Every year, GoodReads does a nice job of summarizing my reading (I wish they hadn’t been bought out by Amazon.)

This year suggests I’ve read 330 books or 84, 433 pages (that’s just 20 pages below my all-time record–if only I’d known).

(I also washed the kitchen floor three times in one day, because it was the only day I washed it.)

The numbers alone might seem impressive until one glances at my TBR shelf there, which sits at 9, 021 books.

Which is ridiculous, but my high-school guidance counsellor always talked about the importance of setting goals.

And, yes, those 9, 021 books do influence 2021’s readolutions, but I’m more focussed on my own shelves and I don’t own 9, 021 books.

So, first, 2020’s Memorable Reading Experiences.

NOTE: If you’re viewing these widgets via email, the numbers won’t budge and toggled trios won’t load – best in browser!

330 Books Read

2019 = 317 books


In 2019, 19% of the books I read were off my own shelves; thanks to COVID-19 protections, that increased to 24%


In 2019, 27% of the books and stories I read were written by writers of colour; in 2020, this increased to 30%

# Pages Read

Shortest = 32

Longest = 1488

You write in order to change the world…if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.
James Baldwin

There were some revolutions in my reading in 2020. And, while revisiting my log and reconsidering the pages I turned last year, during last week, there was an insurrection at the American seat of governance in Washington DC, January 6th, 2021.

My Here and Elsewhere reading project took me to both Mexico City in Mexico and to Havana in Cuba in 2020. One outstanding read was Paco Ignacio Taibo II’s ’69: The Mexican Autumn of the Tlatelolco Massacre (1991, Trans. Donald Nicholson Smith, 2019). Poetic and powerful, this slim volume describes the scene leading up to a peaceful protest of some two hundred thousand students and how they were attacked and silenced. And Margarita Engel‘s books offered a glimpse into the resistance of indigenous and enslaved individuals caught in the Spanish colonial web in Cuba.

Near the end of 2020, I read Paul Ortiz’s An African American and Latinx History of the United States (2018); I wish I’d studied a book like this in school but I’m grateful to fill in the gaps in my understanding now.

Not only did my new reading projects take me to some interesting places (the ocean! bonobo habitat!) but various reading events and celebrations also took me to different reading locales. In a year when physical travelling was curtailed, while a virus and its variants have been travelling wide and far and leaving devastation in their wake, those of us who have been free to journey into literature have been fortunate indeed.

I travelled to Daphne DuMaurier’s Jamaica Inn (and reread Rebecca), inspired by HeavenAli’s Daphne Du Maurier Reading Week, stopped in Ireland for Iris Murdoch’s The Flight from the Enchanter for Club1956 (hosted by Kaggsy and Simon, although I would have liked to have read it for Liz’s Murdoch-a-long, and I was late for the Club event too), and Caradog Prichard’s One Moonlit Light (1961; Trans. Philip Mitchell, 2015) was the reading selection for Paula’s Dewithon in 2020 and I also thoroughly enjoyed several of Ali Smith’s novels later in the year.

The past few years, I’ve been actively trying to read more backlisted books. In fact, what that means is that I’ve read some backlisted books, because writing book reviews and essays requires some familiarity with recent and current publications.

So, even with my readolution in mind, about a third of my 2020 reading (more than a hundred books) was published in 2019 and 2020. Imagine if I hadn’t made that resolution for the past few years; the new books would simply eclipse all other reading!

But it’s impossible to read all the new books that catch your reader’s eye in a given year, right? Of course there are going to be books of interest that are overlooked or neglected? So if one doesn’t continue to make a space for backlisted books, that space will be filled by shiny, new arrivals.

Nonetheless, in 2020 I’m not going to specifically prioritize backlisted books. Here’s hoping that “focusing” on them for the past few years will ensure that I continue to more naturally incorporate them into the stacks. And, if not, maybe I’ll shape 2022 differently.

Quietest months – May and June (2019, Nov&Dec)

Busiest months – November and December (2019, Mar&May)

Translation – 37

Countries Visited – 31

Female – 67%

Literary – 37%

Canadian – 33%

Non-fiction – 30% (from 22%!)

Writers of colour – 30%

TBR increased to 9, 021 (from 8557!)

And the reason that I wait until the year is completely over before summarizing was perfectly illustrated for me as the final days of 2020 contained Linda Hogan’s The Radiant Lives of Animals (2020), just as it contained a perfect set of illustrations by James Blackburn (wood-cut style).

The essays and poems are a pleasure to read, creating an intimacy out of ordinary events. How, for instance, she comes to live in a building that she preserved on the page as a dwelling place for one of her characters in Solar Storms (a book that I loved in 2019). The unexpected connection she experienced with a horse who needed a home (and she, apparently, was in need of that horse, although she didn’t recognise that need until later). The frustrations and joys associated with preserving a balance between the various creatures who inhabit the land around her home. Her gradual and ongoing recovery from an accident which caused substantial and traumatic brain damage several years ago.

What will make it a valuable reread in the future is the simple way in which she expresses vitally important and complex ideas that are absolutely essential for us to understand immediately and wholly. Here, in “This Land I Live”, for instance:

When I think of change, I consider the re-minding of ourselves and I mean that it is time to consider other kinds of intelligence and ways of being, to stretch our synapses to take in new ways of thought. As an indigenous woman, I look toward our Native knowledge systems, the times when our relationships with the earth wasn’t the disjointed connection most of us have learned from our Euro-American education systems. I am one human animal who wants to take back original meanings and understandings in ways that are possible and are necessary.

It’s not often that ‘wisdom’ appears to be the exact word to describe one’s reading; that’s true, for me, with this collection. And, yet, simultaneously, ‘searching’ is another word that would also fit, because I also have the feeling that Linda Hogan isn’t saying that she has all the answers, only that she is equally invested in searching for the right questions to ask, too. Something that all of us who have some hope for the future must actively engage in, fervently and relentlessly.

Toggle in each category to reveal titles…

Lauren Carter’s Everything
Leona Theis’ Linked Stories
August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean
Charles Yu Interior Chinatown

Thomas King’s Indians on Vacation
Witi Ihimaera’s Maori Boy
Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel

Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy stories
Carol Shields’ Larry’s Party
Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Michelle Kaeser’s The Towers of Babylon
Toni Morrison’s A Mercy
Evie Wyld’s The Bass Rock

Helen Dunmore’s A Spell of Winter
Tahar Ben Jelloun’s In the Blinding Absence of Light (Trans. Linda Coverdale)
Pascale Quiviger’s If You Hear Me (Trans. Lazer Lederhendler)


Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager’s The Writer’s Library
Michiko Kakutani’s Ex Libris
Debbie Tung’s Book Love

Wendy McGrath’s Christine stories
Ling Ma’s Severance
Jean-Christophe Réhel’s Tatouine (Trans. Katherine Hastings and Peter McCambridge)

Monica Furlong’s Wise Child
Carol Lindstrom’s We Are Water Protectors (Illus. Michael Goade)
K. M. Petyon’s Flambards series

Randall Kenan’s If I Had Two Wings
Kaie Kellough’s Dominoes at the Crossroads
Souvankham Thammavongsa’s How to Pronounce Knife

Margaret Atwood’s Dearly
David E. Groulx’s Various
Sylvia Hamilton’s And I Alone Escaped to Tell You

Paul Ortiz’s An African-American and Latinx History of the U.S.
Ian Urbina’s The Outlaw Ocean
Samar Yazbek’s Woman in the Crossfire (Trans. Max Weiss)

Rachel Carson’s Under the Seawind (1941)
Eduardo Galeano’s Walking Words (1993; 1997 Illus. José Francisco Borges Trans. Mark Fried)
Seth’s Clyde’s Fans (2019)

Book covers from stand-out reads of 2017

Next, talk of 2021.

Expanding on themes.

A new short story project.

Getting organized!

Have you read any of these? Were you pleased with 2020’s reading? Anything you’re looking to adjust in 2021?