Last year I did a sort of round up of my year in books, so I thought I’d do the same again this year.
Every year I set some reading goals. The main one is how many books – I generally start with a goal of 100 and if if I hit that early I’ll increase it, and I also have some looser goals that I don’t put actual numbers on.
Goal: read at least 100 books
What with the lockdown keeping me off work for over seven months I had a bit more reading time on my hands, so I hit 100 books in July. At that point I upped my goal to 150 and in the end read 166, so you can see that my reading slowed down in the second half of the year.
Goal: Read more new books than rereads
I definitely achieved this one – I read 115 new books and reread 51. I absolutely love revisiting old favourites, or books I enjoyed but can no longer remember the details of, so I definitely don’t think there’s anything wrong in the slightest with rereading. I just know that given the choice I’d sit and reread so many books that I’d not have time to read anything new, and there are so many wonderful books out there waiting for me to discover them.
These were mostly books from a couple of different series that I have been reading for the second (or third!) time.
I read the whole of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor so that was 26 I’d already read (and four new ones), plus the Frogmorton Farm series also by Jodi Taylor, which was three rereads and one new book.
I also continued reading the Undead series by MaryJanice Davidson, so I reread seven of those and four later ones I hadn’t read the last time.
I had planned to carry on my reread of the Buffy books but only managed two (of a trilogy no less).
I also reread a few Blytons but I’ll come to those later!
The new books (and authors)
Out of interest, I counted 69 different authors on my list of books read this year (I’ve never counted that before so I don’t know how that compares to other years, but maybe this year I’ll aim to read 70 or more different authors!) and a whopping 40 of them were brand-new to me.
In the past few years I’ve found Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander books and Jasper Fforde and his Thursday Next series, neither of which have had anything new published since then! This year I discovered a couple of new authors that I love – firstly Ben Aaronovitch whose Rivers of London series (12 books not including the graphic novels) I devoured during lockdown, and Jemma Hatt who writes children’s adventure books (more on those later).
Other new books came from long-standing favourite authors like Ann M Martin (I got through 19 Babysitters Club books that I’d never read before – there are over 150 of them!), Sophie Kinsella, Donna Douglas, Jacqueline Wilson and Jean Fullerton.
Goal: Read some books I’ve always meant to
I’ve got many many lists of books I’d like to read. I always intend to read some more ‘classics’ and books that have films I like based on them. I also note down lots of books that appear on all those ‘100 books to be well-read’ lists.
And yet I find myself never getting around to these books. Some of them are intimidating, others I just worry I’ll end up disappointed. Hence the deliberate goal to motivate me.
Last year I started Jane Eyre and this year I eventually finished it. I pretty much hated it, but I read it.
I also read what you’d probably consider a ‘modern classic’ – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks. I’m not sure how I felt about this – I didn’t exactly love reading it but it’s definitely stuck with me.
I’ll also include a children’s classic just to make myself feel even more accomplished – Five Children and it by E Nesbit.
The books made into films
Any time I enjoy a film and discover it was based on a book I want to read that book to see how the story ‘should’ have gone. I know a lot of people can’t read a book after seeing a film, or TV series but I love it. Equally I’m always keen to see film or TV adaptations of books I’ve enjoyed (I read the Hetty Feather books by Jacqueline Wilson this year and plan to watch the TV series at some point).
Anyway, technically Five Children and It ticks this goal, as does James and the Giant Peach, but I didn’t really read them with their films in mind.
What I think genuinely count are Jaws by Peter Benchley (Jaws is one of my all-time favourite films so I’m glad I enjoyed the book), The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Banks-Reid which I can’t wait to re-watch, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (every bit as good as the film).
Books on all those ‘must read’ lists
I think I’ve already mentioned most of the ones that would count for this – Jane Eyre, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Jaws. I think I wanted to do a lot of comfort reading this year so I didn’t push myself too much.
Goal: Find a good balance between books for children’s and books for grown ups
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading children’s books as a grown up. I wouldn’t be running a blog about a children’s author if I did! Saying that, I think for me it’s important to broaden my horizons a bit and read books that challenge me.
I don’t put a number on this goal but I aim to read more grown up books than ones for children. I read 104 books for grown ups, 56 for children and six that I think sit in the strange zone of teen/young adult books.
I think I’ve mentioned a lot of what made up my children’s books, The Baby-Sitters’ Club, Hetty Feather, Jemma Hatt’s Adventurers, The Indian in the Cupboard, Five Children and It and a few Blytons. There were a few picture books I picked up while covering in the children’s department at work as well.
Goal: Read more feministly
This is a totally new goal, stemming from the beginning of the year when I read Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. I hadn’t chosen to read it with any great feminist plan in mind, I just thought it sounded interesting. (If you aren’t aware of it, it’s about how women are generally excluded from research, planning and design across the board leading to drugs that haven’t been tested on women, phones too big for the average woman’s hand and seatbelts that have been tested for people with the height, weight and mass of the average man, amongst many other things.)
That sparked my interested in feminist works – though my definition of feminist books is fairly wide.
After Invisible Women I read
- Lady Killers: Deadly Women Through History by Toni Telfer. This looks at female serial killers, a title usually associated with men, and examines these women from a perspective beyond the usual clichés of ‘mad’ or ‘hysterical’ females.
- Misjustice: How British Law is Failing Women by Helena Kennedy. As the title suggests this examines discrimination against women in the legal system (both in opportunities for female lawyers and judges as well as the way females are treated as offenders and victims).
- Feminism: Ideas in Profile by Deborah Cameron. I found this quite dry, it outlines the different types of feminism, looks at its history and touches on the main areas of life that feminism is concerned with.
- Warriors and Witches and Damn Rebel Bitches by Mairi Kidd. This is more light-hearted, and comes under my feminism banner as it explores some of Scotland’s inspirational women who have largely been forgotten (or ignored, as most history has been written by men…).
- Gender Rebels: 50 Influential Cross-Dressers, Impersonators, Name-Changers, and Game-Changers by Anneka Harry. I haven’t actually finished this as it’s pretty dire – the author has her own brand of humour and slang and it’s extremely cringe-worthy at times as she describes strong historical women as as chipper as a deep-fried potato, or more precarious than a sedated flamingo on a Segway.
I have over 30 books I want to read on this topic but I lost momentum when my library closed due to the pandemic. I will definitely keep going with it in 2021, though.
How did the pandemic affect my reading?
I think the pandemic has affected my reading in lots of small ways.
First, with no work to go to and nowhere else to be, it gave me more time so I read more.
As I’ve said above somewhere, this year has made me reach for more comforting books rather than challenging myself, and it changed my access to books with my library being shut.
Normally I borrow loads, and find lots of inspiration as books are returned, tidied or put on display. I didn’t do a count last year but this year I worked out how many physical books I read as compared to audiobooks and ebooks. I suspect normally its skewed towards physical books, but this year I read far more ebooks.
In fact I read 73 ebooks, 51 physical books and 42 audiobooks (not including the Harry Potter ones which I listen to every night as I fall asleep and probably get through a few times each per year). Not that I think that the format really matters – a book is a book no matter how you absorb the words.
And finally, my Blytons
Well, this is what you’re here for, isn’t it?
For someone who writes a blog about Blyton I actually read shamefully few of her books every year! Last year I read five (all Famous Fives).
This year I also read five. Three Famous Fives (Five Have a Wonderful Time, Five Go Down to the Sea and Five on a Hike Together), The Naughtiest Girl in the School (which I was comparing the text of) and The Island of Adventure which I listened to on audiobook.
It’s strange as normally I would have reached for Blytons as comfort reads but I think I found their idyllic travels a bit hard to stomach while I was trapped at home. I also feel like if I read them I have to review them which means taking notes and so on, and that can sometimes spoil some of the enjoyment for me.
I did read some Blyton-related things, though.
I read three of the Naughtiest Girl continuations by Anne Digby (The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret, The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend and The Naughtiest Girl Saves the Day. They were all pretty awful, unfortunately.
I also read three books that come under our If You Like Blyton banner (well, I probably read a few more than that, but three that I actually got around to reviewing!). Those were the Adventurers books by Jemma Hatt – The Adventurers and the Cursed Castle, Temple of Treasure and City of Secrets.
What did your 2020 in books look like?