Wack Mag Book Club: My First Five Reads of 2020

By Annie Rinaldi | @annexelizabeth


We’re only a few days into the new year, but I’ve already read a few books off my shelves. Tragically, I haven’t found any new all-time favorites, but, hey, we’re not too far into the year at all, so I have plenty of time to find some new faves! I’ve read six books this year so far and am in progress on another one (Reverie by Ryan La Sala, a queer YA fantasy that I like, but don’t love), but here’s a little write-up of my first five reads of the year and my thoughts on them.


PARADISE ROT BY JENNY HVAL — 2/5 stars

Strange and atmospheric. It was a very visceral reading experience, but I couldn’t really connect to anything about the story or the characters. I found the gross-out factor with the mentions of bodily fluids and rotting mushrooms to be a little too much sometimes, but I did appreciate Hval’s willingness to go to weird and taboo areas. It was a shock to read and definitely not a favorite, but it’s for sure a book that I will never forget.

If you like dreamy prose, coming-of-age stories, vivid imagery, queer romance, or explorations of intimacy, check this one out!


TIN MAN BY SARAH WINMAN — 4/5 stars

Gentle and compassionate. Winman has such a smooth and delicate quality to her writing, and the way she crafts her characters and the world they reside in is so deliberate and so caring. Not much happened in this book, but, at the same time, so much happened. I wanted this novel to go on for ages and explore the characters' relationships more, but I also think it was a perfect snapshot of several years in their lives. I’m definitely going to check out more of Winman’s novels sometime soon, because I really liked this book.

If you like European travel, art, historical fiction or love stories spanning several decades, check this one out!


WE WERE FEMINISTS ONCE BY ANDI ZEISLER — 4/5 stars

Sharp and brilliant. This book is an incisive examination of the bastardization of feminism in popular culture. Zeisler isn't overly cynical or overly optimistic; she falls in the middle and examines why she feels both hopeful and unsure through modern-day examples of feminism in society today, which I appreciated. Her writing style was breezy but informative, something that I love in nonfiction. Overall, I would totally would recommend this book both to people new to feminist literature and those who have more knowledge of it.

If you like pop culture, feminist literature, sociology, or political nonfiction, check this one out!


LITTLE WEIRDS BY JENNY SLATE — 4/5 stars

Odd and tender. This book is a collection of gorgeous imagery, moving observations, and sweet words. It’s memoir and magical realism and microfiction and self-help all at once. Although I knew this wasn't going to be a typical comedian memoir, I was still surprised by how strange it was in the best possible way. Although it's branded as nonfiction, I honestly feel like it's partly nonfiction and partly magical realism that isn't super clearly tied to Jenny Slate’s own life, which is super fun. I still haven't watched any of Slate's movies, shows, or stand-up, so this book definitely got me excited to check her work out more.

If you like female comedians, magical realism, or memoirs, check this one out!


A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING BY EIMEAR MCBRIDE — 3.5/5 stars

Raw and disorienting. This novel is a vivid tale of trauma that is often difficult to get through, both because of the story being told and the manner in which it was told, but it is rewarding in the end. It’s definitely something I’d like to reread in the future to see if I understand it any better, honestly. I did like what I understood, though. I’m also very interested in reading McBride’s other novel The Lesser Bohemians, as I’ve heard that one is told in a slightly more conventional manner.

If you like stories about siblings, modernist-inspired prose, Irish literature, or literary fiction, check this one out!

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