I was contemplating writing this post for a while because as I reflected on this year, I felt very underwhelmed about this whole year that it almost didn’t feel worth it. But I thought, “you know what, f— it let’s look back at this mess of a year.” I haven’t even written a monthly rewind post in over a year; my reading challenge was in shambles. While it’s been one stressful year, I’ve felt pretty much disappointed in myself throughout, so I thought reflecting would be a great way to make me more accountable and strive to do better for the next year.
L I F E
I began this year buried under paperwork; my Snapchat memories tell me I was quite literally spending the first days of 2020 in the library, working on my dissertation. In between crying over my mess of a dissertation, I worked part-time and prepared for post-grad life. I realise I never really spoke about my university experience here, apart from mentioning that I attend one. But I studied BA Sociology at university. My university experience was relatively lacklustre, I struggled quite mentally through the three years, and my course had its ups and downs. But I was quite pleased with my final dissertation. It was titled “Devout, devoid, and everything in-between”: Challenging stereotypical portrayals in select Young Adult Contemporary novels.” It was a thematic analysis examining three young adult novels on two interrelated aims: exploring media representation of Muslims and Islam and examining theoretical ideas on how societal perception of Islam affects Muslims’ portrayal. As I near my sixth anniversary of this site, I don’t think seventeen-year-old me would have ever thought this random passion blog would have ever affected my life to the point where I would write a whole dissertation based on my experience and work on the internet.
And I think like most people this year, as we all entered various forms of lockdown, my energy to do more quickly dwindled. During the UK’s first lockdown, I spend hours writing my dissertation while spending the nights playing Animal Crossing and Kingdom Hearts. Here in the UK, we have gone through multiple lockdowns already, now following a tier system. As I write this, I’m currently furloughed in a tier 4 city. I’m glad I’m able to stay safe at home, but I can’t help but feel sad about the effect this year has had on my productivity and mental state. I was so sure I would smash my reading challenge, catch up on all my arcs, and finally create more content.
I was so prepared to apply for all these work experiences and internships. But this year has reminded me to take things slow, and it’s okay not to be productive all the time. I graduated with a 1st in my degree. It was such an exciting achievement for me notably because I’ve never achieved high grades all my life, hovering around the Bs and Cs from secondary school to college and partially through university. My mental state wasn’t all great during university, I was worried that I wouldn’t even pass with a 2:1 at one point, but I’m grateful I managed to pull through in the end. It’s a shame I won’t have a proper graduation, but I’m just thankful to have pulled through in the end.
B O O K S
As I mentioned before, my reading habits this year were a complete shambles. I did manage to read the 50 books I pledged on Goodreads, but a lot of them were short stories and manga that I read because I got stressed. It wasn’t hard to pick favourites because I didn’t read much, but I did really adore all these books, and they gave me great comfort in this hellhole of a year. So, here are my top five books for 2020.
(information extracted from Goodreads.com, using books published in 2020)
I first read Check, Please! When I was in college. A chapter had come up on my tumblr dashboard, and I immediately fell in love with the story. Check, Please is a free-to-read webcomic about Bitty who is a student under a hockey scholarship that showcases his life via his vlog channel. The webcomic follows his four years of university and hockey culture while also falling in love with his team captain, Jack. I found it very bittersweet when I finally made it to the end because its finale also coincided with the time I would’ve had my graduation. The story is very low in drama but packed with brilliant characters that you can’t help but love. I haven’t used my Tumblr in years, but I’m pretty sure my boy Chowder remains my blog icon.
Cemetery Boys was a WILD read. I might have had a terrible reading year, but Cemetery Boys made it better. Yadriel is a 16-year-old Latinx trans boy who successfully performs the ritual that allows him to access his brujo abilities. Soon after, his cousin has died, and no one can find his spirit. Yadriel takes it upon himself to personally find his cousin, release him to the afterlife, thus cementing his position as a true brujo. That is until he summons the spirit of classmate, Julian Diaz, who has no idea how he died. So the two must work together before it’s too late. Aiden Thomas’s debut was thrilling and hilarious. The plot mystery does lose momentum at certain moments, but characters and the community that Thomas has created make up for anything that was lacking, in my opinion.
The Gilded Ones
The Gilded Ones was one of my favourite ARCs of this year. Deka discovers she is near-immortal with golden blood; she is forced to leave her home to join the Emperor’s army. The world of Otera is detailed and immaculate. I could image Forna writing her companion novels about the universe, and I would eat it up. This book enticed me by its cover, but its story kept me enthralled and amazed. Set for a February 2021 release, I’m already anticipating its sequel.
The Burning God
I could talk about TBG forever, but it’s 2 am when I’m drafting this so here’s an extract from my review: “The Burning God is truly an epic and magnificent conclusion to an all-star trilogy. Kuang writes effortlessly, and with prose that had me speeding through over 600 pages like it was nothing. I’m so sad to say goodbye to the world of Nikara. Kuang has created something truly unforgettable here. A country that has been pulled apart and rebuilt many times over and Rin intends to keep it under Nikara’s influence for good. But her plans might be too ambitious for the people it’s meant to protect.”
The Empire of Gold
With The Burning God and Empire of Gold ending this year, it’s a surprise I managed to survive both series ending. Daevabad trilogy will always have a soft spot in my heart. It’s exceptionally well-written, with a fantastic world and cast of characters. Snatching a line from my review: “Empire is the series’s cruellest novel, no matter who is your favourite, someone will get hurt. (And that was me in the form of Jamshid and Muntadhir.)”
M U S I C
I’m pretty sure my Spotify usage has doubled this year alone. I’m not someone who can work in complete silence, and I use music to fill the silence because I find that I get more distracted without. Whether I’m writing an essay, review or even reading, I could always be found with headphones. So here are ten songs that I loved in 2020. It’s nothing special, I’m a creature of habit, so I tend to repeat the same songs for an absurd amount of time.
This list is based off my 2020 Spotify Wrapped Playlist.
In my 2019 post, I wrote that “2020 will not be kind to me” and boy, was it not. This whole year has been one giant mess for everyone, but I hope you are doing well, and let’s just go into 2021 peacefully. The blog might have been quiet this year, but I have been active on twitter, and I’ve recently made a new account, aimed towards more books and lifestyle. You can find me over at @toldbyzaheerah. So, I think that’ll be it for this 2020 rewind, but thanks for reading this far. Stay safe, and I’ll see you all in the new year with more content. (and maybe a twitch channel but don’t hold me on that one…)