2020 in Books

Total: 64. That’s significantly more than in any year since I started tracking. Thanks, pandemic??? (Past lists linked to here.)

Fiction Favorites:

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler: knocked me on my butt and kept me completely horrified and obsessed through early fall as I drove to physical therapy.
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: I’m always interested in speculative fiction that explores what our lives mean and how changes in their trajectory might affect the wider world (My Other Children is another good one) and yet I couldn’t get through the bleak sequel to this at all.
  • These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker: a fascinating contemporary companion to The Inferno and The Great Divorce.
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel: I’ve liked everything I’ve read by her (Station Eleven and The Lola Quartet so far); the nuanced characters with haunting backstories, the unexpected overlaps, and the events and characters that resist overlaps. I don’t always know why she’s doing what she’s doing, but I’m along for the ride.

Nonfiction Favorites:

  • Drawn To Nature: Through the Journals of Clare Walker Leslie: completely inspirational without being intimidating. Should be required Charlotte Mason reading — teaches how to keep a nature journal in a very casual, approachable way.
  • The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture by Wendell Berry: read to me in the dulcet tones of Ron Swanson, no less. Seriously, though, 2020 was the time to really think about the disservices our global, consumerist economy has rendered and consider how we might build a more robust and loving local community.
  • A Mother’s Ordeal: One Woman’s Fight Against China’s One-Child Policy by Steven W. Mosher: fascinating and horrifying. I can’t believe I read this in the aftermath of the miscarriage, but it helped reinforce the tragedy of any life lost, somehow, and completely pulled me out of myself when I desperately needed it.
  • Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr (of All the Light We Cannot See fame): just eclectic and beautiful and uncategorizable.

Notes & Trends:

  • % digital (audiobook/ebook): about 55%, across platforms: Librivox, Scribd (audiobook and ebook), Libby (audiobook and ebook).
  • % reread: 24% I re-read most of Jane Austen this year, which makes sense — comfort and wisdom and escape all rolled into one. Some Anne, no Harry.

What were your reading habits like in 2020? Did you find yourself unable to focus in the face of the headlines, or diving into more books than ever?

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