readWe’ve been discussing Reader’s Block in the Read Along with Emilie Richards Facebook group that I moderate. (Join us by clicking that link.) Group members admitted that concentrating on a book or even picking one up is much harder than it used to be. Focusing is difficult, and some readers are finding reading a book takes twice as long as it used to.

The group sympathized and made great suggestions. Trying YA novels for a break. Looking for interesting memoirs or autobiographies of women. Listening to audiobooks instead.

Finding that others were experiencing the same thing was something of a relief to many. We feel better if we know we’re not alone, and then hearing that others “had” the same issue but are starting to read with pleasure again was helpful, too. Knowing there’s an end in sight can work wonders.

Recently Vulture.com had an interesting article about TV shows that echoes the same theme. I encourage you to read it because it’s worth your time. This past year the author, , particularly enjoyed The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix and said: “There’s been a shift for me and many other TV watchers, a newfound appreciation of a quality I did not value in the same way before. As much as anything else, the appeal of The Baby-Sitters Club lies in how unabashedly comforting it is.”

She differentiates between “best” and favorite” pointing out that best claims to be an indicator of quality (objectively this program–or book in our case–will be good for many people.) Favorite is a way of saying that you enjoyed a show and maybe others will, too. Favorite is more about comfort while best may  not be comforting at all.

I don’t need to explain why “comfort” is a huge plus in entertainment at this particular junction of history, right? And I don’t need to explain that books can also be categorized the same way.

While many readers were having problems plowing through books in 2020, some of us were the opposite. We discovered we could escape into a story and forget about politics and viruses, for at least that long. We were anxious to do so.

For Christmas last year I was given an Erin Condren calendar/appointment book. What a hoot, right? Because in 2020 we all needed to keep up with the many social events vying for our time? Of course I didn’t want to waste that beautiful paper, so I began a book list in the back of mine. Two years ago I kept a book list on Goodreads and managed to read the 50 books I set as my goal. So far in 2020 I’ve read 106. And those were just the ones I remembered to log.

For fun, I thought I’d tell you about the books on that list. Have you ever wondered what a novelist reads? Here’s your chance.

I discovered, when looking through the mini-reviews and ratings I’d given each book that I read a lot of new authors, often authors who advertised free books on BookBub–which I’ve done myself. I discovered some wonderful new storytellers. I also read some clunkers, which was inevitable. Not all of the clunkers were from new authors, either. I can think of four mega-bestselling authors of multiple books who wrote clunkers that ended up on my list. Of course one reader’s clunker is another’ treasure, and that’s as it should be. For that very reason–and several others–I’m not going to name those authors. However, if you’re an author reading this and we’ve met somewhere along the way, you are not on that list.

I also discovered that just because I loved a book by an author was no assurance I’d love the next one or the next. Some books by favorite authors were simply better than others, or had plots or characters I found more appealing.

In an informal tally of genres, I learned I’d read the following:

  • Mysteries and thrillers–57
  • Women’s fiction and romance–34
  • Literary and general fiction–9
  • Non-fiction–5

Genres aren’t always easy to determine. I made my best choice and moved on.

Forty-six of the books I read earned 4 stars or more out of 5 stars, my informal rating system. If that seems high I will say that if a book was truly bad, I ditched it and moved on. There were a handful of those. For the rest, perhaps, knowing how hard it is to write and publish a book, I gave more stars than someone else might have. A book with great characters and a slow moving plot might get 4 stars, or a great plot with cliched characters, 4 stars, too. If I read a book with pleasure and was happy to settle in with it, a book always received at least 3 and a half stars. No matter how preposterous the idea.

I freely admit I read some preposterous ideas that were so well written or filled with creative energy, that I adored them and was delighted we’d been introduced.

Fifteen books received 4 and 1/2 stars or 5. Using the terms I talked about at the beginning, some were “favorites” and some were “best.” They vary widely, but I bet you can tell which was which. So here’s my list in hopes you’ll find books to read in 2021 if your taste aligns with mine. These are listed in the order I read them and I’ve linked the books to Amazon which makes it so easy (and where I am an associate and earn from qualifying purchases.)

Happy reading ANYTHING that appeals to you in 2021. This is not the time to read because you should but because you want to. Remember nobody’s watching.

  1. The Seven Steps to Closure by Donna Joy Usher.
  2. Light on Snow by Anita Shreve
  3. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  4. Faithful Place by Tana French
  5. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
  6. Missing Presumed by Sue Steiner
  7. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cissneros
  8. Always the Last to Know AND The Best Man by Kristan Higgins–I’m clearly a fan.
  9. Summer of 69 by Elin Hilderbrand
  10. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
  11. Hamilton by Ron Chernov–I’m not finished but maybe I will be by next December.
  12. Lucky Double by Deborah Coonts–and others in this series, which was a hoot.
  13. Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella–I laughed out loud a lot.
  14. Small Favor by Jim Butcher–who doesn’t love a wizard detective with a vampire brother?

I’d love to see your favorites from 2020. Want to share?

4 Comments

  1. ROSEMARY FORSTROM on December 30, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    From your list the only author we had in common this year was Kristan Higgins. I’m not sure how many of her books I have read and enjoyed this difficult year, six or more certainly. I have found that I need to binge on certain authors. Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallery, J. A. Jance, Patricia Briggs, Catherine Andeson, Carolyn Brown, Kristen Ashley and Kylie Scott are all authors that I have binged on. Patricia Briggs , Mercy Thompson series, is one that I read and reread. My to-be-read stash is so full. I have needed the comfort of romance, laughter and happy endings. I am hoping that 2021 will allow me to read and enjoy more mysteries.

    • Emilie Richards on December 31, 2020 at 6:37 am

      I can appreciate your choices and I love your suggestions. Mysteries and thrillers have something of a different appeal during times like these. No matter how bad things get, how impossible life seems, the villain is (almost) always caught and order is restored. That’s good news in troubled times.

  2. Beverley Langill on December 31, 2020 at 2:36 am

    This year has definitely been a challenging year. Not only did we have covid – but my hubby was in hospital for 4 months (June to mid Oct.) Reading was my comfort and necessity so I usually read a book a day. But it was harder this year to settle on a book and even to read for the many challenges I participate it. Rereading books became a thing this year – something I seldom did before. My go to is usually romance (in most genres) and fantasy. May 2021 be a great year of reading for you.

    • Emilie Richards on December 31, 2020 at 6:30 am

      I’m so sorry that Covid arrived in your household and that your husband’s health took such a bad turn. I can understand why rereading favorites worked so well. Those were books you could trust in what must have felt like an untrustworthy world. That’s a good tip for all of us to remember. I hope 2021 is a much better year for you.

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