2020: My Year in Books

At the beginning of 2020, I set my Goodreads challenge goal at 52 books, just over half as many books as I read in 2019. I hypothesized that the book-a-week pace would allow me the time to ponder and reflect rather than binge and forget. I envisioned sitting with a notebook and a pen at my side, writing down notes, quotes, and insights and facilitating a deeper reading of each book.

Goodreads Challenge. If you follow me on Litsy, you might have seen one of these with 145 books completed. That was before I found a duplicate. The GR app and I sometimes argue.

It’s possible this would have worked and perhaps would have made me a better person in some un-quantifiable way, but I didn’t have a chance to test it out. After a slump in March, I overshot my monthly reading goal by an average of 7.67 books per month (Goal: an average of 4.33 books per month. Actual: an average of 12.00 books per month).

This change in plan ended up working very well for me. Immersing myself in books—hardcover, paperback, e-books, and audiobooks—gave me the chance to spend a good chunk of time looking through another person’s eyes. Several years ago I heard a radio show (it might have been this episode of Radiolab) about fMRI research showing that the brain function of someone reading an author’s prose mirrors the brain function of the author as she was writing the same piece of prose. There are a lot of reasons for skepticism about fMRI interpretation (see: dead-salmon study), but accurate or not, this mirroring is consistent with how it feels for me to read good fiction. And taking a brief vacation into someone else’s head was a very welcome experience in 2020.

In addition to this self-medication against the stresses of the year, my increased reading was also driven by my decision to use a literature-based curriculum for my children’s homeschool history and literature. We’re using Emily Cook’s Build Your Library (a combination of Levels 5, 6, 11, and 12 because I can’t not mess with curriculum), and the booklists are extensive and (with a couple of exceptions) excellent. Of the 144 books Goodreads gives me credit for reading this year, 48 were books I read with my children for Build Your Library, and that’s not even all on their lists, just the ones I managed to keep up with. As I determine my 2021 reading goal, I’m taking Build Your Library books into account.

You can see the titles by visiting my monthly Bookends posts for 2020, but here are the stats (main stats are from Goodreads, pretty charts are from TheStoryGraph, which doesn’t count DNFs):

Number of books read: 144 (140 finished, 4 DNF)

Average books per week: 2.77

Average books per day: 0.39

Pages read for the year: 43,043

Average pages per day: 117.60

Pretty Charts:

My Top Ten Reads for 2020:

And that’s my reading for 2020.

What does 2021 hold for my reading life? Well, I’m planning to keep up with the things I loved with my reading in 2020, like Build Your Library, #bookspinbingo, and Bookends posts, and I’m going to add a #ReadingAsia challenge and read books recommended for me as part of #newyearwhodis. In 2020, I transitioned almost all of my book buying from Amazon to local booksellers, Bookshop.org, and Biblio.com, and I bought a Kobo so I could disconnect from the Kindle world and get ebooks from our city library (which doesn’t support Kindle) as well as our county library (which does), and I plan to continue distancing myself from Bezos in 2021. I’m not even a single gnat to behemoth Amazon, but I feel good about this decision and about the opportunity to connect with and support booksellers in my city. I also plan to continue using the library. I’m hopeful that it will be safe for the library to reopen for browsing so I can resume my weekly library hangout time by autumn; in the meantime, there’s curbside.

So, farewell to a year that brought surprises that shouldn’t have been surprises and hundreds of thousands of deaths that shouldn’t have happened this year, and hello to a new year certain to bring things we don’t expect. Hopefully it will be mostly nice things, like friendly kitties, pretty sunsets, people being neighborly, and elected officials committed to promoting unity and much-needed reform.

A note regarding reading trackers:

I am currently using five different reading apps. Each one provides a little something different, so I’m hesitant to give up any of them.

  1. Litsy
    • I love Litsy for social interactions among people who are also a little nutty about books, for sharing photos and short reviews, reading challenges (like #bookspinbingo, #scarathlon, and #WinterGames), and basic TBR management.
  2. LibraryThing
    • I like this one for managing my home library, half-star ratings, the ability to choose and upload covers and to record so very many details about each book, advanced sorting, requesting ARCs, and playing the scavenger hunts they host several times a year.
  3. Goodreads
    • This was the first online tracker I used, way back before Amazon acquired them. I have a bit of a one-sided feud going with Amazon, so I have been trying and trying and trying to jettison GR, but it’s really good for writing and perusing reviews, I like the way they do their shelves, and I’m used to it.
  4. Beanstack
    • I started using this one just for library challenges (Summer Reading, etc), but it’s really good for tracking reading time for various other readathons and challenges, and it’s super easy to add books.
  5. TheStoryGraph
    • This is my newest addition. Its strengths include much better book recommendations than GR and beautiful graphs. There’s likely more awesomeness here, but I’ve just gotten started.

As you can see, I really can’t get rid of any of these reading trackers. It’s okay, though, because so far I’m still spending more time reading than I am writing about or tracking reading. I think. I should probably get a reading tracking tracker to know for sure.

Links to the most recent Bookends posts for 2020, to get you started:

Different Stories

Last weekend, my spouse and I celebrated our twenty-second wedding anniversary, but whether we actually “celebrated” it or not depends on the story we tell. One version of the story is that the kids had orchestra rehearsals all day and the house needed cleaning and I had to teach in the evening, so we didn’t … Continue reading Different Stories

On the “New Normal”

Lately, our theme seems to be “almost normal.” My kids have started going back to in-person orchestra rehearsals, which is “normal” by pre-pandemic standards while being infused with pandemic modifications: everyone wears special masks to allow them to play their instruments while still being masked, brass instruments use bell covers, woodwinds—including the bassoons—have their instruments … Continue reading On the “New Normal”

Bookends: September 2021

With the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this month, I saw two things: a lot of posts and commentary about the sense of unity that existed in the United States in the days following the attacks, and a lot of “This isn’t who we are” in response to racially or ethnically motivated violence. The … Continue reading Bookends: September 2021

3 Replies to “2020: My Year in Books”

  1. That’s impressive how one can read so many books, well done 🙂 have a great new year! Cheers from Portugal, PedroL

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