Books Read (and Listened to) in 2020 + Movies, too

I am pretty much shocked to be writing my annual reading recap.  Time has been so fluid that I can hardly believe 2020 is over.  That was one topsy-turvey year.  The routines and seasonal landmarks that I am used to have been twisted and turned all over the place.  I can't believe 2021 is here.  And at the same time I can.  2020 was paradoxically the fastest year and the longest year all at the same time.

A screenshot from Goodreads featuring some of my 2020 reads.
I am also pretty shocked that I didn't read more during the big pandemic year--with such an unencumbered schedule I figured that'd I read a ton.  Yet I didn't even meet my Goodreads Goal (125 books) for the year for the first time in the eight years I've made one.  

If I am honest, I was too distressed to read a lot of the time.  My brain felt so cluttered with the uncertainty and contentiousness, chaos and sadness that I just wanted to space out more than usual.  I thought reading would be the perfect escape, but I struggled to remain focused.  I'd try to read and end up re-read the same page over and over.  I found it virtually impossible to listen to audiobooks and that's not like me.  My mind wouldn't stop wandering away...  

I sat with a lot of silence this year because it felt good and gave me time to think.  I also watched an atypical amount of TV, namely That 70s Show, the Simpsons, and Sex and the City.  No new episodes, just old comfortable ones.  I streamed music almost constantly, but even that was too emotionally charged on some days (hence relying on the comfy metaphorical sweatpants of TV).  Or, I should say, the television was on....but my mind still might have wandered off somewhere else, I guess.  I just didn't care if it did.

I dabbled some in scrappy little patchwork projects like this monogramed bookmark for my sister Sarah.

I still managed to read 102 books during the dramatic 2020 calendar year.  I'm fine with that.  That's still plenty of good stories flowing into my brain.  "About 102 more than the average American," as Matt told me.  Plus, for the second year in a row, not one book earned the dreaded One Star in my rating system.  So there was quality over quantity, if nothing else.  

Matt, in contrast, read more books than I've ever seen in a single year.  I do believe they were exclusively from the Dragonlance family of books.  He went on a fantasyworld bender.  So, Matt read more than usual and I read less than usual.  It was 2020.  That sounds about right for such a mixed up year.  Why not?!  

Reading in the Greenhouse Clubhouse hammocks back in February.

If I was gonna narrow it down I'd say that This I Believe (vol. I & II) were the most dramatically life/perspective altering and absorbing books that I read last year.  They changed me.  I still can't stop talking about them, sharing links to the recordings from the NPR site with folks I know.  I feel like I learned a lot about the American people.  It gave me hope.  It broke my heart.  It made me laugh and then cry.  It was wonderful.  I listened to them as audiobooks (which was basically like listening to the radio) and then promptly requested print copies from the library so that I could read it all over again so as to more slowly, leisurely ruminate on the words.

A screenshot from Goodreads.  I certainly enjoy their Year in Books review infographic.

My Top Ten Reads of 2020, in no particular order.

  • Holy Cow by David Duchovny
  • Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
  • Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
  • This I Believe, volumes I and II edited by Jay Allison & Dan Gediman
  • Wizards: Magical Tales From the Masters of Modern Fantasy edited by Jack Dann
  • The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
  • Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • The Stand: Complete and Uncut by Stephen King
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions  by Neil Gaiman

As usual, it was incredibly tricky narrowing down the top ten so I'm listing my Honorable Mentions, too:

  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman
  • Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
  • Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party by Ted Rall
  • Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Another screenshot from Goodreads:  I am super pleased that my average book rating for the year ended up so close to a four star!  I also think it is saying something that book highest rated by Goodreads users is also the longest book I read last year.  It might be long, but it was worth it.  Plus, it is a graphic novel so its not like it is 1,300 pages of dense text.
I didn't read any absolutely terrible books this year, but there were several that disappointed me in one way or another.  For example, I read the first volume of both the Inheritance trilogy and the Paper Magician series and found them only "meh."  I felt no compulsion to snap up book two in either case.  If book one doesn't  immediately make me want to tear into book two then I just can't see why I'd bother.  Also, I sure wish the editors of The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter had waited until after all the Harry Potter books were published before they put together this anthology.  It seemed premature to publish essays of analysis when the Harry Potter story was only half told.  It made the academic book significantly less awesome, though, to be fair, the two essays on language changes and translating Harry Potter were pretty fabulous and those were the reason I picked up the book in the first place.  They did NOT disappoint me.  They were excellent.  I'm sorta surprised I didn't give it a one star, given all the grousing I did while reading it.  (Ask Matt.)  I guess that just goes to show how fascinating I found the language essays to be.
A screenshot from Goodreads featuring more of my 2020 reads.

2020 Annual Stats
Number of young adult or children's books: 44
Number of adult books: 31
Number of audiobooks (both adult and YA/children): 27
102 Total Books (compared with 129 total books for 2019)

There were a eight books that I read more than once during the year (The Lost Gate, David Duchovny's Holy Cow, etc.) so it is 93 unique book titles.

A screenshot from Goodreads.  Frosty the Snowman came to me via a digital Christmas Storytime I organized with my hometown bestie bunch.  We each took turns sharing a holiday story we enjoy with each other.  It was downright delightful.  I think we should do it again this year.  Alli's was Frosty the Snowman.  Chantz did How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  Val read Jimmy Fallon's 5 More Sleeps 'til Christmas.  Hannah read a copy of Twas the Night Before Christmas that was published in 1910. I read The Gingerbread Man.  Afterwards I realized there is really nothing Christmassy about that story aside from Christmas' modern association with gingerbread.  And that Memo gave us an over-the-moon awesome dramatic reading of it once in the Greenhouse Clubhouse, after we went round looking at Christmas lights.   Memo seemed pleased that he had inspired a digital Storytime with my other friends.

I had three goals for my 2020 reading--Finish my Newbery winners project, carry on with the 50 States book project, and try not to read Harry Potter over and over like a psychopath.  I was successful on all counts.  

  • It took longer than I expect, that's for sure, but I have now read every Newbery Award winner ever.  That was a pretty rad five-year project.  What a nifty slice of American history there!  I'm really pleased with the whole thing.
  • While I checked off another six states, I've still got nine to go until I'll have read a book set in each of the fifty states.  This is a very casual, back-burner sort of reading endeavor, it turns out.  Anyone have a good book set in Iowa they'd like to recommend?  ;)
  • I totally caved and read the first Harry Potter.  Twice.  But it was a totally new experience of the tale though!  I watched the Harry Potter at Home read-along videos as they were dolled out--and then once more after they had all been released.  I can't deny it:  The shared Harry Potter moments did make my pandemic days brighter.  I looked forward to the next one eagerly, curious who would be reading to me, and feeling connected to people around the world.  Plus, I mean, I could have David Beckham read to me all day any day!  :)  It was cool to see the stage actors involved, too.  Given the extenuating circumstances of this year I still consider the Give-Harry-Some-Space goal well accomplished.  I also read a few books about Harry Potter and, technically, finished the UK edition of Azkaban a few days into January 2020, but I started it in December 2019.

Reading in the bath.

My 2021 reading objective is to focus on female authors.  I decided to prioritize this after I read Everyday Sexism.  Like many folks, I've read way more books written by men than by women in my life and I want to work on that.  I'm inclined to say I'll focus exclusively on books written by women, but I think I'll refrain from such absolutes and permit a little wiggle room. 

A screenshot from Goodreads featuring more of my 2020 reads--and my first review of the year.

Below is the complete list of books I read or listened to during 2020.  An asterisk indicates that it was an audiobook.  They are in reverse chronological reading order.

  • A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel (Sean Michael Wilson & Charles Dickens)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children's Crusade: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (Ryan North, Albert Monteys, & Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)
  • You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas (Augusten Burroughs)*
  • A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)*
  • A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
  • The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (Christopher Moore)
  • Holidays on Ice (David Sedaris)*
  • It's Christmas (Jack Prelutsky & Marylin Hafner)
  • Pete the Cat: Snow Daze (James Dean)
  • 'Twas The Night Before Christmas (Clement Clarke Moore)
  • 5 More Sleeps 'Til Christmas (Jimmy Fallon & Rich Deas)
  • Frosty the Snowman (Diane Muldrow)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Dr. Seuss)
  • The Gingerbread Man (Patricia Martin Zens)
  • The Gingerbread Man (Patricia Martin Zens)
  • Skipping Christmas (John Grisham)
  • This I Believe II : More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women (Jay Allison & Dan Gediman, eds.)
  • Strange Planet (Nathan Pyle)
  • Angels in the Vineyards (Jessel Miller)
  • This I Believe II : More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women (Jay Allison & Dan Gediman, eds.)*
  • This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women (Jay Allison & Dan Gediman, eds.)
  • The Lost Gate (Orson Scott Card)
  • The Lost Gate (Orson Scott Card)*
  • The Phantom Twin (Lisa Brown)
  • Political Suicide: The Fight For the Soul of the Democratic Party (Ted Rall)
  • Me (Elton John)
  • The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary Phenomenon (Lana Whited, ed.)
  • Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters (Mark Dunn)
  • Fortunately, the Milk (Neil Gaiman & Skottie Young)
  • This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women (Jay Allison & Dan Gediman, eds.)*
  • Living the Good Life: How To Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World (Helen & Scott Nearing)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Harry Potter At Home Read-a-long (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The Dead Zone (Stephen King)
  • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates (Wes Moore)
  • The Paper Magician (Charlie Holmberg)
  • Wizards: Magical Tales From the Masters of Modern Fantasy (Jack Dann, ed.)
  • Magic for Beginners (Kelly Link)*
  • The Darkest Dark (Chris Hadfield, Kate Fillion, Terry Fan, & Eric Fan)
  • Everyday Sexism (Laura Bates)
  • Mother Goose, a Collection of Classic Rhymes for Little Ones (Bendon)
  • American Gods: The Author's Preferred Text (Neil Gaiman)
  • Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Gretchen Rubin)*
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Harry Potter At Home Read-a-long (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Bucky F*cking Dent (David Duchvony)*
  • Merci Suarez Changes Gears (Meg Medina)
  • New Kid (Jerry Craft)
  • Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D'Art (Christopher Moore)*
  • Hello, Universe (Erin Entrada Kelly)
  • Timequake (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions (Neil Gaiman)
  • The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
  • Holy Cow (David Duchovny)*
  • Holy Cow (David Duchovny)*
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Kelly Barnhill)
  • Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Pena & Christian Robinson)
  • The Crossover (Alexander Kwame)
  • M is for Magic (Neil Gaiman)*
  • Lucky For Good (Susan Patron)*
  • Lucky Breaks (Susan Patron)*
  • The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate
  • Dead End in Norvelt (Jack Gantos)
  • The Long Cosmos (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)*
  • Moon Over Manifest (Clare Vanderpool)
  • The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  • The Ring of Solomon (Jonathan Stroud)*
  • Ptolemy's Gate (Jonathan Stroud)*
  • The Stand: Complete and Uncut (Stephen King)
  • When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)
  • The Golem's Eye (Jonathan Stroud)*
  • The Amulet of Samarkand (Jonathan Stroud)*
  • The Long Utopia (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)*
  • The Long Mars (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)*
  • St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets (Annie England Noblin)
  • Volcano Dreams: A Story of Yellowstone (Janet Fox & Marlo Garnsworthy)
  • Saga: Compendium One (Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples)
  • My Wild Cat (Isabelle Simler)
  • Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer (Barbara Ehrenreich)
  • A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation (Barry Wittenstein & Jerry Pinkney)
  • The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean)
  • Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village (Laura Amy Schlitz & Robert Byrd)
  • Big Cat, Little Cat (Elisha Cooper)
  • The Long War (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)*
  • The Higher Power of Lucky (Susan Patron)
  • Eragon (Christopher Paolini)
  • Cats You're Going to Love: Busy Day (Suzanne Green)
  • Big Cat, Little Cat (Elisha Cooper)
  • Izzy, Willy-Nilly (Cynthia Voigt)
  • Comic Epitaphs from the Very Best Old Graveyards (Henry Martin)
  • Home in the Woods (Eliza Wheeler)
  • Cinder Yeti (Precious McKenzie & Edward Tanzosh)
  • The Rough Patch (Brian Lies)
  • Ida, Always (Caron Levis & Charles Santoso)
  • Criss Cross (Lynne Rae Perkins)
  • The Long Earth (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)*
  • Kira-Kira (Cynthia Kadohata)
  • Animal Farm: The Graphic Novel (Odyr)
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (David Sedaris)*
  • The Tale of Despereaux (Kate DiCamillo & Timothy Basil Ering)
  • From the Good Mountain:  How Gutenberg Changed the World (James Rumford) 
  • Calypso (David Sedaris)*
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [UK edition] (J.K Rowling)
  • Harry Potter: A History of Magic (British Library)
We entered Johnny in a pets-and-books social media contest through our public library.  We didn't win the contest--there was no way we could compete for Likes with some of the more unusual pets, like that tarantula--but if you have fun then you've won.  So, we're still winners.  Both the cats were quite smitten with the holiday paper chains I was making to hang about the house.  I had to give them a couple strands of their own to play with.

Here is to a 2021 filled with excellent books and other pleasant adventures!


  1. Hi Beth,
    ...I love to read about what other people are reading...I get a lot of good ideas to put in my queue...
    ~Wishing you all the best in 2021...Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks for reading Cinder Yeti!


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