading in 2021? Leave a comment below and let's chat. Like, comment and share this blog post xx

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