The Year in Reading

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Another year in reading winds down as I finish the 217th book for 2020. Looking back, it was most certainly a varied year, more so than usual, it seems.

The City We Became

The year began and almost ended with N.K. Jemisin. I plowed through her Shattered Earth trilogy in one consecutive go, taken by her worldbuilding and interesting assortment of characters. Her new series, The City We Became, is also wonderfully imaginative. In all four cases, I read these as audiobooks and have to give kudos to Robin Miles for delightful narration.

In the classics, thanks to the CraftLit podcast, we spent much of the year with Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which was a nice tale, not entirely to my taste, but I appreciate Heather Ordover’s commentary that helped explain why the book is worthy of study. I also read Little Women, which I was commanded to do before being allowed to see the most recent film adaptation, and I appreciate it for the tale it was, recognizing I was not the target audience.

This is Happiness

My habit remains to sample at least one new author every year and this year there were more than a few, beyond Jemisin and Bronte. There was Guy Boothby, a popular and prolific 19th-century author of astonishing fiction who is mostly forgotten now. And there was Kiley Reid’s debut Such as Fun Age which I read as part of the faculty book club. It landed on several year’s best lists and it would not make mine. Instead, the most satisfying debut author for me was Niall Williamson’s This is Happiness where little happens but is so lyrical you get lost in mid-20th Century Ireland and don’t mind.

Other highlights include having not one but two installments in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. The first, Peace Talks, was somewhat dissatisfying since it felt like all build up while Battle Ground more than made up for it. 

The Starless Sea

I revisited familiar authors but found myself disappointed with the results. Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham was okay but nothing revelatory and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was overstuffed, undercutting its interest. Lauren Groff’s Florida, a collection of short stories, worked a bit better for me. Perhaps the most disappointing return visit was Ernest Cline’s Ready Player Two, which added nothing to the world he created. I also finally finished Jason Matthew’s Red Sparrow trilogy with The Kremlin’s Candidate, an engaging espionage series. The most entertaining returning author was Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea which requires some effort on the part of the reader (or listener) but I was utterly transported.

Looking back, there was a dearth of nonfiction compared with previous years, something I need to address in 2021. A highlight here had to be Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile.

These were not all fiction and nonfiction but a hefty percentage were graphic novels. I continue to sample different creators and genres while keeping up with my favorite superheroes. I also finally read Barbarella which I found disappointing and something that has not aged well. On the other hand, I read the complete run of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and the art remains some of the best to ever grace a newspaper.

The year ended with Tana French’s The Searcher, the next book for the faculty club. I like French’s work so this was a pleasure and ended the reading year on a high note.

Of course, there remained the monthly comic books and magazines, weekly magazines, and daily newspapers so the reading has been enriching and varied.

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