Welcome 2020!

Happy New Year! Sitting here in NE Ohio, I know that it’s already 2020 in parts of the world – a rapidly growing list. This turn of year makes me happy; I’ve long had a fondness for even number years (and the repetition of “20” is particularly pleasing to my brain). Every new year brings with it a chance to reflect on what’s passed, an opportunity to create new plans for the path forward (that new leaf of a new year), and the hope of an unknown, blank slate. (Though in these often troubled, turbulent times, I am not blind to the reality that the new year could also usher in less optimistic options. I prefer to hope for and act to bring better.)

While we didn’t have a white Christmas this year, as I sit here typing, it seems we will have a white New Years—the snow is softly falling and cars are already covered in a fine layer. It seems appropriate; snow often brings with it a sense of newness. I look forward to curling up with a fresh new book tomorrow, starting the new year on literary note.

But what of 2019?

I had goals for the year, and although the blogging fell by the wayside, I never stopped reading.

  • I managed 29 books for the year, short of my goal of 36. Interestingly, I read 19 of those in the second half. There are various reasons why, including which books I read when, but I suspect I simply spent more time reading in the least 6 months than in the first (more time off work in the time frame helps!).
  • Seven of the books—and some of the best—I read this year, were non-fiction. This is down by (1) from 2018; I may have to reconsider my mental image of myself as “not a non-fiction reader.”
  • I also read a novel completely in Spanish for the first time ever! Sure, it was a kid’s book that I’d previously read in the original English (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, translated as Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal), but I read the entire thing and understood it, learning some new words along the way. I hope to build on this success going forward; after all there’s a small stack of books on my shelf in the original Spanish.
  • Other than that, I only read two works in translation this year—and they were also the oldest books I read, Iliad and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (Interestingly, also both poems.) Iliad I struggled with, finding it very slow, but Sir Gawain I quite enjoyed: if I hadn’t been trying feverishly to finish three other books this past week, I probably would have reread it for the Christmas season. (Which I guess technically doesn’t end until the 6th of January, so there’s still time!)
  • Both books were read for my Classics Club list, as was House of Mirth, which also doubled as one of the two readalong titles that I read. (Both hosted by Cleo of Classical Carousel.) Alas, I only just finished House of Mirth, two weeks late, and I never wrote anything (though I finished it on time) for The Four Loves (C.S. Lewis). However, regardless of my level of participation/lateness, I always find readalongs great for pushing me to read books that I might not get to otherwise.
  • Most of the books I read this year were by women: I count 20 books written or co-written by a woman and 11 written or co-written by a man. (Two books I read had a M/F author combo.) This only represents about 14 different female authors—I read a lot of books by the same authors!
  • I also read a lot of books from the past decade, including two from 2019, which skews my reading “younger” that it might typically be. This is in part because most of the nonfiction I read was from the last few years. But also because I decided to toss all other plans aside and read both sequels to Crazy Rich Asians (so much fun!) and books 2-4 of the Comeron Strike series (when’s the next one out?!). Unsurprisingly, mysteries turned out to be the second-largest category for my reading this year (six), after non-fiction.
  • Although the bulk of my reading was by US authors—far and away, with 16 different writers—I did travel  a bit, with books set in Canada; Ancient Troy (Turkey); Scotland; London; as well as hotspot hopping with the characters of China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, most notably Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

In the end, I finished the year with several new favorites (listed in order read):

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – Anonymous – I really need to read more Medieval lit.
  • Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates – which as Toni Morrison is quoted as saying, should be required reading. I want to read more of Coates’ writing.
  • The Comoran Strike series – Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) – I simply enjoy these so much.
  • How to Do Nothing – Jenny Odell – A very thought-provoking extended meditation on resisting the “attention economy” of social and traditional media.
  • The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton – it took me a while to get into it, but definitely a finely drawn portrait of a specific time and social milieu.

What I did NOT do this year was complete any of my challenges/goals. Only three books for Adam’s TBR Challenge and five for Karen’s Back to the Classics Challenge. And the only book I posted about at all for either was Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Oops.

So what does this all mean for 2020?

Just keep reading. Specifically, average 5 hours of reading time a week. (It doesn’t sound like a lot when you know a week is 168 hours, but based on everything else on my schedule, is realistic. And better than nothing.) And write about anything I might read for Classics Club or readalongs.

That’s it. My only hard and fast goal/challenge for 2020.

Sure, I have other ideas of what I might read. Tentative plans. More mysteries. Some Shakespeare, I think. Some books I’d like to clear off my shelves. And of course, I’d like to join in on readalongs that catch my eye:

  • Cleo has a The Odyssey readalong planned for April-May.
  • I’m also tempted by a March-April readalong of One Hundred Years of Solitude planned by Ruth and Silvia (it would be a reread, if I join in).
  • Richard is hosting “Argentine Literature of Doom,” which fortunately just means read something Argentinian (see his post for the “doom” explanation). I’m planning to join in so that I finally read Jorge Luis Borge’s Ficciones (in English).

I’ve also signed up for Erica’s Reading Classics Books Challenge, but it’s designed to be low-stress and fun, so honestly, I’m hoping it acts more as a way to choose which book I’m reading next rather than a challenge to conquer. The first book for it will be my Classics Club spin title, Far from the Madding Crowd.

But as the old year turns to new, I’ll be starting here, with a small library stack tying in to my 2019 reading – more mysteries and non-fiction. A good place to start, I think.

What are your 2020 plans?

15 thoughts on “Welcome 2020!”

  1. Amanda. What a beautiful post. It felt relaxing. I don’t mean that my blogging reader friends stress me. Not at all, it’s just that you are closer to the reader that I am in terms of quantity. It’s a pleasure to read a post like this.

    Congratulations on having read a Harry Potter book in Spanish. You can totally work your way up from there, at the same time, there’s no rush.

    I didn’t know Cleo will also take on The Odyssey. I have written that I will participate in The Iliad, which I have read once. But I am not sure. It’s hard. And right now I don’t know if I have the energy for it anymore.

    I too participated only a bit on the amazing The Four Loves read along. I too love those, but I can only read so much.

    I would love if you read our posts on One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I understand if you can’t.

    I’m impressed with your number of female writers. I have never observed that, an found out that only 10 out of my 43 books were by women. Oh, well.

    I always love the non fiction I read but I should be more intentional at picking the titles.

    1. Yay, Far From the Madding Crowd (My favorite Hardy).

      BTW, I second more Medieval Lit. I have read an unusual amount of Med. lit. in my time, and I really like it. Sir Gawain is a favorite. I love all of Howard Pyle’s Arthurian works, and The Arthurian Romances, Beowulf, and more. And some Medieval non-fiction, too. It’s a large time period, so there is plenty to read.

      You have good plans for 2020: just keep reading. All we can do is plan, though it doesn’t mean that is how it will turn out. But you have to begin somewhere.

      1. Ruth, I’m happy to hear all the praise for Far From the Madding Crowd. I intend to start it later today.

        I’ve read Beowulf and a prose translation of Le Morte d’Arthur, but that’s about it. But I enjoy it, so more is needed! My copy of Gawain includes Pearl and Sir Orfeo, so I’m thinking I’ll try to read those soon(ish). Not sure where I’ll go from there, but there are lots of possibilities.

    2. Thank you, Silvia! It does seem like a lot of other bloggers read a lot more titles than I do, but I assume that most of them have a lot more free time than I do (and maybe fewer distractions).

      I have a small pile of Spanish language books, including some short stories, which seem a good place to try next. I also have a copy of Cien años de soledad (as well as my English copy), so if I do find the time to join in, I might try a chapter or two in the original Spanish. (I know we read some of it in my high school Spanish class, but that’s been so long ago, that I’ve forgotten so much vocabulary!) I definitely plan to at least read the posts, even if I don’t have time for the full book.

      Cleo mentioned The Odyssey in response to a comment I left on her site – I don’t think she’s formally announced it yet. Since I read Iliad last year, I wasn’t quite ready to read it again, but I do want to reread The Odyssey soon(ish).

      I didn’t really set out to read that many women this year, but it just worked out that the books that struck my fancy were mostly by women. I know sometimes it can be a struggle to balance the reading out, especially when reading lots of classics.

      1. It’s great that you read The Illiad last year and that you plan to read Cleo’s posts and Ruth and I’s on OYS. And yes to trying a bit of the book in Spanish. I could be rewarding. I know that I will love to see your comments.

        And Cleo confirmed she wants to do both Homer works. And I will do The Iliad at least, even if it takes me longer to read it.

        This week I have read a contemporary book and it left me a bit indifferent. I went back to The Illiad and to reading synopsis of the chapters, and it clicked. My heart is in the classics.

        I will pay a bit more attention to women authors, since I love many of them.

        1. Good luck withe Iliad – I found it a bit slow, but it turns out I wasn’t reading the best translation, so that may have been a factor. And there’s part of me that wants to reread it, just not so soon.

          I agree, I find I’m unexcited about most contemporary books – other than mysteries, it seems I can’t get enough of those at the moment, no matter what era!

  2. If it makes you feel any better, I read 25 books for the year. Sadly, it’s more than I’ve read in the last two years. What has happened? 52 used to be a reasonable goal for me. Sigh!

    I think you had a great reading year considering the quality of your books. I’m so glad you participated in my read-alongs, late or not, and I’m looking forward to The Odyssey in April!

    I’m tempted by many of the challenges and read-alongs that you are. I hope I can fit in 100 Years of Solitude, but we’ll see ……

    All the best for life and reading in 2020!

    1. Cleo, I used to read 20 books just in a summer, but that was back when I had a 5 minute commute and (mandatory) 1-hour lunch breaks. I would never have made it through all of Divine Comedy if not for those lunch breaks. I’ve had years with less than 25 books, but I seem to typically settle in to between 25 and 30. It seems a reasonable number, especially as many of them are long, deep, or both. (Though I would have been in trouble if The Four Loves had been long!) Someday we may have time to read 52 books a year again! (Maybe if we only read children’s books? 🙂 )

      All the best for your 2020 as well!

  3. Had to smile seeing Secret Adversary on your pile after my book post on IG today. I’m not sure exactly how many books I completed in 2019 as I was bad about tracking, but I doubt it hit 20. As my Favorites post shows, I was very fond of the books I did get around to reading. I hope to track better this year.

    I think 5 hours a week is a really nice reading goal. I may have to use that.

    Happy 2020 to you!

    1. Hi Carl, nice to see you again! I just started Secret Adversary this afternoon and am quite enjoying it; I hope you enjoy your time with Tommy and Tuppence as well.

      Yes, please use the 5 hour (or however many hours works for you) reading goal! I think it’s going to be a lot less pressure than setting a certain number of books.

  4. Any year that starts with a Tommy and Tuppence book is bound to be a good year – so my cats Tommy and Tuppence say, anyway, and who am I to argue? 😉 Have a great 2020, bookish and otherwise!

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