It’s also helpful to compare it to my total reading:
And why do I track these numbers? Because when I didn’t pay any attention to it, I gravitated to a very homogeneous reading list. Which isn’t very good if you want to be exposed to a range of voices and ideas.
Here are some other stats from my reading in 2020:
Sci-fi is still #1: This year sci-fi hit 54% of my reading, up from 37% last year. Carried me through the pandemic.
New is still better: About 75% of my reading came from the last three years. The oldest book was from 1997 (and my favorite fiction read of the year), and it was the only more than 20 years old.
Print dominates: Reading on my phone was a terrible idea this year. And audiobooks barely happened. My print reading hit 94%, quite a boost from last year’s 77%.
YA is dead to me: Once upon a time I used to read a lot of YA. This year? Nada. That’s not quite true, as some books fall under multiple categories and I classified them as other than YA. But even if we track those down, it’s only two or three. I’m not sure why I’ve grown so tired of this genre, but I have. It’s kind of sad too, because it sometimes it seems like YA is where all the interesting developments are happening in fiction.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – A fascinating book and a difficult read, this one made all the headlines in the aftermath of George Floyd. I’ve also seen a fair amount of criticism about it, but that’s not surprising. It’s a challenge, but I think the underlying premise—if you’re not actively fighting racism then you’re part of the problem—is sound.
Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer – A fascinating combination of memoir and history. I started listening to it as an audiobook but got bogged down in some of the detail and had to finish a paper copy. The history of our treatment of Native Americans is always jarring, but this summary of recent problematic encounters is even more jarring. These aren’t just sins our forefathers committed generations before we were born.
Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America by Stacey Abrams – Nothing like reading about voter suppression in the lead up to a presidential election. Especially one where the biggest story is the post-election rejection of said election based on absolutely no proof. It’d be fascinating to hear Abrams take on that, because that seems like a whole other problem from the one she tackles.
Honorable mention:The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures by Noelle Stevenson – Stevenson’s Nimona has always been one of my favorite graphic novels, and after watching and loving her Netflix reboot of She-Ra, I had to pick up Stevenson’s memoir. More than anything, it’s about creativity and learning to accept yourself. Also has some great cartoons.
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due – I’ve had this book on my to-read list for years and finally tracked it down. Worth the wait! It’s a horror/sci-fi story about immortals that’s very reminiscent of Octavia Butler. It has an effortless quality and sucks you in. While it works as a standalone, it’s also part of a four-book series that’s worth checking out (I’m currently on the fourth installment).
The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey – I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction, and the Koli series is just perfect. It’s got a bizarre voice that takes a little getting used to, but the world and ethos is fascinating and fun. This is actually the second installment, but I liked it better than the first.
Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer – I’m also a sucker for AI stories. Based on a short story about an AI who likes cat photos, this novel creates a bigger world around that concept that manages to be intriguing and funny without getting lost in the YA trappings. The sequel comes out this year and I’ve already got it pre-ordered.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – This was our last book club book before the pandemic descended, and it was an incredible story centered on food. I’m usually not much of a foodie and wouldn’t be interested in the topic, but this one was really captivating.
Network Effectby Martha Wells – After four novellas focused on the Murderbot, Wells gives us an entire novel. And it’s fun (I said I’m a sucker for AI stories). There are a couple points where it slows down and drags a little, but overall it’s fast-paced Murderbot fun.
The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey – Seems like cheating to give this series two spots on the list, but they were among my favorites of the year. The first one does an amazing job of setting up the world (oh yeah, and it has AI as well—double whammy of AI and post-apocalyptic). I think the end drags a bit, which is why I liked the sequel better.
A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen – It’s really weird to read a book about a global pandemic that kills 70% of the population in a year when a global pandemic kicks off. That eerie bit aside, this was a fascinating story about the aftermath of a pandemic.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson – This is kind of post-apocalyptic, but more than anything it’s a multi-verse story. It has some fun twists and turns and was enjoyable mostly because it was so unexpected.
The Regional Office Is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzalez – This wacky super spy story was riveting from the first page. The ending was kind of a letdown, which is why it slipped so low on this list, but the reading experience was pretty great.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – A sci-fi/western with a little post-apocalypse thrown in (sense a theme?), this story was a fun, quick read. It’s sticks in my mind mostly as being the type of book that got me back into reading. I read it in July, after a few months of having a really hard time getting into books. The blurb sounded fun (“Are you a coward or a librarian?) and it came quickly when I requested it from the library. Just what I needed when I needed it.
Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess took the multiple world setup and really ran with it. I listened to the audio book while also reading The Space Between Worlds, which made for a really bizarre pairing.
I’ve been recapping my 2020 accomplishments, including a new book and a sculpture in our art park. But today I want to talk about an accomplishment that’s less of an accomplishment and more of something that happened this year. But it’s still big, so it seems worth including.
We got a new dog. Her name is Kat, short for Katarina. (Yes, we are the best at naming things.)
She’s a three-legged rescue dog, originally from Texas, and came to us by way of Wisconsin. She’s maybe two years old (we’re not sure), she’s most likely a pit bull, and she’s great.
We got her on Mother’s Day, which is fitting because Abby is the dog person, and Kat came to us shortly after we lost Nick and a few months before we lost Mazie (yeah, 2020 sucks).
With 2020 nearly behind us (yay!), I’m looking back on some positive accomplishments during this pandemic year. Last time I looked at my book Better Politics, Please. This time I wanted to look at the “Community Cairn” public art project in West St. Paul.
Since 2020 has been such a dumpster fire, I thought it might help to recap a few accomplishments. One of the big ones is my latest book: Better Politics, Please.
I came up with this idea before the pandemic struck, but really fleshing it out and making it happen was a total pandemic project. I needed that. I needed something to focus on in the midst of all the chaos.
A project I worked on for 15 years came to an end at the close of 2019. I went into 2020 not knowing what was next (whoa, boy howdy!). Better Politics, Please was a fun way to try something different. It gave me a lot of hope, despite a real lack of hope in the rest of the world.
I’m grateful for all the help that made this project a reality. I couldn’t have done it without the many people who supported it.
I haven’t given a coronavirus update in a while, mainly because it’s frustrating and foolish and hard to write about. But I think it’s important to document.
I last left off in the middle of summer. Late summer continued in relative safety, as many things opened up again and restrictions relaxed as we headed into school. Many of us were cautiously optimistic. While normal summer things like vacation and the state fair were cancelled, being able to get outside and eat in restaurants felt like a return to normal.
I always try to blog about the election before it happens. It’s partially a coping mechanism and partially my need to document what’s happening. Elections are a very strange tipping point in time where everything changes, so it seems key to capture your thoughts before they’re influenced by the change.
In previous elections, I’ve blogged about candidate and made endorsements and tried to help people sort through all the confusion. I didn’t do much of that this year, mostly because of my work with West St. Paul Reader and my attempt at a non-endorsement policy there (which I broke; I endorsed Lisa Eng-Sarne for ward 3 city council). In 2018 I even blogged my entire ballot (and all my picks won). I also didn’t go that route because of my Better Politics, Please book. Not that better politics means you can’t support anyone, but it just gets awkward to go after candidates hard while also trumpeting this better approach. There’s a bit of friction there.
Sometimes blogging is freeing and helps me get thoughts out of my head so I can make sense of them. But other times it just feels like too much work. That’s a little of how it feels now.
And honestly, that’s what the last four years have felt like—unending exhaustion.
So let’s talk about it—briefly, cuz exhaustion—and then we’ll see what happens on Election Day.
I’ve held off on making endorsements this year in a number of local political races because of my work with West St. Paul Reader. However, I am enthusiastically endorsing Lisa Eng-Sarne for West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council.
The Bullying, Lying Opponent
Given the competition, my endorsement should be no surprise. I wrote extensively about her opponent, David Meisinger, in 2018 and his bullying, intimidating behavior.
He hasn’t changed.
This year he’s making false, misleading statements, implying that he’s the sole ‘law and order,’ pro-police candidate while also suggesting we’re living in “lawless” times with “unchecked crime and disorder.” He’s wrong on both counts. No candidates in West St. Paul have attacked police or even suggested defunding police. And there is no significant spike in crime in West St. Paul.
Anyone supporting him should be asking some serious questions about the statements he makes, his lack of transparency, and his completely inappropriate behavior.
Vote for Lisa Eng-Sarne
But why waste any more time talking about him? Let’s talk about Lisa Eng-Sarne.
Eng-Sarne first ran in 2018 in a four-way primary for the Ward 3 City Council. At the time, I supported Wendy Berry. But I also wrote letters to the editor encouraging people to pick Berry or Eng-Sarne. I could only vote for one, and I ended up with Berry. But I also supported Eng-Sarne when a seat opened up on City Council and someone had to be appointed. So Eng-Sarne has represented my ward on City Council since January 2019, and I’ve been impressed with her work.