Wow, 2020. This year has been something, right?? But throughout all the weirdness, at least I still have books. I really love books. From time to time my husband and I kick around the idea of selling everything we own and loading up a camper and becoming wandering gypsies, but honestly I look around at all my books and they hold me back. Could I really give them all up…???? (Spoiler alert: I don’t think so.)
Anyway, 2020 was a weird reading year, just like it was a weird everything year. As I frequently do when I need comfort, I did a lot of rereading of old favorites this year, and also read a lot of mindless fluff. I really want to delve into more nonfiction in 2021, but some part of me is also willing to acknowledge that reading is my escape. At any rate, here’s a summary of my year in books!!
Throughout the year, I finished 292 books (three fewer than 2019) for a total of 85,112 pages (3342 more than 2019). My best reading month was June, and my slowest month was March. I DNF’d 20 books, many of which were books that I owned and have now hit the giveaway box, leaving me some more shelf space for better books!!
My longest book of the year was Moby-Dick, clocking in at 663 arduous pages, while my shortest book was A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith at a mere 98 (with pictures).
According to GoodReads, the most popular book I read this year was Pride and Prejudice, with a genuinely amazing 3,097,996 ratings, while the least popular was Foxes in Love, which has only 20.
2020 Highs & Lows
I read some great – and not-so-great – books this year. Here they are by month (I’m not going to link to these, but you can find my reviews of them by searching for the title or by checking my indexes) –
Highs: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman won my slot for Favorite Read – dark humor, but so well written – but there were several close runners-up: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (which only didn’t win the favorite spot because it was a reread), The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (absolute perfection), and Living With Color by Rebecca Atwood (one of my all-time favorite nonfiction reads, and I can’t even exactly explain why).
Lows: Not anything terrible, but several mehs, plus Stoner (by John Williams) was definitely a downer despite the beautiful language. Other so-sos for the month included How to Stop Time by Matt Haig and A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith (and I usually really enjoy King-Smith’s books).
Highs: Free to Fall by Lauren Miller was my favorite for the month (although I also heartily enjoyed my reread of Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys) – I still think about it from time to time.
Lows: I struggled through The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, but never did connect with it. I also felt pretty meh about Denise Hunter’s Summer by the Tides, which I really wanted to like, and my reread of Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck – it was WAY cheesier than I remembered!
Highs: Coot Club, another Swallows & Amazons book by Arthur Ransome, was my hands-down favorite, although I also enjoyed rereads of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.
Lows: Nothing terrible in March, although I did give the boot to a book that had been on my shelf for years – a little Scholastic Book Club story called Mystery in the Pirate Oak by Helen Fuller Orton. It was just pretty choppy and not that engaging.
Highs: My favorites in April were ALL rereads – April was a big rereading month. I was so happy to delve back into Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery, Leave It to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and Fire Study by Maria Snyder.
Lows: Nothing terrible. I put The Red Address Book (by Sofia Lundberg) in my most disappointing slot even though it was still a decent read. It just felt like it could have been more and it wasn’t.
Highs: May was another month full of rereads. I was working a LOT and it just felt like the way to go. It mean that I revisited lots of favorites. Plus, I also got to read the next Swallows & Amazons book, Pigeon Post, which was another easy 5* read. Other 4 & 5* reads included Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry, Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy by Jean Webster, Borgel by Daniel Pinkwater, and the rest of the Chronicles of Ixia by Maria Snyder.
Lows: I actually had three books I rated at 2.5* in May. Two of them were for traveling book clubs, so I felt obligated to complete them – The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, which may have been the most cliched book I read all year, and Little Gods by Meng Jin, which just wasn’t my type of book. I was also quite disappointed by The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan – these books have such a fun concept but she manages to write them in the most boring way possible. I still have the next book on my New Arrivals shelf, waiting to be read…
Highs: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord ended up being one of my favorites of the year. The rest of June was mostly more rereads of favorites (are you starting to see why my TBR numbers never seem to go down??) – Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes by Frank Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen, and The Snarkout Boys & the Avocado of Death by Daniel Pinkwater, which was honestly even funnier than I remembered.
Lows: My One Square Inch of Alaska by by Sharon Short was my traveling book club book for the month and it was just wayyyyy too much whiny teenage angst for me. I also reread Bambi’s Children by Felix Salten and it was worst than I remembered – unlike Bambi, which I’ve read many times and find engaging and educational, the sequel felt like it was trying too hard.
Highs: We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome – one of my favorites from the Swallows & Amazons series so far – was a delightful read. I also absolutely loved my reread of Frank Peretti’s classic duology, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness.
Lows: Nothing too terrible, although I wasn’t a big fan of Calypso by Ed McBain. I’ve read over half of the 55 books in this series and this one has been my least favorite to date.
Highs: August was kind of a bum reading month. I did really enjoy Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game and also my rereads of the next two Anne books, Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Poplars.
Lows: Definitely Jane Austen in Scarsdale, which was one of my least-favorite books of the year. Wow, this one was just so bitter and depressing.
Highs: Absolutely loved Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat – what a fantastic cooking/science/educational book. I still pull it out and reference it! I also thoroughly enjoyed the next Swallows & Amazons book, Secret Water, as well as the next Anne book (a reread of course), Anne’s House of Dreams.
Lows: Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff – I was expecting a funny little paranormal caper, but ended up with a bizarre love triangle that included a guy that the girl keeps saying is too young for her, and a ghost. It was also sooo boring.
Highs: I really enjoyed another nonfiction book in October, and another book I’ve referenced a lot since I read it – Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. I also really enjoyed Naomi Novik’s new book, A Deadly Education, and my rereads of Anne of Ingleside and Pride and Prejudice.
Lows: Another Ed McBain book, vying with Calypso for the lowest spot – Lightning. I will say that I’ve been reading these in 5-book batches. They started in the 50s and now I’m into the ones written in the 80s and you can TELL they were written in the 80s!
Highs: I unexpectedly loved Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley, despite it not being “my kind of book.” I also loved reread Rilla of Ingleside and Northanger Abbey.
Lows: I was quite sad that Lloyd Alexander’s The Illyrian Adventure was so lame, since I love the Prydain Chronicles so much. I also read a bizarre-o graphic novel, The Cats of the Louvre, that still weirds me out if I think about it. Maggie Stiefvater’s graphic novel, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches was a let-down mostly because I usually really enjoy her writing, but felt like it was very flat and choppy here. Finally, while I ended up giving it 3*, Moby-Dick was definitely a chore that dragged down my reading for the whole month.
Highs: Lots of happy reads in December since I was determined to embrace Christmas fluff as much as humanly possible. I loved reread The Hundred and One Dalamatians and Sorcery and Cecelia. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan, Mutts & Mistletoe by Natalie Cox, The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss, and Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm by Jaimie Admans.
Lows: Pride & Prejudice & Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz was a complete bust, and I don’t even know why I finished Husband Under Construction by Karen Templeton!
TBR Update – Year to Date
Well, here’s the real moment of truth – did I actually go down in any real way on my TBR?? Did those 292 books actually make a dent anywhere?? I actually don’t know the answers yet – I’m getting ready to find out as I write this section!
For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:
- Standalones: 515 (up 67 – oh dear, this isn’t a good start haha)
- Nonfiction: 124 (up a mere 18…)
- Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…): 647 (actually down 7! Progress!)
- Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 255 (up 18! What is happening!)
- Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 118 (up 6!)
- New Arrivals (I just started tracking this in December, so this doesn’t have a comparison for last year – it’s so I can compare it when I wrap up 2021…): 115
Okay, so TOTAL FAIL! I’m up a net of 102! And some of those are actually series so they’re more than one book! Somehow, I’m reading wrong! LOL
New Addiction Alert – StoryGraph
Recently, I joined yet another bookish social media (?? Not exactly) site, StoryGraph (http://ww.thestorygraph.com). It’s kind of like Goodreads except it gives you WAY more stats – I’m having so much fun with them! When people review books, they can categorize them (was it inspiring? Challenging? Mysterious? Funny?) as well as check off how you thought the pacing was, whether there was good character development, etc. Then it uses those stats to let you know what kind of books you’ve been reading – and what books you may want to read next –
Here are a couple of my graphs from my 2020 reads. On the website, if I hover over any of those pie pieces it gives me more details, or I can click on it and it will bring up the list of books that fit that category! It’s SO FUN.
Here’s one that shows my reading pace throughout the year. (You can download your reading info from Goodreads and then import it to StoryGraph, which I did in November… then didn’t use StoryGraph hardly at all in December, so my stats are a little off since there’s a gap in my reading information haha) Since I uploaded my info from my current GR account, I have stats going back a few years, so you can look at them by year, month, or all-time. If you’re remotely nerdy about this stuff, I totally recommend giving it a try. It isn’t as “social” as GR – for instance, one thing that I love on GR is that if I go to a book’s page it shows me if any of my GR friends have read/reviewed it by having their reviews at the top of reviews section. Even though you can follow people on SG, there isn’t a way to find out if anyone is following you, or a way to interact with anything that anyone else posts. However, the website is still in a beta phase, so some of those aspects may be forthcoming. Since I honestly don’t socialize on GR much (can’t remember the last time I actually scrolled through my feed), SG works for me just as well. And even though I don’t exactly think Amazon is going to kill us all, it is nice to support websites and organizations that independent from some of the mega-corporations.
So I really enjoyed doing some reading challenges last year. I usually do them “backwards” – that is, I read books and then see if they fit any of the challenge prompts instead of trying to find books that fit them. I’m signed up for just as many challenges (maybe more!) as last year, but probably won’t bore you all by nattering on about them here lol However, I will say that SG also has a great challenges area – you can join random ones that are already there, or create your own. When you finish reading a book, you can easily add it to the challenges that it accomplished, and SG tracks your progress. You can also see what books someone else has added to a certain prompt, so if you’re stuck, you can see what other people have read to check off that prompt. For instance, I’m still working on my #SeparatedbyaPondTour challenge – reading a book at least partially set in each state/county/province in the countries traditionally “separated by the pond.” I added it to SG and now each of those states/counties/provinces is a prompt. A few other people have joined the challenge and are adding books to those prompts, which means if I’m stuck on a certain Irish county, someone else may have read a book set there. It’s super fun. And now I feel like I should apologize for turning this post into a SG commercial!!
2020 was a weird year, and I think 2021 is going to be even weirder. But at least there are books, other people who enjoy them, crazy websites to track them, and a TBR that literally never ends. Here’s to a great year with lots of happily ever afters.