Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Not-So-Quick 2020 Summary

Feather from a barred owl

This has been the most exhausting year and I am so very glad it is finally over. I haven't entirely quit blogging (mostly because that also takes a certain amount of effort) so I suppose I have to record my reading stats for 2020. A look at the basics:

Books read: 124
Number of those that were audiobooks: 29
Rereads: 25
Non-fiction reads: 11
Books in translation: 8

My "best" of the year are a bit different than usual because I was choosing mostly reads that were either comforting or distracting or "easy". My once-varied library list ended the year looking quite stern and scholarly as I selectively plucked out the light and genre reads and left the heavier non-fiction and literature titles alone. My home TBR was whittled down to a few classics and some titles that have been sitting there for years and probably should just be weeded. A quick count says I read:

Mystery: 30
Sci-fi: 16
Fantasy: 39

That means 68.5 percent of my reading was genre this year which seems rather high compared to my normal numbers though I'm far too lazy to actually count past years' numbers. Still, they were the perfect choices for this year of stress and uncertainty and I really liked almost everything I read. Here are the highlights:

In non-fiction, I can highly recommend From Holmes to Sherlock by Mattias Boström to any Sherlock fans. I learned a lot of cool pieces of trivia and was surprised to find that I had read/watched most of the post-ACD Sherlock content that was mentioned. One day I'll admit that I'm a Sherlockian. Also, Nature Obscura by Kelly Brenner inspired the best thing to happen to me this year -- my hummingbird feeder! I now have a daily visitor (a male Anna's) who is just getting used to me and sometimes lets me stand on the other side of the window watching him eat and fight. Though Kelly's observations are all about Seattle animals and locations, her love of exploring urban wildlife habitats is infectious and will definitely get you out into your yard or local park. (Plus, tardigrades are literally everywhere.) Finally Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran was super fascinating. Again, it was probably more interesting to me since the author and I are the same age but a good immigrant story is always worthwhile. Honorable mention goes to How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi for being an essential read to change one's basic thought processes around race and racism. I think about it constantly.

My favorite rereads? The Starless Sea and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, all four of the Murderbot novellas by Martha Wells, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and all of Kate Milford's Bluecrowne/Greenglass books. Honorable mention goes to a couple of the gothic novels I revisited: Jane Eyre and Rebecca. All of these books will always be on my home library shelves.

Finally, new-to-me books that I loved (in the order read because I don't have the energy to rank them):
Truckers, Diggers, and Wings by Terry Pratchett were written for a younger audience but were such great escapes, made more exciting by the great escapes of the wee little characters.
The Philosopher's War by Tom Miller was an exciting sequel, quite different from the original but brilliantly detailed about nursing and war and the magic system of the world. I wish this series had more fans.
The Vanishing Stair and The Hand on the Wall were books two and three in a murdery boarding school trilogy by Maureen Johnson and I absolutely loved them.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami was just like his other books, so removed from any reality that I know that they always provide near-perfect entertainment. There were certainly some weird parts, as there always are, but I appreciate that they never seem gimmicky.
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty was apparently "fantastic" in my spreadsheet but I don't remember very much about it except for blood smears. That happens with me and audiobooks so I'll be sure to get a paper copy to reread later.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune wins the award for book that made my heart the happiest this year. It was just a lovely tale of love and found family and I adored it for it's simplicity and honesty. I gave a copy to my sister for Christmas and she better love it or else.
Even though I mentioned the other books in the series in my rereads list, I'm going to call out The Thief Knot by Kate Milford because my spreadsheet note on it is the absolute truth - she has written the fictional world I would most like to live in. As I've said before about her books, they are marketed as middle grade but are really complex and interesting enough for all ages.
The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart is a new period mystery series with two smart young women as the protagonists and I look forward to reading about more of their adventures.
One that I didn't expect to like as much as I did was A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry. I got it from the library and looked at the summary and thought "why did I possibly think this would be interesting? It's just real history with magic stuck in." It turns out that real history with magic stuck in is AWESOME.
Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire) was made of everything I love. I need a copy on my shelves but am waiting and hoping that I'll be able to get a signed copy sometime next year since she's a local author.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix made me really annoyed that I've put off reading Garth Nix until now. I loved this one with its weaving of myths and magic and London (but sadly not much actual bookselling).
And A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik makes it onto the list simply because the negativity of the narrator was such a perfect fit to this year and my mood. She was angry and cynical and moody and I absolutely felt like I had found a friend (except she didn't want friends). It was also a humorous take on magical boarding schools that was fresh and fun.
Finally, honorable mention goes to all of the American Mystery Classics that I read this year (put out by Penzler Press). They weren't all perfect but the editor chose such a wide variety of authors and types of stories that I never knew what I was going to get and had fun with all of them! Rocket to the Morgue and A Puzzle for Fools were especially good.

So, I guess that's a wrap on this crap year. At least the books were good!

In the comments, recommend one book that you loved this year.


  1. Thanks for the update! Hang in there...

  2. Happy New Year Kristen, a better year in everything is wished for you. Your reading turned out great for 2020.

    1. Thank you, Diane! Reading was definitely the highlight of my year. :)

  3. Happy New Year! Your year of reading sounds great. I did a great deal of rereading this year too. My favourite new read of the year was Piranesi by Susannah Clarke. đŸ™‚

    1. Comfort rereads were even more comforting than usual and I appreciate that! And I did think I was getting Piranesi for Christmas but I didn't so it is at the top of the list of books to buy myself as soon as possible.

  4. "Sadly not much actual bookselling" in the Nix: you're not wrong there! What a lovely mix of titles, Kristen, and you've gone for quantity as well as quality! My favourite this year? I think, mainly because it's a recent stand-out read, it has to be Susanna Clarke's Piranesi.


    1. I do wish I had received Piranesi for Christmas. I purposefully left it on my list rather that buying it for myself because I thought it would be nice as a gift. Now I'll just have to head out and gift it to myself. :) Happy New Year, Chris!

  5. Oh, me too. You've got tons of good stuff on that list! I'm impressed. May better things be around the corner.

    1. I would say that better things *have* to be around the corner but I feel it would jinx it. But if we can avoid coups and have improvements in pandemics and fires and unemployment, this year will already be head and shoulders above the last few, right?! :)

    2. Yes! The bar is pretty low...

  6. Look at all those good books you read! I don't have that many new reads to look back on, but I did discover the perfect new author for a year like this: M.C.A Hogarth, and her Dreamhealers series. Lovely, gentle, fascinating: the perfect escape books!

    1. I'll go look her up! Escape books are essential right now. :)