2020 was a weird year — or, if not weird, then definitely different.
In some ways, this difference was actually good (see: an overdue national conversation about police violence and white supremacy; the impeachment and subsequent voting-out of a terrible president). But I imagine we’ll look back on 2020 overwhelmingly as a Year of Bad.
I felt this badness – a sense of desperation, of hopelessness, or dread mixed with boredom – creep into my reading habits. I’ve made it a goal over the last few years to really increase the number of books I read, and despite spending a lot of 2020 at home, I seemed to be finding less time to read this year. Too much time doom-scrolling and sheltering-in-place mere feet from my Xbox, perhaps. I started multiple books that I abandoned or set aside for later, and often went days at a time without cracking a book open.
Despite this, reading was a balm, and provided some of the purest relief I felt throughout the year. And I did manage to increase my book “total” for the third year in a row — from 19 books in 2018, to 60 books in 2019, to 64 books in 2020.*
And the books I read were, by and large, really good! When I did put in the time to read, it was restorative, fulfilling and educational. I was hoping the strange year and time at home would add more than four more books to my reading total, but in the end the quality outweighed the year-over-year quantity.
I’m not sure how many times you have to do something before it becomes a “habit,” but this is my third “year-end review,” and I’m hoping to make a practice of it – it helps me process the things I read, and might (hopefully) help you find a new book. However, this year, instead of writing 64 reviews, I’m going to reflect on a few themes present in the books that stuck with me this year – starting with this idea of different.
*Full list of books at the bottom of the article.
New Takes on Old Tropes
Difference, contradiction, novelty, the unexpected — these were at the heart of 2020. I can’t say whether it was by coincidence or by design, but these themes seemed to keep coming up in my reading as well.