2021 is already halfway over… What better time to look back and reflect on my 2020 year in reading?! 🤣 Better late than never, right?
Unlike my gigantic 2019 Reading Review, I’m breaking things up into three parts. Part One is all about WHAT I read – what I loved, what I loathed, what surprised me and what stayed with me long after the last page.
What I Read in 2020
I decided not to count board/picture books this year and focus on the books I read that were intended for early readers and above. At 300 books and 75,935 pages, I almost doubled the amount I read for this age range in 2019!
Books By Age Group:
- 15 Early Readers
- 73 Transitional Chapter Books
- 116 Middle Grade Books
- 70 Young Adult Books
- 26 Adult Books
I really upped my transitional chapter book game. This was my weakest advisory area going into 2020 and one of the biggest goals I set for myself. Reading mission accomplished!
Average Publication Date: 2018
New vs. Re-Reads:
- 285 New Titles (95%)
- 15 Re-Reads (5%)
Didn’t spend much time down memory lane. So many new books, so little time!
Series vs. Standalone:
- 200 Books in a Series (67%)
- 100 Standalone Titles (33%)
Sometimes I wish I wasn’t such a serial reader. I could read so many more books if I could just stop myself after the first title in a series and move on to something else!
Books by Format:
- Audio: 7 Titles
- Electronic: 3 Titles
- Manga/Graphic Novels: 37 Titles
- Print: 253 Titles
Books by Genre:
- Fiction: 294 Titles (98%)
- Nonfiction: 6 Titles (2%)
I entered 2020 with the best of intentions to read more nonfiction… yeah, no. Reading fiction is my go-to stress response. Don’t like this world? Pick up a book and escape to another one instead! There was a lot of stuff I wanted to escape from in 2020, so it’s no surprise I read WAY more fantasy than anything else.
I also read quite a bit of realistic/literary fiction and a fair amount of horror. I entered completely new-to-me reading territory — animal fiction! This is another 2020 reading goal I can cross off my list. After consistently failing Owl Diaries fans in 2019, I realized that my animal reader’s advisory game really needed some help. And wouldn’t you know it? 2020 turned out to be the perfect time to read stories featuring our cute, furry animal friends!
Most Frequent Word in the Title: Dog
My 2020 Title Word Cloud is definitely a testament to how much animal fiction I consumed! Do you recognize any popular series? 😉
First vs. Last Read:
My year began and ended with books for transitional readers: The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale in January, and the graphic novel Narwhal & Jelly series by Ben Clanton in December.
Longest vs. Shortest Read:
Coming in at 601 pages, Iron Gold by Pierce Brown (the fourth book in the Red Rising series) was the Longest Book I read. Many early readers clocked in at 32 pages and competed for the honor of Shortest Book, so I’m featuring my personal favorite: Flubby is NOT a Good Pet by Jennifer E. Morris.
Oldest vs. Newest Book:
An oldie but a goodie, The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobsen (published in September 2010) tells the story of a cunning cat turned familiar to a young wizard apprentice. But is Aldwyn clever enough to hide his lack of magical prowess forever?
The newest book read in 2020 was Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds and Danica Novgorodoff, which was published in October. This graphic novel adaptation is every bit as powerful and hard-hitting as the original novel. The watercolor illustrations really honor the tone and raw emotions of the story, while at the same time capturing that ethereal, otherworldly experience.
What I Loved:
What I Loathed:
I’m getting better about stopping when a book just isn’t working for me, but sometimes you can’t tear your eyes away from the horror. These three titles REALLY got under my skin and rubbed me the wrong way:
- Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet by Jacqueline Kelly (CN: ableism, racism)
- Camp Murderface by Josh Berk and Saundra Mitchell (CN: ableism, ageism)
- Nyankees by Atsushi Okada (CN: racism)
What Surprised Me:
I alluded to this above, but I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed animal fiction! I’ve never before seen the appeal of this genre. I ended up falling in love with…
I was also pleasantly surprised by how much the early reader and transitional chapter book landscape has changed since I left the classroom! There are SO MANY great books and series for young readers these days. Here’s some of my favorites from my 2020 reading journey:
Besides exploring animal fiction, I also dived into a new-to-me reading format — listening to audiobooks! I was surprised by how much I loved listening to books and regret not taking this up sooner. Audiobooks are AMAZING! My favorite listens from 2020 were Ghost (written by Jason Reynolds, read by Guy Lockard) and Before the Ever After (written by Jacqueline Woodson, also narrated by Guy Lockard). Did I mention Guy Lockard is the best narrator ever?
I also discovered I love LISTENING to novels in verse. I’ve never been able to get into narrative poetry before, probably because I never read it out loud!
What Stuck With Me:
Some stories live on in your heart and mind forever. Here’s what stuck with me:
He was ignoring everyone, including her, at this expensive wedding, so he could read a novel about alien demon things.
-Helen Hoang, The Bride Test
My first romance read to EVER feature a neurodiverse MC! A main character with VERY SPECIFIC touch requirements, who still finds love and happiness! This book touched my heart in all the right places. I’ve never felt so seen and validated in the pages of a romance novel. 😭❤️
If something is the way it has always been, who are we to wish it otherwise? Who are we to want anything at all? Who are we to desire?
-Elana K. Arnold, Damsel
Arnold is well-known for her dark feminist stories, and this twisted tale is no exception. I can’t say I liked it — what is the word for a book that taps into the deepest wells of women’s anger and makes you want to set things on fire? — but I’ll certainly never forget it.
They would burn down the world to show that it belonged to them.
-Micah Dean Hicks, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones
Speaking of stories disturbing and dark… It’ll be a long time before I forget about the bleak, haunted inhabitants of Swine Hill. *shivers* This debut novel defied almost every horror genre expectation I had going in.
The first step to seeing is seeing that there are things you do not see.”
-Akwaeke Emezi, PET
Everything Emezi writes is so freaking amazing, but I think this novel is their masterpiece. My heart has never sat so heavy in my chest, never broken so many times as it did while reading this book. And yet I also felt hopeful? This book is a complicated trip that takes you to dark places you’d rather not see, but as Pet says…
How was your 2020 year in reading? How’s your 2021 reading life? Would love to learn more and get great book recs in the comments below!
Stay tuned for Part Two! I’ll be looking at WHO I read books about and by.