2020: My Year In Books

I really love to read, but I feel like I never quite read enough. I always set myself a reading goal on Goodreads (and now that I’ve discovered The Storygraph, on there too! This is a great place to track your reading stats!) but I rarely hit it. At the start of January 2020 I set myself not only a reading goal for the year, but reading rules. I started doing this because I own a fair few books, some read, some unread. Some of them are brand new, and some of them I have owned for years. I find it hard to pick up the old books, and sometimes I just look at the ones I’ve already read – which I have kept with the intention of reading them again – and think I’m not there yet. I re-read the same books, and tend to go to new books for new reads. I also have quite a collection of short stories, none fiction and a few comics that I never pick for normal day to day reading.

To set up up my reading goals and rules for the year, I first of all create a sort of reading list. I write down a mix of titles from my shelves (and I try to pick them as randomly as possible), so I have roughly double my reading goal and I put them into a “to be read jar” and then I do the same for re-reads. I aim for at least one re-read per season. I keep my short stories, none fiction and comics upstairs, and I save those before bedtime, as I find it easier to dip in and out of them, and pick back up where I was if I fall asleep.

It’s worked really well for me and I’ve done the same for the coming year!

I managed to read 28 books in total, and my goal was 12. It wasn’t easy, especially with having a new baby, plus like 4 months without nursery or any external child care! What really did it though, was sitting expressing breast milk, which wasn’t always pleasant (I mean, it’s not really nice at all!) but it is 30 minutes where I am sitting down and can’t move, and I would do it every 2-3 hours! I also started listening to audio books where possible, so when I was doing housework, I would get a few chapters “read”. Another thing I would find useful would be deciding how long I wanted to read a book for, picking a certain date to have it finished by and then setting goals for how many pages I would read each day.

I would love to be a bit more fancy free, but it just worked to get me through what I felt was a decent amount of books.

I have had a bit of a “stress” setting up my new jars this year, where I wondered should I just be adding all of my books into each jar, instead of a set number? It doesn’t make sense that I am missing out opportunities for some books? Maybe I am overthinking it! The anxious mind does boggle, and as I am typing this I feel ridiculous for even feeling that way because let’s face it, it’s not really a problem is it?!

Moving swiftly on.

Here are my reviews of my 2020 books. I’ve got a list of them all with a score out of 5, and I’ve linked some of them to actual reviews further down the page!.

There are SPOILERS ahead, so please do be careful. Again, SPOILERS.

The Institute 5/5

Gone With The Wind 4/5

Carrie 2/5

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly 5/5

The Testaments 5/5

The Rural Diaries 5/5

The Long Walk 4/5

Wuthering Heights 3/5

To Kill A Mockingbird 5/5

Cujo 5/5

The Silence of the Girls 3/5

Before the Coffee Gets Cold 4/5

The Taking of Annie Thorne 2/5

Of Human Bondage 3/5

The Turn of the Screw 3/5

The Colour Purple 5/5

The Labrynth of Spirits 4/5

The Perks of Being A Wallflower 4/5

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Ombnibus Vol 2 4/5

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Ombnibus Vol 3 4/5

The Folio Book of Horror Stories 5/5

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse 5/5

The Velveteen Rabbit 3/5

The Little Prince 3/5

Your Birth, Your Baby 4/5

(For ease, I have only reviewed the main books I have read, and not the ones I read at bedtime, but I do usually do a mini review on my Instagram!)

Top Five Best Books (SPOILERS. Have I warned you enough?) –

The Institute – Stephen King, 2019. Page count 482. This story was fascinating and thrilling. I was so on the edge of my seat at one point, I nearly pulled my ear lobe off! That might sound strange, but when you are reading about kid trying to cut his own earlobe off, that is the way it goes! The story of a young boy taken in the night to a secret facility and experimented on as it is thought he may have TP or TK (telepathy or telekinesis) was my first read of 2020. I couldn’t put it down and constantly wanted to know what was going to happen next. I even found myself dreaming about secret government institutes that I had to escape from! It was really clever book, horrifying at times and exciting at others. The bond between the kids and Tim – and even Annie – was really emotive. It’s gone back on my book shelf to be re-read at a future date, and would say this is King at his best!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby, 1997 (translated by Jeremy Leggett). Page count 132. I had seen the adaptation many years ago, and had wanted to read it ever since. It took me 4 days to read, every moment I got I would pick it up and just read a little more. I was hooked. This is the memoir tells of the time following Bauby’s stroke, which left him with locked-in syndrome, who using his left eye only and the help of a scanning partner, wrote the book using the French Language Frequency Ordered Alphabet This book was really moving, and eye-opening. It’s beautifully written, the translation is done really well, and the whole story stays with you. .

The Rural Diaries – Hilarie Burton-Morgan, 2020. Page count 272. When this book was first released, I had pre-ordered it on Amazon (I know, I know) When it came, I devoured it. 8 days, and that was me taking it slowly because I didn’t want it to end. Not long after, I saw a post on Instagram from her local book store in Rhinebeck, saying you could order directly from them, even to the UK. They were signed copies too! So naturally, I emailed them and ordered a copy straight away. It was more than I have ever spent on a book, and it took about a month to arrive, but this signed, first edition is one of my most prized books. And it meant I could support a bookstore in a community in another country, during a global pandemic! I am not normally one for reading memoirs, but I could read this one on repeat. I felt like HBM was speaking directly to my soul when she wrote this book. She has a truly beautiful way of writing, she selects gorgeous words. Even though parts of her life have been filled with heartbreak and hurt, she has demonstrated how life can still be beautiful. Even now, 8 months after reading it, I still think about it, and hear snippets of the book in my mind. It also has some really beautiful, personal photos in it, and a collection of recipes! I’ve recently tried her magic potion – she’s right, it really does pucker – and later this year I am definitely going to be making some dandelion wine!

The Testaments – Margaret Atwood, 2019. Page count 422. I really loved The Handmaid’s Tale, but this I enjoyed even more. You definitely can’t have one without the other. Set 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale, it weaves the tale of three women – Aunt Lydia, Agnes and Daisy – and their involvement in fall of Gilead. What I really loved about this was getting some insight into the characters of Aunt Lydia. I always wondered, as a woman, how she could treat other women in such a horrific way. She was portrayed as a true believer and to see her in this kill or be killed, survival of the fittest role was really something! It was another edge of your seat tale, and I was constantly trying to guess at what was going on. I love books that don’t fully reveal themselves till the end.

Cujo – Stephen King, 1987. Page count 352. This is an example of a book that has sat on my bookshelves for YEARS. I have never looked at it and thought I want to read that right now. Being roughly aware of the concept – rabid dog goes on a killing spree – I thought it would be a bit boring. I was wrong. Cujo made me feel uncomfortable, but in a good way. Initially I thought I was slow, but I soon realized that King was building tension so you were ready for the stories shocking ending. I found it hard to see poor Cujo as a monster, while he does savage those around him, it’s not his fault. When Donna starts talking about her taking her car up to the garage, I was constantly saying “no, don’t do it” and when she took her kid… well. I knew that wasn’t going to well. As a mother, the story line was heartbreaking, and I kept asking myself what would I do in that situation? I don’t think I know now, but I do know that I am thankful for mobile phones!

Most Disappointing Reads –

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte, 1847. Page count 416. Okay, I know this one is probably an unpopular opinion but hear me out. What I expected was creepy misty moors, possible ghosts, and a love story to take the chill off. What I read was the occasional not so creepy moors, one possible spooky ghost early on, and two people who have no idea how to be kind or loving. I was relieved it had quite a happy ending, but otherwise I wasn’t particularly impressed. Sorry world! I must admit, I do keep some books just because they good on a shelf, and this will be one of them.

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker, 2018. Page count 325. I love a historical/mythical/fantasy mash up. Something that has a bit of everything, and that you can connect to real life at the same time. It recounts the events of the Illiad from the point of view Briseis. I enjoyed the first half of the book, and while it was quite a powerful story once you strip it back, it’s also a very sad story. I felt that the author made Achilles easy to sympathies with, and that’s sometimes good (Snape) but not always. I wanted to hate him, not feel bad for him. I didn’t feel that the language used by the characters was very realistic. It was very British for a book based around Ancient Greek and Greek Mythology.

The Taking of Annie Thorne – C J Tudor, 2019. Page count 432. This book had a creepy cover, and a scary synopsis. The story of a young girl, Annie, who goes missing one night, then returns changed. I was expecting a sort of changeling situation, or some kind of possession. It’s more like IT meets Pet Semetery – a town where something is wrong, and the people know it but really just ignore it, and hidden within it is a place that will bring you back from the dead, but you won’t really be you. You can see the authors inspiration a mile off. There were parts that were chilling, but the switching between tenses was frustrating, and the shoot out at the end coupled with the characters gambling problem seemed both unnecessary and unlikely. I did enjoy what felt like the constant stream of plot twists towards the end though.

Favorite Re-Reads –

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper lee, 1960. Page count 307. This book is one of my all time favorites. If you don’t love Atticus Finch, go home. He is the kindest, most honorable man ever written about. All of the characters are easy to fall in love with. The story of Atticus defending an innocent black man in the deep south is told from the point of view of young child. Making you see the story through the eyes of someone so innocent is very clever – we suddenly don’t seem to ask did he do it or why did he do it, but we focus on why is he being accused? What does his skin colour have to do with it? It is a powerful examination of race. It also makes the injustice of it so much worse. It’s beautifully written. Lee is able to transport us to Maycomb, every time I open that book its like returning to a much loved place. I can feel it, I can smell it. She does it with so few words, while so many authors will describe something for pages and pages.

The Colour Purple – Alice Walker, 1982. Page count 308. It’s been a while since I read this, and I always avoided re-reading it, because it’s such an unpleasant story. Ceilie, a young African American girl living in the south in the 1900s is repeated raped and beaten by her father, and after having two children by him, whom she believes are dead, she is married off to another man and separated from her sister. This starts her off on a long, unhappy road to a sort of happiness. It’s a novel of self exploration, personal growth and forgiveness. As with many novels about race, this isn’t about black vs white, but primarily black vs black, and woman vs man. I think that reading this now, older and wise (hardy ha ha) I am able to appreciate the story for it actually is a lot more, and understand the themes better than I could when I was in my early 20s. I enjoyed it more this time, even though it is uncomfortable in places.

My 2020 reading stats –

Approximately 9220 pages read over 28 books.

Shortest book – The Velveteen Rabit

Longest book – Gone With The Wind

Average book length – 329

Most popular book – To Kill A Mockingbird

Least Popular – The Folio Book of Horror Stories

My Average rating – 4.2

Highest rated on Goodreads – The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse

My three top moods were – Dark, reflective and emotional

My three top genres were – Classics, horror and fantasy

(Stats gathered from Goodreads and Storygraph)

Please keep an eye on my social media for reading updates!

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