Tag Archives: reading

My year in reading: 2020

2020 was a YEAR, wasn’t it? I started off the year with the ambitious goal of reading 70 books. Cute of me, in retrospect. I ended the year having started 71 books, but only finishing 54. Womp-womp. In most years, I would have been disappointed in falling so short of a stated goal, even one as arbitrary as number of books read, but by the end of 2020, my attitude was, basically, “F*** it.” (Which has been a helpful overall life mantra as I’ve navigated through the flaming pile of chaos that was 2020!) I’m happy I read any books at all, this year, frankly.

Failing to meet my goal also forced me to reevaluate the wisdom of setting numbers-based reading goals. Yes, I only read 54 books in 2020, whereas in 2019, I read 66 books, but I read 20,151 pages in 2020, as opposed to a measly 17,837 pages in 2019. So, there. But you know what? I wish I hadn’t read so many pages or finished as many books as I did this year, because this year, more than other years, I forced myself to finish books (often quite long books) that just were not working for me. And I regret that! I should have taken my own advice about not finishing books, because I wasted time and brain-space in a year in which I had neither resource to spare. In 2021, I resolve to quit books earlier, and/or to skim more liberally when necessary. Onward!

Now, for some of my faves and not-so-faves. (Please note, as always, that only some, not all, of these books actually came out in 2020).

Best novel: tie between Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi, and Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips. (NB: I will talk your ear off about either of these books, if given the slightest chance. Please read them. They are both gorgeous and wonderful and precious and make me want to be a better writer/burn everything I’ve ever written in a bonfire).

Best memoir: Tie between Wild Game, by Adrienne Brodeur and Empty, by Susan Burton

Best journalistic non-fiction: Hidden Valley Road, by Robert Kolker

Best book about writing: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, by Alexander Chee

Most eye-opening/life-changing: Quit Like a Woman, by Holly Whitaker

Most overhyped: Tie between The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett and Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino

Most enraging: 28 Summers, by Elin Hilderbrand (NB: I hated this book with such a fiery passion that I’m almost grateful to Hilderbrand for writing it and creating characters that were so gratifying to want the absolute worst for).

Best series: the Jackson Brodie mysteries, by Kate Atkinson

Long book I wish I hadn’t finished: SO MANY CONTENDERS, but tie between The Outsider, by Stephen King (577 pages), and The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (506 pages)

Book I really am gonna finish in 2021: Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

For more of my thoughts and notes, feel free to check out my handy Google spreadsheet!

What were the best books you read in 2020? Any great ones I missed? Hit me up!

My year in reading: 2019

At the beginning of 2018, I started tracking my reading using Google Docs, and I haven’t stopped. Tracking my reading has become fun, even addictive, and it’s spurred me to read even more than I already was. And, despite what my husband might tell me when I’m up past my bedtime devouring a book, more reading is, as Martha Stewart would say, A Good Thing.

Before I dive into a discussion of my favorite books that I read in 2019, a quick peek at the nuts and bolts of my year in reading. As I mentioned, I read more in 2019 than I did in 2018. In 2018, I read 47 books (some of which I discussed here). In 2019, I read 66 books (and I finished one on January 1, 2020, which does not count towards my total)! All in all, this amounted to over 17,000 pages of reading completed. Not too shabby, if you ask me!

One of the most interesting new trends in my reading life in 2019 was how many books I borrowed from the library. In 2018, I did not use my library card even once, mostly because it was too much of a hassle to get myself physically to my local branch (see: children, laziness). In 2019, though, I discovered the life-changing Libby app and used it to borrow 44 out of the 67 books I completed (plus some others that I didn’t finish). This genius little app has saved me a lot of money and has allowed me to try books that I might not have been willing to shell out for. Borrowing books also takes the sting out of not finishing ones that simply aren’t for me. I can happily return an unfinished book to the library (digitally, of course) and let some other reader have at it.

Speaking of books I didn’t finish, there were quite a few. Among them: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell, The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt, and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. My reasons for not finishing these and other books are included in my reading notes, which can be found in my Google Doc here.

Now, onto just a few of my favorites that I read in 2019 (NB: not all of these books came out in 2019; in fact, many of them are pretty old).

Number one favorite: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. My review here.

Runner-up favorite: Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane

Best memoir: Tie between Inheritance, by Dani Shapiro and Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb

Most surprising: Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link

Most practical: The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman

Most overrated: Tie between Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Conversations with Friends, by Sally Rooney

Best mystery: Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson

Best thriller: Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

Creepiest: Fever Dream, by Samanta Schweblin

Best non-memoir non-fiction: Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo

Best sci-fi/fantasy: Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

And, of course, my least favorite read, which I joyfully did not finish, was Dare Me, by Megan Abbott. What an utter stinker. (Sorry, Megan Abbott, if you’re reading this (you’re not). I liked some of your other books but this one really REALLY did not work for me).

You can read more of my thoughts on all of the books I picked up this year on my Google Doc or on my Goodreads profile. We are now three days into 2020 and I’ve already finished two books and am midway into a third, so I’m hoping I can blow through my reading record for 2019 this year. Happy new year and happy reading!

My year in reading: 2018

In my approximately 32 years of being a reader, it’s only in this past year that I’ve begun to actively track what I read. Sure, I’ve used Goodreads for years and would occasionally update my list when I remembered, but if you asked me to name how many (and which) books I read in a given year, I’d be at a loss. But in January of 2018, I started a Google spreadsheet to track my reading in a more structured way. And the results of my year in reading are here, for all to see.

In total, I finished 47 books, including fiction and non-fiction. I read novels of all descriptions, short-fiction collections, memoirs, compilations, self-help, investigative journalism, and true crime. Overall, I’m happy with how broadly I read, although there are, as always, a ton of books on my To Be Read list that I wished I’d gotten to this year but didn’t have time for.

Some notes about my reading habits: I am NOT a completist. If a book is not for me, and I’ve given it a good shot, I’ll abandon it. I talked about how to properly abandon a book in more detail in this post. I think recognizing when a book is not for you is a healthy skill to cultivate, as life is short, and there are more books in the universe than one human could ever hope to read, so why waste time with the duds? When you look at my 2018 reading log, you’ll see that there are several books, in italics, that I stopped reading because they were just not working for me. Because I got pretty far into most of these books, my abandonment of them hurt my overall reading numbers for the year. But tabulating my reading wasn’t really about hitting a specific number of books, so I’m fine with falling just short of a nice, round 50. (I also read several VERY LONG but excellent books, including Chimimanda Ngoze Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.)

Here are a few of the highlights from this excellent reading year, in bullet form! (NB: this list was VERY hard to compile because I loved so many of the books I read this year.)

  • Favorite non-fiction book: Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. This book is a fascinating, thrilling look into the twisted story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. And here I am discussing this book on The Blotter Presents!
  • Favorite book in translation: Beartown, by Frederik Backman
  • Favorite short-story collection: This Cake is for the Party, by Sarah Selecky. I loved Selecky’s collection so much, but I read a lot of fantastic short-fiction this year, including great collections by Jeffrey Eugenides, Lauren Groff, and Nafissa Thompson.
  • Most surprising read: Delicious Foods, by James Hanaham. So hard to describe this book in a way that doesn’t make it sound insane (for example, one of the narrators is the drug crack cocaine), but it is one of the books that stuck with me most this entire year. (Thanks to Yohanca Delgado for the recommendation).
  • Stupidest read: Single State of Mind, by Andi Dorfman. In my defense, I didn’t pay for this book with my own money, so I feel morally absolved for wasting brain cells on this dross.
  • Favorite collection of essays: Calypso, by David Sedaris
  • Favorite memoir: And Now We Have Everything, by Meaghan O’Connell. A must-read for mothers.
  • Favorite mystery: Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie
  • Worst ending: State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. I hate-hate-HATED the ending but enjoyed the book up until the very end.
  • Most overrated: The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer
  • Best (fiction) page-turner: The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. I saw some of the big twists in this book coming, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless!

I’d love to talk to you about your thoughts on any of these books, or others that changed your life this year. What was your best book of 2018?

Happy reading in 2019!