2020 in Books

Calibre in January 2021

This year continued last year’s trend of Sequels, Sanderson, and Science Fiction Magazines. Every series I mentioned last year was a series I continued reading this year – The Expanse, The Asylum Tales, Red Rising, The Dresden Files, The Mogoliad, Wild Cards, and the Illumination Paradox. (The only exception was Red Rising – I’m done with that series after the first trilogy.) I also continued to read sequels in The Wheel of Time, The Powder Mage series, The Just City, and Temeriere. As I did last year, I also read lots of books on electronics and programming as I started to beef up that chunk of my hobbies. As you’ll see if you read my 2020 programming post, this was a good year for me in programming. I also continued trying to catch up with Clarkesworld Magazine.

New or changed trends this year included reading less cookbooks. I have lots of cookbooks to read – about a dozen or so. But during the pandemic I prioritized using the time to play video games (which I usually don’t have as much time to dedicate to it as I’d like in a normal year) and programming (which benefited from longer uninterrupted chunks of time). Also, for the first half of COVID, it was hard to get ingredients on demand. I also started re-reading old books as the weather started getting worse for reading outside. I usually go for a walk and read for a bit after lunch at work (reading while walking being a skill I’ve had since I was a kid). So I started going through my old paperback library to read for a walk indoors in an abandoned hallway at work. At first I chose books I hadn’t read since high school, so while I remembered some of the plot points, I’d forgotten enough that I could once again be entertained (Over the Wine-Dark Sea, Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, and Snow Crash). Then I decided I’d go through the Discworld books again since I hadn’t read the earliest ones since about 2006-2007ish. I’ve definitely forgotten TONS of details in the first two books.

You can search this blog with the titles of any of the books I read to read my reviews, but I’d like to mention a few highlights before moving on to my favorite book and some Goodreads stats. First of all, I’ll mention once again that the reason I love doing these blog posts looking back at the year is that I tend to forget about the things that happened early in the year. I’d forgotten I’d read many of these books in 2020. Throne of Jade was a real delight – I enjoyed reading a book in which a Napoleanic-Era British soldier ends up in China. I thought The Mongoliad Book 3 had a very satisfying ending for a very long series while still leaving things open to continue forward in the rest of the Foreworld series. 

Rave Master was very odd. It wasn’t quite playing with manga tropes and conventions like Azumanga Daioh (at least the anime version – I never read the manga) but it does seem to have a certain self-awareness to it without being parody. It’s a very weird space to occupy and I alternated between being fascinated and revolted by it. I wanted to read it before FairyTale as it’s the same manga-ka, but as he first flexed his writing/drawing muscles with this title. There’s definitely a stronger sense of uncertainty in his notes to the reader than other manga I’ve read (Love Hina and Death Note), in which it seems the norm for the manga-ka to have an air of humility.

The Jungle Book was a fascinating read for someone who’d only grown up on the Disney cartoon. It was both better and worse than I expected it to be on race and the superiority with which the British saw themselves in the world. Little Women started off rocky, but ended up winning me over in the second half, perhaps proving why it has staying power over a hundred years after its publication. Bait was my second romance (actually second supernatural romance) and, mostly, continued to prove that the genre doesn’t deserve all the flack it gets. It wasn’t a masterpiece or anything, but it certainly had a plot beyond titillation. Finally, Bound was a beautiful retelling of Cinderella, a story which has been told in nearly every culture and which some researchers believe actually has its origins in China.

There may be a bit of recency bias in this answer, but Rhythm of War was my favorite book of 2020. Brandon Sanderson continues to weave a master narrative in that series and I think, paradoxically, what makes it the best book I read in 2020 was the way in which I actually struggled a bit in the beginning with its slow pace. Yet, like a good roller coaster, once the book started going, it was a wild ride. 

Honorable mentions go to:

  • Ancillary Sword – now that Anne Leckie had set the scene for her Imperial Radch world, she was able to just play in it and I love the Who Dunnit plot of this book as well as the continued evolution of our main character. 
  • Throne of Jade – for the reasons I mentioned above and for taking the premise of dragons as the fantasy equivalent of Artificial Intelligence powered-tanks and making it even richer than the first book.
  • The Princess in Black for showing that kids’ books don’t have to suck and can actually be incredibly funny and rewarding for the grownups reading them. (Without even having to resort to adult humor going over the kids’ heads)

My ebook collection (full of e-magazines and e-books alike) is now at 2029 entries (up from 1454). Of those 1634 are unread (up from 1112). The collection consists of 1807 authors (from 1419) – the number is potentially a bit higher as I haven’t yet fixed all the authors in the Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines. That said, many of them often appear over and over in various issues.

Some Goodreads stats:

  • 18,189 pages read (1753 less pages than last year)
  • Shortest book: Jumpstarting the Onion Omega2 at 65 pages
  • Longest book: Rhythm of War at 1,232 pages (approximately 400 pages more than last year)
  • Average book length in pages: 279
  • Most popular book: Little Women with 2,683,517 others having shelved it on Goodreads
  • Least popular: Jumpstarting the Onion Omega2 with only 2 having shelved it.
  • My average rating in 2020: 3.8 (same as last year)

My 2020 books, in order of completion:

  1. Clarkesworld Magazine #133
  2. A Man on the Moon – Andrew Chaikin
  3. Sat Fat Acid Heat – Samin Nosrat
  4. Starswept – Mary Fan
  5. Clarkesworld Magazine #134
  6. Over the Wine Dark Sea – H.N. Turtletaub
  7. Serious Python – Julien Danjou
  8. Soleil – Jaqueline Garlick
  9. Stronger than a Bronze Dragon – Mary Fan
  10. Summer Knight – Jim Butcher
  11. Tiamat’s Wrath – James S.A. Corey
  12. Rave Master Vol 1 – Hiro Mashima
  13. The Philosopher Kings – Jo Walton
  14. Rave Master Vol 2 – Hiro Mashima
  15. Clarkesworld Magazine #136
  16.  Clarkesworld Magazine #137
  17. The Bobs Burgers Burger Book – Lauren Bouchard
  18. Rave Master Vol 3 – Hiro Mashima
  19. The Princess in Black – Shannon Hale
  20. Clarkesworld Magazine #138
  21. Rave Master Vol 4 – Hiro Mashima
  22. The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde – Shannon Hale
  23. Clarkesworld Magazine #135
  24. Rave Master Vol 5 – Hiro Mashima
  25. Throne of Jade – Naomi Novak
  26. The Cuban Table – Ana Sofia Pelaez
  27. Wild Cards III: Jokers Wild
  28. Rave Master Vol 6 – Hiro Mashima
  29. Bound – Jo Napoli
  30. Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  31. Rave Master Vol  7- Hiro Mashima
  32. Rave Master Vol 8 – Hiro Mashima
  33. Clarkesworld Magazine #139
  34. Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie
  35. Rave Master Vol 9 – Hiro Mashima
  36. Clarkesworld Magazine #140
  37. Clarkesworld Magazine #141
  38. The Crimson Campaign – Brian McClellan
  39. Clarkesworld Magazine #142
  40. Jumpstarting the Raspberry Pi Zero W
  41. Getting Started with Soldering
  42. Jumpstarting the Onion Omega2
  43. Investigators – John Patrick Green
  44. Clarkesworld Magazine #143
  45. Spiced
  46. Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man – Tim Allen
  47. The Mongoliad Book 3
  48. Hippopatamister – John Patrick Green
  49. The Gospel Reloaded – Seay Garrett
  50. The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling
  51. Ruby Wizardry – Eric Weinstein
  52. Indian(ish) – Priya Krishna
  53. Thrilling Adventure Yarns
  54. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  55. Bait  – Annie Nicholas
  56. Dawnshard – Brandon Sanderson
  57. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms – George R.R. Martin
  58. The Brisket Chronicles – Steven Raichlen
  59. Apex Magazine Promo Issues 2020
  60. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
  61. The Red Church – Scott Nicholson
  62. Rhythm of War – Brandon Sanderson
  63. The Color of Magic – Terry Pratchett
  64. Firefight – Brandon Sanderson
  65. Twinmaker – Sean Williams