My Reading Plan for 2020

2020 Discussion Challenge

Thanks to these two bloggers for sponsoring the 2020 Blog Discussion Challenge:

You can join the discussion challenge at any time during 2020 by clicking on either link above.


For the past few years I’ve set up a reading plan at the beginning of each new year. In most of those plans I set up goals involving books I thought I should read rather than books I wanted to read. And most of those years I failed to meet the goals of books I thought I should read.

Therefore, this year I’m going to set up my reading plan a bit differently. Two blog posts from the past year helped shape my thoughts about this:

  1. Authors/Series I Stopped Reading–For Whatever Reason
  2. 10 Reading Regrets of 2019

The first made me realize that there are some authors and series that I do want to catch up with. The second comprises recently published books that I just didn’t get around to before 2019 came to an end. In addition, I’ve also recently started participating in The Literary League monthly book group here at my retirement community, so I need to include time for reading those books.

So for 2020 I’m setting up a reading plan with two parts:

Part I: Specific Challenges and Goals

1. Goodreads Challenge

Since I easily exceeded my 2019 goal of 50 books, I’m cautiously raising my 2020 goal to 55.


2. The Classics Club

Even though I just met my goal of 4 books read from this list last year, for 2020 I’m increasing my goal to 6. If I don’t increase my efforts, I might not get through my Classics Club list in my lifetime.


3. 2020 Book Blog Discussion Challenge

Although I’m staying away from most challenges that require me to read books in specific categories, I’ve signed up for this challenge to motivate myself to write more substantive blog posts in 2020. I’m aiming to write 2 discussion posts per month.


Part II: The Calendar

I’m setting myself specific monthly challenges. I hope that these projections will allow me sufficient time each month to read other works, such as my monthly book club selection and my monthly choice from Book of the Month, in addition to new releases.

January-February

The Jackson Brody novels by Kate Atkinson:

  • Case Histories
  • One Good Turn
  • When Will There Be Good News?
  • Started Early, Took My Dog
  • Big Sky

March-July

The Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series by Val McDermid:

  • The Mermaids Singing (1995)
  • The Wire in the Blood (1997)
  • The Last Temptation (2002)
  • The Torment of Others (2004)
  • Beneath the Bleeding (2007)
  • Fever of the Bone (2009)
  • The Retribution (2011)
  • Cross and Burn (2013)
  • Splinter The Silence (2015)
  • Insidious Intent (2017)
  • How The Dead Speak (2019)

August-September

Since we will be traveling for much of these two months, I’m leaving this spot open for catching up on previous goals, starting new projects, or simply indulging myself by reading what I feel like reading.


October-December

Since time seems to get shorter as we approach the end-of-year holidays, I’m also leaving this time slot open. I plan to spend this time on projects such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • comparison: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf & The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  • the works of Shirley Jackson
  • a study of second-person narrative
  • the works of Patricia Highsmith
  • a look at evil children in literature
  • a rereading of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout followed by a reading of the sequel, Olive, Again
  • a study of some novels featuring Older Adults in Literature
  • a rereading of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale followed by a reading of the sequel, The Testaments
  • notes on slow reading
fancy scroll

How about you?

Do you usually set up a reading plan at the beginning of the year? If so, feel free to leave a link in the comments.

If you don’t already have a reading plan for 2020 but are interested in developing one, here are some resources that might help:

The Ultimate Guide To Creating Your Own Reading Challenge

How to Plan for Your 2020 Reading Challenge

BOOK RIOT’S 2020 READ HARDER CHALLENGE

20 WAYS TO READ MORE BOOKS IN 2020

INTRODUCING THE 2020 READING LOG!

A NEW READING GOAL: MEASURING TIME, NOT BOOKS

What I propose is a new reading goal based on the amount of time you spend reading this year, rather than the number of books you read from cover to cover. I’m excited to give this a try next year. Here are some of the reasons why.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

The Best Books I Read in 2019

Because I read more books this year than I had in any recent year, paring down my list of the year’s favorites was much harder than usual. I always try to reduce the list of 10 best and 5 honorable mentions, but this year I couldn’t decide which should be the final title to get moved from best to honorable mention. I therefore present 11 best and 4 honorable mentions, although the differences between the two groups are indeed very slight.

As always, these are the best books I read this year, regardless of when they were published. They’re listed alphabetically by author’s last name.

Best

Crouch, Blake. Recursion: A Novel

Franklin, Ruth. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

Harper, Jane. The Lost Man

Kim, Angie. Miracle Creek

Lippman, Laura. Lady in the Lake

Michaelides, Alex. The Silent Patient

Obama, Michelle. Becoming

Quinn, Kate. The Alice Network

Reid, Taylor Jenkins. Daisy Jones & The Six

Turton, Stuart. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad

Honorable Mention

Berney, Lou. November Road

Dugoni, Robert. My Sister’s Grave

Kushner, Rachel. The Mars Room

McTiernan, Dervla. The Ruin


You can find links to lists of the best books I read each year from 1996 to 2019 on the Year’s Best Books page.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Did I Fulfill My Reading Plan for 2019?

Earlier this month I posted about 10 Reading Regrets of 2019, a list of 10 particular books that I’m sorry I didn’t get to this year.

But how did I do in terms of my overall reading plan for 2019, which I composed back in January?

Let’s take a look. Here are the sections of my plan, with my summary comments highlighted in purple.

fancy scroll

First, because I read so many books last year, I’m boldly going to increase my annual Goodreads challenge to 50 books for 2019.

I’ve already exceeded that goal. Since I still may finish another book or two, I’ll wait and include the exact number in my 2019 year-in-reading wrap-up.


Second, I’m going to avoid any other particular reading challenges and instead just encourage myself to read in the following categories:

1. translations

I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in this category.

  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu  
  • A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

2. science fiction

I’m satisfied with this number, though it’s really nothing to brag about.

  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu   
  • The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton   
  • Recursion by Blake Crouch

3. speculative fiction

Again, I’m satisfied here.

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams 
  • The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton   

4. memoir

I had hoped to read a lot more in this category, some of which have been on my TBR shelf for years.

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama 
  • Darkness Visible by William Styron

5. biography

Really? Only one?

  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

6. general nonfiction

This result qualifies as an epic failure.

  • The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

7. plays

I think I should just give up on this category. I honestly don’t enjoy reading plays anymore.

  • The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill    

8. poetry

Ditto.

9. books by local authors

I can live with this result.

  • The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
  • No Exit by Taylor Adams 
  • My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni 
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple  
  • The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni  
  • The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison 

10. books by people of color or about other cultures

This is another epic failure.

  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu   
  • A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Third, I’m going to make the effort to cross off at least four titles from my Classics Club list.

I just made my minimum.

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams 
  • The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill  
  • Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing by May Sarton
  • Darkness Visible by William Styron

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

10 Reading Regrets of 2019

Yesterday I came across the article Readers’ Regrets: The Books We Wish We Read in 2019. It prompted me to take a look at my own shelves for the books I regret not having read in 2019. Here are 10 of them, listed in no particular order.

(Links that describe the book are to either Goodreads, Amazon, or the book’s publisher.)

Normal People by Sally Rooney

cover: Normal People

The description of the author’s “brilliant psychological acuity” drew me so quickly to this book that I bought a hardcover copy soon after its publication. 

Alas, that book still stands on my shelf, expectantly.


Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

cover: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Although I’m not—nor have I ever wanted to be—a therapist, I’m interested in psychology. I even went back to school at age 57 and got a Ph.D. in general psychology. I bought a copy of this book because it promises to scratch two of my itches: (1) a look at psychology that can inform my study of literature (fiction), and (2) an effort to read more nonfiction. The book still has a prominent place on my nonfiction TBR shelf.


In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado

cover: In the Dream House

This book was published only recently (November 5, 2019), so I don’t have a copy and don’t feel too guilty about not having read it yet. Although my first literary love is fiction, my second-favorite type of book to read is memoir (nonfiction). (My focus of study in my Ph.D. program was life stories.) This story of Carmen Maria Machado’s experiences in “an abusive same-sex relationship” has gotten consistently good reviews, so I hope to read it soon.


Circe by Madeline Miller

cover: Circe

As a college classics major, I was immediately drawn to this novel featuring a figure from classical Greek mythology. I ordered a copy from Book of the Month Club when this title was chosen as BOTM book of the year for 2018. It still sits on my BOTM shelf along with a few others as yet unread.


The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin

cover: The Fifth Season

This book, originally published in 2015, recently drew my attention when I decided that I should at least try to read and appreciate some fantasy. For the record, I have read and loved Lord of the Rings twice and all of the Harry Potter books. This novel consistently appears on lists of good fantasy, so I’ll start here. I put it on the Christmas book wishlist that my daughter, who LOVES fantasy, requested, so it my show up at my house soon. 


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

cover: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

This book hits two of my sweet spots: it’s a novel about life stories:

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

This book is also on just about everybody’s list of the best books of 2019, which makes it call my name even more loudly.


All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg

cover: All This Could Be Yours

All This Could Be Yours is a timely, piercing exploration of what it means to be caught in the web of a toxic man who abused his power; it shows how those webs can tangle a family for generations and what it takes to—maybe, hopefully—break free.

A dysfunctional family with hidden secrets: how could I resist? I recently bought the Kindle edition when it was on sale.


Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

cover: Ask Again, Yes

This is another title that comes up on almost all the best books of 2019 lists:

Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next 40 years. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while haunted by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.


The Need by Helen Phillips

cover: The Need

This promises to be a psychological thriller that deals in suspense and features family secrets along with an examination of the meaning of motherhood: “The Need is a glorious celebration of the bizarre and beautiful nature of our everyday lives.”


 Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

cover: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

I had this novel, translated from Polish, on my radar even before it received the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

A deeply satisfying thriller cum fairy tale, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a provocative exploration of the murky borderland between sanity and madness, justice and tradition, autonomy and fate. Whom do we deem sane? it asks. Who is worthy of a voice?

I bought a hardcover copy soon after the English translation was published in August 2019, and it still has a place of honor right at the end of my TBR shelf.


© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt Tag

Thanks to Madame Writer, on whose blog I found this tag. (She in turn traced the tag back to here.)

I undertook this challenge because I’m in favor of anything that makes me stop and think about the books that I own, read or unread.

1. Find an author name or title with a Z in it.

cover: The Pigman by Paul Zindel

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

2. Find a classic.

Cover: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

3. Find a book with a key on it.

cover: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

S T R E T C H I N G 
the prompt here 
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

4. Find something on your bookshelf that is not a book.

Moi statue and read sign

Left: a small moi (replica of the giant stone heads on Easter Island)
Right: a sign of encouragement made by RamonaClaire from rolled-up pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite book

5. Find the oldest book on your shelf.

cover: Four Afloat by Ralph Henry Barbour

Probably Four Afloat by Ralph Henry Barbour. This is from my father-in-law’s childhood collection. The text is © 1907. I can’t find out when this version was published, but, as you can tell, it’s pretty old.

6. Find a book with a girl on it.

Cover: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

7. Find a book that has an animal in it.

Cover: Watership Down

How about lots of animals: Watership Down by Richard Adams

8. Find a book with a male protagonist.

Cover: Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

How about a book with two male protagonists: Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

9. Find a book with only words on the cover.

cover: Ulysses by James Joyce

This copy of Ulysses by James Joyce, which I bought in Dublin.

10. Find a book with illustrations in it.

cover: Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore. This was my father-in-law’s copy, inscribed June 26, 1912.

11. Find a book with gold lettering.

cover: A Backward Glance by Edith Wharton

A Backward Glance by Edith Wharton

12. Find a diary, true or fictional.

cover: Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman

Since diaries, both real and fictional, are one of my favorite things to study, my shelf contains a lot of books that fit this category. Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman is one of the best.

13. Find a book written by an author with a common name (like Smith).

cover: Breakheart Hill by Thomas Cook

Breakheart Hill by Thomas H. Cook

14. Find a book with a close-up of something on it.

cover: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This edition of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield has a wonderful close-up of a stack of old books.

15. Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earliest time period.

cover: The Poetry of John Milton

That must be Paradise Lost by John Milton, which takes place shortly after the creation of the world.

16. Find a hardcover book without a jacket.

cover: The Prairie by J.F. Cooper

This old, undated copy of The Prairie by James Fenimore Cooper.

17. Find a teal/turquoise colored book.

cover: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

18. Find a book with stars on it.

cover: The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco

Well darn, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green doesn’t have stars on the cover. But this edition of The Island of the Day Before does.

19. Find a non-YA book.

cover: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

YA literature has only come into existence over the last few years of my reading life, so most of my books fit this category. I chose The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing because it was close at hand.

How about you?

Let me know if you decide to give this book tag challenge a try.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown