We’ve reached the end of a year, and the end of my 2020 reading goal! Here is my monthly summary, and I also compiled a list of my top 2020 reads overall.
I decided to really challenge myself this year. In 2019, my goal was to read 100 books. I missed the mark, but only by one, finishing the year at 99 books. For this year, I thought, what the heck, I’ll go for 120! Did I make it? Not quite. I finished the year with 101 books under my belt.
Not too bad, if I say so myself. I’m a fan of making huge goals, even when I’m doubtful I can achieve them fully. Striving for a big target assures that I’ll get pretty far along the road. Sometimes I get disappointed in my “poor showing” for a goal, but most times, there is a good reason for not getting all the way to the target. I’ll save that discussion for another day.
Today is all about the books! The second part of my goal was my desire to clear some books off shelves. I aimed to read at least half of this year’s books off my shelf, versus a new/used book purchase. How did that goal go? Pretty well, I think. I read 42 books off my shelves. The trouble is, not all of those then went on to a life outside my house! My intention was to clear OFF the shelves, but many of those read books are still hanging around as books I’d like to keep for one reason or another. Oh well!
What did I read this month? I know you are dying to know, so here they are. Sadly, there were only five, so this will go quickly! (Each heading provides an Amazon link for your convenience.*)
Scroogenomics, by Joel Waldfogel (new)
This book was recommended to me by a money-nerd friend, and given the season, I felt inspired to order it. When it arrived, it was a tiny hardback book (in dimensions, not number of pages), but packed with lots of interesting information. Waldfogel lays out an argument against gift giving at the holidays. He explains that because of the differential between the value the gift buyer spends on a gift and the perceived value of said gift by the recipient, there is lost economic value.
This lost value, compounded across the myriad of gift givers in a given year is a staggeringly large number. A better approach would be to give the gift of cash, which is still unfortunately viewed as tacky by many. The value of cash on both ends of the gift transaction maintains its value. There is much more to this book, but that is the basic premise. It was an interesting read.
Your Author Business Plan, by Joanna Penn (kindle)
I’ve read most of Penn’s nonfiction books for authors, as well as some of her fiction. All her books have been helpful to me as I work on growing as an author. The title is self-explanatory, so if you are already an author, or an aspiring author, there is useful information here.
The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, by Paula Poundstone (audio)
Years ago, I would regularly tune into NPR’s weekend show, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. That is where I first became acquainted with the humor of Paula Poundstone. This book popped up as a recommendation on Audible, so I thought I’d give it a try. I was not disappointed! This book was hilarious, and my daughter Rowan joined me in listening in the car. We were so addicted to Paula’s stories that we would sometimes linger in the car in the driveway to hear just a little bit more. Paula spends a year or so undertaking various projects to see what causes people to be happy. Her experiments are a mixed bag, resulting in some great insights and some major flops. If you want to listen to something that is pure fun, check it out.
Akin, by Emma Donoghue (new)
This was the January selection for the book club I’m in. It was a sweet story of an older man who is sort of forced into taking in a young family member after a tragedy. The man is just about to leave on a trip to France to reacquaint himself with his town of origin, so he has no choice but to bring his young charge along on the trip. The relationship between the two starts off rough but ends up quite lovely by the end of the trip after they find a common interest in solving a bit of a mystery of the man’s mother. A nice read.
The Martian, by Andy Weir (audio)
A theme I’m discovering is that Audible’s suggestions and super-discounted sale books are causing me to choose things I ordinarily wouldn’t read. This book is a perfect example. I’m not much of a sci-fi lover in general, but I remembered reading something about this book, so I thought I’d give it a try. It ended up being one of my most favorite reads this year! Listening to the narrator give harrowing descriptions of his efforts to stay alive as the sole human inhabitant on Mars was thrilling. Despite the abundance of science-y explanations that were often over my head, I was glued to this story. My family and I then followed up by watching the movie. The movie was also great, but I highly recommend the audio version of the book.
My top 2020 reads
What were my favorite reads overall for 2020? Glad you asked. I reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so that is a perennial favorite. Setting those aside, here are the books I loved, both fiction and non-fiction.
Top fiction reads
The Club Dumas, by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley (I read a few in this series, and they are all great!)
Glass Houses, by Louise Penny (I read two this year, and I love all Louise Penny novels equally!)
Y is for Yesterday, by Sue Grafton (A sentimental choice, RIP Sue Grafton)
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick (Not great literature, but brings a smile to my face thinking of it again!)
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab
The Martian, by Andy Weir
If I had to choose just one, it would be The Overstory. I love love loved that book.
Top Nonfiction Reads
Confederates in the Attic, by Tony Horwitz
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, by Gino Wickman
Ego is the Enemy, by Ryan Holiday
Indistractable, by Nir Eyal
Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything, by B.J. Fogg
I can’t really choose just one here, as these are all very different books. Confederates was a surprising one for me – I assumed I’d hate it, but it was fascinating. I probably learned the most from Traction and Ego.
There you have it, my December reads and my wrap-up of 2020 books. Thanks for indulging me for an entire year! If I do reading recaps next year, I’ll likely change up the format.
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