The books I finished reading in 2020

These are some of the the books I read last year. But this post is about the books I finished reading for the first time in 2020.

These are the books I finished reading, for the first time, in 2020. I’ve added a few notes about my favorites.

  • Hitler by Ian Kershaw (the 1 volume version). I’m not choosing favorite books this year, but three on this list stand out. Hitler is one of them, and I’d say this is the one I was most affected by. It was a shocking story, with so many details that I learned for the first time, and an overwhelming sense of “how did that possibly happen?”

  • Bridge to the Gods: Tales from Kyushu by Andrew Thomson. What stories! This is the book I most enjoyed reading. I’ve never lived in Kyushu, but I’ve spent a lot of time there. It was a great pleasure to read about Kyushu from someone who does live there, and who seeks out the most interesting places, and then has such talent at describing them. My literary highlight of the year? A serendipitous meeting with Mr. Thomson himself at a yakiniku restaurant—yes, in Kyushu—where he so graciously signed my copy of his book.

Andrew Thomson signed my copy of Bridge to the Gods at a yakiniku restaurant in Nishijin.
  • True Grit by Charles Portis

  • The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout

  • Kettlebell Simple & Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline

  • The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

  • Ernest Hemingway: A Biography by Mary Dearborn was a tremendous read. I’d read many of Hemingway’s books but this was the first biography. And it was a fine one, with so many interesting details about a remarkable life.

  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner

  • blogdown: Creating Websites with RMarkdown by Yihui Xie, Amber Thomas, and Alison Presmanes Hill

  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

  • A Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick

I managed to read quite a bit at the start of the year. As the year went on, I wanted to read, but often didn’t, or couldn’t. Maybe it was all the kilometers I spent training for the races. Maybe it was all the research and coding I did that seems in the immediate time to have no result, but I find that some time in the future it often has a big effect. Maybe it was that Cadillac Desert was just a really slow read for me. Maybe it was life.

A view while reading on a winter day in southern Thailand.

It turns out, when I checked it, I finished reading a few more books in 2020 than I read in 2019.

It’s not a competition, of course. But there are so many good books, and I so enjoy reading them, and here’s to 2021 being good for that.

My birthday is coming up, and I’m getting a reading light. So maybe 2021 will see even more books read. But one thing is certain. It will be difficult to beat Hemingway, Hitler, and Bridge to the Gods.

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