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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.

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