I hope you aren’t sick and tired of revisiting 2020 just yet. Because life very rudely got in the way of publishing my many, many wrap-up posts in January. 😭 And so, my goal is to finally dump them all throughout this month. Please bear with me. 💛
But rant aside, my quarantined lifestyle led to a higher consumption of books and media content. And I even picked up some new obsessions along the way! The need for escapism was intense and real.
With that said, I’ve whipped up this huge monster of a post, highlighting the best of the best. (In my very humble opinion, at least.) I hope you find something that sparks your interest, so that we can rave about them. Seriously, my social media channels are always open.
But anyway, sit tight and browse through the best books, media, and miscellaneous things that 2020 had to offer!
Top 10 Best Books
#1 to #3
📚 Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Before this masterpiece of a debut novel made its way to the first of my list, Raybearer first appeared on my radar when I watched Jordan Ifueko’s panel (Assassins, Intrigue, & Secrets: Debuts in Fantasy) for Social Distance Book Fest. Her energy throughout the panel was vibrant and captivating — and it comes as no surprise that the same vivacity can be found in her work.
Honestly, Raybearer is a huge game-changer for the YA fantasy genre. From character development to pacing, every element is beautifully and cleverly crafted. Moreover, everything comes together so phenomenally! Especially the subversion of common YA tropes. In simpler words, this is surely a book I’ll revisit again and again.
📚 SLAY by Brittney Morris
I’m still shaming myself for not picking up this book sooner. It’s truly a treasure. If you’re looking for a book that celebrates Blackness in an unapologetic way, SLAY is the perfect choice. Although this book does delve into heavy issues (such as anti-Blackness and cyber-bullying), the overall vibe is very joyful, hopeful, and heartwarming. More than that, I was really blown away by the excellent storytelling and vivid imagery. Needless to say, I was slayed.
📚 These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
These Violent Delights is marketed as a “heart-stopping debut” and you know what? It really delivered. In fact, I was clutching my heart with a death grip throughout the story. Because the tension between Roma and Juliette is superb! Their relationship is a delicious mix of enemies to lovers, forbidden love, and second-chance romance. Beyond the delightful stabbing and yearning, These Violent Delights is an impactful allegory for colonialism and white greed. (Also, Juliette can stab me in the gut, and I’d thank her profusely.)
#4 to #5
📚 The Kyoshi Novels by F.C. Yee
My #4 spot is reserved for The Shadow of Kyoshi, which is an incredibly riveting follow-up to The Rise of Kyoshi. I reread the latter to prepare for the former, so I’m acknowledging the entire duology. But I digress.
The Shadow of Kyoshi does an excellent job in cementing young Kyoshi’s place in Avatar history. Her ideals and moral code are severely challenged, shaping her path as the bearer of justice and upholder of balance. Aside from her exceptional character growth, I also enjoyed this sequel’s exploration of the past Avatars, particularly Kuruk and Yangchen, and how each Avatar cycle directly affects the next. It’s an excellent discussion on continuity, legacy, and trailblazing one’s own path.
📚 The Never Tilting World duology by Rin Chupeco
Much like with the Kyoshi books, I’m giving my #5 spot to the whole duology since I reread The Never Tilting World to prepare for The Ever Cruel Kingdom. But let’s talk about how under-appreciated this sequel is, shall we?
The Ever Cruel Kingdom filled a void in my reader heart that I didn’t know existed. Leave it to Rin Chupeco to infuse a devastating, high-stakes post-apocalyptic novel with pure sapphic goodness and gooey teen romance. This sequel both healed and hurt me — and I loved every moment of it.
#6 to #8
📚 Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
Not to exaggerate, but Scavenge the Stars awakened a revenge-hungry monster in me. In other words, I loved this revenge-driven fantasy. Both character-focused and action-packed, Scavenge the Stars was compelling from start to finish, but the last 33% had me at the edge of my seat. I truly cannot get enough of this world, and I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel.
Related: 14 Most Anticipated Sequels for 2021
📚 You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Can I relate to the school-wide obsession with prom? Not really. But did I love Leah Johnson’s contemporary debut with every fiber of my being? Yes! You Should See Me in a Crown is a fabulous coming-of-age story that offers fun high school shenanigans, as well as a thoughtful portrayal on growing up Black and poor. Truly the perfect balance of serious and sweet.
📚 A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
I often struggle with middle-grade stories. But I easily breezed through A Wish in the Dark. Set in a bright, picturesque Thai-inspired fantasy world, this debut novel is absolute magic! It’s a fantastical tale that filled my insides with warmth, light, and hope. What a brilliant, immersive experience.
#9 to #10
📚 Chronicles of the Bitch Queen by K.S. Villoso
No books have evoked more intense — and occasionally violent — feelings in me than K.S. Villoso’s Filipino-inspired fantasy series. Especially the sequel, The Ikessar Falcon. Partly because the political machineries can be paralleled to the contemporary political landscape in the Philippines. And partly because all the characters are frustratingly complex and deeply flawed. Also, the way The Ikessar Falcon ended? Absolutely wrecked me. My heart might not last long enough for the last book’s release.
📚 Heart and Seoul by Erin Kinsella
Honestly, I dived into Heart and Seoul with medium expectations. Only to discover that the payoff is astronomical! In other words, this romance novel goes above and beyond, delivering the most satisfying love story I’ve ever read. Plus, it has a K-pop idol as a love interest! Heart and Seoul is so fun and heartwarming.
2020 was tough and terrifying, which called for a lot of reading for escapism. Personally, rereading favorite books brings me comfort. There’s something inexplicably wonderful about falling in love with a book for the second or third time. Also, it’s nice to have some reassurance that I’m going to enjoy what I’m about to read. Hence, I definitely reread a ton throughout the year.
With all that said, my honorable mentions for best books of 2020 are my favorite rereads. Out of the 17 books that I reread, here are the best six!
Top 5 Best Films
🎞️ Death to 2020 (2020)
How funny is it that one of the best films I watched during the worst year is a mockumentary that pokes fun at it? Coming from the Black Mirror creators, Death by 2020 hoped to deliver in terms of clever satire and dark humor. And to be honest? It doesn’t. This isn’t a piece of media that would appeal to everyone, and it could’ve been and done more. But what can I say? I’m a simple girl. I find entertainment in watching how stupid Americans can be.
🎞️ 50 First Dates (2004)
My youngest sister (bunso) and I spent a day or two marathoning many of Adam Sandler’s films.
Unsurprisingly, 50 First Dates shined the brightest. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched this film, and yet it never fails to bring a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. Hands down the most iconic rom-com of our time.
🎞️ Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Another rewatch that I greatly enjoyed in 2020! I’m not usually a big fan of spy films, but the comedic elements helped maintain my attention. Kingsman: The Secret Service is incredibly fun and shows a lot of wit. Its action scenes aren’t too bad either. Definitely a breath of fresh air in the spy movie genre!
🎞️ The Half of It (2020)
A different kind of love story, indeed. The Half of It takes on the messy love triangle trope to new — and exhilarating — heights.
I watched this film in a Netflix party with Kate and a few other friends, and you can bet that we were all crying towards the end. The Half of It is lovingly interspersed with wholesome content, tender moments, and endearing friendships.
🎞️ Birds of Prey (2020)
Truth be told, I know next to nothing about superheroes. Especially the superhero comics genre. Nonetheless, I am a self-confessed simp for Marvel films! In contrast, I am not a fan of the darker, grittier ambiance in DC films. And I still get nightmares about Batman vs. Superman (2016), only to wake up soundlessly screaming “Martha!!!”
To date, I’ve only enjoyed two films from this franchise, namely, Shazam! (2019), and more recently, Birds of Prey. A team of renegade, all-female superheroes? I’m in! This is filled with mayhem, humor, and women kicking ass. I couldn’t have asked for more.
🎞️ Cuddle Weather (2019)
A romantic comedy where two sex workers partner up for cuddles, only to discover that they both want more? Sounds like my kind of movie. And indeed, Cuddle Weather delivered a bold, high-concept narrative.
More than an unconventional love story, this film intelligently unpacks the realities faced by sex workers and sheds light on poverty in the Philippines. It also delves into themes of loneliness, attraction, and ambition.
Had it ended differently, I might’ve ranked this film higher. But anyway, watching Cuddle Weather reminded me of my personal vow to watch more Filipino films. And for that, I’m grateful.
🎞️ Infernal Affairs (2002)
I watched this with Wendy via Netflix party, and I was taken aback by how thoroughly I enjoyed Internal Affairs. My interest doesn’t typically gravitate towards crime films. But this movie has sparked a hunger for more Asian crime films.
All I can say is: What a ride! This stressed me out in the best way possible.
🎞️ Over the Moon (2020)
Watch out Disney because Netflix is coming for you. In all seriousness, Over the Moon was a joy to watch! Although the songs weren’t addictive bops (with Ultraluminary being the only exception), the amount of heart in this animated film really struck a chord in me.
Over the Moon offers a compelling story about a young girl grieving the loss of her mother and learning how to move forward and let new people in. I highly recommend reading through Xiran Jay Zhao’s Twitter thread for some extra insight.
🎞️ Blackpink: Light Up the Sky (2020)
The K-pop bug really bit me in the butt last year. So, it comes as no surprise that I eagerly consumed Blackpink’s documentary film.
I think that Blackpink: Light up the Sky does a great job in humanizing a group of globally revered female idols. I was pleasantly surprised by the candidness and vulnerability present in the documentary. It was a bold and brave decision, in my opinion, since the industry tends to nitpick female artists more heavily. All of this is to say that this film made me respect Lisa, Rosé, Jisoo, and Jennie even more!
🎞️ Hello, My Name Is Doris (2015)
When my younger sister put this film on, I was skeptical and confused. I had never heard of Hello, My Name Is Doris before, and I had no clue what it’s about.
I did not expect this movie to entertain me so much! Part comedy drama, part character study, Hello, My Name Is Doris is clever, quirky, and endearing. Doris is a lovely weirdo! I was also thrilled to see my favorite New Girl star (Max Greenfield) as a major character.
Top 5 Best Series
📺 The Umbrella Academy (2019-Present)
I am ashamed to admit that it took me a few episodes to understand the appeal in this series, and I am grateful that my sisters
forced encouraged me to keep going. But I digress.
The Umbrella Academy is a wacky, weird show that snuck up on me. One day, I was normal. And the next day, this dysfunctional superpowered family started living in my brain rent-free. I love the absurdities and complexities that this show offers. Hands down the most addictive series I’ve consumed in a long, long while!
📺 Dear White People (2017-Present)
Following several Black students in a predominantly white Ivy League college, Dear White People lives and breathes the sentiment that BIPOC, especially Black people, aren’t a monolith. While the show does provide teachable moments and learnings on racism and anti-Blackness, I argue that its main intention isn’t to educate. Instead, I believe that Dear White People strives to illuminate and to kickstart conversations.
Coco and Joelle are the most fascinating characters to me. Although I do hope that the next season will give a bigger spotlight to other parts of the Black diaspora, especially African and immigrant students.
📺 Jane the Virgin (2014-2019)
Let me be clear that when I say that I adore Jane the Virgin, I’m talking about the show. Not Gina Rodriguez.
Friends, describing Jane the Virgin as ‘overwhelming and highly addictive’ would be a huge understatement. Each episode felt like a whiplash and a fully realized story at the same time. Even the series finale was straight out of a telenovela! And you know what? I loved the whole ride, the character arcs, and then some.
📺 Bojack Horseman (2014-2020)
The first few seasons of Bojack Horseman got me through the darkest, most mentally exhausting phase of my life. That was in 2016. I had to stop watching because I instinctively associate this show with my downward mental health spiral.
However! Since 2020 was such a spectacular shit show, I figured that it was the right time to continue a series that broke and healed me simultaneously. And Bojack Horseman did just that. If anything, I relate to Diane and Bojack even more now. (And the way that this series ended with a whimper instead of a bang? Perfectly fitting.)
📺 Haikyu!! (2014-2020)
Unlike the other series in this list, I’m still halfway through Haikyuu. But god, am I in love with it!!! I’ve never been a sports fan. But if y’all could hear the intensity of my cheering during Karasuno’s tournaments, you’d definitely think otherwise!
Haikyuu is god-tier storytelling and character development. While I love all the characters, I have a special soft spot reserved for Sugawara, Tsukishima, and Oikawa. I swear, this show is a guaranteed dopamine boost! (Notice how many exclamation points I used in talking about this anime!!!)
📺 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019)
Maybe I’m the crazy one because I’ve rewatched this hilariously messy show three times! And it’s not just because Josh Chan is played by a Filipino actor. Or because of the fit hot guys with problems. But because Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a feel-good, laugh-out-loud musical sitcom that manages to dauntlessly take on mental illnesses.
This series does a phenomenal job in cleverly subverting rom-com norms and tropes. Plus, the songs are ridiculously catchy and fun to sing!
📺 Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)
Contrary to popular belief that everyone and their grandmother has watched and raved about ATLA, I decided to give this beloved series a rewatch since my littlest sister had never watched it.
And, of course, without fail, Avatar: The Last Airbender still gave me that beautiful rush of nostalgia and satisfaction. Team Avatar!!!
📺 Avatar: The Legend of Korra (2012-2014)
I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again: My online spaces do not tolerate any Korra slander. In all seriousness, Korra can crush my head with her thighs and I’d still be a loyal simp for her.
While the cast of characters isn’t as endearing as its predecessor, I do think that the complexities of morality and justice shined brighter in Legend of Korra. I also think that it’s cool to witness this fantasy world transition into modernization.
📺 Modern Family (2009-2020)
I am an absolute sucker for any media content that revolves around family. And following three chaotic families, Modern Family is the show to beat!
I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s just something inexplicably compelling about this series. Maybe its magic lies in its MVP, Phil Dunphy. Or maybe there’s something comforting in seeing a — large, complicated, and diverse — family living their lives and doing their own thing.
📺 Never Have I Ever (2020-Present)
Quickly after its release, Never Have I Ever sparked quite a few debates and controversies. And I can understand why. Aside from the questionable aspects of desi representation, there are other yikes moments in the show (especially the wheelchair mini-storyline).
Nonetheless, I enjoyed this show and grew to be more invested than I anticipated. For one thing, Devi is not meant to be likable. However, with the episodes improving as the first season drew to a close, I did see more depth to her character.
Never Have I Ever is an imperfect series, but I do think that it’s a step in the right direction. And I’m cautiously hopeful for the next season.
Notion was the biggest gamechanger of 2020, and arguably, the rest of my life. Despite being an organized person, I’ve always struggled with maintaining things like planners, journals, and productivity apps. It’s probably because I was using several tools and methods simultaneously, which required a lot of energy and time.
In contrast, Notion feels like an intuitive extension of my brain. It’s like a blank canvas with just the right amount of functionalities. Thus, I no longer need to switch apps or tabs or whatever. Instead, my whole life is laid out and confined in a single space that’s tailor-fit to my needs.
I definitely intend to share my full Notion set-up on my blog soon! But for the meantime, you can check out these amazing introductory posts from my friends and fellow bloggers:
- Sharing My Notion Set-Up and a Brief Tutorial, Tips, & Template! (from May @ Forever and Everly)
- How I set-up my Notion space + free templates (from Fadwa @ Word Wonders)
- Tips On Setting Up Notion If It Intimidates You (from Sumedha @ The Wordy Habitat)
- a quick notion tour (how i keep track of my different activities, studies & habits) + some tips! (from Maha @ Sunshine n’ Books)
- My Bookish Notion & Templates (from Mel @ Mel to the Any)
- HOW I’M USING NOTION TO BUILD A STORY BIBLE FOR NANOWRIMO + MY ORIGINAL TEMPLATE (from Lila @ Hardcover Haven)
- How I keep track of my reading and reviews using Notion + tips for your own tracker (from Esmée @ Servillas Speaks)
- My Notion set-up + tips and tricks (from Morgan @ Morgan Is Reading Again)
- 2021 READING GOALS, NOTION & READING JOURNAL SET UP (Cossette @ TeaTimeLit)
- A Look Inside My Notion Pages! (from Jess @ Jessica C Writes)
Although BTS formally entered my life in August, my 2020 was largely defined by my growing admiration for these boys. In fact, listening to an upbeat BTS song has quickly cemented itself as a vital part of my morning routine. Currently, my most played morning songs are Airplane pt. 2, Home, and Go Go.
Honestly, I don’t consider myself a stan or a part of the ARMY. And I don’t see myself investing in merch. But I am hoping to expand my K-pop repertoire in 2021. Which means listening to more groups and artists.
Prior to 2020, I was a staunch believer that audiobooks weren’t for me. My first audiobook experience was for a promotional tour, and it was not entirely positive. I couldn’t maintain my focus on the story’s events. To the point that I kept falling asleep!
And so, with understandable wariness, I tentatively tried Scribd’s free trial amidst an intense reading slump. In just 30 days, I finished 19 audiobooks and 5 ebooks! Wild! This staggering result convinced me to make Scribd a permanent fixture in my reading life. So far, I have no regrets.
Perhaps the one caveat is that I can’t critically analyze the text (especially since I tend to multitask while listening to audiobooks), which affects the quality of my audiobook reviews. Thus, I’ll be writing audiobook archive posts instead. This will use a different approach in reviewing and evaluating audiobooks.
Yes, I’m 24 years old. And yes, I still obsess over these cute pocket monsters. In fact, I recently splurged on Alolan Vulpix plushies with zero regrets.
Pokemon is deeply meaningful not only to me but also to my family. Whenever my parents drove to Metro Manila to drop me off college, my sisters and I binged on Pokemon episodes throughout the 3-hour ride. And in 2020, we raised our love for Pokemon to the next level. Aside from investing in Pokemon games for Switch, we also got ourselves matching house slippers and iPhone cases. Next step: matching Pokemon pajamas.
Contrary to my record-setting total of 132 read books in 2020, I did fall into several reading slumps throughout the year. Especially during my transition from an unemployed bum to an overworked cog in the corporate machine. Or in simpler words, after I got my day job as an integrated media planner.
Since audiovisual media is easier to consume, Netflix easily became my go-to refuge whenever I struggled with reading. I tended to gravitate towards sitcoms, romcoms, and whatever lighthearted content this platform has to offer. Hence, why comedy dominates my handpicked best films and series.
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I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 What are some of your favorites to read and/or to watch in 2020? Did any of them make it to my list?
🌻 What’s a newfound obsession or favorite that took you by surprise? (For me, it’s definitely BTS!)
🌻 Did you find anything new or unfamiliar in this post? Let me know in the comments below!