What I Read in 2020

84 books in 2020

Did you know you don’t have to always find a silver lining? Sometimes it’s OK to say that a hard year was difficult, unpleasant, unwelcome and unfair.

This year was brutal and yeah, it’s cool I read 80+ books but given the choice, I’d read zero books and have zero people die from COVID-19. But those tradeoffs are impossible and imaginary and I hope not too terribly disrespectful to those we’ve lost. What I am saying is, lockdown and hospital overload and panic and loneliness and death this year weren’t worth it, for any reason. I don’t have to pretend they were and neither do you.

I also don’t believe 2020 was inexplicably a miserable year–we’ve been building up to this, our systems failing for everyone but the 1% was by design, not a fluke. Uh, an out-of-control pandemic is what happens when a national pandemic response team is dissolved? So, hate to say it, but I don’t think 2021 magically gets better. … HAPPY NEW YEAR!

And yet, and yet! I have never been so grateful to be a reader, to know that books can transport us when we’re stuck inside, that a fresh idea or beautiful sentence is almost as good as fresh air. I read so many good things this year! Books were a raft in the stormy sea.

I read some books in one greedy gulp and spaced out others over months. I listened to audiobooks and turned literal paper pages. I read small press books so I could review them. I actually enjoyed a Stephen King book for the first time since I was in 7th grade. I preordered books to auto-download the moment they were released. I checked out classics from the library. I read manga, I read poetry. There’s still stuff on my bookshelves I haven’t read but dammit I am going to read that, too!

Here’s the list. I can’t even pick a Top Whatever this year because so much of this is so so so good:

1. tiny beautiful things: Advice On Life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed
2. Erased, Vol.1 – Kei Sanbe
3. Little Weirds – Jenny Slate
4. The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays – Esme Weijun Wang
5. The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen
6. Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
7. Lives of Girls and Women – Alice Munro
8. Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson
9. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amore Towles
10. Queer and Trans Artists of Color – Nia King
11. Cantoras – Carolina de Robertis
12. The Middlesteins – Jami Attenberg
13. Deaf Republic – Ilya Kaminsy
14. A Dog Year: The Story of a Maladjusted Therapist and the Homeless Shih Tzus Who Rescued Her – Alison Hilborn-Tatro
15. 142 Ostriches: A Novel – April Davila
16. Yotsuba–1 – Kiyohiko Azuma
17. Yotsuba–2 – Kiyohiko Azuma
18. The Girl with the Most Cake: Poems about Courtney Love – Jesse Lyn McMains
19. Scrapple – Sian Griffiths
20. I’m Fine How Are You – Catherine Pikula
21. Things From The Creek Bed We Could Have Been – Caitlin Olson
22. How Sweet the Bitter Soup: A Memoir – Lori Qian
23. The Fabulous Ekphrastic Fantastic! – Miah Jeffra
24. Saraswati Takes Back the Alphabet – Shilpa Kamat
25. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls – T Kira Madden (re-read)
26. Excavation: A Memoir – Wendy Ortiz
27. Imaginary Vessels – Paisley Rekdal
28. Hot Milk – Deborah Levy
29. My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
30. Lima::Limon – Natalie Scenters-Zapico
31. American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst – Jeffrey Toobin
32. Blood of Elves (A Witcher Book) – Andrzej Sapkowski
33. Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue
34. Great Goddesses – Nikita Gill
35. Instances of Head-Switching – Teresa Milbrodt
36. Planetfall – Emma Newman
37. Tight Little Vocal Cords – Loie Rawding
38. Three Junes: A Novel – Julia Glass
39. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte
40. Arcadia – Lauren Groff
41. Parachutes – Kelly Yang
42. Pet Sematary – Stephen King
43. Friday Black: Stories – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
44. Signal to Noise – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
45. Writers & Lovers – Lily King
46. Ugly Music – Dianelly Antigua
47. Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir – Amy Tan
48. The Art of Living – Thich Nhat Hanh
49. The Sandman Omnibus: Vol 1 – Neil Gaiman
50. The Domestic Life of the Jersey Devil – Bill Sprouse
51. Coyote Songs – Gabino Iglesias
52. How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind – Pema Chodron
53. Oathbringer – Brandon Sanderson
54. The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss
55. Thick: And Other Essays – Tressie McMillan Cottom
56. The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
57. Carmilla – Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
58. Severance – Ling Ma
59. Wow, No Thank You – Samantha Irby
60. Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate
61. Jillian in the Borderlands – Beth Alvarado
62. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine – Michael Lewis
63. Berthe Morisot: The Correspondence with her family and friends, Manet, Puvis de Chavannes, Degas, Renoir & Mellarme
64. Dept. of Speculation – Jenny Offil
65. Seconds: A Graphic Novel – Bryan Lee O’Malley
66. Stephen King’s the Dark Tower: The Gunslinger 1: The Journey Begins
67. Clever Fresno Girl: The Travel Writings of Marguerite Thompson Zorach
68. The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller
69. Swamplandia! – Karen Russell
70. Writing to Change the World: An Inspiring Guide for Transforming the World with Words – Mary Pipher
71. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas
72. Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich – Norman Ohler
73. Sing, Unburied, Sing! – Jesmyn Ward
74. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You – Ibram X Kedni
75. In Full Velvet – Jenny Johnson
76. Ordinary Girls: A Memoir – Jaquira Diaz
77. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
78. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
79. Bird Watching at the End of the World: Poems – Lisa Mangini
80. A Thousand Acres – Jane Smiley
81. Yotsuba–3 Kiyohiko Azuma
82. Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry & Commentary, edited by Mary Newell, Bernard Quetchenbach, and Sarah Nolan
83. Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes
84. Louise Bourgeios – Frances Morris, ed. Contributors: Marie-Laure Bernadac, Pauo Herkenhof, Rosalind Krauss, and Julia Kristeva

6 thoughts on “What I Read in 2020”

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