My 2020 In Reading

Whatever you do don’t click this link; it’ll take you back to a simpler time in my life and on this website. Exactly one year ago, I wrote some stupid words. I’ve regretted them every day since:

We’ve reached a new year, a new decade. That’s an achievement, I’m sure, though the joke is soon to be on us.

Now, I don’t profess to be prophetic. I’m not. It’s hard writing ledes and sometimes you throw some words together, read them aloud once, and smash that publish button. But the facts are the facts. As much promise as the first two months of 2020 had, the joke was indeed on us. And what a laugh we’ve had.

There’s no real aside to our societal failings. And nor should there be. But we pretend, don’t we? We build TBR piles, start Excel files tracking our film watching, doom scroll. It’s great. Each day we inch closer to the defenestration of humanity and maybe we’ll start to feel something about it.

Excuse my pessimism if you must. Part of our societal construct is that we push those screaming about the sky and its potential to sink to the fringes. Bottled up. Corked. We plug our ears and persist. We make lists.

I had grand designs for what I wanted to read in 2020. We were a full hundred years removed from the roaring twenties. (We forget they were, in part, birthed from pandemic.) Because of that, I wanted to beat on, reading list set against the current, and borne myself ceaselessly into the past. Or something like that.

Look at those titles: The Man of the Forest, Age of Innocence, Main Street, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. All great choices. None of them read.

The joke, of course, is that I did read. I read a ton. 24 books in all this year, the most I’ve ever read in a calendar year, post college. My goal was 20. And because it’s my personality, I tracked everything.

A few years ago, I came across this article in Book Riot that provides a downloadable Google Sheet for interested folks to track their reading. I quite like it and have used it each year since. It’s more granular than simply logging your titles in Goodreads (half stars!) and gives you nice little insights at the end of the year to see how well you met your goals. Or to see your failings.

For instance, I know I read an average of 10.35 pages per day. That strikes me as not as much as I’d have liked.

But I can also see where I landed in terms of genre:

Ok, so 10 of 24 are “general/contemporary fiction.” That’s not the most helpful.

Or form:

Most are novels, ok. But I’ll throw in some short stories.

And I like to see my ratings. On Goodreads, pretty much everything is a 3- or 4-star book. Half stars really are the way to go, man. It’s a small thing but WOW the results are so much more enjoyable to consider:

Sadly no 5-star books this year. You’ll have to click here to see my favorite reads from last year.

Another fun one is page count. I’m always curious how people read so many books in a year, because it feels impossible to hit 100+. I mean that’s a book every 3.65 days! Go to a happy hour! There’s probably some shorter poetry collections thrown in there (on my list for 2021) or other breezier reads (reading isn’t supposed to be fun, damnit!), but I have the utmost respect for those folks. It’s so clearly not me:

My philosophy is to tackle one big book a year. All other reads evolve around it.

Where I failed most clearly in 2020, however, was leaning too much on white male authors. You can’t hide from the data:

This split is about 84/16.
While this split is closer to 70/30.

So as I look forward to 2021, I see my holes. I read no poetry last year and not nearly enough from non-white authors. Obviously identifying gaps is just the first step. Doing something about it comes next.

I’ll outline a few titles I’d like to read this year in a later post, but my tracking will continue. Reviewing your habits can be scary, while also illustrative. You can’t change what you don’t know, right? Hopefully this time next year we’re back to more normal living conditions and all of us are more successful at reaching our goals.

For now, onward.

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