In 2019, I pretty much doubled my usual reading amount for the year by reading 57 books.
I was stunned. I had always wanted to be that person that read at least 52 books per year, but I just wasn’t sure how feasible it was given all of the other things in my life that I dedicated time to instead of reading.
Since I’d finally reached and surpassed my dream goal, I figured a new goal of 60 was a good idea. It would encourage me to cement the habit.
Well, as we all know, 2020 was wild year. And on top of the global pandemic, The StoryGraph exploded in its reach, surviving 3 huge user spikes, and we officially launched on January 1st of this year.
By October, my goal was seemingly in jeopardy. But making sure to protect some reading time nearly every day is what ultimately helped me to reach a final tally of 67 books.
So, what were my highlights?
I’m not the biggest re-reader.
I typically prioritise getting through more of the books I would never get to read instead of exploring the comforting, familiar experience re-reading provides.
So, you can hazard a guess at how much I loved this book, how special it felt, that I immediately wanted to turn to the front page and start it all over again, whilst the magic was still fresh. Maybe the magic could be even more enhanced?
This book was a masterpiece. I loved it from the very first pages, but I couldn’t work out why I loved it so much initially. My first thought was: the writing: the gorgeous, lyrical, poetic, and yet incredibly accessible, writing. But was that it? That’s unlike me.
Then I realised, in between reading sessions, that I missed the characters. I wanted to get back to them as soon as possible: to learn more about them, their lives, the connections between them. They were so real and realistic. So human.
There were many common themes in this book but the stories and the connections never once felt contrived.
What an absolutely brilliant book!
I got pulled into the story of Kya and the marsh and I could still feel the strong emotional effect this book had on me hours after turning the final page. I felt close to tears at times and so tense at others.
I’m not one for extremely detailed descriptions of nature, and I noticed some reviewers complain about that in this book. For me the level of description was just enough to transport you, and done so well that even if nature and the great outdoors isn’t normally your thing, you find yourself wanting it to be your thing. At least, that’s how I felt.
The writing was brilliant, the characters great, the story moving and intriguing. I appreciated all of the different facets chucked in here and felt that Delia Owens weaved them together incredibly well.
To think that I wasn’t convinced by book 1 of this quartet, My Brilliant Friend, until the last quarter or so, and here I was unable to put book 3 down! So far, each book has gotten better than the last, and I hope this remains true for The Story of the Lost Child. The characters and the portrayal of different relationships, especially the main one between Elena and Lila, is just so rich and multi-layered. I felt transported reading this book and Ann Goldstein’s translation was just brilliant.
I can’t remember the last time I had a reading experience like this. I was NEVER bored. I laughed out loud — including on public transport (I read this in January!)— sooo many times. I learnt so much about South Africa and apartheid. And when there were tone shifts from the funny to the serious, it hit me.
There was one thing that struck me as strange about this book and it became increasingly (but still only slightly) jarring the closer I got to the end: it’s like the book is trying to be standalone essays and a book with one narrative arc running through it at the same time. Sometimes, bits of information were repeated. You think: But Trevor, you already told me this! Then you remember: Oh yeah, standalone essays. Then within the same chapter something is referred to from a prior chapter. So, what the reader is supposed to know already within any given chapter seemed to change each chapter.
Like I said, kinda jarring, and I almost took half a star off of my 5-star rating, but then I just thought back on the whole reading experience and I just couldn’t. It was magical!
This book was so wonderfully informative and practical and it got me all inspired and excited to improve The StoryGraph’s UI. I highly recommend Refactoring UI to anybody who’s not a designer, thinks their design skills are lacking, and really wants to level up in limited time.
Here are the other books I read last year, grouped by similar ratings, with links to my reviews:
5 stars (amazing, brilliant, all-time fave)
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin — Jemisin has built an absolutely incredible world here. Just a tad too much uncertainty about what happened in a few places meant I couldn’t give this the full 5.
4.5 stars (little niggles prevented it from being a 5-star read)
The Door, by Magda Szabó, translated by Len Rix — gripping character study, translated from Hungarian
Royal Assassin, Robin Hobb — book 2 of The Farseer Trilogy
Assassin’s Quest, Robin Hobb — book 3 of The Farseer Trilogy
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold — so sad, and a must-read if you think Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes
Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal, Nick Bilton — I love a good, drama-filled startup story!
Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly — so inspiring!
Don’t Touch My Hair, Emma Dabiri — I’m in in awe of the history behind black hair
The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, Ann Rule — the most chilling book I’ve ever read
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers — such a feel-good, relaxing read
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin — book 2 of The Broken Earth series
4 stars (really enjoyed it)
Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbert — great fun. A lot steamier than I thought it would be
Some Hope, Edward St. Aubyn — book 3 in The Patrick Melrose Novels
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle — a rare horror read!
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury —finally read this classic!
3 stars (a good, solid read, but not a fave/won’t be rushing to recommend it)
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe — I’m sad this one didn’t resonate with me more. Will attempt it again some time!
Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill —the lowest rating I’ve ever given a book!
The Dare, Lauren Landish — Picked up for a reading challenge and have no clue where to begin rating this one. Had a lot of fun with it, though!
Have you read any of these? What did you think?
Found anything on this list that has piqued your interest? Let me know!
Oh, and 60 books per year is going to be my standard goal for now!
Bring on 2021 reading!tags: books, reading