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Best of Book Around the Corner for 2020

After wishing us the best for 2021, let’s have a look at my 2020 reading year. I’ve read more books than the previous years (78) and that’s all the statistics I’ll give. Numbers and statistics are for my day job. Here, I’m happy to live without numbers and only go with totally subjective opinions about books I read.

So, here we go, with categories of my own.

Best Least Commented Billet

I looked into my billets in search of the least commented ones. Some of my favorite books of the year are in this category, sadly. This is a friendly reminder, I think that Death and the Good Life by Richard Hugo is really worth reading. Richard Hugo was a poet and a fan for Noir fiction. This is his only novel and his first attempt at writing crime fiction. His being a poet brings a melodic feeling to his prose and he proves that crime fiction can be excellent literature. It doesn’t help that my favorite one is out-of-print in English, but for French readers, it’s a 10/18 book.

Best Gallmeister Book

Frequent flyers of this blog know that I’m fan of books published by Gallmeister. Among the eight books that I read this year from their catalogue, my favorite is A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do by Pete Fromm. It is the sad but hopeful story of Taz who loses his wife in childbirth and the slow rebuilding of his life after this trauma. It’s written with simplicity and truthfulness and it’s a masterpiece. Simple things are never easy to achieve and when a style seems “simple”, it usually means that the writer is a great author.

Best Fishing Book

Readings lots of books published by Gallmeister and Nature Writing books implies that a lot of them involve fishing at some point and often in Montana or Wyoming. It’s become a joke in the family and with readers. (Right, Bill?) This year, my favorite fishing book is…French! Ha! It’s Fisherman of Iceland by Pierre Loti, about the fishermen from Brittany who went fishing near the coasts of Iceland. I also did a Literary Escapade in the village where Loti stayed and made friends with local fishermen.

Best Non-Book Post

Last year I started a best-of category for my billets that are not a book review. This year, the most read and commented was my Blog Anniversary: 10 years of book blogging post. Thank you again for reading my clumsy endeavors at commenting literature. In 2020, blogging has more and ever been a window to the world.

You also seem to enjoy my Literary Escapade series and your favorite one was about Turin, right before the first lockdowns in Europe. Let’s hope I’ll do some more in the coming months!

Best Read-West-With-Sister-in-Law

I’m now in my second row of “Read West With Sister-In-Law”, readalong. Thanks, S! It’s a lot of fun to pick books together and talk about them whenever we see each other.

We’ve read a lot of great books in our readalong. I could mention The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage, Bless the Beasts and the Children by Glendon Swarthout or Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan. Since I have to make a choice, I pick The Lost Get-Back Boogie by James Lee Burke. It is the redemption story of an ex-convict who wants to be a better man, a story laced with violence, booze and blues, set in the landscapes of Louisiana and Montana. It dives into the psyche of America and its history. All this wrapped in a flawless style, courtesy of James Lee Burke. Stunning.

Best Translation Tragedy

A Translation Tragedy is a book available in English but sadly not in French or vice versa. This year I’ve read eight books that are not translated into English and seven that are not translated into French. I wish that more books by Dominique Sylvain were translated into English, and especially Les Infidèles. Knock, knock, Corylus Books! I heard that the rights of her books have not been sold for English translation. Just saying.

Most of the untranslated English books I read were Australian books by CH Spence, Ada Cambridge and Elizabeth Harrower. There is a niche in publishing for Australian Women Writers. Any candidate?

Best Book-I-Want-To-Buy-To-All-My-Friends

No hesitation, it’s Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. Each time I read something by James Baldwin, I’m bowled over. He was so intelligent. His ability to lay matters in an articulate way, to be militant without being pushy or disrespectful of others is outstanding. He never shies away from sensitive topics. He’s the master of grey areas, of nuanced thinking without falling into the pitfall of angelism or extremism. We need more writers like him in our world.

Best Book Club Read

Our Book Club year has been full of good books but IMO, no great one stands out. My favorite one is Black Dog of Fate by Peter Balakian, his memoir about his family and the Armenian genocide. The beginning is about his childhood and his growing up in his Armenian-American family, how it was different from others around him, and how he stumbled upon the story of the Armenian genocide by the Turks and how it’s been swept under an oriental carpet. Very moving and informative at the same time. Highly recommended.

I loved that our Book Club tour took us to France, Algeria, Nigeria, England, America, Armenia, Jordan, Greece and Turkey.

Best Non-Fiction

I’ve read eight Non-Fiction book this year, more than in previous years. While the Winock about Militant Writers in the 19thC and their fight for the freedom of speech was absolutely fascinating, I’d rather recommend to everyone The Book of Yaak by Rick Bass.

It’s a poetic, soothing and militant memoir about living in the Yaak Valley in Montana. Rush for it, Bass’s luminous prose will take your mind off mutant viruses, stifling lockdowns and lonely evenings. You’ll vicariously breathe fresh air with him.

Best Sugar-Without-Cellulite Book

In these COVID-branded times, I was in dire need of comfort reads, the ones I call Sugar Without Cellulite. Thanks to Jacqui, I had a lot of fun with Patricia Brent, Spinster by HG Jenkins. In case you need another fix of sugary read, I also recommend the Austanian A Humble Enterprise by Ada Cambridge and Mr Hogarth’s Will by CH Spence and the crazy funny Mrs Fletcher by Tom Perrotta.

2020 was an excellent reading year, a varied diet of fiction and non-fiction, of different countries and different styles. I did a series of Literary Escapades and will do more of those in the coming year.

I took part in several blogging events such as Australian Women Writers Challenge, Indigenous Literature Week, Japanese Literature Challenge, the #1920 Club, the #1956 Club, 20 Books of Summer and Novella in November.

And what about 2021?

I’ve got Book Club reads, Read-The-West-With-Sister-In-Law Season 2 and my monthly Kube subscription to a book blind date. I’ve reorganized my TBR and like every new year, my resolution is to read more from the TBR and decrease the pile. It seems as likely as riding a unicorn, but one never stops dreaming, right?

What’s your favorite 2020 read and what are your plans for 2021?

  1. January 2, 2021 at 10:11 am

    I’ve done my lists at mine… long yes, but Australian books don’t get enough attention so I succumbed as usual to give them a place in the sun.
    I don’t have any plans, I read like a butterfly, flitting from one thing to another!

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 2, 2021 at 9:28 pm

      I have your post in my inbox.
      My only reading plans are : decrease the TBR and take part in blogging events.

      Like

  2. January 2, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    It makes me sad that our favourite posts nearly always get the fewest comments. Why is that? When one of my Indigenous posts gets a mention on Facebook I get hundreds of hits (which is lots for me) and yet over two or three years I may have scored one or two extra comments.
    You always choose excellent books and write insightfully about them, but I enjoy too your excursions off-piste, to bookshops and to the theatre. I’ll be very interested to see where you cast your line in 2021 (do I mix my metaphors or what!)

    Like

    • January 2, 2021 at 9:32 pm

      It’s hard to tell why a billet gets more attention than the other. I’ve given up trying to understand and keep writing what I want whenever I feel like too. Then I do this little reminder.

      I’m glad you enjoy the theatre and the literary escapade billets. I enjoy your trucking posts too. It’s nice to know a bit more about the blogger behind the blog, it make things more personal.
      It’s always incredible how we feel we know each other in our blogging circle even if, most of the time, we’ve never met.

      I’ll do my best to have readers hooked to my billets!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. January 2, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    I always love to read your blog, Emma, so I’ll look forward to what you have to say in 2021! As for those posts which don’t get the comments, I can never fathom it out. Though I do find that memes and posts with pictures of books seem to get more response, and the reviews I pour my heart and soul into often don’t. There seems to be no logic, but c’est la vie – I shall keep writing what I want to write, and I hope you will too! 😀

    Like

    • January 2, 2021 at 9:37 pm

      Thanks for the encouragements!
      There’s no logic about the number of readers a billet can attract. I suppose that it depends on the day, time, whether it’s the holidays or not too. I suppose there’s a way to analyze this but it gets too close to a job and that’s not what I want for my hobby.

      I shall do as you say: write what I want and publish whatever billet I want whenever I feel like it!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. January 2, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    I like your various categories… Thank you for pointing out the Richard Hugo book, don’t know how I missed it the first time. And at least I can get a used copy.

    It’s a relief to see that more experienced bloggers go through the same head-scratching experience of favorite posts getting pretty much ignored.

    Like

    • January 2, 2021 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks! I hope you’ll enjoy the Richard Hugo.

      I should start to republish some posts on Twitter to boos them a little bit. To be honest, it’s not about the statistics and the hits I get. It’s more about wanting to shout out about a book I loved and I think deserves more readers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 2, 2021 at 10:50 pm

        That’s a good idea. I almost think of mine as a record for myself, then if I look back at the posts I get annoyed because I feel like I haven’t done justice to the book.🙄

        Like

        • January 3, 2021 at 9:30 am

          I can’t afford to feel self-conscious about what I write or I’ll never publish another billet. So I give myself some slack: I’m not trying to cure a pandemic, it’s just a hobby. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. January 2, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    Happy New Year without bookish stats! I don’t really have plans for reading, except to widen a bit my horizons… and of course to keep on following the recommendations provided by my favourite book bloggers!

    Like

    • January 2, 2021 at 9:42 pm

      No stats for me. I don’t care, really.

      No reading plan is a sound plan too. I want to take part in blogging events, they’re fun and prompt me to read more from the TBR, most of the time.

      Like

  6. January 2, 2021 at 7:12 pm

    The question of why some posts get scant attention is one I’m going to tackle as part of my Blogging Tips series. Not that I have the answer to why this happens – just various ideas.

    I had to giggle at your comment about the absence of statistics from your post. I’ve seen some bloggers do extremely detailed statistical analysis and while I’m impressed they have that level of interest, I can’t get enthusiastic myself.

    Like

  7. January 2, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    Looking forward to this Blogging Tip post. I wonder if there’s someone around seasonality, public holidays, day of the week or hour of the day.

    I work with numbers all day long. I keep them apart from my free time and my blogging activities. Honestly, I don’t care to know the percentage of female writers, of countries, or whatever. I only want to read books that interest me and wider my horizons.

    Like

  8. January 7, 2021 at 7:05 am

    This post is great! Keep up the good work!

    Like

  9. January 8, 2021 at 11:13 am

    I’m also baffled by the developments on my blog. I used to get so many comments now I get likes and views but hardly any comments. It’s one of the reasons why I blog less. If I just want to write for myself, I use my diary.
    I never do statistics either.
    Some very interesting recommendations here- I need to read that Baldwin but will skip anything related to fishing as for me that’s the same as hunting, which upsets me too much.
    Happy Reading in 2021.

    Like

    • January 9, 2021 at 9:29 pm

      Baffled is the right word. I’m sure marketing gurus and data miners could find reasons behind the decrease of traffic and commments.
      I only care when a post about a book I find fantastic doesn’t meet any reader. I want everyone to look at this book and my billet doesn’t get the audience the book deserves. It’s frustrating.

      Rush for Giovanni’s Room, it’s really, really outstanding.

      I think that by law, fishing in Montana and Wyoming implies releasing the fish in the river. It’s not fox hunting.

      Don’t take it the wrong way because it’s genuine curiosity on my side: How can you stomach a Literature and War Readalongs and shy away from books with peaceful fishermen fly-fishing in rivers? These books have the same vibe as A River Runs Through It and are far less upsetting to me than books about the Vietnam War.

      Like

  10. Vishy
    January 12, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    Beautiful post, Emma! Thanks for sharing your favourites from last year! I want to read Pete Fromm’s book and The Book of Yaak. Loved all your reviews from last year. Congratulations on a wonderful reading year! Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2021 too! Looking forward to your reviews! Happy reading!

    Like

    • January 12, 2021 at 7:40 pm

      Thank you Vishy. I think you’ll like the Pete Fromm and the Rick Bass. I’ll be happy to ready your thoughts about them too.
      I hope you’re safe and that you’ll have a wonderful reading year too. Happy reading to us! 🙂

      Like

      • Vishy
        January 13, 2021 at 12:18 pm

        Thank you, Emma 🙂 Hoping to read Pete Fromm and Rick Bass this year.

        Like

  11. buriedinprint
    January 15, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    Ride that unicorn: riiiiiide! 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful reading year ahead of you and enjoy and appreciate a wide variety of stories. It’s an interesting point you make about spending your day with numbers; perhaps it’s partly because I spend my day with words that I am interested in the data and patterns that arise from my reading log. Everything in balance!

    Like

    • January 16, 2021 at 7:46 am

      I will! I have lots of great books on the shelf and I plan on enjoying them. The year is off to a good start, the three books I read were good.
      Happy reading to you too and yes, I supppose I’d be more interested in my blog’s stats if I weren’t working with numbers all day long. (No KPIs in my downtime, thank you very much)

      Like

  12. February 14, 2021 at 4:47 am

    sorry for visiting this post so late. Nice list! Here are my 2020 favorites, with 5 French authors: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/01/05/year-of-reading-2020-part-1-my-top-18/

    Like

    • February 16, 2021 at 9:41 pm

      I love comments on older posts, don’t apologize!

      Like

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