What I Read in May 2020

With everything that’s going on right now, what I read last month really pales in comparison. So I just wanted to start this post by saying: To all my Black readers – I’m with you and support you 100%. What is going on in the US right now, and has been going on there (and in many other countries) for way too long, is horrifying. I can’t believe so many of us swear that we live in an equal and democratic society when things like this are still going on. It breaks my heart to see that a country that was so welcoming and accepting towards me, an immigrant from a foreign country, doesn’t extend the same acceptance towards its own citizens, just because they happen to have a different skin color. And it pains me that there are still people out there who don’t see it as a problem or refuse to acknowledge that this problem even exists.

And I know many of you might be tired of hearing about this. But I think Trevor Noah hit the nail on the head when he said that if we’re tired of hearing about these topics, we can only imagine how tired Black people must be of experiencing racism over and over again. Please go out there and inform yourselves. Try to help where you can. Listen to what our fellow Black creators have to say. Being white, I can never truly understand what Black people must be experiencing. I have and will probably make mistakes due to my ignorance. But I most definitely want to be called out for them and learn, so that we can eventually live in a world were problems like these don’t exist anymore!

Anyway, with that being said, let’s turn to the topic of this post: what I read in May. To be honest, this is probably going to be a pretty boring post recommendation-wise, because most of the things I read were either non-fiction books or Shakespeare plays that I was reading in preparation for my exam in August. Now that I only have two months left, I’m starting to panic a little, honestly 😅 However, if you’re at all interested in literary history, this might be the post for you! Either way, it’ll probably give you a pretty accurate idea of what it’s like to be an English student 😉

Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture by Paul Goring


I’ve been putting off reading the non-fiction part of my reading list for quite a while. I actually quite enjoy reading 18th century literature itself, but reading books upon books about these classics and the society that shaped them is honestly a little intimidating. Especially since I’m supposed to remember all this information and be able to apply it. It’s just not as fun as immersing myself in a story, and plus, we’ve already covered a lot of this in my literature classes. So sometimes, reading secondary literature can be quite boring.

However, with my exam only two months away, I decided I should probably get a move on and picked up Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture. And I would actually really recommend this to anyone looking to familiarize themselves with this time period. It provides a good overview of contemporary political and social trends – I think I now finally understand which British monarch had which religion and how Whig and Tory politics were influenced by that – and covers the main developments in literature, going over prevalent genres, authors, readership and themes, and providing good examples for each of them. It doesn’t go into a great deal of depth, but for someone hoping to get a good overview and to supplement their reading of 18th century classics, this is perfect!

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (2.5/5 Stars)


I was so disappointed by this play. I’d actually been quite excited to read it, since the partly Egyptian setting sounded cool and because in all the secondary texts I’ve read, Cleopatra has been praised as one of Shakespeare’s strongest female characters.

Having read this, I don’t agree. Cleopatra was annoying and whiny, she beats people when they bring her bad news, and then she’s praised for taking the cowardly way out and  committing suicide? She lets Antony do all the political work, can’t decide on what she really wants, and honestly, she annoyed me to death.

And Antony wasn’t much better. He treated all the women in his life like shit, and for all his being known as a great general, he seemed like a pretty inexperienced one from what we got to see in here. Which general would just sail away in the middle of an important battle?

I guess the plot of this was kind of interesting, but in my opinion, this is one of Shakespeare’s weakest plays. It’s better than The Taming of the Shrew, but that’s pretty much the only compliment I’m going to give it.

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski (4/5 Stars)


I was so excited to read this once I found out it existed, because Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse trilogy is one of my favorite fantasy series. And this didn’t disappoint! The writing is beautiful and lyrical, the story is mysterious and has an excellent female-female romance, and the characters immediately grew on me.

Our protagonist, Nirrim, is Half-Kith, meaning that she belongs to a lower caste of people and has been locked away in a certain part of her city all her life. She is not allowed to wear colors. She can’t eat what she wants to. She can’t ever leave the Ward. Nirrim has never really questioned this, until she meets a foreign traveler who enables her to catch a glimpse of what it must be like to live in the outside world.

The story takes off from there, and I was super invested. I don’t really have anything major to criticize – the few complaints I do have concern my personal taste and involve spoilers, so I can’t really go into detail here. However, if you’d like to know more, feel free to check out my full review!

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (4/5 Stars)

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After the huge disappointment that was Antony and Cleopatra, this play restored my faith in Shakespeare. It was funny, made some very pointed social commentary, and I loved all the underlying homoerotic tension.

Twelfth Night follows a girl named Viola after she gets separated from her twin Sebastian in a shipwreck. Believing her brother to be dead, Viola disguises herself as a boy so that she can enter the service of a local lord named Orsino. Orsino then sends her to woo Olivia, the girl he has fallen in love with, which results in a thoroughly complicated love triangle (or maybe hexagon?) and tons of misunderstandings.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this! Plus, afterwards, I went and watched some of my favorite scenes on YouTube, and I’ve got to say that Stephen Fry prancing about in yellow socks as Malvolio is one of the most wholesome things I have ever seen. I desperately needed that laugh!

The Rise of the Novel by Ian Watt


Since I’d started reading up on the 18th century, I thought I might as well continue and read one of the most famous works of literary analysis on this period: Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel.

For those of you that don’t know, the novel is a literary form that first came up in the 18th century; before, literature pretty much consisted of only poetry and drama. Weird, isn’t it? Imagine a world without novels in it!

Anyway, this book did a really great job of explaining the social factors that enabled the novel to emerge when it did, and it went into a great deal of depth in analyzing books that are generally considered to be the earliest novels, among them Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa, and Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones. It was definitely a very interesting read, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone wishing to first familiarize oneself with this topic. You should definitely have read or at least be very familiar with the novels mentioned in here, as well as the political, social and scientific background of the time period. Otherwise, I can imagine you might get lost very quickly. However, if you are familiar with these things, this is a very enriching read!

English Morphology and Word-Formation: An Introduction by Hans-Jörg Schmid

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In the course of my university studies, I have probably checked this book out from the library at least three different times, but I have never read it in its entirety. However, since I’d been reading so much for the literature portion of my exam, I felt I was starting to neglect linguistics, so I decided to read this book from start to finish and freshen up my memory. And I think this is a great introduction, perfect for beginner linguistic students or even people who are just interested in morphology!

To give you an idea of what morphology is – it basically deals with breaking words down into their smallest components that have meaning and studying how these words were created. For example, the word impracticable could be broken down into the morphemes {in}+{practice}+{able}, and then you can analyze which of these morphemes combined first and which sound and meaning changes came with those combinations…

Anyways, this book is very well structured, covers all main points and controversies surrounding them, and manages to provide a good introduction as well as some in-depth theory. If this topic interests you, this is definitely a good place to start.

Jacobean Drama by Pascal Aebischer


I’ve been reading up a lot on Shakespeare and on 18th century novel, but I apart from Shakespeare, I didn’t really know much about 17th and 18th century plays, the most important subdivisions of which are Jacobean drama and Restoration drama. I mean, I have read a couple of these plays, but I haven’t read as exhaustingly many as I’ve read Shakespeare plays, and I don’t know as much about the political backdrop. So I decided to get an overview by reading this book.

Ultimately, though, I didn’t find it that helpful. It did give a good summary of which authors, plays and topics are important, but it didn’t really go into any depth. It was mostly a bunch of name-dropping, where the author referred to people who had written important works on this subject. I suppose that’s helpful if you’re looking for a starting point when finding literature for research, but I would have liked to get an actually summary of the research and the most important findings and historical influences, rather than an extensive list of where to find these things…

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (5/5 Stars)

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This was probably my most anticipated release of the year, and I’m glad to say that I loved it! This added so much depth and backstory to the world of the Hunger Games, and I loved all the politics and philosophy woven into this.

For those of you who don’t know, this tells the story of President Snow before he rose to power, and I thought it was super interesting – and creepy – to see things from his perspective. I don’t think everyone will necessarily like this – compared to the Hunger Games trilogy, the story is a lot less action-packed, and the main character is not someone you’d really want to root for, but it was perfect for me. Check out my full review if you’d like to hear more of my in-depth thoughts.

As You Like it by William Shakespeare (3/5 Stars)

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I technically didn’t read all of this in May – I read the final act in June, but I thought I’d include it anyway because I did read the majority of it in May and because I finished it before writing this wrap-up 😉 Anyway, as far as Shakespeare plays go, this was okay. There wasn’t anything that blew my mind, and nothing that I hated, either.

The story centers around the character of Rosalind, whose father the Duke has been exiled after his brother usurped his position. When her uncle also bans Rosalind, she and her cousin escape to find her father, Rosalind disguised as a boy and her cousin as her/his sister. There are a bunch of complicated relationships that get even further complicated by Rosalind’s cross-dressing. However, as far as cross-dressing goes, Twelfth Night was just so much more interesting, so that this failed to really impress me.

So, that’s it for my wrap-up 🙂 I did actually read a lot more, but since the other things I read were either essays or excerpts from books that I didn’t read in their entirety, I won’t be mentioning them here. Let’s just say that my reading was very much dedicated to pre-19th century literature this month 😉

Anyways, thanks for sticking around – I hope you found this interesting! What are your takes on reading non-fiction? Do you enjoy it, or are you like me and usually only do it for school/university? I’d love to know!

6 thoughts on “What I Read in May 2020

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yes, Twelfth Night was amazing – now I really want to see it on stage someday!! And I’m glad I managed to make some of the nonfiction sound interesting as well 🙂 Personally, The Rise of the Novel was probably my favorite, but that might also be because I’ve already read a lot of the books it mentions. It kind of made me feel like part of the smart and scholarly literary community because I actually understood the stuff being mentioned lol

      Liked by 1 person

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