The Happy Place Five #1: Books That Kept Us Afloat in 2020

06th January 2021

The Happy Place Five banner in dark blue rimmed in gold with a golden book and golden starsThe Happy Place 5 – take a Discord chat, throw a bunch of bookish people in there together to keep each other sane over the course of a pandemic, and voilà: a new monthly feature is born. On the first Wednesday each month, we will highlight our top five books for a certain topic or theme. You can find the posts of my fellow Happy Place readingrats linked below!

stack of the five books listed below on a pillow

2020 certainly wasn’t an easy year but all in all, I really can’t complain even though I did hit some rough patches. There are a lot of people who had it much much worse though. When it comes to my reading, 2020 was a rocky road. The year did start out quite well, but that was before (ugh, that makes me wonder whether we will actually get to a horrible dystopian point when we’ll start talking about before and after …). During the first wave, I wasn’t in the mood for reading at all. When things got better over the summer, I came back really strong. And then things started to go horribly wrong and I found myself once more in a place I couldn’t concentrate on reading. Fortunately, I picked up knitting and that kept me sane (and slightly obsessed) over the past couple of months and actually had me listen to a couple of audio books. However, there are a couple of books that really impacted me one way or another, because they gave me a way to escape or something to link memories to. It was really hard to pick just five out of the seven or eight contenders I had for this list. But here we go:

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When Dimple Met Rishi (Dimple and Rishi, #1)
by Sandhya Menon

I found myself in a pretty bad reading slump in April. To get out of it, I just wanted something cute and fluffy and picked this one up on a whim. Best decision ever! Not only is this a really delightful and quick read, it also rekindled my long forgotten love for Bollywood. So I spent most of April and May watching Bollywood movies and listening to Bollywood songs. I fell in love with Kajol (what a QUEEN! She’s so gorgeous!), made plans of doing a DDLJ cosplay of the white blouse and orange button-down dress combo (knowing my sewing project track record, this will probably never happen), and just felt really elated and happy in general. Oh, and at the end of the year, I watched Mismatched, the adaptation, on Netflix! I love that it’s an Indian production and liked it a lot. I really hope there will be a second season, though, because that ending was just mean!

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The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
by Charlie Mackesy

Three guesses why I picked up this book – though I’m sure, you can do it in one! Yeah, it has a horse on the cover. Sometimes, I’m that simple. However, I also saw an illustration online and immediately fell in love. I had no idea what this book was about. I just got it when I saw it in the bookshop. And my oh my, that one’s a slice of bliss! It’s fully illustrated with only a little text, but it’s so beautiful and the words … well, if you ever find yourself in dark place, I highly recommend picking this one up. It’s so wholesome. I read it in one go and cried buckets, but it also made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

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Schattenblick [Shadow Sight] (Midnight Chronicles, #1)
by Bianca Iosivoni & Laura Kneidl

The book of my summer! It’s actually a funny story: while I got this on its release date, I didn’t initially intend to read it immediately. That’s something I hardly do these days. But then the publisher announced a two week challenge. The prize: the five upcoming sequels. I’ve been excited about this contemporary fantasy series ever since it was announced, so of course I had to participate! But to do so, I had to read the book to be able to finish the tasks. This also happened to coincide with the short holiday my mum and I spent on beautiful Spiekeroog, one of Germany’s isles in the North Sea, which means I have very fond memories connected with this book. While it didn’t blow me away completely, I had a very good time reading it. And an even better time cosplaying for the last challenge (you can find some of the pics here on my Instagram). And while I didn’t win in the challenge, it’s still sort of a victory (blogging acquaintances working in publishing ftw!).

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The Falconer (The Falconer, #1)
by Elizabeth May

Sometimes, it just takes some time. I actually started this way back in 2017 but only read two chapters. Never picked it up again until October. On the one hand, I wish I hadn’t waited this long, on the other, I’m really glad I got to enjoy it that year. It’s basically a YA love child of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate and Holly Black’s faerie books. Meaning, it’s steampunk and has faeries, mythical beings and demons. It’s also very funny, set in Edinburgh, and for the first time ever(!) I could get behind a love triangle (this really made sense, people!). And, well, naturally I had a massive crush on Kiaran – mysterious aloof killer faeries are just my jam. As are faeries in general ever since I picked up Tithe by Holly Black when I was sixteen, though no one does them quite as Holly – dark and delicious. I’m very happy to say that The Falconer managed to hit the mark in this regard! I had so much fun!

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Ein kleiner blauer Punkt [A Small Blue Dot]
by Maren Hasenjäger

I thought about including this for quite some time. It’s only going to be published in two weeks, meaning this is still under the review embargo. But this is not a review and I also can’t possibly not mention it since that’s the book that got me through all the stress at work. And there was a lot. From the first moment I laid eyes on one of the early cover drafts in the editor’s office, I was head over heels in love. I mean, look at this cover, there’s no other way. The editor was so nice to keep me in the loop and well provided with printouts of the newest finalised pages. Throughout the year, I always had a couple of illustrations up on my office wall, so every time I needed a mental break, I could just look at them and be happy. I’d never thought a nonfiction picture book about the solar system would have this effect on me, but yeah.

So, these are my 2020 lifesavers. What were yours? If you want some more input and inspiration, head over to the other Happy Place readingrats:

CriniJoséphine • MackenzieMercy

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3 responses

  • It’s so interesting to see what everyone else picked and why! Love your choices (not that I have read any of them, but why you chose them…)

  • Steph // bookplaits

    My friend got me The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse for my birthday last year and now I’m even more excited to try it!

    Also, the cover for the solar system book is just SO lovely.

    Here’s to more reading and knitting in 2021!

  • Oooo I’ve seen The Boy… a lot of places, particularly on Instagram. I definitely want to get a copy! It sounds so wholesome. Also The Falconer being a cross between Gail Carriger and Holly Black?? Omg I definitely need to get it!!!!! I love Gail Carriger so much! The Parasol Protectorate series is soooo much fun. And yay for that picture book hehe. I love how cute it is.