Welp. What can I say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said?
Plenty of good happened for us, though: a marvelous 30th anniversary trip to Italy before the pandemic hit; two (backyard, family-only) weddings; two short stories and a poem published; a firmer commitment to social justice; the best Christmas present of all time; and happy home life, excellent health, comfortable shelter, and plenty to eat. For all that, I’m beyond grateful.
I’ve been listing my favorites of the year since 2006, and I always enjoy looking back to see how my art consumption has reflected life. This year, for example, I watched more TV than at any time in my life. The carrot that got me through a lot of monotonous, claustrophobic, hot days was knowing that after dinner, I could snuggle up with Patrick and watch and episode or two of something.
On the other hand, it was a struggle to make my yearly minimum goal of 85 novel-length books read. I made it, but just barely—I had to work hard in December to compensate for the months early on in the pandemic, when I was too freaked out to be able to focus on long-form reading. Maybe you can relate. Also, I was struck by how much excellent non-fiction I read this year—and that the three fiction titles on my list are all set at boarding schools/colleges. Fascinating…at least, to me.
Favorite Novel-Length Books Read*
10) Breath, by James Nestor
9) In the Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado
8) They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, by Hanif Abdurraqib
7) Catherine House, by Elisabeth Thomas
6) Bunny, by Mona Awad
5) Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, by Samin Nosrat
4) Dirt, by Bill Buford
3) A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik
2) Hiding in Plain Sight, by Sarah Kendzior
1) How to Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
*This year, I only included books read for the first time, not any I re-read. As always, I didn’t rank books by friends. If I had, Patrick Mason’s Restoration, Yamile Méndez’s Furia, and several others would have had excellent chances of placing.
Best Meal of the Year*
Buca Mario, Florence, February 20th
*This meal was so good, it likely would have been #1 even if it hadn’t been the last meal we ate in a restaurant.
Be well, my friends. Here’s to a dramatically different 2021!