2020 reading retrospective

Last year, for the first time, I decided to keep track of all the books I read. There’s something satisfying about finishing a book and adding it to the ‘read’ list in my diary each month. It’s encouraged me to read more as well. I read a total of 53 books last year and I thought if I could beat that number, even by only a little, then 2020 would be a success.

When it comes to reading, I’ve finally found an approach that works best for me. I don’t write book reviews or use Goodreads to track what I’ve read. I don’t force myself to keep pushing through a book I’m not enjoying. At my last job in a public library, I usually led one or both of the monthly book clubs and I took private joy in telling the book club members that they shouldn’t feel pressured to always read the book: it’s totally valid if you’re too busy, or tired, or just not able to get past the first chapter. And if you hated the book, that’s great! Different opinions can make discussions more interesting.

If I’m struggling to get through a book that I do want to finish (usually because there’s some element that interests me or I want to know how the story plays out) then I put it aside for as long as I need to and don’t let myself feel guilty for starting something new. I don’t bother reading the rest of a series if I disliked the first book, regardless of how many people on the internet insist that it gets better after book three, or five, or eight. I don’t have time for people who try to argue that the misogynist protagonist and/or male gaze in a series is a deliberate choice by the author and therefore not something people should complain about. And I certainly don’t need to explain to random people on the internet why I didn’t enjoy one of their favourite books just because they feel entitled to a right of reply.

This post wasn’t supposed to be a rant, but I guess I’ve been holding on to some of that for a while.

If you don’t want to suffer through the dreaded blogger ramble and prefer to get straight to the actual point of this post, skip ahead now!

2020 has been a bad year. Considering how many people are still in the middle of the pandemic, it feels a bit weird to acknowledge that 2020 has also been a good year for me, in a few different ways. Yes, I was technically unemployed for about 4 months and living off government payments. Yes, I was one of the million Australians who sought help with their mental health during that time. Yes, I was even more pessimistic about my career prospects than I had been before.

So here’s the good that came out of 2020:

  • More time at home meant more time with my dog. This was mostly spent cuddled up with him and napping on the couch.
  • I found comfort and purpose in yoga (stereotypical white-girl that I am, I suppose). While I’d done yoga sporadically in the past, it was nothing compared to my new habit of daily yoga at home, a habit which lasted 3 or 4 months until…
  • I got a new job. It meant I had to move and get used to a longer commute, as well as living alone for the first time, but when the right job comes along you do what you have to do. Sure, it was only a contract position, but it was full-time and I had to trust that things would work out.
  • My contract was made permanent. I love my new job, and I actually feel that fabled job security for the first time.

This doesn’t mean my life is now perfect. But overall, my year is ending on a good note. Some of that end-of-year high definitely includes my successful year of reading.

So, did I beat last year’s personal best of 53 books?

Sure did.

I read a total of 66 books in 2020.

Let’s take a look at the data:

Bar chart showing January through December 2020 with books read each month.

Before we get any further, I just need to point again that if a book is listed under a particular month it doesn’t necessarily mean the book was both started and finished within that month. Most of the time, it just means that’s when I finished reading the book. I’m sure if I kept track of both start and finish dates then I’d have even more interesting data to analyse, but as a non-STEM Excel enthusiast there’s only so much of this I can take!

Anyway, you’ll notice that 7 books is the most I’ve read in a month and 2 books is the least. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a trend, but if you know that I stopped working in April and started my new job in August…well, make of that what you will.

I’m not disappointed about July, by the way. Reading 2 books in a month is pretty solid. Some people only have the time or motivation to read one book a month, and other people less than that!

Now that you’ve seen the monthly breakdown, you’re probably wondering how? How did I read 6 or 7 books in a month, especially if I was working full-time?

Maybe this will help answer your question:

Pie chart showing 2020 books read by type: audiobook 58%, print 30%, ebook 12%.


Though I didn’t have pretty charts in last year’s reading retrospective, I did note that I listened to 12 audiobooks, which is about 22%. That’s a big jump to 58% this year! In 2019 (and before) the majority of my reading was definitely print books.

So why the change? First, I had decided last year to buy fewer books and rely more on library books. A natural extension of this was using the library’s apps for ebooks and audiobooks (though mostly audiobooks). Second, when I got my new job and moved, I was faced with a much longer commute, which was by train instead of by car. This was the perfect opportunity to read more and audiobooks were the best choice. Previously, I’d tried listening to audiobooks while driving but always got too distracted; for some reason, sitting on a train and watching the world pass by was less distracting and I found that I could focus on audiobooks better that way.

Some final stats:

Fiction: 62

Non-Fiction: 4

Audiobooks: 38

Most-read author: Martha Wells: 4

If you look closely, you’ll notice I took a brief detour into murder mysteries during February, March, and April. I’m also very happy to say that 2 of the books I read this year are now in my top 5 favourite books. Any guesses?

JanuaryLighthouse BayKimberley FreemanAudiobook
JanuaryThe Gossamer MageJulie E. CzernedaPrint
JanuaryThe Golden AgeJoan LondonPrint
JanuaryNo Friend But the MountainsBehrouz BoochaniAudiobook
JanuaryThe Cruellest MilesGay Salisbury & Laney SalisburyPrint
JanuaryUnder the Pendulum SunJeannette NgEbook
FebruaryWhere the Crawdads SingDelia OwensPrint
FebruaryMortal EnginesPhilip ReeveAudiobook
FebruaryBrightly BurningAlexa DonnePrint
FebruaryMuse of NightmaresLaini TaylorPrint
FebruaryMurder is BindingLorna BarrettPrint
FebruaryLittle GodsJenny AcklandAudiobook
MarchA Murder for the BooksVictoria GilbertEbook
MarchThe Heart Goes LastMargaret AtwoodAudiobook
MarchThe Art of WarSun TzuAudiobook
MarchAn Isolated IncidentEmily MaguirePrint
MarchDragonsbaneBarbara HamblyPrint
AprilWideacrePhilippa GregoryAudiobook
AprilHomicide in HardcoverKate CarlislePrint
AprilGideon the NinthTamsyn MuirPrint
AprilDyschroniaJennifer MillsEbook
AprilGathering DarkCandice FoxAudiobook
AprilOathbringerBrandon SandersonPrint
AprilFate of DragonsAlisha KlaphekeEbook
MayThe Bone PalaceAmanda DownumPrint
MayThe Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryAlix E. HarrowPrint
MaySpare RoomDreda Say MitchellAudiobook
MayTrue GritCharles PortisAudiobook
JuneHiveA. J. BettsAudiobook
JuneOnce and FutureAmy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthyAudiobook
JuneThe Starless SeaErin MorgensternAudiobook
JuneThe Traitor Baru CormorantSeth DickinsonEbook
JulyLittle Fires EverywhereCeleste NgPrint
JulyWildCheryl StrayedAudiobook
AugustThe Good TurnDervla McTiernanAudiobook
AugustThe City of BrassS. A. ChakrabortyAudiobook
AugustAll Systems RedMartha WellsAudiobook
AugustArtificial ConditionMartha WellsAudiobook
AugustRogue ProtocolMartha WellsAudiobook
AugustStormbloodJeremy SzalPrint
AugustWyrde and WaywardCharlotte E. EnglishAudiobook
SeptemberThe Bone ShipsR. J. BarkerAudiobook
SeptemberRiver of TeethSarah GaileyAudiobook
SeptemberThe Wizard HuntersMartha WellsAudiobook
SeptemberPiranesiSusanna ClarkePrint
SeptemberThe Stars Are LegionKameron HurleyAudiobook
OctoberCrossroads of CanopyThoraiya DyerAudiobook
OctoberThe Red KnightMiles CameronPrint
OctoberThe Left Hand of DarknessUrsula K. LeGuinAudiobook
OctoberRadianceCatherynne M. ValenteAudiobook
OctoberA Conspiracy of KingsMegan Whalen TurnerAudiobook
OctoberThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying VampiresGrady HendrixAudiobook
NovemberThe Animals at Lockwood ManorJane HealeyAudiobook
NovemberOf Sea and ShadowWill WightEbook
NovemberSilver in the WoodEmily TeshEbook
NovemberEdgesLinda NagataAudiobook
NovemberCrosstalkConnie WillisAudiobook
NovemberUnconquerable SunKate ElliottPrint
NovemberThe Poppy WarR. F. KuangAudiobook
DecemberThe Court of MiraclesKester GrantAudiobook
DecemberSinister MagicLindsay BurokerAudiobook
DecemberAn Unkindness of GhostsRivers SolomonAudiobook
DecemberThe Catalog of Lost ObjectsDavid GallayAudiobook
DecemberThe Priory of the Orange TreeSamantha ShannonPrint
DecemberBanewreakerJacqueline CareyAudiobook
DecemberTo Sleep in a Sea of StarsChristopher PaoliniEbook

My prediction for 2021 is a slight increase in ebooks. I received a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday, which is much easier on the eyes compared to reading on my phone. I’m not intending to buy many ebooks, at least not to begin with, as I already have enough to keep me reading with Tor.com’s eBook of the Month Club and any freebies advertised on the Fantasy subreddit. Though I am considering purchasing the ebook version of Brandon Sanderson’s Rhythm of War because these doorstopper books are getting ridiculous.

Looking back over the books I read in 2020, I’m a bit surprised that none of them were re-reads. It’s almost fitting, then, that I’m going to begin 2021 with a re-read of The Lord of the Rings. And yes, if I manage to finish all three volumes, you better believe they’re going on my list as 3 separate books, I don’t care if Tolkien starts rolling in his grave.

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