Books of 2020

My one craft project–made from a flower fairy book.

Never has there been a better year for reading. Without travel, parties, outings, etc., there was a vast expanse of time to fill that didn’t involve human contact.  I don’t play games, I’m not crafty, I’m not much on movies, which leaves me my two favorite past times, walking and reading.  2020 not only had lots of time to read, it was the first year in two years that I chose my reading agenda instead of my professors.  Before I went to graduate school in 2017, I had become a rather lazy reader. Internet distractions took my time and my concentration and I am determined not to give these precious gifts away again.  I decided to keep up the reading pace I established during school, 50 pages a day. You get through books at 50 pages a day.  I didn’t always make my goal and gave myself grace to roll with the tidal waves of the year.

My reading generally falls into three categories and I like to read at least three books at a time. I usually start my day with something spiritual, inspiring and gentle. These books usually have short chapters to savor.  I allow the words to flow over me, I start my early morning hours with a cup of coffee in my current favorite mug, Timmy on my lap for a bit of a snuggle and sometimes a candle for atmosphere.  The Way of the Rose, by Clark Strand and Perdita Finn, was a gift from heaven. I read it slowly, a few pages at a time. This deeply loving book explores the feminine wisdom of the Rosary. I was raised a Fundamentalist so I come to this Catholic tradition with an open mind and heart. Other favorite books in this category: Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom, The Tao of Ordinariness by Robert Wicks, and Pathways to Bliss by Joseph Campbell. 

The second category of books is usually something mentally challenging.  I have a book that I turn to after my first cup of coffee but before the house wakes up.  These books require my attention and usually get lots of highlighting and notes scrawled in the margins. I decided not to continue on to the PhD program but I did want the knowledge of the third year classes so I printed the syllabi and started to read through the list along with my classmates.  Technically, I wasn’t choosing the books but it certainly wasn’t required and I was happy to continue my studies–all the fun of school without research papers and tuition payments. It was a good compromise for me. Some of my favorites in this category: Synchronicity: Through the Eyes of Science, Myth and the Trickster by Allan Combs and Mark Holland, Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality beyond Religion by Lionel Corbett, Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger. 

2020 seemed to bring out reading challenges for many people.  Alexandra conquered all five of the massive books by Robert Caro.  Hamilton worked his way through several classic economic/political texts.  I took up the challenge of Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism by an anonymous writer. This 665-page book has been languishing on my shelf for several years, awaiting my attention. This was finally the time and I’m glad it waited for me.  Only now do I have the background to understand most of the book. I read it a half a chapter at a time and found it rewarding- a personal triumph. 

My third type of book tends to read faster and more just for pleasure.  I can read these books anytime of the day and any place.  Normally, I like travel books but with travel off the schedule for the foreseeable future, my desire to read travel went away too.  Instead, I’ve been reading about home.  I want to write about “home” the next couple of years so I started reading on that subject and taking notes in a special journal.  Some of my favorites: The Making of Home by Judith Flanders, Geography of Home by Akiko Busch, The Most beautiful House in the World by Witold Rybczynski, and my absolute favorite, On Moving by Louise DeSalvo.  I love everything I’ve read by Louise and was so disappointed that she had passed away and I would not be able to thank her personally for her lovely writing.  I also enjoyed Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May.  

I also joined a book club this last summer in the neighborhood where I walk.  I love having friends nearby and being part of the community. This book club reads novels, a genre I almost never read.  I didn’t read novels as a child and read them only in my twenties. I find it hard to keep characters straight, my mind tends to wander off the plot and I find the plot tragedies hard on my emotions. But it is good to stretch myself and I’ve enjoyed several of the books and the socially distanced meetings.  As you can tell my reading time is pretty full so I listen to the novels on my drive to town or while I’m working on a house project. For me, stories tell well in the spoken word and bring back happy memories of my father reading to me and my little brother.  Some of the books I’ve enjoyed:  What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes and Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance.

What reading challenge did you finish last year?  What is on your book list for 2021? 

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