December Reading Wrap-Up 2020

Wednesday, January 06, 2021
My final reading wrap-up for 2020 is here, it is a little late, oops! December was a very anxiety filled month for so many reasons and I didn't read as much as I wanted to but hopefully 2021 will be a great reading year and will have far less anxiety in it. I read a total of nine books in the month with one being an audiobook. I also finished all of the published books by Mary Roach over the past couple of months and I'd highly recommend all of them. My favourite books from December include: Gulp by Mary Roach and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

 

Gulp by Mary Roach (354 pages) ★★★ (3.5)

Gulp is all about eating, the digestive system, nutrition, food scientists, food production, the science of saliva and bizarre food history. As with the other books I've read by the author, it is filled with dry humour, easy to read information, interesting facts and expert opinions on many topics I hadn't ever thought of before. I was aware of some of the information in the book already (such as fletcherism) but much of it was new to me and I think anyone interested in food or biology will find it to be an interesting and thought provoking but rather gross read! 


Sherlock's Night Before Christmas by Julie Petersen (32 pages) ★★★

I don't typically read seasonal or christmassy books but I had to buy this beautifully illustrated book which follows Sherlock, Watson and a mysterious Santa Claus. It was a very quick, easy and enjoyable little book filled with gorgeous festive illustrations. I liked the quaint festive story and I'd recommend it as a simple festive read or as a Christmas stocking filler. 


Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (audiobook, 7 hours, abridged) ★★★ (3.5)

I have had Wolf Hall, the award winning historical fiction novel, on my shelves for years but I've been putting it off because of the praise and the size. However, I noticed the abridged audiobook on Scribd and decided to finally give it a go and I'm glad I did as it was a great audiobook. We follow the life, relationships and career of Thomas Cromwell, in a fictional but factually accurate retelling. As with most students in England, I was taught about the Tudor period and Henry VIII extensively so it is a time in history I'm fairly familiar with but I think that if you aren't, you may struggle with all of the individuals involved and their relationships with one another. 

I thought it was a fantastic historical drama told in an interesting and enjoyably way about many historical figures I've read about or had been introduced to during primary and secondary school. From other reviews, it is a bit of a polarising book as some people love it and others were disappointed but I personally enjoyed it and I think that if you are interested, the abridged audiobook is definitely an easier, and quicker way to enjoy it. 


Spook by Mary Roach (311 pages) ★★★

The second book by Mary Roach (and the last of her published work that I had to finish) is the one that I was the least interested in and subsequently it was also my least favourite but I would still highly recommend all six of her books - Stiff was definitely my favourite though! Within Spook (or Six Feet Under as it is also titled), Roach looks at various topics surrounding the afterlife in various cultures and time periods. Spook explores topics including: 'scientific' experiments to find out what happens at the moment of death, explorations into the soul and the supernatural to reincarnation, past lives, human creation, psychic research and more. 

As I've mentioned, it was my least favourite book of hers and that is mainly because I'm not a religious individual and the idea of past lives, the supernatural and an afterlife isn't something I believe in at all. However, I liked her skeptical but open minded approach the topic, the interesting topics covered and debunking some of the typical aspects of the supernatural (such as ghosts, strange feelings and mediums etc) with science. I'd recommend all of Mary Roach's books especially if you have a particular interest in the topic but this one just wasn't for me, unfortunately. 


*Gudetama: Surviving The Holidays by Wook-Jin Clark (48 pages) ★★★

I received this book as an arc from Netgalley and I initially requested it as it looked like an adorable graphic novel that would be perfect for the festive season. I am not very familiar with the Gudetama character but the lazy little egg just looks so adorable and I wanted to find out more about the character. It wasn't really what I expected as it just follows various characters with seasonal problems and Gudetama offers solutions - I wrongly assumed that it would have some kind of plot or a better structure. Overall, I liked the artwork, Gudetama is utterly adorable and it was a cute quick festive read but I'd only recommend it to those who really love the character already. 


Beauty Volume One by Jeremy Haun and Jason A Hurley (164 pages) ★★★
I wanted a quick read as I felt the start of a reading slump approaching and for me, reading shorter books definitely helps me to stay out of a slump. Beauty is a graphic novel series (the first two volumes are available for free on Kindle Unlimited) about 'beauty' a new sexually transmitted infection that everyone wants as it transforms you physically into a much more attractive version of yourself - blemishes and fat disappear etc. It seemed like such an interesting (if potentially problematic) idea so I read the first two volumes via Kindle Unlimited. 

I did enjoy the art style and it was a very quick and easy graphic novel so it was ideal to stay out of a reading slump. I liked the idea as it is something I haven't come across before and it was darker than I expected too which I like in graphic novels. It was a little gory at times and it definitely won't be for everyone but if it sounds interesting then give it a go - especially if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership or free trial. 

Beauty Volume Two by Jeremy Haun and Jason A Hurley (128 pages) ★★★
The second volume follows a different storyline and characters compared to the first and this second volume had a much more cohesive and easy to follow story. I liked both volumes to an extent but the second was definitely my favourite of the two. It was also much more gory compared to the first which might be something to consider. Overall, an entertaining graphic novel that I'd recommend for fans of more gory, unusual comics/graphic novels. 


The Marquise of O– by Heinrich von Kleist and Nicholas Jacobs (128 pages) ★★
Next up is an unusual read for me as it is a classic novella originally published in German in 1808; it was republished with a new translation by Pushkin Press, one of my favourite publishers of translated fiction. We follow a young widow and mother as her town is overrun by Russian soldiers and while trying to escape with her children, she is 'rescued', falls unconscious and is then raped by a Russian solider. The new pregnancy causes shock and outrage as she tries to discover who the father is and the effect it will have on her reputation and the status of her family. 

I have so many mixed feeling about this novella as on the one hand, why is she marrying her rapist and how could her family treat her so poorly; however, it was written in a very different time. It was a quick, fast paced read and sheds light on a time period in history when social status was vital, women didn't have many (if any) rights and I'm sure there are many other undertones and nuances that have gone over my head. Overall, I'm not sure I'd recommend it especially due to the nature of the book which may be triggering for some. 


Tokyo Travel Sketchbook: Kawaii Culture, Wabi Sabi Design, Female Samurais and Other Obsessions by Amaia Arrazola, Kymm Coveney - translator (192 pages) ★★★
The final book I finished in 2020 was a travel guide, travel log, sketchbook and Japanese history book all in one. We follow the author and illustrator, Amaia, as she travels to Japan and experiences the culture as well as the art and everyday life. I loved her illustrations throughout as well as all of the interesting bits of information about Japanese life, history and culture. I'd recommend it as an interesting and quick read. 

Have you read any of these books? What were your favourite or least favourite books of 2020? 

7 comments

  1. These all sound like some really great books!

    Candice x

    theblogsocial.com

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  2. Loved reading about the books you read in December, you always get through so many! I've not read any of these yet xx

    Tiffany x www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

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  3. Christ that is a lot of very big, hard going books. Congrats on reading so much x

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  4. These sound like some great books to read. I haven't read any of them before but I like the sound of Sherlocks night before Christmas. I do enjoy a good festive read so will probably pick this up to read later in the year.

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  5. I’ve tried an audiobook and didn’t really like it, but now I’m back at work I’m debating giving it another try x

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  6. The book about Japanese culture sounds interesting

    Jasmine xx

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  7. I stuck on a big ol' Christmas theme for December this time xx

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Feel free to leave me a comment, I read all of them!