2020 is over.
The year that started off with such promise, except if you were in Australia, because there were some of the worst bushfires on record, or California in the U.S. where the same thing was happening, and by March, thanks to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, every hope we had for Future 2020 seemed to be in tatters. Don’t cha wish we had 20/20 vision to predict what was about to happen? There was the incredibly divisive United States Election and its fallout; Julian Assange’s imprisonment threatening to destroy press freedom across the globe; thanks to Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, breaking news across the board came out saying social media was brainwashing us into being Zombie Zuckerberg and Billionaire Bezos’s perfect little algorithm-created money-making automatons; there were a dime-a-dozen stories about How I Escaped The Alt-Right; Disney seemed to be hellbent on taking over the world through its zillion reboots; and a video game that criticised late-stage capitalism and megacorporations was smeared and decimated by late-stage capitalists and megacorporations. Whew. What a year.
This blog reached its eighth year of existence, and has kept up its steady pace of at least a post a month, so thank you to everyone for staying along for the ride. While I’ve still been writing—and editing, and daydreaming, and submitting to agents and publishers—this blog has focused more on books and reading, and criticising toxic elements of BookTube and Baby Boomer comics and how Capital-R reading purists who think only books can be a real hobby are making it harder for the rest of us to enjoy reading. I watched a lot of cheesy ’80s slasher movies, watching some standout movies—Joker, Halloween, Prom Night, Honest Man; The Life of R. Budd Dwyer, and Sleepaway Camp, and some complete trash—Truth or Dare, Random Acts of Violence, I Spit On Your Grave 3, 8 Days and Slumber Party Massacre 2. I became obsessed with the original Roswell and binge-watched all three seasons and rediscovered my love of Dido’s Here With Me (also known as the Work Safe ad song in Australia), and now there’s a limited release reboot of Dexter in the works to fix the Season 8 finale (I finally forced myself to watch the second-half of Season 8 in 2020) due for release in 2021; it is perhaps the most anticipated release!
For many of us, 2020 threw a wrench into our reading and writing and life plans, but that’s to be expected, and there’s always the opportunity to try and improve our circumstances. In any case, here are my reads for the Year That Was. Don’t forget to comment below if you’ve read any of the same books, or if there are any books you’d recommend:
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery is a classic from childhood that I haven’t read in many years, and treated it almost like a new read, but was an immersive and beautiful start to 2020. I reviewed it here. 5/5
Stop Reading the News: A Manifesto for a Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life by Rolf Dobelli was a decent read but not long enough, and even though I only read it at the start of the year, don’t really recall much except Dobelli’s belief that reading the news makes us toxic and unhappy and how he feels better off as a result of not consuming toxic news cycles. Not a life-changer. 3/5
The Twins at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton is a classic and the first in a series, the boxset of which I own but only completed the first book. A nice little read and entertaining for a book of the 1940s. I intend to read the rest of the series, but the fuckuppery that was 2020 derailed a lot of the books I ended up completing. 3.5/5
Justice for Sara by Erica Spindler is an early-2010s thriller that I read for research, and fulfilled its purpose as an intriguing mystery that made you feel for its characters in small-town USA. It has a nice little wish-fulfillment romance, and while it wasn’t groundbreaking, it was fine and did what it was meant to do. I reviewed it here. 4/5
Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts was a mystery romance and my first ever Nora Roberts book, and was also for research. It was haunting and memorable and stayed with me a lot longer than I thought it would, and I was happily surprised. I liked the characters and enjoyed both the romance and the mystery. 4/5
Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend was another reread, this time one I haven’t picked up since 2010. Now a decade on, I can appreciate the political references and realise what a complete idiot Adrian Mole is. But that’s why we read about the life of Adrian Albert Mole, the most boringly interesting man in Leicester. 4.5/5
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson is the book that caused me to stop using Twitter. Ronson wrote this as a nonfiction on cancel culture before the term ‘cancel culture’ was even coined, and it was an engaging, memorable read and an insight and understanding into a variety of people who have been ‘publicly shamed’ on the internet, and how we as a society react to it. Would recommend to anyone, especially if you’ve fallen for hive minds on the web, especially if you believe you’re immune to it…because, trust me, no-one is immune to cultish behaviour on the internet. 4.5/5
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh is a literary novel that leaves you as restless as its unlikeable unnamed protagonist, with lyrical writing and an ending that should have finished a page earlier than it did. I reviewed it here. 3.5/5
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins was a surprise favourite of 2020, not like Midnight Sun *cough cough Stephenie Meyer* and I read it in two and a half days and it was riveting, unputdownable and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I reviewed it here. 4.5/5
Bad Girls with Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten was a forgettable YA thriller that was fine in filling out a TBR count for the year, but didn’t add anything for me. I reviewed it here. 3/5
The Outsiders by S.E Hinton is another reread for 2020—hooray for rereads! I hadn’t read this since high school English, and while it’s short, it has a lot to tell. It tells a beautiful, realistic tale about teenagers written by a teenager, and I love Hinton’s class analysis, about how the poor and the rich are treated differently in our world. Recommended for teenagers and adults. I reviewed it here. 4/5
He Started It by Samantha Downing was a decent thriller that didn’t really live up to the hype, and wasn’t as good as Downing’s debut. Downing believes she is super on-topic and relevant, but really just relies on a lot of clichés from the 2010s psychological thriller genre, and doesn’t really tell us anything Gillian Flynn or her billion copycats haven’t said. That said, if you like road trips with dysfunctional siblings, you’ll probably like this, and the ending is decent enough. I reviewed it here. 3/5
Brainchild by Andrew Neiderman is a slow-burn ’80s mass-market paperback that was worth the read. If you’re into the psychology of humans or behavioural science, this’ll both scare you and make you think, and if you’re into family horror, this tale about a family member who uses science to command her family into whatever she wishes, you’ll be happily surprised. Both a cheesy read and a horrifying psychological tale. I reviewed it here. 3.75/5
My DNF’s for 2020 included Man Drought by Rachel Johns (200 pages in), A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke (4 pages), and I’m SLOWLY, slowly, slowly, reading through Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun, which I started in November, but because it is so needlessly long (does it really need to be 750 pages?) I keep wondering every couple pages if it’ll be an eventual DNF, but I’m 450 pages in so I hope it’ll be on the list of 2021 reads.
I started a few others, such as My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier, which will hopefully make it on next year’s list as well! What books are in mind for 2021? There’s Permanent Record by Edward Snowden, Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and I want to make a habit of finishing the unread books in my bookshelf, or at least decluttering the ones I have no hope of ever completing (except the novelisation of the pilot episode of Smallville, lol there’s no way I’ll chuck that out).
What did you end up reading in the trainwreck that was 2020? Did you end up reading more or less than you anticipated? Do you believe in the glory and honour of the Goodreads Challenge, or is it best to just do it at your own pace with no social media site to monetise your free time and enjoyment of your hobbies? Remember to not treat yourself too harshly…there’s always 2021!