1 January 2021

2020 in Books

I don't normally set myself reading goals, but a year ago I set myself two goals (and even created a spreadsheet to track my reading progress).

1)  Read 52 books (ie a book a week)

2)  Read more diversely.

In terms of the first goal - reading a book a week - well, 2020 was a complicated reading year for me.  I started out well, finishing 6 books in January and 4 books in February.  But then the pandemic hit and my ability to read and to focus on what I was reading ground to a halt.  Even my usual "guaranteed" reading time while exercising didn't happen as I found that I couldn't focus on anything more than YouTube videos while on the Elliptical.

I finished 2 books in March (both in the first half of March), one book in April, 2 in May, 1 in June, and 2 in July.  With my vacation in August, my reading started to pick up again, and I finished the year with a grand total of 33 books read (and for the sake of total transparency, one of those books was a DNF, but I exerted more time and energy on that book than I did on many that I did finish).  I also didn't count picture books in that total even though I read a number of those both for work and when visiting my sisters and their kids.  Even though I didn't reach my goal, I'm quite happy with the number, given the events of the year.

With regards to the second goal - I set this goal last December after some of the racism in the publishing industry was made public.  I decided that I wanted to intentionally read diverse authors and diverse experiences.  When I tally up my 2020 book list, 9/33 (27%) were written by Non-White authors, and 14/33 (42%) featured Non-White main characters.  I feel that these numbers are OK but not great.  I don't have my previous stats to know if this represents "more," but what I can do is to try and do better this year.

Some other fun stats:

7/33 (21%) were Non-Fiction; 26/32 (79%) were Fiction of one genre or another.

10/33 (30%) were by Canadian authors.  This number is lower than in other years.

3/33 (9%) were re-reads; 30/33 (91%) were first-time reads.

5/33 (15%) were by male authors; 28/33 (85%) were by female authors.

19/33 (58%) were paper books; 10/33 (30%) were e-books; 4/33 (12%) were audiobooks

The oldest book I read was first published in 1922; the newest books were published in 2020.


My favourite reads of the year (listed in the order I finished them):

  • Educated (Tara Westover) - a really engaging memoir - an interesting and unique story, well written.
  • The Flatshare (Beth O'Leary) - escapist fiction read at the peak of the spring lockdown
  • Glass Houses (Louise Penny) - I've been reading this series over the past few years and enjoying most of them, but this one left me feeling as shattered as the glass in the cafe window
  • Orange is the New Black (Piper Kerman) - I listened to this as an audiobook on my Ontario road trip, and I looked forward to getting into my car so I could keep listening
  • Brother (David Chariandy) - we read this as a church book study and I was blown away by the writing, the vividness of the setting, and the engaging story. (I read it straight through in an afternoon as I couldn't put it down.)


My most memorable read of the year, but not in a good way:

  • Second Sleep (Robert Harris) - I need to preface this by saying that I don't do scary.  I was really enjoying this book - the world building, and trying to figure it out - but then the ending of it blindsided me with the terror of it.  Even though I finished it in early January, this book haunted me for a good 6 months or more.  Even now when I think of it, it fills me with a sense of dread.'


The one DNF:

  •  The Lost Queen (Signe Pike) - I loved the premise of it, but after slogging through a couple hundred pages, I realized that I didn't really like any of the characters, I didn't care about what happened to them, and the anachronisms were really annoying me.


For 2021:

  • I want to aim for 52 books again this year
  • I want to continue to increase the diversity of my reading.  I think that I am going to adjust my spreadsheet columns this year to have a column that tracks Non-White vs. White authors and a column to track LGBTQ+ authors.
  • This year I am also going to (try to remember to) include picture books on my spreadsheet - not because I want to bulk out my list with "easy" reads, but because I wish that I could remember all of the picture books I read this year (there were some good ones).


 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

(In terms of the content - the covers are all quite lovely)

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