the buddy reads
In an effort to reach out to folks in a pandemic, I largely abandoned my meticulous reading schedule and was game for anything, including buddy reads. After poking some people, I realized not only did they want to read with me, but they were willing to chat on video calls, too! Just to be silly and read something less-than-serious during the pandemic, I encouraged folks to read some Jenny Holiday romance novels with me — and they did! I read at least one book with each of the following bloggers, or video chatted with them about books:
- Emily @ Literary Elephant
- Bill @ The Australian Legend
- Lou @ Lou Lou Reads
- Gil @ Gil Reads Books
- Hannah @ Books and Bakes
- Sarah @ Hamlets & Hyperspace
- Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku
The biggest read-along in which I participated was #ReadingValdemar with Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku. We completed ten novels in ten months. The second read-along was #AusReadingMonth with Brona @ Brona’s Books, which was my first foray into a month of books by Australians or set in Australia, as well as interviews with two authors (one still pending). Also lasting a full month was the read-along of Flannery O’Connor‘s complete collection of short stories that I hosted in the spring.
the book clubs
While I started in a virtual book club with the local library, I ended up continuing a two-person book club with my mom, known in my family as Biscuit. The library folks met once a week, which seemed like a lot to people used to attending a book club once per month, but Biscuit and I felt it was a good idea to meet twice a week. We try to stick to our book but do chat occasionally about other things. Here are the books I read in my book clubs:
reading to nick
A tradition we started many years ago: me, reading aloud to my spouse each night. I try to choose books I think will hit Nick just right without overwhelming him or making him feel terrible; some of my choices toed the line, but here is what we made it through:
authors go virtual
The University of Notre Dame creative writing program has a robust visiting author series, which I’m happy to attend because I live in the area, and of course it went virtual. The Philadelphia Public Library also started a virtual series, allowing people outside their tax paying area to join in these Zoom calls. Thanks to technology, I was able to see the following authors read from their works, discuss writing, and even ask them my questions (Roddy Doyle, omg). The authors I Zoom-ed in on were (click to listen to their conversations):
- Roddy Doyle
- Samantha Irby
- Tamara Payne
- Nikki Giovanni
- Maria Hinojosa
- Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
- Stacey Levine (click to see my review)
- Stephen Graham Jones
breakdown of my reading by decade
I keep track of which decade each book I read was originally published in, and for 2020 I tended toward books that were published in 2019 or 2020. Which is uncommon for me. I’m not one to jump on the new-book bandwagon, but this year, excitement around new titles and attending those author events (where you are encouraged to buy the guest’s book), plus that stimulus check that I didn’t need and wanted to share with authors and booksellers, pushed me into newer titles.
I am flabbergasted that the number of books I bought went down, considering how many I bought at the beginning of the pandemic for stimulus reasons and online author visits:
BREAKDOWN OF MY READING BY category
Some explanation: I separated books about a person’s life into memoir/biography, so it’s different from informational texts, books like Influenza: The Hundred-Year Hunt to Cure the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.
Earlier this year, my manager pointed out that we shouldn’t clump science fiction and fantasy. People who like lasers that go pew pew aren’t the same people that like horses that talk with magic.
I know that young adult, new adult, and children’s are not genres, but they are categories I used to help me create some labels.
Graphic art can mean anything that’s told predominantly in images and words, from four-panel, single-page works like Stranger Planet to Allie Brosh’s newest essay collection, Solutions and Other Problems.
Women’s fiction and Men’s fiction I defined as books that don’t fit clearly into another category and that focus on the lives and concerns of men or women. Examples of “women’s fiction” would be a romance with a female lead told that is from her perspective, books about mothers and families, or simply any story about a woman that doesn’t dive into clear genre territory.
breakdown of other elements
Thanks to a 20-30 minute commute, I listened to number of wonderful audiobooks. But that doesn’t mean I finish everything I read (or listened to). Check out these breakdowns:
treating fat people with dignity
The quest continues. In 2020, I completed almost 150 books. How many contained 1) a fat person, 2) who is treated with dignity, 3) and isn’t told to lose weight to be happy/successful? Just fourteen. That’s abysmal.
Look around you. How many friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors do you know who are fat — anyone who would go to a doctor’s office and be told to lose weight? It’s many, many people. Should those people be allowed to exist in fiction? Should they be treated with dignity, or simply given characteristics such as greedy, lazy, smelly, selfish, immoral, and unethical? You would never call your fat friend selfish for her size, but fiction reinforces the stereotypes I’ve listed to the point that people still believe the way fat fictitious individuals on movies and TV, in books and advertisements are depicted is true.
I look for books that star fat women who are treated as humans and don’t diet to prove they are worthy of happiness, dignity, even a fair shot. But shouldn’t all books contain some characters who aren’t thin? When we ask for diverse reads, what do we mean by that? The quest continues indeed…
reading goals for 2021
- Finish #ReadingValdemar.
- Continue book club with Biscuit.
- Finish reading books I purchased for Nook in case Barnes & Noble goes under.
- Read books that feature fat female characters treated with dignity — the story doesn’t have to be about their bodies!
- Read a large chunk of the books I own in physical (not digital) formats.
- Continue listening to audiobooks on my commute.