My Year in Books: 2020

What a year! I bet many people around the world are happy to see it come to an end. For me personally, it hasn’t been all that bad. Of course, I miss traveling and seeing my friends and family or going to movies and concerts but we’re going to get back to some form of normality soon enough (hopefully!). Interestingly (or maybe predictably), I’ve been taking my escape in books. I’ve read 37 books which is, I’m sure, my all-time record. According to Goodreads stats, it has amounted to 12 561 pages – way over my annual objective of 10 000 pages! I tried to diversify my geographical reading footprint through European Book Challenge and it has led me to discover some new favorites. I’m also starting to enjoy fiction and non-fiction adventure stories which is something quite new to me. Moreover, I seem to be reading a lot more in my native language – 17 of all the books I’ve read in 2020 were in Latvian. My TBR pile has also been constantly growing and I’m trying to remind myself that I don’t need more books. Alas, it only works sometimes!

My first read of the year was a classic sci-fi book (Stanislav Lem’s The Cyberiad) and my last read of the year was a classic sci-fi book (Isaac Asimov’s Foundation). I honestly didn’t plan it to be that way but it almost feels like going full circle genre-wise. I started to read several book series that I hope to continue or finish in 2021, e.g., Kristina Sabaliauskaitė’s Silva Rerum quadropology (Lithuanian historical fiction with some amazing language), Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, and Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series. The last two don’t really require much of a comment. The book club topics ensured that I sometimes venture outside my comfort zone into non-fiction literature or other unexplored literary domains, e.g., cult classics (somewhat strange and specific genre). There have been quite a few highlights and also disappointments; therefore, I thought it might be best to come up with a list of nominations instead of picking several best reads.

The Best Discovery 2020

I feel like I’ve been living under a rock or something because there is no real explanation why I didn’t know about Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series before. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book of the series – The Shadow of the Wind, and I immediately ordered the second – The Angel’s Game which I simply loved! It has been hands down my favorite read of the year. I have now ordered the remaining two full books of the series and, despite the less positive reviews, I’m really looking forward to reading them.

The Guilty-Pleasure 2020

Once in a while, you just want to read uncomplicated and dreamy chick lit. I was really failing on that front this year with the majority of the books being in every other genre or not that uncomplicated or dreamy. Except for K.C. Dyer’s Finding Fraser. It was the end of the summer and I needed to indulge myself a little bit. As an Outlander fan, I genuinely enjoyed it. Mind you, the book is not without its flaws but one thing is for sure – I need to go to Scotland! It’s been decided.

The Easy Read 2020

If you’re a sci-fi fan (or maybe not) and in need of quick entertainment, I might be able to help you. Martha Wells has written The Murderbot Diaries series. It might not be your high-end science fiction stories but they are genuinely entertaining and can be easily read in one sitting. The author introduces the main character (Murderbot) as an extreme introvert who evolves through his interactions with humans in a very relatable way.

The Best Ending 2020

I often find that writing an ending to a book seems to be a challenge for many authors. And it can really make or break the book. I still think about José Saramago’s The Double because of it’s ending. I have more questions. But the book raised a very important issue that we all face nowadays more than ever – how original and unique we really are? If you’re into brain-teasing and slightly mysterious stories, this might be a book for you.

The Most Anticipated Read 2020

Well, I rarely pre-order books but there clearly was going to be an exception in 2020. If Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish are ganging up not only to put out a TV show but also to write a book about Scotland, I must have it! And I did, and it was fun and made me want to go to Scotland even more. Of course, I’m talking about Clanlands. Warning: if you haven’t read the Outlander books or watched the TV show, you’ll probably be disappointed because many things won’t make much sense.

The Weirdest Read 2020

I already mentioned that one of the book club’s topics this year was cult classics. It resulted in reading a couple of books that are specific to the time they covered or simply strange. The weirdest, though, was I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. The whole idea of an almost-40-year-old woman getting completely infatuated with her husband’s colleague (Dick) after one dinner and then proceeding to write him letters (initially together with her husband) and pursuing this crush in real-life was somewhat disturbing. The fact that the second part of the book was delving quite a lot into feminist art or art critique in general just made it even more difficult to digest. However, it is probably worth a read if you want to test your understanding of equality and female empowerment.

The Most Challenging Read 2020

Another book club topic of 2020 was Latin American literature. And not for the first time in my life I found it to be one of the most challenging reads. I tackled Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Green House. Whatever can be said about the author, he surely can write a non-linear story within a non-linear story without any forewarning like no other. It took me about 70 pages to figure out his writing style and assure myself that I’m not entirely mad. Don’t ask me what the story is about. It’s about Peru and the people living there, and how it was all connected and messed up back in the day. That’s all!

The Most Disappointing Read 2020

Not everything I read this year was that great. Some of it was disappointingly average although I didn’t DNF any of the books I started. After some consideration of the candidates in this category, I have to say that Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last was probably the most disappointing. Maybe because the expectations were so high knowing that she usually produces great work. Maybe because the moment wasn’t right but I found it rather weak, predictable and based on cliches. I know that some people think this book is underappreciated but I felt it was unpolished. The idea was good, the execution was not.

I read quite a few other great books and some not so great but all in all I think I had a good reading year! I’m going to continue my explorations of European literature and I have once more joined the Back to the Classics Challenge. I kind of missed it in 2020. And considering that at least the first month of 2021 will be spent in lockdown, I expect my reading stats to remain high!

That’s all folks! Stay healthy (mentally and physically), stay positive, and read some books! Happy New Year!

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