2020 in Retrospect: 7 Questions on Reading

I had planned to do a “Favourite Books of 2020” post today but the energy levels have taken a dive so I’m going to answer some questions in a meme that seems to have originated with a vlogger called Rick at Memento Mori.

His meme originally had eight questions but I’ve had to eliminate one about my favourite re-read of the year for reasons that will become obvious.

1. What’s the longest book I read this year and the book that took me the longest to finish?

This is an easy one. The Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel, the final part of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy was a whopping 883 pages. I was so keen to get this having loved the first two books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. This book will be forever associated in my mind with the Covid lockdown in the UK. I started reading it on the evening the lockdown began (23rd March) and finished it just as restrictions were eased on 13 May.

Why did it take me so long to read it? Well because it was so chunky and heavy in hardback format it was really tiring to hold it. I found I could read only about 20 pages at a time.

2. What book did I read in 2020 that was outside of my comfort zone?

I anticipated this was going to be Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami because much of his work features surrealism and magical realism, neither of which I find very appealing. But in fact this novel had neither element but was instead a striking novel of a man adrift in the world.

3. How many books did I re-read in 2020?

None! As much as I would love to re-read some novels, I very rarely do because I have so many books that I’ve yet to read even once. In fact I think the last time I re-read a novel was in 2016. Hence why I have to skip the next question about my favourite re-read of 2020.

4. What book did I read for the first time in 2020 that I look forward to re-reading in the future?

Because I seldom get to re-read, I’ve disciplined myself to give books away as soon as I’ve finished them. it’s rare for me to keep books these days but in fact I have retained two this year. I loved the Tasmanian setting of The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan and the way it deals with a fractured relationship between father and daughter. And it would be wonderful to read The Mirror and The Light again, this time however I’d want to begin right at the beginning of the trilogy and go through to the end without a break.

5. What’s my favourite short story or novella that I read in 2020? 

I’m not into short stories at all but am getting to love novellas. A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli is one that will linger in my mind from this year. It’s chilling in its themes and topic but stunningly written.

6. Mass appeal: which book would I recommend to a wide variety of readers?

A tricky one this since people’s tastes in books vary hugely and some readers have strong aversions to certain topics. I might be on safe ground however with Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink which is a celebration of reading itself and how it can provide joy as well as comfort. Plus it has loads of recommendations for books to read…

7. Specialised appeal: which book did I like but would be hesitant to recommend to just anyone?

Dear Life by Rachel Clarke had a huge impact on me but since the subject is our response to terminal illness, a topic few people feel comfortable discussing. I’ll think carefully before suggesting it to friends and relatives.

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

18 thoughts on “2020 in Retrospect: 7 Questions on Reading

  • January 3, 2021 at 8:01 am
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    I really need to read Richard Flanagan.

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  • December 31, 2020 at 6:01 pm
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    Although I don’t do it as much of it as I would like, I can’t imagine not re-reading! I have lost count how many times I have read my favourite book: The Hobbit! So of course I whole-heartedly agree you should re-read Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, although good luck because they are beastie books! 😅

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    • January 2, 2021 at 6:42 pm
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      They really are beasties aren’t they Jessica. They take up a huge amount of space on my bookshelves !

      Reply
  • December 30, 2020 at 4:39 pm
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    I thought about doing this but didn’t have the time. I notice that quite a few people chose The mirror and the light for the first one. It would probably have been mine had a read it! Haha!

    I don’t reread much, but I did reread one this year – guess by whom? Jane Austen of course. And, I know already that I’ll be rereading at least two in 2021, another JA, plus another classic chosen by my reading group. (I’m sort of sad we chose one I’ve read, but I read it in 1978 so it will be almost new!)

    Reply
  • December 29, 2020 at 4:12 pm
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    Mirror and the Light was the longest book and the one that took me the most time for finish this year too! Hope you have a happy New Year!

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  • December 27, 2020 at 6:03 pm
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    After seeing your comments on rereading, I went to check my year for rereads. I usually reread a lot. I have been rereading all the Albert Campion books by Margery Allingham, and I have reread every book by Rex Stout several times. But this year it looked like I only reread two books, and one of those I read so long ago I hardly remembered a thing … except the end (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). Then I remembered I had reread two Rex Stout books too, so 4 out of 112 books. It is interesting to look at which books I chose this year.

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  • December 27, 2020 at 5:47 pm
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    I don’t reread either although I’d like to. I have enough new books to be getting through!

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  • December 26, 2020 at 3:21 pm
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    I liked reading this. I have Dear Reader here but would also be interested in Dear Life.
    I have such a hard time holding English hardbacks, let alone a chunkster. The German ones are bigger but easier to hold because the pages are bound not glued. If that makes sense. The open up easily without one having to break the spine.

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  • December 25, 2020 at 4:06 pm
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    Hurrah for A Meal in Winter (I hope you’ve managed to track down the other two) and Dear Reader! I’ve yet to read Dear Life but wil be rectifying that soon. As you say, few peole are comfortable discussing the subject but it’s something we all need to think about.

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    • December 25, 2020 at 9:30 pm
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      the other two Mingarelli titles are still not available via the library system so I’m wrestling with my resolution to cut down on purchases next year until I’ve read a good proportion of what I already own

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    • December 25, 2020 at 9:29 pm
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      It made me think about that too Karen. I’d like to do more but there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day

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  • December 25, 2020 at 10:07 am
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    Dear Life is one I would never have come near several years ago but I’m very interested in reading it now. Good to know you enjoyed it so much!

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    • December 25, 2020 at 9:28 pm
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      Her insights about end of life are interesting but the book has added poignancy because it was written at a time when her own father was diagnosed with cancer.

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  • December 25, 2020 at 5:53 am
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    I *Knew* I wouldn’t be the only one to answer The Mirror and the Light for Q1!

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    • December 25, 2020 at 9:22 pm
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      I saw that some bloggers decided to read the first 2 books before embarking on “Mirror”. I haven’t counted how many pages that would be but it must be around 2,500.

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      • December 25, 2020 at 9:43 pm
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        That’s probably about right, I don’t think I could read all three one after the other…

        Reply

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