My Reading Year 2020

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which has nothing to do with any gift-giving related holidays and everything to do with end-of-year media lists, especially end-of-year book lists. My favorite is the NPR Book Concierge, though I’m meaning to check out some others, too.

I thought I’d review my year in reading. I felt like I read a lot this year, but it turned out to be really different than I remembered. You can always check out my reading stuff in the Books category or on my Reading page, but here’s what I thought was worth highlighting.

I finished 10 fiction books this year, all of them novels. I got really into Dark Academia, so of course I read The Secret History. If We Were Villains, Bunny, and Ninth House are all in my TBR pile (literally, I have all three of them in the house right now). I also joined an Instagram reading group via my Dark Academia Insta (DAinsta?Dinsta?) and that led me to read or re-read some classics: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. I’m currently partway through The Historian, but it’s ambitious to think I’ll finish it this year.

Here are my favorite fiction books I read this year:

The Starless Sea: Erin Morganstern always creates the most immersive settings for her books. I kind of want to live in this one.

The Power: Naomi Alderman’s near-and-distant-future novel of women who can literally electrify other people blew my mind.

Legendborn: This one is a good read for anybody, but has special meaning if you’re familiar with UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus. It makes campus feel magic and reckons with the University’s history at the same time.

But my very favorite, thought about re-reading immediately, crow-it-to-everybody book that I read this year is Mexican Gothic. I love it so much but I can’t really bring myself to write a good review or synopsis. It is a classic Gothic novel, but moves the setting from Victorian England to 1950s Mexico. It still has an old English manse, mind you. It’s just an English house built in Mexico. It scratches every Gothic itch I have ever had, adds a new criticism of colonialism (refreshing in the world of Jane Eyre and The Secret Garden), and the revealed secret is fascinating and horrifying. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I read 12 non-fiction books this year. Of these, two really stood out for me: Kelly J. Baker’s Grace Period, which I’ve written about before, and Sarah Kendzior’s Hiding in Plain Sight, which is such an important read. I knew it would be important; I didn’t know it would also be beautiful.

I participated in The Sealey Challenge and managed to read a poetry book or chapbook a day for the first couple of weeks in August. This was a great reminder that I actually quite like poetry. I read 16 poetry books; my favorites of these were Electric Arches, Wolf Daughter, and [re]construction of the Necromancer.

I’ve read about 25 comic book single issues this year (18 of those in the past couple of days!) and expect to read several more over the next 10 days. Most of these have been X-Men books, a combination of some classic Claremont stuff with my fave Kitty Pryde’s early appearances, and the recent Dawn of X interrelated series. I can’t pick a favorite.

Lastly, I’ve read a lot of picture books, chapter books, and comics for young readers with my kid. I haven’t been tracking this kind of reading much this year, though I hope to more next year. That said, I do have a couple of favorites to recommend: Interstellar Cinderella and the Narwhal and Jelly series. Interstellar Cinderella is basically about what it would be like if Cinderella were really Kaylee from Firefly with a really cute twist on happily ever after, and Narwhal and Jelly is basically a more oceanic and less pastoral Frog and Toad: Narwhal is THE UNICORN OF THE SEA! and Jelly is worried a lot.

I did read some fanfic this year, but not a lot. My favorites were both X-Men: First Class fics: Everything About It Is a Love Song and table for three. What can I say? I love Prof. X and Magneto, who are not unlike Frog and Toad in their own way.

And speaking of Frog and Toad, the best thing I read online this year was probably Jenny Egerdie’s Frog and Toad Are Self-Quarantined Friends. But you can see a lot more of what I read online (but not everything) in the Links category, if you’re interested.

What did you read this year? If it was a hard year for reading for you, what did you do instead?

Kimberly Hirsh @kimberlyhirsh