2020: Reading ~52 Books in ~52 Weeks

TL;DR: I read a lot of books this year. I put some on lists. I will not justify these lists.1

At the end of 2019, I vaguely thought about reading one book a week in 2020. It was going to be one of my “New Year’s Resolutions”,2 and I really felt like I missed reading for fun again.3

That term - fall 2019 - I had taken one of my favourite classes ever in university - ENGL 208N: Sex in Literature, and after reading a bunch of raunchy shit for class - after finding reading fun again! despite reading for assignments - I decided I wanted to try reading, a lot, again, for real.

Criteria and Selection

Previously read books did not count.4 Plays, essay collections, full-length poetry collections, and graphic novels did.

I originally used the Toronto Public Library’s 2020 reading challenge as a guide for selection since they had interesting categories, but this quickly devolved - the challenge (and its extended version) really only accommodated ~24 books. Which was not even half of my goal.

At some point in the year (ahem), I started using the Libby app, which allowed me to not only borrow e-books from my public library, but also see what was “popular” and what was available to borrow now.

So my selection was pretty much, “what’s popular and sounds interesting?”.

Unfortunately, to my surprise, not everything that is popular is stuff that I enjoy. So I decided to curate some lists out of the books that I read, if just to reflect on the year itself.

And of course these lists are in absolutely no order whatsoever.

The Worst Ones

These books all made me inexplicably angry in some way, but not a good way.

  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch
  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin5

Most “WTF did I just read”

This is not to say that the book was bad by any means. Just that I was … not, uh, sufficiently prepared to read it. At all.

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt6
  • Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde7
  • Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson8
  • Trickster Drift by Eden Robinson9
  • Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Bestiary by K-Ming Chang10

“I mean it was, like, Ok I guess”

You ever read a book and it just kind of washes over you? Like yeah, that happened, but I don’t really … have many strong feelings about it?

  • Everything All At Once: How to Unleash Your Inner Nerd, Tap Into Radical Curiosity, and Solve Any Problem by Bill Nye11
  • How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard12
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer
  • The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli13

“This got a little too topical”

gestures vaguely at everything Just, you know.

  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller14
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood15
  • Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right by Angela Nagle16
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Too Smart: How Digital Capitalism is Extracting Data, Controlling Our Lives, and Taking Over the World by Jathan Sadowski

My Favourite Books of 2020

I was going to add footnotes for these too but then I realised that every entry in this list needs a footnote.

  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
    • It is December 31, 2020 as I write this, a year from when I technically started this book, and I still think about it.
    • I am going to reread this book today.
    • I am so, so excited to see it again.
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
    • This book made me cry in several different ways at many different times.
    • I learned a lot about the intersection of Korea and Japan and the messy implications it has for peoples.
  • This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Chelsea Vowel, Katherena Vermette, Jen Storm, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, David Alexander Robertson, Richard Van Camp, Brandon Mitchell, Sonny Assu, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
    • This book felt a bit like something you would read as a child in social studies - with discussion questions at the end of each short story and all - but each story is poignant in its own way, and together they make something beautiful.
      • Perhaps what I really mean here is, this book felt a bit like something I would have wanted to read as a child in social studies.
    • My favourite one is the last one (I will not spoil why, or what it is about).
  • Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
    • I first saw Maia Kobabe’s work in the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum when my friends and I stumbled in after exploring the piers.
    • It was an exhibit about, well, this book actually, and the way e talked about gender was so interesting I apparently remembered it some N months after seeing that single wall of art.
      • A Fire Story, which was also an exhibit at the time as a side note, was also incredibly interesting now that I’m writing this and I should go find that author’s work as well.
    • I remember being so consumed I finished this book on the subway home (I am not normally a subway reader), and as soon as I got out of the tunnels I texted at least 3 people, “you have to read this”.
  • This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
    • After a summer of trying to consider my place in society, it was this book that really said, “hey. actually, everything that’s going wrong [especially with the environment and our planet] - that’s just capitalism. all of it. no, throwing money at tech won’t work. giving power to people who actually know how to take care of our planet is what will.”
    • It changed a lot, for me.
  • Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid by Yao Xiao
    • As a person who is semi-frequently Sad™ (I say semi-frequently because it is much simpler to perform tasks than consider my emotional well-being, and every time I consider my emotional state I -) and a member of the Chinese diaspora (and having not come out to my parents yet), Xiao’s small comics were relatable and lovable and perceptive and hopeful all rolled into one.
    • I bought this book for a friend shortly after finishing it. Maybe we can all be a little less lonely, knowing that everything is beautiful, and we shouldn’t be afraid.
  • Too Smart: How Digital Capitalism is Extracting Data, Controlling Our Lives, and Taking Over the World by Jathan Sadowski
    • As a person who has worked in, was working for most of this year, and will go on to work in tech, considering the tech industry and its societal impacts has weighed a lot on me this year.
    • This book did an excellent job of taking thoughts and observations that I already had and was trying to understand and organize, and put them into themes and showed me even more of how tech has permeated our society.

Every Book I Read in 2020, in Chronological Order17

Books that I generally enjoyed have an asterisk next to them.

  1. (*) Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
  2. (*) Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right by Angela Nagle
  3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  5. (*) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  6. The Dinner by Herman Koch
  7. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  8. (*) Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
  9. (*) Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
  10. (*) Trickster Drift by Eden Robinson
  11. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
  12. (*) Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink
  13. (*) The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
  14. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  15. How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis
  16. (*) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  17. Less by Andrew Sean Greer
  18. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. (*) Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  20. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  21. (*) Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  22. Poems of Sappho by Sappho, trans. John Maxwell Edmonds
  23. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  24. (*) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  25. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  26. Live or Die by Anne Sexton
  27. (*) This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Chelsea Vowel, Katherena Vermette, Jen Storm, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, David Alexander Robertson, Richard Van Camp, Brandon Mitchell, Sonny Assu, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
  28. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard
  29. (*) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  30. (*) The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  31. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  32. (*) Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  33. (*) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  34. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
  35. A Room of One’s Own by Virgina Woolf
  36. (*) The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  37. Everything All At Once: How to Unleash Your Inner Nerd, Tap Into Radical Curiosity, and Solve Any Problem by Bill Nye
  38. (*) This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
  39. (*) On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  40. (*) The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  41. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
  42. Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
  43. The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  44. (*) The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  45. (*) Circe by Madeline Miller
  46. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  47. (*) The Tradition by Jericho Brown
  48. The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli
  49. (*) Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid by Yao Xiao
  50. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
  51. (*) Too Smart: How Digital Capitalism is Extracting Data, Controlling Our Lives, and Taking Over the World by Jathan Sadowski
  52. (*) Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

To 2021

To be honest, my 2021 book goals are incredibly nebulous at the moment. Can I stop reading white men? I would love to read more Indigenous authors. More diasporic Asian authors. More poetry - more of my friends' poetry. Dare I say it - more non-fiction? (I read 2 good non-fiction books and I think I’m prepared to read more, hah.)

A part of me wants to return to my old ways of annotating books as I read (borrowed, DRM e-books make this hard), but I am reluctant to own books until I have a space where I feel is home. (The physicality of book ownership feels like a large responsibility.)


  1. Okay, this is a lie. I might justify some of these. In footnotes. ↩︎

  2. Shockingly this (New Year’s Resolutions) is one of those things that’s turned out really well for me. In 2019 I aimed to drink at most 4 bubble teas a month (this worked well for many months), and in 2020 I aimed to make it explicitly 1 bubble tea a week. I did not anticipate a global pandemic, which made it far too easy to hit my goal. ↩︎

  3. Assignments, slides, and documentation are not fun. ↩︎

  4. Not that I reread anything this year anyway. ↩︎

  5. Not only did I have to read this passage, I had to read about how that character died of AIDS a few chapters later. ↩︎

  6. When I first saw this book, I was like, “Oh interesting! Just a bunch of college kids who like classics. Alright!” And then, they introduced murder! What the hell! ↩︎

  7. In a similar vein to The Secret History, no one warned me about murder. ↩︎

  8. This has now been adapted into a TV show, Trickster, whose news originally sparked my interest due to being an Indigenous-led production with an Indigenous cast as well. However, recently the show’s director, Michelle Latimer, has been shown to have questionable (if not non-existent) ties to her claimed Indigenous communities. Latimer will no longer be working on the show in Season 2↩︎

  9. This is the book that sat on our living room table from March to June. My sister, ever a minimalist, hated the fact that it would stay in our living room with no foreseeable return date. I remember trying to return it - thinking maybe - and discovering that the return slots at the library were taped shut. Since borrowing this book, I have only stepped into a library once this year, to borrow a physical book whose hold line was much, much shorter than the ebook hold line. ↩︎

  10. There are several creative depictions of blowjobs in this book. I’m not saying that to deter you. Just to inform. ↩︎

  11. I want to pay someone to tell Bill Nye or his ghostwriter or whomever that using they pronouns is okay. Reading “he or she” every other page got very tiring, very quickly. ↩︎

  12. Ironically this is the only book I read as an audiobook. That made it extra hard to remember. The only thing I remember is that there are 4 kinds of book <> you relationship. I do not remember the actual kinds themselves. ↩︎

  13. Allies! Don’t belong in the LGBTQ+ acronym. They really don’t! To explicitly name Ally in your LGBTQIAA+ acronym … But relegate others to the plus … These are choices that I do not agree with. ↩︎

  14. I am feeling like I want to go back and reread/consider how I feel about Abigail. ↩︎

  15. This is not a statement on the book itself, but rather what happened around reading it: I got the notification that I got a skip-the-line copy (essentially, I had a chance to not wait another 12 weeks to borrow the book for 3 weeks; I could borrow the book now for 1 week) shortly before taking the subway/bus to Waterloo for 2 hours and proceeded to spend my entire bus ride reading it and finished it as the bus rolled into campus. I wish I’d known that would be my last time going to Waterloo for the foreseeable future. I would’ve said goodbye a little better. ↩︎

  16. I read this book after a coworker (a fellow intern, but really a PhD student) mentioned it with the idea that the left alienates men because it focuses on spaces for, well, not them (this is a very, very poor paraphrasing. I wish I could’ve seen this coworker more.). I don’t remember reading that in the book, but I remember finding the book real interesting. ↩︎

  17. This is my small confession space. If you read carefully, I started reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing on December 31, 2019, AKA I did not fully read this book in 2020, AKA I probably cheated. There are several things that went wrong (that I did wrong?) that culminated in me having to read 2 books in one week (as opposed to one) (The New Queer Conscience and Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid) and me needing to finish Bestiary in the span of three days: namely, I did not start reading things until January 6th, the first Monday of the year, and I counted my weeks starting Monday - Sunday. (There is of course, no “have to” or “need” to do any of this. I could have just easily said, “haha, fuck it.") I do not actually know if I hit the “actual” goal of reading a book a week in 2020. There are 52 weeks in a year apparently. 2020 felt like many more. ↩︎