Reading Year in Review, 2020

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A strange year for reading, to be sure. You might think that COVID lockdowns would provide more time for reading, but I think my total amount of reading for the year was about average. Part of this was having less time on trains and planes, which in the past has been a prime reading time for me. Part of it was also getting a Nintendo Switch; much reading time was surely sacrificed to “Breath of the Wild” (no regrets though!).

The biggest development in my reading world was finally starting this website. I already wrote a lot about my motivation for doing it in the about page, so I won’t re-hash it here. But a couple of months in, I’m feeling good about it. I’ve had the chance to write a few longer or more complex pieces that wouldn’t really have fit the mold at Goodreads, and I haven’t felt self-pressure to write more, publicize more, etc. It’s a nice place to have. Also, my decision to “take out” all my Goodreads data was totally validated by the fact that just a few weeks later, they closed down their API (the interface that lets you programatically pull down your own reading data) without any warning. So unfortunately my post about that is now obsolete, except as a historical artifact.

I did continue keeping tabs on my male/female author ratio–despite my professed desire to have a less quantitative relationship with books, it’s a commitment that still feels important to me–and managed to keep it even. I also continued the trend I started in 2019 of putting books down if I wasn’t that into them, and in fact did that a lot more this year–I DNF’d about 10 books, with a couple more where I intentionally only read certain parts of them that interested me. Do those count as DNF? The answer is, who cares!

In terms of the practicalities of reading in 2020, the MVP for me was unquestionably the Libby app, which lets you put holds on and check out e-books from libraries. With my local library either closed or limited-access for much of the year, I relied really heavily on Libby, and bought from indie bookstores when I couldn’t find a book there (mostly The Lit Bar in the Bronx and RJ Julia here in Connecticut).

A few of my favorite books from the last year:
- The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein, and its sequel The Outskirter’s Secret–looking forward to reading the other two books in the series soon. - Descender, Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen–my local library doesn’t have any of the later volumes, and I don’t want to read comics in e-book format. Maybe it’s time to buy the next one! - The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich–I gave this to multiple people as a gift this year. Had been meaning to read something by her for a while, and this was a great place to start. - Race for Profit by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor–I didn’t know much about racism in the US housing market from 1970-2000, and learned a lot from this book, which I also enjoyed discussing with my partner. - 1919 by Eve Ewing - I don’t read much poetry, and I’d like to read more. Eve Ewing is the one poet who I know I love! - The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle–a masterclass in taking something problematic and making it new. - Caste by Isabel Wilkerson–I’ve given this as a gift and had a lot of conversations based on it with others who have read it.

If I have a “reading resolution” for 2021, besides continuing to write on this site, it’s to be a bit more intentional in my reading. For the most part, my reading is a pretty haphazard combination of things I hear about that sound interesting, ordered according to when I get them off the library hold list, and somewhat shaped by my intentional approach to reading more women. But if I can say one thing I’ve found so far from doing more expansive book reviewing on this site, it’s that I enjoy having a couple of related books I can think and write about together, on a topic that matters to me. Seems kind of obvious when I write it out like that! That happened somewhat coincidentally on a couple of occasions in 2020, but I’d like to do it more intentionally in 2021.