2020 – year in books

This was certainly not a typical year. 

I get really annoyed by the assumption that “You have staid in a lot this year and therefore you have time to read all the books”. I didn’t have time to read all the books. I had time to nervously panic and stress play Tetris.  I didn’t use my newly found free time to read. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that I felt that I had that much additional free time. Weird that. Especially as I stopped commuting.

This year was supposed to be a relaxed reading year before the pandemic even began. I curbed my Goodreads reading list to 55. I gave myself permission to reread things when I wanted to. I also haven’t reviewed all the books that I have read yet. And I haven’t been reviewing the ones I’ve reread at all, even though I haven’t read them before. 

All with the aim of relaxing more and giving myself permission to just read and not stress about it. I think it has more or less worked?

Rereading: 

  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • Slowly rereading Middlemarch –  not finished yet. 

Rereading the Discworld series: 

  • Maskerade
  • Carpe Jugulum
  • Guards, guards
  • Men at Arms
  • Feet of Clay

New reading

Really pleased with myself for reading this: 

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos

In the original French!

Favourite reads: 

Belinda by Maria Edgeworth

An eccentric example of an 1801 novel. Women duelling, geese racing, lords gambling, etc. I’m not sure if I just missed my 18th and 19th-century literature so much, but I absolutely loved it. And Lady Delacour of course!

Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück

I don’t often read poetry – but I was really curious about this one as I really liked the title. It’s a very small collection of Glück’s relatively recent poems (2014). My favourite is probably the first poem of the collection ,“Parable”. But I also really enjoyed certain turns of phrase – little couplings that stay with one – especially from the titular poem, “Faithful and virtuous Night”.

The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story by Christie Watson

A good book to read this year. About the importance of those who the British government calls alternately “unskilled” or “essential” workers, depending on whether there is a pandemic ongoing at the moment. But they are essential always. 

Lecz Nie było już świata –  Bolesław Leśmian

Leśmian is a Polish poet who you probably haven’t heard of. He specialises in neologisms, onomatopoeia and integrating Polish folklore into poetry strongly focused on nature and eroticism. 

Leśmian’s poetry is very easy to read if you are a Polish speaker, but not that easy to understand. At school I was drilled into analysing his poems, or, to borrow Wordwsworth’s image, murdering them in order to dissect them. This year I could finally read Leśmian for pure enjoyment. And how lovely it was to just to let the words hum all around me. How melancholy and bittersweet are his writings on nature, read when stuck in one’s own four walls, without a garden. If you want to learn more about Leśmian, this article is not a bad place to start. 

I feel bad about my neck by Nora Ephron

This is just a funny book to read in one sitting. I enjoyed it heaps.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

As I used to fiddle a bit in digital marketing and now work in the tech world, I really enjoyed this sociological insight into what sort of society is being constructed through apparently amoral data collection for financial purposes. Not a page-turner, but a fascinating read nonetheless. 

A Smile of Fortune by Joseph Conrad

I finally read the Conrad story that is set in Mauritius. With its neglected garden symbolising lust and untempered female passions, it reminded me a little of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre (or White Sargasso Sea – I suppose. But this is written more from a  Jane Eyre perspective). Worth it all for that absolutely gutting depression of an unknown child’s funeral. 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I’ve put off reading this books for so long, as I was convinced I wouldn’t like it. And then I did like it. The uncompromising divide between hedonism and spirituality makes for some deeply disturbing reading. Good stuff. 

Jack Fairweather’s “The Volunteer” – book review

I read this book before the pandemic started, which seems ages ago. It’s a gut-wrenching history book that reads like a novel. 

The Volunteer of the title is Witold Pilecki, a Polish army officer. He volunteered to be captured and sent to Auschwitz so that he relate the goings-on of the camp to his Polish army commanders.  

Have you read any of those? What books did you enjoy reading this year?

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