What I read in 2020

4 Jan 2021

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?


Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo

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!

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

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.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein

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.


Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah

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!

Refactoring UI, by Steve Schoger and Adam Wathan

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 Secret History, Donna Tartta reread of an all-time fave from 15 years ago, finishing off a personal reading challenge from 2019!

Saga, Vol. 8, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Vol. 9, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

4.75 stars

The Fifth Season, N.K. JemisinJemisin 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 Rixgripping character study, translated from Hungarian

Royal Assassin, Robin Hobbbook 2 of The Farseer Trilogy

Assassin’s Quest, Robin Hobbbook 3 of The Farseer Trilogy

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenholdso sad, and a must-read if you think Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal, Nick BiltonI love a good, drama-filled startup story!

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterlyso inspiring!

Don’t Touch My Hair, Emma DabiriI’m in in awe of the history behind black hair

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, Ann Rulethe most chilling book I’ve ever read

In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado

Saga, Vol. 3, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Vol. 4, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Vol. 7, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

4.25 stars

This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, Adam Kay

The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chamberssuch a feel-good, relaxing read

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Saga, Vol. 6, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisinbook 2 of The Broken Earth series

4 stars (really enjoyed it)

Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World, edited by Zahra Hankir

The Henna Wars, Adiba Jaigirdar

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann

The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

All Who Live On Islands, Rose Lu

Saga, Vol. 5, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

The Humans, Matt Haig

Sulwe, Lupita Nyong’o

Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbertgreat fun. A lot steamier than I thought it would be

And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini

The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo

When No One Is Watching, Alyssa Cole

Night Shift, Stephen King

Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie

3.75 stars

Paradise Rot, Jenny Hval, translated by Marjam Idriss

Woman at Point Zero, Nawal El Saadawi, translated by Sherif Hetata

Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

Some Hope, Edward St. Aubynbook 3 in The Patrick Melrose Novels

Spring, Ali Smith

Three Apples Fell from the Sky, Narine Abgaryan, translated by Lisa C. Hayden

The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaVallea rare horror read!

How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division, Elif Shafak

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradburyfinally read this classic!

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, Sydney Padua

3.5 stars

The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win, Steve Blank

White Ivy, Susie Yang

Earthlings, Sayaka Murata

Cinderella Is Dead, Kalynn Bayron

Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson

3.25 stars

Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies, Chris Yeh, Reid Hoffman

Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam

3 stars (a good, solid read, but not a fave/won’t be rushing to recommend it)

Things Fall Apart, Chinua AchebeI’m sad this one didn’t resonate with me more. Will attempt it again some time!

Heartburn, Nora Ephron

1.5 stars

Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hillthe lowest rating I’ve ever given a book!

Not rated

The Dare, Lauren LandishPicked 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

Back to Writing