January 2nd, 2021 / 12:03 pm

Books I Read in 2020

What follows is a list of all the books I read in 2020.

(What follows that is a series of statistics regarding this list, and some other things.)

  1. The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1967) by Ishmael Reed (Jan. 2–5)
  2. Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969) by Ishmael Reed (Jan. 6–8)
  3. Mumbo Jumbo (1972) by Ishmael Reed (Jan. 9–14)
  4. Chattanooga (1973) by Ishmael Reed (Jan. 15–16)
  5. The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974) by Ishmael Reed (Jan. 20–22)
  6. Flight to Canada (1976) by Ishmael Reed (Jan. 23–25)
  7. Imaginary Museums (2020) by Nicolette Polek (Jan. 26–27)
  8. The Novelist (????) by Jordan Castro (Jan. 28–29)
  9. *$50,000 (2020) by Andrew Weatherhead (Jan. 30)
  10. Infinite Hesh (2019) by Thomas J. Gamble (Jan. 31)
  11. The Network (2010) by Jena Osman (Feb. 3–4)
  12. Where We Go from Here (2018) by Bernie Sanders (Feb. 4–7)
  13. The New Jim Crow (2010) by Michelle Alexander (Feb. 12–16)
  14. Black Against Empire (2012) by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. (Feb. 17–21)
  15. Incognegro (2008) by Frank B. Wilderson III (Feb. 22–28)
  16. Bring the War Home (2018) by Kathleen Belew (Mar. 2–6)
  17. Barn 8 (2020) by Deb Olin Unferth (Mar. 6–10)
  18. *Revolution (2011) by Deb Olin Unferth (Mar. 11–12)
  19. Will and Testament (2016) by Vigdis Hjorth (Mar. 13–17)
  20. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (2009) by Olga Tokarczuk (Mar. 18–22)
  21. Bleak House (1853) by Charles Dickens (Mar. 22–Apr. 11)
  22. Flights (2007) by Olga Tokarczuk (Mar. 23–31)
  23. A House in Norway (2014) by Vigdis Hjorth (Apr. 1–7)
  24. Speedboat (1976) by Renata Adler (Apr. 12–13)
  25. Reuben Sachs (1888) by Amy Levy (Apr. 14–15)
  26. For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut (1982) by Takashi Hiraide (Apr. 16)
  27. Discounted (2020) by Erik Stinson (Apr. 17)
  28. The House of Mirth (1905) by Edith Wharton (Apr. 17–21)
  29. Ethan Frome (1911) by Edith Wharton (Apr. 22–23)
  30. The Age of Innocence (1920) by Edith Wharton (Apr. 26–30)
  31. True Suede (2020) by Jon Leon (May 1)
  32. The Prick of Noon (1985) by Peter DeVries (May 2–4)
  33. Amazons (1980) by Cleo Birdwell (May 6–11)
  34. *American Psycho (1991) by Bret Easton Ellis (May 12–21)
  35. *A Book of Common Prayer (1977) by Joan Didion (May 22–26)
  36. *Salvador (1983) by Joan Didion (May 28–June 2)
  37. *Democracy (1984) by Joan Didion (June 7–10)
  38. *Miami (1987) by Joan Didion (June 11–16)
  39. The First Civil Right (2014) by Naomi Murakawa (June 17–18)
  40. The End of Policing (2017) by Alex S. Vitale (June 19–20)
  41. After Henry (1992) by Joan Didion (June 23–28)
  42. *The Last Thing He Wanted (1996) by Joan Didion (June 29–July 1)
  43. Political Fictions (2001) by Joan Didion (July 1–4)
  44. Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11 (2003) by Joan Didion (July 5)
  45. Where I Was From (2003) by Joan Didion (July 6–8)
  46. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) by T. S. Eliot (July 6–10)
  47. Four Quartets (1943) by T. S. Eliot (July 6–10)
  48. Hellbox (1947) by John O’Hara (July 9–12)
  49. Audition (1997) by Ryu Murakami (July 14–15)
  50. Death in Her Hands (2020) by Ottessa Moshfegh (July 16–17)
  51. Mountain Road, Late at Night (2020) by Alan Rossi (July 18–19)
  52. A Rage to Live (1949) by John O’Hara (July 20–31)
  53. The Farmer’s Hotel (1951) by John O’Hara (Aug. 1–2)
  54. A Family Party (1956) by John O’Hara (Aug. 4)
  55. Baseless (2020) by Nicholson Baker (Aug. 6–10)
  56. U and I (1991) by Nicholson Baker (Aug. 13–14)
  57. Vox (1992) by Nicholson Baker (Aug. 15–17)
  58. The Fermata (1994) by Nicholson Baker (Aug. 18–22)
  59. Vernon Subutex 1 (2015) by Virginie Despentes (Aug. 22–24)
  60. Vernon Subutex 2 (2015) by Virginie Despentes (Aug. 26–29)
  61. Frantumaglia (2016) by Elena Ferrante (Aug. 30–Sept. 3)
  62. Coin Locker Babies (1980) by Ryu Murakami (Sept. 4–9)
  63. Popular Hits of the Showa Era (1994) by Ryu Murakami (Sept. 10–12)
  64. The Lying Life of Adults (2019) by Elena Ferrante (Sept. 12–17)
  65. Afropessimism (2020) by Frank B. Wilderson III (Sept. 18–22)
  66. The Shock Doctrine (2007) by Naomi Klein (Sept. 23–29)
  67. Different Seasons (1982) by Stephen King (Sept. 30–Oct. 3)
  68. The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole (Oct. 9–10)
  69. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, vol. 2 (1840) by Edgar Allan Poe (Oct. 12–13)
  70. Tales (1845) by Edgar Allen Poe (Oct. 14–21)
  71. The Silence (2020) by Don DeLillo (Oct. 21)
  72. Yellow Grass (2020) by Josh Barber and Stephanie Hurtado (Oct. 22)
  73. *Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley (Oct. 22–24)
  74. The Cipher (2020) by Molly Brodak (Oct. 23–25)
  75. Instructions for a Painting (2007) by Molly Brodak (Oct. 25)
  76. Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker (Oct. 25–30)
  77. The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson (Nov. 1–3)
  78. The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1820) by Washington Irving (Nov. 4–10)
  79. Shrovetide in Old New Orleans (1978) by Ishmael Reed (Nov. 11–17)
  80. Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier (Nov. 12–22)
  81. Cab Calloway Stands in for the Moon or The Hexorcism of Noxon D Awful (1970) by Ishmael Reed (Nov. 19)
  82. God Made Alaska for the Indians (1982) by Ishmael Reed (Nov. 19–21)
  83. Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison (Nov. 23–26)
  84. Jazz (1992) by Toni Morrison (Nov. 27–30)
  85. Paradise (1997) by Toni Morrison (Dec. 1–5)
  86. Long Live the Post Horn! (2012) by Vigdis Hjorth (Dec. 6–7)
  87. Vernon Subutex 3 (2017) by Virginie Despentes (Dec. 7–11)
  88. Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Brontë (Dec. 12–18)
  89. *Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Brontë (Dec. 19–25)
  90. *Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys (Dec. 26–28)
  91. The Left Bank and Other Stories (1927) by Jean Rhys (Dec. 28–30)
  92. Midwinter Day (1982) by Bernadette Mayer (Dec. 31)

*Previously read

# books read: 92
# books read for the first time: 81
# books reread: 11
# books read on average per month: 7.667
# books written by men: 44
# books written by women: 46
# books written by more than one person: 3
# distinct authors: 54
# male authors: 27
# female authors: 26
# non-gendered authors: 1
# novels: 50
# novellas: 1
# novella collections: 1
# short story collections: 6
# memoirs: 2
# essay collections: 5
# books of nonfiction: 13
# books of poetry: 10
# chapbooks: 3
# art books: 1
# books translated from another language to english: 14
# books published in 2020: 12
# books published in 21st century: 37
# books published in 20th century: 44
# books published in 19th century: 9
# books published in 18th century: 1
# books not (yet) published: 1

The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1967) by Ishmael Reed
Mumbo Jumbo (1972) by Ishmael Reed
Black Against Empire (2012) by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.
Bleak House (1853) by Charles Dickens
The House of Mirth (1905) by Edith Wharton
Amazons (1980) by Cleo Birdwell
The End of Policing (2017) by Alex S. Vitale
Political Fictions (2001) by Joan Didion
Four Quartets (1943) by T. S. Eliot
A Rage to Live (1949) by John O’Hara
Baseless (2020) by Nicholson Baker
The Lying Life of Adults (2019) by Elena Ferrante
Afropessimism (2020) by Frank B. Wilderson III
The Shock Doctrine (2007) by Naomi Klein
The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole
Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker
The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1820) by Washington Irving
Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier
Long Live the Post Horn! (2012) by Vigdis Hjorth
Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Brontë
Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys
Midwinter Day (1982) by Bernadette Mayer

It appears I preferred novels, by a considerable margin, to all other forms of literary media, in 2020. Despite the pandemic, presidential election, Black Lives Matter movement and protests, and other things, I read less journalism in 2020 than I did during the past several years, probably owing more to being unemployed, and later moving to a place without high-speed internet, than an intentional disinterest in current affairs. I probably am more disinterested in current affairs than ever before in my adult life, though. It’s impossible to quantify disillusionment. Stuff is relative. I feel withdrawn. Sometimes I feel invested. I used to do the majority of my daily reading at work, in the cab of a truck filled with television production equipment. Since March I haven’t gone to work. I’ve been living off of unemployment benefits, which have proved to be enough to live off of, and I read more books than I did last year, but not as many as I read in 2017, which was, of the past five years, the year I worked the most, I think. Reading feels like meditating. So does cooking. And washing dishes. I just associate. Stay associating. All day. Between April 16 and May 27, I wrote a draft of a novel, which is ~63,000 words and takes place within the Cthulhu Mythos, and which I haven’t looked at since. I’ve continued to cultivate an increased appreciation for and ambition to experiment in genre forms. Particularly, I feel interested in the history and tradition of gothic literature. In its inception, it was sometimes called terrorist literature. And I feel more inspired by the craft of narrative. I have been thinking about a vague concept that I refer to as “advanced narrative.” Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” exhibits qualities of “advanced narrative.” As do Bleak House, Dracula, and Jane Eyre. And the movie Lottery Ticket, which includes all the components of a good Shakespearean comedy. I want to map out the plot of Chinatown. I have been thinking about the role of The Fool. I feel interested in satire. I think Ishmael Reed is the greatest living satirist, maybe the greatest living fiction writer, right now. That’s what I think right now, upon typing this, I mean. I read more books by Ishmael Reed in 2020 than by any other author. I want to reach out to him directly, to see if I can buy an audio file of his interview with Malcolm X from 1965, because I don’t want to give money to Audible, which is owned by Amazon, among other things. It’s hard for me to imagine how publishing will ever get un-ruined. I want to read more satirical fiction. Can anyone recommend something similar to, or as good as Ishmael Reed writing, in that regard? Is any Donald Barthelme writing worth reading? If I like DeLillo and Pynchon, does it follow I could get something out of Donald Barthelme? I found the design choices (and errors(?)) in DeLillo’s new novel egregious and funny. My whole life will end. I studied left wing political history, independent social and defense organizing, fascist/right wing/free market economic history, and Black American and postcolonial history in 2020. I experienced feelings of hopelessness similar to after reading Jane Mayer’s Dark Money after reading Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. After eleven years of living in New York, I moved away from there with my partner Lily. Earlier in the year we tried to help Bernie Sanders get nominated to run for president by the Democratic Party. We also got a dog. We already had a cat. We are developing a publishing project, and a bush league writing workshop. Our friend Zachary is staying with us temporarily. Other people can reach out, especially if they have good satirical writing to recommend that isn’t George Orwell, Mark Twain, or Jonathan Swift. I enjoyed giving my dad Moby-Dick. I got him copies of Native Son and Heart of Darkness too, but I haven’t given them to him yet. I wrote a ~12,000-word story, which became my favorite thing I’ve written, and which is supposed to be published as part of an anthology in 2021. I also applied to ten graduate school programs so I can learn how to teach and maybe do stuff more aligned with my private interests in my public life. Previously, I had only applied to one university, which is the one I ended up attending from 2009 to 2013, as an undergraduate. For many years I shittalked graduate school. I feel less concerned with contradicting myself now. I’m an inconsistent hypocrite, like everyone. I don’t want to have a landlord anymore. I think society would be better without property, borders, police, detention centers, jails, or prisons. I know individuals can’t do much. Solipsism seems like a disease purposefully exacerbated by corporate interests. I want to keep using social media less. I want to read more books by Naomi Klein and Jane Mayer, even though they’ve made me feel hopeless. Life is going to continue. Even if it’s bad. Stuff is objective, in addition to being relative. Morality is problematic and vital. I want to read more books by Jean Rhys, Ishmael Reed, Ann Radcliffe, Washington Irving, John O’Hara, Vigdis Hjorth, Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner, William S. Burroughs, William Makepeace Thackeray, William H. Gass, Bernadette Mayer, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, Samuel R. Delaney, Katherine Ann Porter, David Markson, Hilary Mantel, Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Anne Brontë, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, László Krasznahorkai, Ryu Murakami, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Daphne du Maurier, Tao Lin, Andrew Weatherhead, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Barry Hannah, Kobo Abe, Osamu Dazai, Dennis Cooper, George Orwell, Patrick Cockburn, and other people. I want there to be new books by Julie Hecht, Mary Robison, Joy Williams, Elena Ferrante, Joan Didion, Frederick Barthelme, and Frank B. Wilderson III. I want to write more stories around 10,000 words in length. Maybe there’ll be a class I can take if I get into graduate school about Finnegans Wake. Or Samuel Beckett. In college, you couldn’t take the seminar on Joyce and the seminar on Beckett unless you were an Irish Studies major, and I wasn’t. I took the seminar on Joyce. In 2020, Lily and I read Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier aloud to each other. In 2021, I want to read more books aloud. I want to submit more to exploring and basking in feelings. Wading in emotions. I have experienced more profound, effortless, simple love this year. Like looking at our dog and touching it and exchanging positive energy with it. I see why dogs are therapy animals. I see turkeys and eagles. Big cats. My health has never been worse. I wrote that in my “takeaway” from the books I read in 2019 blog post too. It remains true. I want to get into graduate school so I can go to a good gastroenterologist, I guess. Nothing I try seems to work, healthwise, longterm. In 2020, I read more books translated from another language to English than in recent years. I suppose I want to do more of this, though sometimes it’s unappealing. Part of what I wrote about in the novel manuscript I haven’t looked at in seven months was about the inevitable shortcomings of translation. I still want to read Balzac and Flaubert, I’m pretty sure. I read Virginie Despentes’s writing and didn’t like it. I read Olga Tokarczuk, which I felt mostly indifferent toward, and I read Ottessa Moshfegh’s new novel, which I posit plagiarized Olga Tokarczuk’s most recently-translated novel. I went to the Rose Hill Book Exchange two or three times and procured around 200 titles from it. I got some discarded Ira Levin and Stephen King books from the library. I want to read more pre-1995 Stephen King writing. More than anything, I want to read more. There being so many things I want to read helps me maintain a less negative perspective about being alive. Maybe eventually I’ll get around to reading Plato or Boccaccio, for instance. It’s a good thing in my life. I’m forgetting things. Also, in 2021 I came up with a phrase that might theoretically be successfully applied to any New Yorker caption contest, though I haven’t attempted submitting it. The phrase goes: “Our rage is different, but there’s some overlap.”

As you may have noticed, the number of books written by men, the number of books written by women, and the number of books written by more than one person add up to 93, while the number of books I read in 2020 totals a mere 92. Why is this, you ask? Well, it’s because one of the books written by more than one person, Black Against Empire, was written by two men, Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. Therefore, it was both written by men and written by more than one person. I struggled with this statistical inconsistency for a while before deciding to leave it as is. It’s not inaccurate. In fact, it’s worth an explanation, so now you have it. The one book written by a non-gendered author is also, believe it or not, one of the books written by more than one person. It’s Amazons by Cleo Birdwell, whose pen name represents the efforts of Don DeLillo, his former co-worker Sue Buck, and Gordon Lish, according, at least, to my perfunctory investigations. Because of the ambiguous nature of this authorship, I decided to qualify “Cleo Birdwell” as non-gendered, rather than female, as the pseudonym suggests, or male, because Don DeLillo by no means should be understood to have produced this work alone. The third book written by more than one person should be self-evident. Happy, healthy, safe, secure. This concludes my note and blog post.

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Simultaneously published at http://elaboratingonsomeofmythoughts.blogspot.com.

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One Comment

  1. Jane Burke

      That is so cool list, I read some of these books but just a few of them, I’m going to try read all those books via next year after deciding where to buy dissertation methodology writing