It’s that time of the year when I take a closer look at 2020’s reading plans and shuffle some of the reading that I was sure I’d have finished by now into the coming year instead.

Nothing seems impossible yet, because I still think of December as an incredibly busy month, as it was when kids were younger and there were more traditions to uphold as a household for the family; in reality, now that everyone is old enough to create their own traditions, sometimes I find unexpected reading opportunities during the winter holidays.

Meanwhile, there are a few books which have been on my TBR for ages that I’m still planning to read in 2020.

Wayson Choy’s All that Matters (2004) continues the story begun in The Jade Peony, which I reread after attending his public memorial service. As much as it’s a family story, this novel’s dedication reminds readers that the author’s understanding of family is broad and inclusive: “To those who saw me through a dark time: you are family.”

The epigraph is from Confucius: “The Master said, With words, all that matters is to express truth.” It’s a timely—and timeless—statement, which resonates strongly in this era of alternative facts, when so many of us struggle to dialogue across difference.

Toni Morrison’s final novel begins like this: “It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me. I didn’t do it and have no idea how it happened.” For anyone who has avoided reading Morrison, with the thought of her Nobel Prize too heavy a weight to negotiate, even this brief excerpt serves as evidence that her stories are accessible.

Over the summer, I read Home, but I couldn’t bring myself to read God Help the Child (2015) on its heels. Even though I appreciate rereading, I romanticize the idea of reading, for the first time, a final work in an author’s oeuvre. (Even though I grew up reading L.M. Montgomery’s novels, some of them countless times when I was a girl, I have read all but one of her books, even now. Maybe that’s another idea for 2021.)

A character with a fleeting appearance in The Color Purple and The Temple of My Familiar is at the heart of Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992). Walker is another of my MustReadEverything authors, but in the past I’ve chosen to reread The Color Purple, rather than read another of her earlier novels freshly. What can I say, Celie’s story calls me back. It’s because I wholly and unreservedly love the ending. So, there, if you were afraid it was too much, perhaps I can convince you otherwise.

Possessing begins: “I did not realize for a long time that I was dead.” Which is a curious beginning. When it came to choosing between this one and The Temple of My Familiar, I opted for Tashi’s story, having recently read another novel about khatna, which proponents (of a Suni Muslim sect, the Dawoodi Bohra) consider female circumcision, a powerful ritual, and opponents consider Female Genital Mutilation, a misogynistic trauma. (Farzana Doctor’s Seven)

A couple of years ago, I finished reading through Louise Erdrich’s stories and novels for adults, but my project had been planned without knowing that Future Home of the Living God (2017) was due to be published before I finished reading. I could have added it and extended my plans, but I wanted to revisit Erdrich later, finish reading this novel and her children’s series at another time.

Now as part of my return to eco-fiction, I’m interested to see what she does with a dystopian story. “As Cedar travels north to find her Ojibwe family, ordinary life begins to disintegrate. Swelling panic creates warring government, corporate, and religious factions. In a mall parking lot, Cedar witnesses a pregnant woman wrenched from her family under a new law.” I hope I’ve read enough indigenous philosophy and mythology to understand her intentions.

It’s been so long since I read the first novel in Eden Robinson’s Trickster series, that the third book is almost due (March 2021). Son of a Trickster (2017) introduces readers to Jared, a teenager with unexpected family complications and unusual connections to a world that others around him aren’t equipped to see/confront. Trickster Drift (2018) picks up the story soon after.

This Haisla/Heiltsuk author’s stories have held me captive since Monkey Beach (she’s also written two collections of stories, Traplines and Blood Sports, as well as a short work of non-fiction, The Sasquatch at Home: Traditional Protocols & Modern Storytelling). Her gift for dialogue and her capacity to view complex characters through a lens of compassion makes reading her work a pleasure, even when she takes on difficult subject matter.

Have you read any of these? Do you have some specific reading plans for the remainder of 2020?