Looking back at 2020 in books

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As an English Lit student, it is no surprise that I love books. But in 2020, more than ever, books became my solace and place of comfort, they simultaneously calmed and excited me, gave me a sense of purpose yet filled up my free time — I love books fervently, I need them in my life to stay sane and mentally healthy.

2020 was an unprecedented time of fear and uncertainty, but it also gave us the much-needed quiet moments of reflection. Like many, I despise feeling ‘stuck’ and so throughout the year, the feeling of accomplishing little next to nothing was a dread that overwhelmed me. In my attempt to find a new sense of normalcy, I soon devoted most of my time to completing the challenge of reading 100 books.

Books became my solace and place of comfort

In January 2020, before the pandemic took over the world and our lives, I found myself losing sight of why I love books so much in the first place, and instead had made reading something forced and scheduled. Preparing myself to come to Durham in September (I’m Australian so I graduated from school in November 2019) I feared that I might get so caught up in my degree that I would become blinded by the beauty of books itself. To study a subject you love is, to me, extremely important and frankly, an amazing and privileged position to find yourself in – but there is always a risk of mixing your passion with your degree, and become so engrossed in the workload that you lose your enthusiasm. Although this is true for all subjects, I think that for humanities subjects particularly, it can become difficult to separate what you enjoy and what you study, and when art is forced to become academic, it can lose its spark and beauty. To this end, I challenged myself to read 100 books, of any genre and author, to constantly remind myself of the very thing that brings me joy and a sense of purpose.

In doing so, 2020 was a year in which I discovered new authors, read many translated works, explored beyond the usual Western canon, and indulged in one too many murder mysteries (I just can’t resist an Agatha Christie!). The pandemic helped me pace through 100 books quite quickly and as bleak as this might be, 2021 began by echoing 2020’s long period of inactivity and so I have decided to take on the challenge of reading at least 100 books again!

2020 was a year in which I discovered new authors and explored beyond the usual Western canon

In my ‘2020 Reading Rewind’, the realisation of how much pleasure I found in being able to enjoy a good story and constantly learn about our ever-changing society, even when the world went up in flames around me, was perhaps an even greater joy than reading the books themselves. I have always been an advocate for reading, and I am just as, if not more, insistent on how important literature is to our world today. 

Here are the 100 books I read in 2020, beginning in January, some rereads, some from my favourite authors and others from newly discovered writers and genres

  1. A Murder is Announced – Agatha Christie
  2. Ghosts of the Shadow Market – Cassandra Clare
  3. Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare
  4. Clockwork Prince – Cassandra Clare
  5. City of Bones – Cassandra Clare
  6. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  7. City of Ashes – Cassandra Clare
  8. City of Glass – Cassandra Clare
  9. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  10. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinback
  11. Three Act Tragedy – Agatha Christie
  12. The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
  13. While You Were Reading – Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus
  14. Cilka’s Journey – Heather Morris
  15. Bad Feminist – Roxanne Gay
  16. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin
  17. Mouthful of Forevers – Clementine Von Radics
  18. Becoming – Michelle Obama
  19. Murder in Mesopotamia – Agatha Christie
  20. City of Lost Souls – Cassandra Clare
  21. City of Fallen Angels – Cassandra Clare
  22. City of Heavenly Fire – Cassandra Clare
  23. Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds
  24. Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
  25. Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller
  26. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo Lodge
  27. Yes No Maybe So – Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
  28. The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain
  29. Helium – Rudy Francisco
  30. Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D. H. Lawrence
  31. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton
  32. Cinder – Marissa Meyer
  33. Scarlet – Marissa Meyer
  34. Clockwork Princess – Cassandra Clare
  35. Chain of Gold – Cassandra Clare
  36. Mythos – Stephen Fry
  37. The Single Hound – Emily Dickinson
  38. Vile Bodies – Evelyn Waugh
  39. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  40. Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare
  41. Lord of Shadows – Cassandra Clare
  42. Queen of Air and Darkness – Cassandra Clare
  43. One Two Buckle My Shoe – Agatha Christie
  44. Meet You in the Middle – Devon Daniels
  45. Stalking Jack the Ripper – Kerri Maniscalco
  46. Hunting Prince Dracula – Kerri Maniscalco
  47. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorn
  48. Escaping from Houdini – Kerri Maniscalco
  49. What If It’s Us – Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
  50. Normal People – Sally Rooney
  51. The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux
  52. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
  53. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
  54. This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay
  55. Twas the Nightshift before Christmas – Adam Kay
  56. The Library Book – Susan Orlean
  57. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  58. Before the Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi
  59. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  60. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  61. Cress – Marissa Meyer
  62. Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin
  63. So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Olue
  64. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller – Italo Calvino
  65. The A. B. C. Murders – Agatha Christie
  66. Frankly in Love – David Yoon
  67. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
  68. Opposite of Always – Justin A. Reynolds
  69. Winter – Marissa Meyer
  70. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  71. The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso – Dante
  72. Lord Edgware Dies – Agatha Christie
  73. Capturing the Devil – Kerri Maniscalco
  74. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  75. Sex and Vanity – Kevin Kwan
  76. Cards on the Table – Agatha Christie
  77. The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
  78. The Silent Musician – Mark Wigglesworth
  79. Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Mass
  80. Five Little Pigs – Agatha Christie
  81. Lady Windermere’s Fan – Oscar Wilde
  82. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy – Cassandra Clare
  83. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  84. The Murder on the Links – Agatha Christie
  85. The Mystery of Henri Pick – David Foenkinos
  86. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  87. The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Williams
  88. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  89. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
  90. Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe
  91. The Lost Book of the White – Cassandra Clare
  92. Dr. Faustus – Christopher Marlowe
  93. Emma – Jane Austen
  94. Poetics – Aristotle
  95. Oedipus the King – Sophocles
  96. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  97. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  98. Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco
  99. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
  100. Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

What is the book you’re most looking forward to in 2021?

Image: Siora Photography via Unsplash

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