2019 Year in Review

I didn’t do a Goodreads challenge this year. I didn’t even use Goodreads (looking up one-star reviews of books notwithstanding), but I was keeping track of my reading, and as the the year went on, I could tell something was amiss.

I’ve never cracked 100 books in a year, but I usually get close. By Novellas in November time, I start doing calculations, and look for super-short novels to speed things along. This year, I was barely past 50 books read on November 1. No amount of novellas was going to get me out of this one.

It took an embarrassingly long time for me to figure out what was going on. Late last year, I embarked on what was supposed to be an extended social media break, and treated myself to some newspaper subscriptions to keep me informed about the world. I got the local paper Monday-Saturday and the Globe and Mail Friday and Saturday. I got back on social sooner than expected, but kept getting the papers, and added the Sunday New York Times to the mix.

I can cruise through the local paper in the 10 minutes it takes to eat breakfast, but the others are consumed on the weekend, and involve longer articles, crosswords, and of course, the NYT Book Review. I’m probably spending a good 2-3 hours on these each weekend, which would go pretty far towards explaining why I “only” read 64 books in 2019.

And I’m conflicted! I do love the routine of reading the paper. It seems like a good, important thing to support journalism. But, I’m paying nearly $100/month for the privilege. And neither paper is perfect – The Edmonton Journal is super conservative, and not very high quality. The Globe is hit and miss – some weekend issues have great long articles, some I can flip through in a few minutes. And the (failing?) New York Times, while the meatiest and highest quality overall, has many issues, from book reviews that read like blog posts (no offence to bloggers but honestly) to inexcusably lazy reporting (how excited was I to see a Canadian story on the front page? How disappointing to see that it was full of stereotypes?)

Here’s my full list and a few stats. * means it was really good. I’m still reading the papers for now. I even sprung for the NYT crosswords app. But something may have to give!

  1. The Tiger Flu by Larrisa Lai
  2. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  3. The Coming of Winter by David Adams Richards
  4. My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
  5. What If This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky
  6. The Collected Short Stories of Jean Rhys
  7. The Child Finder by Renee Denfield
  8. Educated by Tara Westover
  9. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
  10. Cunt by Inga Muscio
  11. The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon*
  12. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
  13. Schadenfreude, a Love Story by Rebecca Shuman
  14. The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon
  15. Hungover by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall*
  16. How to Disappear by Akiko Busch
  17. Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergy Dyanchenko, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey
  18. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt*
  19. Bad Blood by John Carryrou
  20. Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce
  21. Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas
  22. The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard, translated by Mark Polizzotti
  23. Love in the New Millenium by Can Xue
  24. The Rest is Silence by Scott Fotheringham
  25. Mouthful of Birds by Samata Schweblin
  26. Smut by Alan Bennett
  27. Transparent City by Ondjaki, translated by Stephen Henighan
  28. Bina by Anakana Schofield
  29. Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
  30. Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely by Andrew S. Curran
  31. Zucked by Roger McNamee
  32. Winter Journal by Paul Auster*
  33. How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen
  34. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  35. Little Reunions by Eileen Chang
  36. CanLit in Ruins edited by Hannah McGregor, Julie Rak & Erin Wunker
  37. The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
  38. The Road by Cormac McCarthy*
  39. The Prison Book Club by Ann Walmsley
  40. How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
  41. Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
  42. Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson*
  43. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe*
  44. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargy
  45. Near to the Wild Hear by Clarice Lispector, translated by Alison Entrekin
  46. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  47. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrente, translated by Ann Goldstein*
  48. The Woman Who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes
  49. Dream Sequence by Adam Foulds*
  50. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, translated by James E. Falen
  51. Reproduction by Ian Williams
  52. Twin Studies by Keith Maillard
  53. A Lesson in Thorns by Sierra Simone
  54. ʔbédayine by Kaitlyn Purcell
  55. The Poor Clare by Elizabeth Gaskell
  56. This is Pleasure by Mary Gaitskill
  57. Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, Translated by Molly Ringwald
  58. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
  59. Dinner by César Aira, translated by Katherine Silver
  60. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
  61. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
  62. Saudade by Suneeta Peres da Costa
  63. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
  64. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, translated by Martin Hammond
  • 41/64 written by women
  • 12/64 in translation
  • 14/64 Canadian

7 comments

  1. indirectlibre

    super interesting take on the news! I have been trying for a while to revamp my consumption of world + local events (less social media, more in-depth reporting) but I have not come up with a solution…especially an affordable one! I got the Montreal Gazette for a while and it was ok for keeping up to date with current real estate developments, crimes, and traffic jams… What is your go-to for long-form journalism in Canada?

  2. Rebecca Foster

    Surely Ducks counts for at least 4, if not 5, slots 😉

    I don’t read any newspapers anymore, but I can see how you’d want to get your money’s worth by reading as much as you could from them.

    I just started Winter Journal last night and it’s an intriguing approach to memoir.

  3. Naomi

    It’s interesting that your social media break resulted in fewer books read instead of more. But the newspaper subscriptions would do it! It’s still reading, though! 😉
    Happy 2020!!

  4. annelogan17

    I think this is quite the impressive list considering you read so many newspapers. And I totally agree with you, it’s something worthwhile to support (Journalism). I was locked in a battle of wits with my father-in-law for the past few weeks about global warming. he proudly proclaims he ‘only gets his news from youtube’, which of course, makes me sick to my stomach! Ughhhhh

    I’m slogging my way through Ducks, Newburyport and it’s a slow go. I enjoy it while I’m reading it, but I sort of dread picking it up, ya know?

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