In my 2019 review, I wrote '[The Storylines map] will be my guide in 2020 too, but I am also wildly looking forward to Pascal Merciers new release and to read more Russian classics - I've been enjoying all of the Russian authors I've read this year. And hopefully there's still some time for one or two of the beautiful history books that are still on my shelf... I'll set my reading challenge to 50 books or 20,000 pages for 2020 - let's see!'
I started off working towards this goal quite well, with 11 books read by mid-March, 8 of which were on my storylines reading list (Nostromo, The Color of Magic, The Children of Men, The Call of the Wild, Cider With Rosie, Childhood's End, The Age of Innocence and Foundation.
But then the world changed. The library closed, so I could just finish the 3 storylines-books (All the King's Men and A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan) I still had at home, but the fact that I almost completely worked from home meant my main reading time (on the commute) vanished.
It also meant, though, that people started cleaning up their houses, and in Germany, it is a common sight that people would put a box of things they don't need anymore on the sidewalk for others to take. And it happens to be that these boxes very often contain books, too. And so it came that a number of books I read this year are books I got 'off the street': Monsieur Ibrahim and The Flowers of the Qur'an, In Europa, Alias Grace and The Castle in the Pyrenees.
I read books that have been sitting on my shelf for ages and finally were read now I didn't have library books to distract my from them: The Lobster Kings, Eye of the Needle, Pope Joan, The Little White Horse, Les Fables De La Fontaine and the poetry book Wo bleibt das Meer?.
I read two books by people I actually know in person, Dekker by Marc Swerts and Jacht op de barnsteenkamer by Jerker Spits.
I read two graphic novels on historical persons: Rembrandt by Typex and Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage by Fabian Grolleau and Jérémie Royer.
The creepiest reading experience was The Plague by Albert Camus, because it has so many similarities to our world this year. A visit to Amsterdam and especially the Jewish museum made me read Life? or Theatre? by Charlotte Salomon, a multimedial work composed from 600 sheets of paintings, text and music, and I bought the Russische Sprookjes: Met illustraties van Ivan Bilibin, the Russian fairytale book by Ivan Bilibin in the Amsterdam Hermitage.
Books I didn't like AT ALL were The Sorrow of Belgium by Hugo Claus, which kept me busy for months, Babel, Foundation and White Fang, as well as Terry Pratchett's first disc world novel. That's just not my kind of humor, I guess. And even though Pascal Mercier's Nighttrain to Lisbon is one of my all time favorite books, his new novel didn't do it for me. The books I loved most are Mornings in Jenin, Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner and Bulgakov's The Master and Margaritha (which is very different from the other three because it is funny and not dramatic).
I also borrowed books from friends, which made me discover wonderful works like Mornings in Jenin - probably the work that impressed me most in the past twelve months. Also, I took books from my grandparents-in-law's shelf and discovered works of Pearl S. Buck, Erich Kästner and the biography of Lale Andersen by doing so.
I did manage to reach and even surpass my goal of 50 books, but not quite 20,000 pages. I read some thinner books like William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Stella by Sergio Bambaren, Mark Twain's King Leopold's Soliloquy or the gorgeous How to See Fairies by Charles van Sandwyk, so the average length of the books I read this year was 311 pages, whereas it was around 400 pages in the previous years. Of the 53 books I read, 11 were in English, 36 in German and 6 in Dutch.
For 2021, I will probably continue reading 'at random' by books that come to me through friends, family and neighbours cleaning up, as well as some books I bought in December: Kamala Harris's The Truths We Hold: An American Journey and William Souder's Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck and I'll try out audiobooks for the first time in my life!