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!