2020: My Year in Reading

I read 41 books this past year, which is one more than the least amount I’ve read of any year since I started tracking (2014 only had 40). Honestly, this is more than I thought it would be because… well, because 2020. This was not an easy or normal year. 22 titles were assigned to me by Booklist to review.

2020 is the first year in the past six that I didn’t track my reading in depth. I kept a list of titles but I didn’t record start or end dates, or the number of days spent on each book. I explained why I chose not to keep a detailed reading list anymore in a previous post.

Now it’s time to assess: Was this a good choice?

I’m grateful this was the year I decided to abandon this project. I didn’t like the pressure it put on myself and 2020 turned out to be a year when none of us needed any extra pressure.

I had a hard time making myself read this year. I spent most weeks unable to pick up a book. When I did manage to start a book, I had no problem getting into it and the act of reading was as enrapturing and rewarding as always. I still devoured each book in just a day or two. But I really struggled to make myself start anything. As a result, I didn’t read much this year.

If I had still been tracking my reading, the pressure to read more and the sense of failure would have been more than I could handle. I had to give myself permission not to read this year. Accept that my mind needed other outlets to deal with everything in these strange times (hello, hours of random YouTube videos!) When I did read, it was all about the quality of the experience with no thought of quantifying it.

I liked that. I needed that.

In the end, that’s really why I stopped tracking my reading: It doesn’t work for me to quantify something that should be about quality. For some people, the act of tracking adds to the experience. For me, it detracts from the rewards of reading. It causes me focus on the wrong thing.

I can honestly say I never once in this past year found myself missing this data or tempted to start tracking it again.

I also questioned why I had been tracking my reading in the first place. What did I hope to accomplish with it? What goals did it serve?

The truth is, six years of documenting my reading habits hasn’t changed them. I haven’t done anything with all of this data and I can’t see how I ever will. It helped remind me to keep a better eye on some of my reading goals—particularly my desire to read more diversely—but I don’t need start-and-end dates or days-to-read data or seasonal patterns to see that.

The truth is, I was only ever tracking this data to participate in an activity I see many other people doing online. It seems like a thing a lot of librarians do, so I did it.

There’s no point in collecting data if you’re not going to use it. I’m never going to use my reading data. I have no desire to change when or how often I read. I like keeping a list of titles read, so I can refer back and remember books I’ve forgotten. My yearly lists of titles help me recall where my head was at over the course of each year: a reading biography, of sorts. But 2020 has proven I have no use for all the rest of it.

I do best when I focus on the quality of my reading experience without concern for the quantity. Honestly, the only thing I slightly miss about collecting my reading data is playing around with spreadsheet formulas to run as many different kinds of calculations on it as I can think of. I’m a nerd for good spreadsheet formulas. But I get to do plenty of that at work, so I don’t need to do it here.

In conclusion, my answer to the question which opened this post is:


Books Read in 2020

I’ve linked titles which I’ve reviewed on this blog. Asterisks (*) indicate titles I reviewed for Booklist.

Title Author
1 The Cold Between Elizabeth Bonesteel
2 Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film Mathew J. Bartkowiak
3 They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers * Sarah Scoles
4 Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland Jonathan M. Metzl
5 The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes * Robert A. Heinlein
6 Nightchaser Amanda Bouchet
7 Titan’s Day * Dan Stout
8 Network Effect * Martha Wells
9 I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups Chris Harris & Lane Smith
10 Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl Jeannie Vanasco
11 Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits David Wong
12 Turing’s Graveyard: Stories * Terence Hawkins
13 Gideon the Ninth Tamsyn Muir
14 We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom Bettina L. Love
15 Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics * Leonard Mlodinow
16 The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts Karen Armstrong
17 How to Die in Space: A Journey through Dangerous Astrophysical Phenomena * Paul M. Sutter
18 Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars: Space, Exploration, and Life on Earth * Kate Greene
19 Ghost Road: Beyond the Driverless Car * Anthony M. Townsend
20 Shuttle, Houston: My Life in the Center Seat of Mission Control * Paul Dye
21 Star Settlers: The Billionaires, Geniuses, and Crazed Visionaries Out to Conquer the Universe * Fred Nadis
22 How to Astronaut: An Insider’s Guide to Leaving Planet Earth * Terry Virts
23 Weird Earth: Debunking Strange Ideas about Our Planet * Donald R. Prothero
24 To Sleep in a Sea of Stars * Christopher Paolini
25 The City We Became N. K. Jemisin
26 Every Breath You Take Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke
27 Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick * David Wong
28 Aurora Rising Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
29 The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2020 * Michio Kaku (ed.); Jaime Green (series ed.)
30 How I Learned to Understand the World * Hans Rosling
31 Dream Teams: Working Together without Falling Apart Shane Snow
32 Out Past the Stars * K. B. Wagers
33 The Old Drift Namwali Serpell
34 Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth * Avi Loeb
35 Glow * Tim Jordan
36 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm: The Adrenaline-Fueled Adventures of an Accidental Scientist * Robert Lefkowitz
37 Harrow the Ninth Tamsyn Muir
38 Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
39 And Then She Vanished * Nick Jones
40 Girl in a Band: A Memoir Kim Gordon
41 Come Home, Indio Jim Terry

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