One of my goals for 2020, and really the only one I wholly succeeded in, was to read more than I had in 2019. I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku (and it did!).
Being a little more systematic about my reading plans certainly helped. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books (usually), which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in the order I stack them. For my first reading stack, I grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but since then I’ve added criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!).
Since I had success with my 2020 reading plan, I made a spreadsheet to track my reading more in depth, and see if there’s anything I can do to tweak it and make even more out of my 2021 reading year. I might add a new-to-me category to my tracking this year as well.
Here’s how 2020 went:
I cracked open 90 books, and finished 89 of them. I honestly thought I would’ve abandoned more books than that, but I’m still pretty stubborn about finishing what I start, book-wise. 30 of my books were rereads, and 36 were graphic novels, which inflates the number a bit, but I’m still totally counting them (especially during the trashfire that was 2020).
I read 10 books by BIPOC authors and 7 by authors I know to be LGBTQ2S+. I’d like to improve both of those numbers in 2021, but am still pretty happy that everything I read came off of my shelves and I spent most of a year hitting my to-read stack goals without having to order a new book or visit the library to make my stacks. I will likely have to prop up the home shelves with some new additions by the end of 2021 to keep this category going.
Only 29 of my books were by women, which doesn’t surprise me given the amount of old graphic novel rereads that were on the list. The ratio is a bit better when compared to my new reads for the year, but I’d hoped for closer to 50-50 parity, and will be aiming for an equal mix again in 2021.
I caught up on 8 books written by friends. Sorry it took me so long!
Only 5 non-fiction books were finished in 2020. I tend to read non-fiction much more slowly than fiction, as I often make notes to myself of things I’d like to remember, or things that give me story ideas, but I’d still hoped for more. At least this should be an easy goal to beat this year.
I read 12 roleplaying game handbooks in 2020, which means I probably read more RPGs than I played in game sessions. It was not a good year for gaming for me. What games I played were fun, but pandemic brain definitely caused me to step back from actual game sessions (and as good as Roll20 is at what it does, I vastly prefer to have my gaming take place in person).
Of the 90 books I cracked open in 2020, I liked 70 of them enough to recommend to others, and there were no real stinkers. Even the book I set down had some pretty admirable qualities, it just wasn’t for me.
Top Fiction Reads
Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
The Bone Mother by David Demchuk
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa
Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield
Top Non-Fiction Reads:
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
The Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber
Top Graphic Novel Reads:
Heathen Vol. 1 by Natasha Alterici
Criminal: Bad Weekend by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Criminal: Cruel Summer by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.
I’ve decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books, which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games might jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in order I stack them. The first time I did this, I basically grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but for my next stack, I plan on adding some criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!).
Here’s the to-read stack for October!
You may notice there’s six books instead of my usual five, but I’ve reread A Night in the Lonesome October a chapter a night in October for the last several years, and 2020 isn’t taking that away from me. You may also notice a CZP title in there, and while I’ve severed ties with them, I purchased this before that went down and I don’t want to punish the author. David Demchuck got the rights back to the book, and I believe there’s a new edition pending, so check that one out if it intrigues, and support another author who was taken advantage of by their publisher.
Atomic Robo Volume 2: Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell: Continuing my Atomic Robo reread. Most of this one takes place during World War II, but there are “B” stories included that happen throughout Robo’s career.
Atomic Robo Volume 3: Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell: Next on my Atomic Robo reread. Now there’s some cosmic horror! H.P. Lovecraft makes an appearance along with Charles Fort, but my favourite cameo belongs to Carl Sagan. Reading the “B” stories reminds me of another similarity I’ve noticed between Hellboy and Atomic Robo for me, and that is, I also vastly prefer Robo drawn by Scott Wegener. Something in the expressions just never feels right otherwise.
Atomic Robo Volume 4: Atomic Robo and Other Strangeness by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: An anthology of one shots, this volume features the gloriously wacky Doctor Dinosaur! I fucking love Doctor Dinosaur.
Atomic Robo Volume 5: Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: A tale of Robo’s early days with lots of pulp hero inspiration.
Atomic Robo Volume 6: The Ghost of Station X by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: A missing building, an assassination attempt, and Alan Turing make Atomic Robo public enemy number one.
Atomic Robo Volume 7: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: Another tale of Robo’s past, set in the post-WWII Pacific Theatre area. Lots of fun! I have a bunch more Atomic Robo I could read, but this was the point were I started buying it in single issues, and I don’t feel like hauling out the comic long boxes.
Leave it to Chance Book One: Shaman’s Rain by James Robinson and Paul Smith, with Jeremy Cox: I’ve loved a lot of Robinson’s work over the years and Paul Smith illustrated my all-time favourite issue of Uncanny X-Men back in the day, as well as collaborating with Robinson on The Golden Age (one of my old favourite superhero graphic novels, which will probably end up on the reread pile soonish). Lots of fun concepts that didn’t necessarily age well. I enjoyed revisiting this volume, but when I tried to continue on with Book Two, I quickly lost interest. I think I’ll be donating this part of my collection.
Saga Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Another graphic novel reread. I still love this series so much. Staples’ designs are as striking as ever and I love the relatively simple idea of star-crossed lovers just trying to get by in a galaxy at war. Also, rereading it, Hazel’s narration and the foreshadowing embedded within it hit so much harder. I both want, and do not want a Lying Cat of my own.
Saga Volume Two by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Briefly continuing my reread, as after this point I started buying the series in monthly issues, and as with Atomic Robo, didn’t feel like hauling out the long boxes.
Trick or Treat Murder by Leslie Meier: From a Halloween Murder omnibus. Cozy mysteries aren’t my typical reads, but I found I needed some lighter fare than expected this month. It was fun. Arson in small historic town leads to murder. Interesting characters, but as I was mostly in it for fun Halloween content, I likely won’t dive too deeply into the rest of the series, which is substantial.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume One by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: When this book came out it quickly became one of my favourite superhero books. I also enjoy it far more than the other property Kirkman is probably better known for, The Walking Dead. Teen hero Invincible is the son of the world’s greatest hero, Omni-Man, and once his powers kick in he starts getting his feet wet in the family business. Ryan Ottley takes over art duties from co-creator and original artist Walker halfway through, and ends up being a perfect fit for the series. This volume’s shocking conclusion upends what the reader thinks the story’s dynamic will be, and reverberates throughout the rest of the series (at least as much as I’ve read). I haven’t read through it in ages, the appearance of the trailer for the upcoming animated series probably thrust it back into my mind. I still really dig this series, with one caveat, and that is the characters occasionally use “gay” or the r-word as a pejorative, in the guise of friends joking around with each other (particularly when Invincible carries a male friend while flying, which becomes a running gag). I remember both words being used that way more commonly when the series was being published, and it definitely dates the dialogue and struck me every time I encountered it going forward in my reread.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Two by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: Another reread. Invincible deals with the fallout of the revelation of his father’s true nature, as well as graduating from high school, and ends up creating a new arch enemy.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Three by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: Invincible discovers some unexpected family and a lot of long running subplots come to a head in this volume. Kirkman’s pacing on this series is just immaculate, and Ottley’s art is as good as ever.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Four by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: This was the end of my Invincible collection, and so the end of my reread. Despite my minor issues with some dated dialogue, I really enjoy the world of Invincible, and I think I’ll try and track down the next volume or two, which I don’t think I ever read, and keep going with the series. The series accomplishes a lot of what I loved in Chris Claremont’s epic Uncanny X-Men run from my formative comic-reading years.
Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E Volume One: This is What They Want by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen: This used to be one of my favourite series, and Warren Ellis used to be one of my favourite writers (in another life I won an award from his publisher for promoting his debut novel) but after revelations of Ellis’s toxic behavior, I didn’t want to keep his work on my shelves. I decided to give Nextwave a quick reread before it hit the donate pile, and while I’m kind of sorry to see it go (as it contains another of my favourite single comic panels, and I love the character of Elsa Bloodstone, and Ellis’s particular take on Machine Man), but also happy to have it gone. I decided not to bother with reading the second volume in the series.
Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier: The second book in the Halloween Murder omnibus. Enjoyed the first enough to keep going, but I know I’m in it for the Halloween-y content, so I’m unlikely to dive much deeper into the Lucy Stone series, unless Meier has more Halloween books in her catalogue (pretty sure she does).
Clan Destine Classic by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer: Another graphic novel reread. This one has the first eight issues of the comic that Davis and Farmer worked on (the less said about what came after, the better) and a miniseries that teams up the Clan Destine with the X-Men. Davis is still hands down my favourite superhero artist. The X-Men team up didn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped though, largely because I’ve moved on from the X-Men in recent years.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: So lush. I wish the print were larger, but the small print made me take more care with Carter’s perfect sentences. Fairy tale reimaginings include Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t care for Puss in Boots, the only story I didn’t love in the collection, actually. One of my issues with single author collections is that’s not how I tend to consume short stories. I read far more anthologies than collections, and stories that I find online. My other issue with this book, the print…so tiny on my aging eyes, which to be fair, is hardly Carter’s fault, but it made it difficult to digest her prose at times.
Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell by Paul Dini and Joe Quinones: Another reread. Zatanna is probably my favourite character in the DC universe, and Paul Dini writes her so well. Dini was also one of my favourite writers on Batman: The Animated Series. Still fun. Dini’s voice is great for the two main characters. Quinones’ art nails facial expressions and reactions better than action moments in my opinion, but was pretty well suited to the story.
The Bone Mother by David Demchuk: Most of my experience with this collection of eastern European-inspired stories has been hearing the author read from the book at various events and conventions. This has the interesting effect of me hearing Demchuk’s voice in my head while I read the book. The Bone Mother was full of wonderful bite-sized tales of terror. Highly recommend it.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: A Mexican narco vampire novel. Moreno-Garcia’s a fantastic writer, and every time I’ve read one of her books, it’s ended up on my favourite books of the year list. Somehow, I was expecting something different from this one, not sure what, exactly, but I loved it in spite of my initial expectations not being met. Great characters, and a really interesting take on vampire lore. Especially loved Moreno-Garcia’s portrayal of Mexico City.
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: One of my favourite books, and one I’ve reread almost every year since I finally tracked down a copy of my own (it was out of print for far too long). The novel unfolds over the month of October and each chapter covers a single day as Jack the Ripper’s faithful dog Snuff tries to help prevent the rise of the Elder Gods in a game of Openers and Closers. Sometimes I’ve read the novel all in a burst, and that was how I first consumed it (it’s a pretty quick read), but for the last several runs at the book, I’ve read it a chapter a night over the month of October, and I find that’s how I best enjoy it. Already looking forward to next October’s reread!
Zatanna the Mistress of Magic Volume One by Paul Dini, Stephane Roux, Chad Hardin, and Jesus Saiz: A reread. I have all the individual issues of this series, but I’m not sure if they were ever all collected. As I stated above, I love Dini’s take on Zatanna. Jesus Saiz delivered my favourite art of the collection, pity they were only on board for a single issue. Stephane Roux’s pencils capture the spirit of the character excellently as well.
So my reading went a little of stack this month. There was a lot going on down Thunder Road Way, and so I sought some comfort in rereading old graphic novels. When I moved I decided to limit my graphic novels to one shelf (in a past age, at their height, I had almost two full bookcases in my collection but I realized I only ever reread the same stack of them). It was good in a way, as a few things I’ve been hanging onto for years without actually enjoying them are now free to be enjoyed by other readers, and no longer cluttering my shelves, while other series have reminded me that I’ve been meaning to get caught up for ages, but didn’t because of space limitations.