Monday, January 4, 2021

2020 Reading Roundup 

Once again it's time for my annual reading roundup. You would think that with the worldwide pandemic I would have broken my record for most books read but alas, that is not the case. In 2020 I read or listened to 58 books, including one book which I did not realize I had previously read (more on that later). The books I read, with links to their page on Amazon and their author's  webpage or presence is:



Redhead by the Side of the Road

Anne Tyler

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

Erik Larson

The Lost Shtetl: A Novel

Max Gross

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Isabel Wilkerson

The Sentinel (Jack Reacher, #25)

Lee Child

All Adults Here

Emma Straub


Jean Hanff Korelitz

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot: A Novel

Marianne Cronin

American Dirt

Jeanine Cummins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0)

Suzanne Collins

The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals: A Novel

Becky Mandelbaum

Forest Dark

Nicole Krauss

Separation Anxiety: A Novel

Laura Zigman

What You Wish For

Katherine Center

Thirteen (Eddie Flynn #4)

Steve Cavanagh

Ginny Moon

Benjamin Ludwig

The End of the Day

Bill Clegg

The Miniaturist

Jessie Burton

One to Watch

Kate Stayman-London

An Abundance of Katherines

John Green

When We Were Vikings

Andrew David MacDonald

The Order (Gabriel Allon #20)

Daniel Silva

The Giver of Stars

Jojo Moyes

The Kids Are Gonna Ask

Gretchen Anthony

What Alice Forgot

Liane Moriarty

לא מפסיקים אהבה באמצע

Lior Engelman

The Nest

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney


Colum McCann

Two Sisters

Asne Seierstad

The Authenticity Project

Clare Pooley

Magic for Liars

Sarah Gailey

The Glass Hotel

Emily St. John Mandel

I Was Told It Would Get Easier

Abbi Waxman

White Bird

R.J. Palacio

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

Liza Mundy

The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: a therapist, her therapist, and our lives revealed

Lori Gottlieb

Fair Warning (Jack McEvoy #3)

Michael Connelly

The Girl with the Louding Voice

Abi Daré

The Paris Diversion (Kate Moore, #2)

Chris  Pavone

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

Robin DiAngelo

How to Be an Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi

Masked Prey (Lucas Davenport #30)

John Sandford

Such a Fun Age

Kiley Reid

Uncanny Valley

Anna Wiener

All This Could Be Yours

Jami Attenberg

Red at the Bone

Jacqueline Woodson

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

Nicholas D. Kristof

The Most Fun We Ever Had

Claire Lombardo

The Rosie Result

Graeme Simsion

The House of Broken Angels

Luis Alberto Urrea

There There

Tommy Orange

Waking Gods (Themis Files, #2)

Sylvain Neuvel

The Chalk Artist

Allegra Goodman

This Is How It Always Is

Laurie Frankel

The Chalk Man

C.J. Tudor

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

Caroline Criado Perez

 Although 2020 wasn't my worst reading year it was among the lowest since I've started keeping track. One of the reasons is that more than half the books I consume are audiobooks I listen to usually during my daily commute to work. As the pandemic took hold and we began partially working from home my listening time decreased. 

As you can see by the breakdown by media, this is the fourth year running that the number of audiobooks I listened to has far surpassed the books I read either electronically (on weekdays) or with physical books (on Shabbat). I feel that during the week I waste a lot of my evening on Facebook, something I am trying to work on in 2021. A few weeks ago I erased the Facebook app from my phone which many have said is the first step to getting your Facebook addiction under control (if you can't go cold turkey). So we'll see how that goes. I love that audiobooks have opened up the world of nonfiction to me, since I find them difficult to read but find some to be fascinating. 

The breakdown by month showed a strong start in January and as the pandemic took hold I read fewer books though I'm not sure why. 

Some interesting stats are 22 of the books I read were by authors I've previously read, 11 were nonfiction, 7 were series, 4 were Jewish themed, 1 was in Hebrew. Although not represented in the chart below, several of the books I read were related to race and immigration. More on that below. 

Once again, in order to share more details and insights on my reading year, I'm taking part in Jamie, the Perpetual Page-Turner's 11th Annual End Of Year Survey – 2020 edition!! Check out her site to see what other readers were up to in 2020.

1. Best Book You Read In 2020?

As always, it's almost impossible to choose just one. The best non fiction book I read was Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents which was difficult to read/listen to but should be required reading by everyone. Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope was also a great nonfiction read about the the crisis in working-class AmericaMy favorite fiction books were The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot (my second favorite genre: sick/dying teens), This Is How It Always Is, The Girl with the Louding Voice, and The Vanishing Half.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Lost Shtetl, the debut novel by Max Gross got a lot of  hype. It's a book about a small Jewish town (shtetl) that history overlooked and what happens when it's discovered. I really wanted to like it and I really did not. 

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

When American Dirt came out I put it on my TBR list, and by the time it was available at my library the controversy had broken out about cultural appropriation and who has the right to tell what story. "Read a book by an authentic Latinx author", the internet shouted at me, so I did, choosing Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels which I enjoyed. But I still wanted to read American Dirt. Also, I don't know when we decided that stories could only be told by a writer from the same tribe, nationality, religion, race, gender, etc. Another book I read this year is Apeirogon by Colum McCann, which is about a Palestinian man and an Israeli man who both lost daughters to the conflict. Colum McCann is neither Palestinian nor Israeli and I didn't read anything about him appropriating a story he had no right to tell. So although I cannot speak to the authenticity of American Dirt, I thought it was well written and well told and was surprised after all the controversy surrounding the book. 

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I'm not usually a pusher but the book I would most push people to read is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. She compares the caste system in America, India, and Nazi Germany and it's fascinating.

 5. Best series you started in 2020? Best Sequel? Best Series Ender of 2020?

I didn't start or end any series in 2020 I didn't love any of the books from series I read in 2020.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2020?

Hm, this is a toss up between Marianne Cronin, the British author who wrote The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot and Abi Dare, the Nigerian author who wrote The Girl With the Louding Voice. 

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I don't usually read books with a transgender theme but I absolutely LOVED This Is How It Always Is which is a story about a family whose youngest son wants to be a girl. 

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

I'm going to say that The Chalk Man comes closest. I love mysteries/crime stories but this book actually gave me nightmares. That never happens to me. 

 9. Book You Read In 2020 That You Would Be MOST Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I don't reread books but if I did it would be Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2020?

11. Most memorable character of 2020?

Ginny Moon and Zelda (When We Were Vikings) are two strong remarkable young women, one with autism and one with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,  who often have to prove to the "normal" adults in their lives that they are logical and know what they want. 

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2020?

Although the subject is not easy, Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates' letter to his son about growing up and being black in America is beautifully written. 

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2020?

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, made me think about people and experiences from my childhood and challenged me to consider what I think and how I act. 

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2020 to finally read? 

No oldies on my list that fit the bill. 

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2020?

“Just because it's made up, doesn't mean it isn't real...Made up is the most powerful real there is.” ~  Laurie Frankel, This Is How It Always Is

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2020?

So in 2020 I read Admission, a hefty paperback at 656 pages. And when I went to update it in Goodreads it turned out that I had already read it in 2014 and I did not remember even one of those 656 pages! So besides Admission, the longest books I read were tied at 496 pages: The Order (Gabriel Allon #20) and What Alice Forgot. The longest book I listened to was The Most Fun We Ever Had at 20 hours and 33 minutes.
The shortest book I read was the young adult  graphic novel White Bird at 224 pages and the shortest book I listened to was Between the World and Me at 3 hours and 35 minutes.
In 2020 I read a total of 10,523 pages and listened to 315 hours and 12 minutes of audiobooks. 

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

I gasped out loud at the ending of The Chalk Man. 

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

I loved Rosie and Penn from This Is How It Always Is. I wanted to be adopted by them but also married to Penn. 

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Always so hard to choose just one but I'm going to go with Lenni and Margot. 

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2020 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett tells the story of twins from a small southern black community.

21. Best Book You Read In 2020 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents was recommended by my intellectual co-worker, J. I don't think I would have picked it up on my own and it was the most profound book I read this year. 

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2020?

Penn, the dad from This Is How It Always Is.

23. Best 2020 debut you read?

The Girl with the Louding Voice tells the story of Adunni, a Nigerian teenager who yearns for a future.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Riding the trains in American Dirt. 

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

I saw where it was going but still really enjoyed The Authenticity Project. 

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2020?

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot. 

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

I'm not sure how hidden it was but Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope was excellent. 

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I found Ginny Moon to be really difficult to read. It definitely had soul crushing moments. 

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2020?

Even though I didn't like it I would say that The Lost Shtetl was the most unique of my reads in 2020.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

I'm not all that knowledgeable about history and I don't usually like reading Holocaust themed books. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin is about William Dodd's time as ambassador to Germany from 1933-1937. His warnings about Hitler and the Nazis were not taken seriously by the US government. Definitely maddening. 

Besides the books I've mentioned above, some of the other books I really enjoyed were The End of the Day, The Miniaturist, The Giver of Stars (I'm a sucker for books about books, bookstores, libraries, and librarians), Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: a therapist, her therapist, and our lives revealed, Red at the Bone, and What You Wish For. I always look forward to the new Jack Reacher (by Lee Child)  and Gabriel Allon (by Daniel Silva) books and I didn't love either of them. I hope that Andrew Child does a good job continuing the Reacher series. 

UPDATE: I found this fun list of prompts at Annabookbel's My Life in Books – the 2020 version:

Using only books you have read this year (2020), answer these prompts. Try not to repeat a book title.

In high school I was Such a Fun Age

People might be surprised by The Glass Hotel

I will never be Red at the Bone

My life in lockdown was like The House of Broken Angels

My fantasy job is The Giver of Stars

At the end of a long day I need Magic for Liars

I hate being In the Garden of Beasts

Wish I had Two Sisters

My family reunions are The Most Fun We Ever Had

At a party you’d find me with Separation Anxiety

I’ve never been to The Lost Shtetl

A happy day includes The End of the Day

Motto I live by:  I Was Told It Would Get Easier

On my bucket list is The Paris Diversion

In my next life, I want to have Fair Warning

Some of the books I really wanted to like but didn't were The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals, Forest Dark (I keep reading Nicole Krauss feeling like I should enjoy her books but never do), Separation Anxiety,  and Thirteen. A lot of the books I read were just eh.

Looking forward to 2021, I hope the year holds many reading adventures. Stay safe and healthy.