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Regan Ashton (Problem Daughter) Shares His Best Reads of 2020

This year has been… a year. While everyone seemed to have what we could collectively describe as a “shitty year,” everyone has had a very different 2020. This year, we couldn’t all meet up at festivals all over the country or the world. This year we couldn’t high five each other, chug cheap beer, and scream along to songs in a basement (or garage or sticky venue) on a Friday night. All the things that seemingly made us “us” were stripped away, leaving other facets of ourselves that we had long since forgotten or placed on an upper shelf to collect dust for some day when we would have more free time.

I’ve spoken to people who feel like they lost their hold on music and others who clung onto it for dear life like a life preserver. It’s been… a year. And while everyone has bravely faced 2020 with a different arsenal of supplies, this resulted in a variety different outcomes. That’s why, in addition to our contributors’ End of the Year Lists, we at Bad Copy have reached out to a handful of friends involved in music this year and asked them to share their top lists. Music, movies, photos, memories, new hobbies – much like 2020, nothing is off the table when it comes to these lists. Let’s find a little good in the bad, try to laugh at what we can’t control, and pray that we will be able to safely see each other soon. First round is on me. – Kendra Sheetz, Editor


Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas – Tom Robbins
The crash of the stock market, a frantic search for a born again, ex-jewel thief chimpanzee; man, this book is all over the place. Oh, and aliens from Sirius B are stealing the frogs.

While possibly my least favorite on the list, the wacky story, as well as Robbins’s inimitable style, help secure it as one of my top ten of this year.

Tibetan Peach Pie – Tom Robbins
This memoir jumps through the stages of Tom Robbins’ life so quickly it will make your head spin. Acid trips, the circus, Shelley Duvall feeding ants in her kitchen; the stories that stuck out to me most is his meeting with Charles Manson as well as being mistaken as the Unabomber by the FBI.

Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
A story that simply begins with a man wanting to ask people who were somewhat involved with the making of the atom bomb and what they were doing on that fateful day ends with an outlawed religion based on false truths to make people feel better and the end of the world caused by a different, even more deadly, doomsday device: Ice-9. Busy, busy, busy.

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life – Charles J. Shields
An incredible biography of perhaps my favorite writer may be a little different than the others mainly because the author, Charles J. Shields, became Vonnegut’s official biographer the final year of his life. With access to personal letters, photos, and Vonnegut himself, this hefty profile displays the dichotomy of the satirist, World War II survivor, and frequent Pall Mall smoking funny guy that we read about and the flawed, often callous man that ran concurrently.

Though Vonnegut went into great detail explaining the firebombing of Dresden through the eyes of Billy Pilgrim in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, I am happy he left out the heartbreaking story of seeing a lonely chimpanzee without hands.

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
A detective story that almost plays out like a dream. K is in love with Sumire, who is in love with another woman. When K gets the message that Sumire disappeared on a Greek island, he sets off from Japan to find her.

I almost sabotaged Murikami for myself by reading the entirety of 1Q84 before any other of his novels. Not that I hated it. I adored it, but it is long as hell. I am happy I stuck with it and moved on to his other books, otherwise, this one would not have made the list. Also, the origins of the name Sputnik Sweetheart are very cute.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
From a jazz bar owner to a bestselling author, Murakami reflects on moments of his life while training for the New York City Marathon.

I enjoyed this super quick read on my couch with my cat in one sitting. It was a good day.

A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
After his mother drunkenly wrecks her car, Ignatius J. Reilly sets off on a bizarre quest through New Orleans French Quarter to find a job and pay off a $1000 fine. I have been meaning to read this book ever since I heard of the cursed film adaptations (check that shit out). I did not doubt that I would like it, but I was surprised by how accurate the praise was. People adore this book, and I understand why.

Ignatius Rising – René Pol Nevils
Perhaps my least favorite biography on the list. Toole’s life, his relationship with his mother, as well as his tragic suicide carries the entire book and makes for one interesting read.

Dorothy Parker – Complete Stories
This is the last book I finished this year. This collection of forty-eight short stories is probably best eating up a few moments of downtime and not powered through in one or two sittings, but that is because of the format and not of Parker’s writing, which is fantastic and clever as you might have heard.

What Fresh Hell Is This? – Marion Meade
A wonderful biography, What Fresh Hell Is This? (such a great name) recounts the life of Dorothy Parker from selling her first poem to Vanity Fair, the famous Algonquin Round Table, to the heart attack that resulted in her death. Like Vonnegut, Marion Meade holds no punches describing the enormously talented, witty, and wonderful Dottie Parker as an equally sad, lonely, and complicated human being.

You Oughta Know is a collection of recommendations and picks from the Bad Copy staff.

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