2020 Year in Review

Remember last year when I whined about “only” reading 64 books?

Speaking of 2019: the first book I read was The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai, about a new and mysterious virus, and the last one was Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. And yet I wasn’t prepared for 2020, not for a pandemic, and not to take it stoically. Which just confirms my stance on reading, that it does not make one a better person nor prepare one for life’s challenges. It’s just entertainment And That’s Okay.

My reading in 2020 was even less prolific (whether or not it’s as portentous remains to be seen). I read 44 books, a low point in my blogging career, not counting years in which I gave birth. Covid is a simiarly life-altering event, I suppose. I’m relatively unscathed, but not much reading was happening in spring and summer. I still managed to read a few gooders though, and I am hopeful for next year. I even have some plans in mind. Planning ahead: what a concept!

Read in 2020 and Best books

I’m still off Goodreads, with no plans to return. I did a Twitter thread of all my completed books, and used Brock Roberts’ Reading Spreadsheet to keep track of acquisitions and other stats. In 2021 I’m going to use a very pared-down spreadsheet – Brock’s is great but there’s a lot there I don’t use, and I fall behind on entering all the info.

Check out the Twitter thread if you want to see everything I read. Here are my top five:

  1. The Innocents by Michael Crummey – and if I have to pick my book of the year, it’s this!
  2. Young Skins by Colin Barrett – best short story collection of the decade?
  3. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrente – cememted my Ferrente Fever
  4. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – quiet, unassuming, masterful
  5. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore – also quiet, unassuming, and masterful

Events in 2020

I participated in just a few events this year, and hosted none. My focus in 2021 will be to participate in a deeper way in a select few. After (almost) ten years, I know the value in blogging lies in the small-scale, passion-driven events (i.e. not the large-scale readathons or group reads, at least not for me), as much as it lies in the space for personal reflection and journaling.

Plans for 2021

I hope to get another post up before the end of the year (yes, I know it’s already the 27th) with some projects, but the jist is: I want to read old books. Specifically, books published before the milennium. I swear I had this idea before LitHub did. It’s not really about feeling better though, more about filling in gaps and discovering a world without (adult) me in it. Also getting off the hype train of new releases and seeing what’s stood the test of time.

I will obviously be making some choice exceptions, and might do a Giller Prize project later in the year, but for the most part, I’m going to be reading in the past, and I’m really looking forward to it.

A few stats

I don’t track these things as I go, or aim for anything, so pretty remarkable that these were so steady:

  • 29/44 woman writers (same ratio as last year)
  • 10/44 in translation (just a little more than last year)
  • 9/44 Canadian, if you count Brian Moore, and I do! (same as last year)

15 comments

  1. Rebecca Foster

    So … even though I know what it’s about and I usually choose to avoid that theme, should I still read The Innocents? There’s a large-print copy at my library (what do they think the old biddies want to read?!), so I could read it at some point. I also read Crossing to Safety this year, as a buddy read with Laila, and we both loved it. I’ll read more from Stegner, and I’ll try Brian Moore next year for Cathy’s readalong.

    My backlist reading this year was about twice as successful as my current-year reading, if the number of 4.5- and 5-star ratings is anything to go by, so I’m with you on that urge to focus more on the classics and other pre-2000 books from my shelves. (But I’m sure I’ll also be lured by many a 2021 release.)

    • lauratfrey

      Lol at the old buddies reading this! I mean, I think you should, there are probably only 2 or 3 explicit scenes and they’re not exploitative (this isn’t Flowers in the Attic!) and it’s a very worthwhile novel in that tradition of canadian survival themes… but you should also trust your gut!

      • Rebecca Foster

        Oh gosh, Flowers in the Attic! I stumbled on that in my sister’s room when I was about eight and my mother had to explain what happened with the uncle (or whoever it was).

  2. Cathy746books

    Thanks for joining in with 20 Books again and for Novellas in November. I’m delighted to see Brian Moore in your Top 5! I can attest to the pleasure in reading older books – I hope you enjoy x

  3. annelogan17

    I love your point about reading as entertainment! It should be entertainment, it’s fun, and when it stops becoming fun, people should take a break from it, or read something different at the very least. And 44 books is still A LOT compared to so many people, so that’s nothing to be disappointed about.

    I too loved The Innocents-Michael Crummey is a Canadian treasure 🙂

  4. volatilemuse

    I don’t think reading could have prepared anyone for 2020 as kaggsy said – any more than reading Agatha Christie would prepare one for finding a body artfully arranged on the carpet in one’s sitting room! Still reading books is a life enhancing thing to do. That’s why we love it.

  5. Naomi

    I’ve read #1 and #5 from your list and, as you know, The Innocents was one of my favourite books from 2019, but I also loved Judith Hearne. I was surprised by how much I loved it! Hopefully I’ll read another Brian Moore book this year.
    Looking forward to your 2021 plans! 🙂

  6. BookerTalk

    2020 was a year when my reading dropped significantly too and we are certainly not alone judging by many other posts from bloggers. But I don’t want to add to the stress of living in a pandemic world by fretting about this.
    Great to see The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne on your list of favourites – I read it a couple of years ago and was bowled over by it

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