Welp, 2020 in reading was rather frustrating, and also, I’m still stuck in 2020. I kept writing “next year” in the title and such about 2021. Whoops. I started off the year strong, where by February, I was reading a book a week. Then something happened after March 21 were my reading fell off a cliff — narrator: it was the pandemic. I didn’t pick up a book again until June and for the next six months, my reading was slow. Given adult life and responsibilities and such, I set a modest goal to read 20 books in 2020. Unfortunately, I fell well short of that at 12 books. Still, because some of the books were rather long, Goodreads tells me I read 5,290 pages this year. The shortest book was 176 pages and the longest was 1,153, with an average book length of 440 pages.
I started the year finishing Lee Child’s collection of Jack Reacher short stories, No Middle Man, which I had started in December 2019. From there, I read the following:
- Blue Moon by Lee Child.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
- The Shining by Stephen King.
- The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement by Taylor Branch.
- The Last Stone by Mark Bowden.
- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara.
- One D.O.A., One on the Way by Mary Robison.
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.
- The Institute by Stephen King.
- The Stand by Stephen King.
- The Four Before Me by E.H. Night.
The only disappointing book on that list was The Last Stone, which I gave two stars for being too deferential to the police, too exploitative within the true crime genre, and overall not that interesting. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever hate-read a book knowing that I would love to rant about it afterward as an example of what not to do in many respects (as both a suspect and an author).
The most surprising book on that list was One D.O.A., One on the Way, which I thought was a gem of a book, with Robison’s writing capturing the spirit of New Orleans in its post-Katrina haze in an extraordinarily compelling way. The clipped, short sentences reminded me of Cormac McCarthy in a way.
The year belonged to King, as a quarter of the books I read were his. It was fun to read two of his classic books in The Shining and The Stand, and a newer book, The Institute. The Shining was everything I could have hoped for and more. While The Stand disappointed me to an extent, it’s still nice to have read what many people consider to be King’s best book. I look forward to continuing to devour King’s oeuvre in 2021.
The book that most lived up to its hype was The Handmaid’s Tale. Obviously, given the Hulu show and the resurgence of the book because of the current political climate, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But Atwood’s writing was sublime and quotable in almost every chapter. As far as the dystopian genre goes, it’s one of the best ever for a reason.
The best nonfiction book, which isn’t hard to figure out since I only read three and one of them was disappointing, was I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. Simply put, it might be the best true crime book I’ve ever read. Weaving both true crime with memoir, McNamara’s book reads like a thriller movie, but packs a lot of heart and honesty into it, both of which make for the best of memoir.
The best book on that list, and it’s a tough call since I liked so many, was Where the Crawdads Sing. Even aside from how impressive it is that this was Owens’ first book, I don’t think any other book this year besides maybe The Shining so enraptured me. Kya was an interesting, intelligent character to see the world through and the setting of the North Carolina marsh was unique and compelling. The romance angle toward the latter half of the book isn’t as potent as the first half, but the first half is strong enough to carry the book to my favorite of the year.
One goal I have next year is to read more nonfiction. I have a lot of great nonfiction books spanning politics, religion, psychology, biography and memoir that I wish I had gotten a chance to dig into more.
Another goal next year is to read more of my graphic novels. I’m shocked looking back that I didn’t read one graphic novel this year.
Finally, I went ahead and set my reading challenge goal for 2021 at 20 again (and now I feel like I should have done 21 to match the year). I’m hoping to reach it this year!
What did your reading look like in 2020 and what are your reading goals for 2021?