Reading, 2020

I read a scant 44 books this year, down from 67 last year and 100 in 2018. It’s weird, since I felt like I had read pretty consistently. One factor is that I led an in-depth group read of Adam Levin’s Bubblegum in the middle part of the year. This took 9 or 10 weeks of focused reading and thinking and writing during which I might otherwise have read a few other books. I also read a handful of long books that took a fair bit of time. And I false-started on a few (not listed below). Finally, this was the dreaded year during which my youngest child lost interest in our nightly routine of reading aloud (my eldest having lost interest a couple of years ago), and this change partway through the year will have diminished my number a bit too. The number of books doesn’t mean much, but I feel oddly self-conscious about a significantly reduced amount of reading. I did also watch a lot of TV. And I continued to spend a lot of time prepping and playing D&D — time I would in previous years have devoted to reading.

31 of the 44 books were written by women, 17 by people I believe would identify as non-white. I mention it because I’ve been trying for a few years to avoid reading mostly (straight) white men, and I like to keep loose track of how I’m doing at getting outside my own experience of the world. I read a mix of fantasy, nonfiction, social justice, literary fiction, and even a couple of books of poems and a play. I read some people I had heard of and also branched out to read well-known authors who were new to me or random finds from my local bookshop, which I’ve tried to patronize a little extra this year.

Highlights this year were Ducks, Newburyport, The Greenlanders, Bubblegum and The Instructions, How to Be an Antiracist, The Nickel Boys, and The Last Samurai. I enjoyed most of the books I read this year, with only a small handful of two-star books and no one-star books.

I list the books below by rating and by a few non-comprehensive categories of my own devising.

FIVE-STAR BOOKS

  • How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

FOUR-STAR BOOKS

  • Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley
  • Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
  • The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds
  • Beowulf: A New Translation, by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi
  • The River, by Peter Heller
  • The Fearless Organization, by Amy C. Edmondson
  • Memories of the Future, by Siri Hustvedt
  • A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
  • The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Sugar Money, by Jane Harris
  • The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
  • Thick: And Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, by Kai Cheng Thom
  • How We Fight for our Lives, by Saeed Jones
  • Bubblegum, by Adam Levin
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • White Noise, by Don DeLillo
  • The Instructions, by Adam Levin
  • Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellman
  • Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, by Kathleen Rooney

THREE-STAR BOOKS

  • The Paper Wasp, by Lauren Acampora
  • The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar
  • The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin
  • Hot Pink, by Adam Levin
  • Tracks, by Louise Erdrich
  • Eternity: Selected Poems, by Tracy K. Smith
  • Dragonsdawn, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Court Dancer, by Shin Kyung-sook
  • Dragonquest, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Hard Mouth, by Amanda Goldblatt
  • Lazarillo de Tormes and The Swindler, by Francisco de Quevedo and Anonymous
  • Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

TWO-STAR BOOKS

  • The Bingo Palace, by Louise Erdrich
  • Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green

NOT STARRED

  • A Radical Shift of Gravity, by Nick Tapalansky
  • Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, by Wizards of the Coast

NONFICTION

  • How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds
  • The Fearless Organization, by Amy C. Edmondson
  • Thick: And Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • How We Fight for our Lives, by Saeed Jones

LGBTQIA

  • Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
  • Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, by Kai Cheng Thom
  • How We Fight for our Lives, by Saeed Jones

FANTASY

  • The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Dragonsdawn, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonquest, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, by Wizards of the Coast
  • Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi

YOUNG ADULT

  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds
  • The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green

2 thoughts on “Reading, 2020

  1. Ducks, Newburyport and Nickel Boys were so good. They feel like a million years ago, because they were both Q1 for me.

    Sorry the children have renounced the ritual. This reminds me to try one last time with mine, because I miss it.

  2. Ducks was a January book for me, and honestly I sort of wish I hadn’t read it so soon, as it would’ve been fun to do as a group read (though I enjoyed doing Bubblegum in that way).

    Oddly enough, my son asked me after I had published this if I’d start The Lord of the Rings again, so we’ve been dipping into that a bit, which is nice. I hope he didn’t read the post here and ask out of a sense of guilt or anything (I don’t think that’s what happened).

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