Happy New Year! 2020 was my most successful year of reading since becoming an adult (whenever that happened? I’m not sure). I owe most of this year’s reading to my library and their vast supply of audiobooks. I’ve never finished so many books on audio (47!) and absolutely wouldn’t have had the ability to concentrate on good books without being able to listen to them.
Just a quick housekeeping note: Goodreads updated my year in books on 12/29. But I finished another book last night, so my updated numbers are 109 books and 36,381 pages read (!).
My reading was varied this year – I embraced young adult and middle grade novels, tried out some fantasy, devoured a few cozy mystery series, and attempted to read every new release that I could get my hands on. For a snapshot of all of the books I finished this year, you can see my 2020 Goodreads Shelf. Here are a few of my favorite books from the year, in no particular order:
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
I only finished this a couple of weeks ago and I simply couldn’t stop reading it. It’s about Gifty, a 20-something neuroscientist who is researching ways to help people with addictions. Throughout this book, she grapples with her fervent religious identity as a child and thinks about how it helped and hindered her family. Her parents and older brother immigrated from Ghana to Alabama before she was born and her observations about their lives are incredible. This book was thoughtful, smart, and relatable in so many ways.
(I know I said these were my favorites in no particular order, but I’m pretty sure this was my #1 read this year!)
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
This was creepy and strange – a book with not many answers. The author played with race, class, and the images of ourselves that we project to others. It was short – I managed to listen to the audio version in just a couple of days – yet incredibly unsettling. It left me wanting to hear more of the story that Alam was trying to tell!
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
I read two of Krueger’s books this year and debated which to share in this post. I decided on this one because I read it first, but both were equally wonderful (the other was Ordinary Grace). Set in Minnesota in the 30s, a group of children run away from their orphanage in true Huck Finn style. This was a retelling of The Odyssey and such a good story.
The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
This is a typical WWII book with a predictable – yet moving! – storyline. But what captured my fancy was the present day storyline about Alice. Like me, she has a young son who is autistic and nonverbal. I’ve never seen my life written on the page before and I felt seen and heard in ways that I didn’t think was possible. And it was amazing to see her son’s ability to help Alice solve the puzzle in his own incredible way.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plant by Robin Wall Kimmerer
The author of this book of essays is a biologist, Indigenous woman, and a poet. I enjoyed so much about this book, especially when learning how Indigenous people came to many of the same conclusions as scientists by simply studying and respecting the nature of Earth. Kimmerer also has a book about moss that I’d like to listen to. Yes. Moss.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
This is a last minute addition that I only finished last night, but I absolutely had to include it! This was a fantastical and whimsical novel that had me laughing out loud and and grinning like a goofball the entire time I listened to it. It was such a great reminder that our “extraordinary” children have so much to offer when we embrace their unique abilities. The narrator is the best I’ve heard – he had so many voices that were perfect for each of the characters. I’m so happy that I finished out my reading year with this book… and it would be a great way to start 2021 if you’re still looking for your first read of the year!
As far as reading goals in 2021 –
I’m planning to set my Goodreads goal to 52 books, which works out to 1 book a week. That is certainly a respectable pace! If I happen to double that like I did this year, then so be it. But truly – I’m planning to spend 2021 focusing on quality rather than quantity. I say that every year and then get competitive with myself, but I really mean it this time. I’m planning to tackle some big books — I want to finish The Earth’s Children series for example – and I don’t want my inner voice about not doing “enough” to get in the way of that. 2021 is about Stillness – quieting that voice that incites the mania within me. And that extends to my reading life.
I’ll be relaxing my tracking habits. I’m retiring my spreadsheet and sticking to Goodreads and my paper/pen notebooks. I love all of the stats that my spreadsheet gives me, but it’s an extra layer that complicates my reading life and I’d like to pare my life down to the basics this year. My quarterly reading updates will include my favorite books, not the numbers they produce. Stillness.
I’ve debated whether to include chapter books that I read aloud with the kids. Until now, I haven’t. I don’t quite understand why I’ve made that decision, except for thinking that it somehow felt like cheating. But we read very good books together (most of the time), stop and talk about what’s happening in the books, look up words, and I read more slowly and deliberately when I’m reading aloud. In many ways, it’s a much more enriching reading experience than when I’m reading on my own. So — I’m going to start including chapter book read-alouds in my reading tally in 2021.
Thank you for all of the book recommendations, encouragement, and friendship in 2020. My reading life was enriched more than I can describe here. May we all have a 2021 full of great books and good friends to share them with. Cheers!