Favorite Books and Television of 2020

I didn’t read as much as I ordinarily do this year, despite the quarantines. Instead, I taught 12 courses, designed two new literature courses, did major revisions of my two books-in-progress, wrote a handful of new essays, and bought my first home. Exhaustion and exhilaration went side by side. But believe me, I know how lucky I am to be busy with work during a pandemic.

I also watched fewer new films, but I did indulge in a ton of television, and I enjoyed many of the books I did finish. So here goes:

Favorite Novels 2020

Yu Miri, Tokyo Ueno Station

Aoko Matsuda, Where the Wild Ladies Are

Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police

It’s the year that Japanese female novelists came out in translation, in full force, in all their wild, unapologetic glory. 

Richard Powers, The Overstory

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

Designing the course, “Literature of the Anthropocene,” opened up a whole new world for me and introduced me to these two novels.

Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Seiobo There Below

Exalting from the first sequence, a meditation on a Kyoto heron. 

Favorite Nonfiction 2020

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

An Indigenous botanist sings the beauty around us. Read it.

David Lynch and Kristine McKenna, Room to Dream

My husband bought this book for me as I was working on a personal essay about Twin Peaks (to be published in 2021), and it inspired me far beyond that project.

Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble

I’m down for sympoiesis.

 Simone Weil, Waiting for God

Weil has much to teach all of us.

Favorite Television 2020

  • Schitt’s Creek: Delightful. I’ve long loved Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, but Levy’s son is a talent too, and Annie Murphy is awesome.
  • Better Call Saul: All this time, I thought I was watching Jimmy’s moral collapse, but I was actually watching Kim’s.
  • Kim’s Convenience: Speaking of Kims—these are lovable.
  • Watchmen: Almost unbearably timely.
  • The Good Place: We can’t make meaning forever, but until then, let’s love each other.
  • Ozark: Laura Linney and the actor who played her brother broke my heart.
  • Lovers Rock: Particular to a time in place but universal too. It captures the endless possibilities and disappointments of a night spent dancing with strangers.
  • Broadchurch: There is only one queen of British television, and her name is Olivia Colman. All hail.
  • Borgen: I convinced myself it was teaching me the finer points of parliamentary systems in preparation for my Canadian citizenship test next year.
  • Any time Baby Yoda—I mean, Grogu—was on screen in The Mandalorian

Copyright © Cynthia Gralla, 2020