St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

Books Wot I Read in 2020

2020 imposed a narrative arc on all of us that we never expected to have. From the impeachment in January to the early days of the pandemic to the lockdowns, race riots, conspiracy theories, and finally to the US election and the last month of 2020 that saw us limping sadly over the finish line — we’ve unintentionally been a part of something big and terrible. Normally my year’s reading gives me a chance to reflect on what I’ve read, but this year’s reading also reminds me where I was in that narrative.

The Grammarians was my book group’s first book of the year (my pick — I liked it, but nobody else did). We talked about it at Bar Tonique on N. Rampart where they served a cocktail that had to be shaken for five minutes. The bartender had nice arms, so we were ordering five-minute cocktails all night. I read Naked on the aeroplane to San Francisco for work and The Cloven Viscount in a friend’s flat in Reno. I read Dark Tales sitting in a wine bar in the French Quarter, one of the last times I went out before the lockdown came. My book group discussed Full Service just after the lockdown had started to lift so we put on masks and met at Wrong Iron, confused and half-joking about the contact tracing and social distancing. We haven’t met in person since then. I read four Doctor Who novels on the train to and from Los Angeles when I was so desperate for a holiday that I sealed myself in a metal coffin and spent a whole week looking out windows instead of actually doing anything. I read We Are Legion (We Are Bob) during the blackout following Hurricane Zeta when the only light I had was candles jammed into the necks of wine bottles and the glow of an ebook reader. I read Justina Ireland’s wonderful Dread Nation and Deathless Divide thanks to Parker, who gave these to me as birthday and Christmas presents.

We’ve all done a lot of reading to forget this year, but reading weirdly also helps you to remember. I hope reflecting on what you’ve read will give you the opportunity to gain some perspective on the bad times and be thankful for the good ones. I think we’ll all be hoping for a much less memorable 2021.