Thursday, December 31, 2020

My 2020 in Books

According to the Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge, I read 45 books this year. That's a bunch of reading. But is 3 short of my goal of 48 (94%). I think the main excuse I have for missing the number is that I was stymied from listening to audio books during commute and gym time because I've been working from home for the past 300 days. I did well on my sub-goal of reading more current titles: 14 (almost 1/3) were published in 2020. Another sub-goal was more non-fiction (that also wasn't a biography or about writing): 7 titles fit that description. On the flip-side, this meant that I only read 2 titles out of my backlog of physical books. But I did manage to read a majority of physical books that I purchased via my local bookstore. Here are some highlights:

  1. Non-fiction. These four really stood out:
    1. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Laren - I read this early on during the pandemic lockdown. Oddly enough, reading about what the people of London had to endure during The Blitz in WWII helped put my own situation into perspective.
    2. What Unites Us by Dan Rather - I read this around the time of the election and post-election furor and I, along with many others, found it a quite comforting portrait of what the United States is really about.
    3. Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski - A deeply personal and moving rags-to-riches, hard-work-pays-off Hollywood story without being cloying, sensational or scandalous (by the creator of the TV series Babylon 5 and Sense8).
    4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - made me think differently about the idea of "race" in historical and modern America.

  2. Netgalley. I limited myself to previewing 5 titles on Netgalley this year, including some authors that are new to me.  I was happy to post early reviews for all of them. My favorites:
    1. The Last Agent (sequel to The Eighth Sister) by Robert Dugoni - the second installment is even more thrilling than the first.
    2. All We Buried by Elena Taylor - excellent first book in a new crime series by a local author that uncovers the (fictional) secrets in a small town.
    3. The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal - third book in the Lady Astronaut series, which I highly recommend for fans of early space flight, NASA and good writing.

Some other treats this year:

  1. Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré - His most recently published novel and le Carré at his best. Boiled down. Insightful. At turns appropriately humorous and cruel. His spies find action in inaction and waiting. In talking their way through confrontations, rather than shooting.
  2. Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks) - is a fun collection of short stories that all manage to incorporate the use of a typewriter (he's a big fan and collector of them).
  3. Erebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin (audio book) - tells the story of one particular 19th Century ship and her crew as they explore the South and North Poles. I loved hearing the excitement in the author's voice as he read this.
  4. Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler's Best by Neal Bascomb - a quite fascinating read about the early days of auto racing and what is now Formula 1.

My 2020 wrap-up is at

I'm planning a similar strategy in 2021. Clear out my backlog, yet keep up with some current titles, choosing authors I don't usually read. And I'll be sure to read some challenging non-fiction. But this year I will set a lower overall number and tackle some longer works that I've been avoiding in order to keep my numbers up. Who knows? I may even be able to find more time to read this year.

Keep reading! And share a book with a friend.