Books Read in 2020


This past year was not a good year for reading. While a lot of people experienced as the pandemic as a time that allowed them to do more reading than usual it had the opposite impact for me. Being a single parent meant that whenever I finished with my own work I had to turn my attention to getting my son focused on completing his school work. Between my job, my scholarly writing, housework, and parenting I was frequently spent by the time I finally got to bed. As a result, I only read 53 books last year. The only year that I read less was in 2018 when I completed my dissertation, moved to Texas, and started my ministry with the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston. My life was so hectic that year that I didn’t even put together a year end blog post about my reading list.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about last year’s reading was the book group I started at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, Texts for Troubled Times. It was great to have a set of people to talk about books with and I gained more insight into what I read with them than I would have otherwise. The group is ongoing and the pandemic makes it accessible to people from all over so if you’re interested in joining you can find information about it on the congregation’s website. Next month we’re reading James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next” and in the text for March is Richard Evan’s new book “The Hitler Conspiracies.” I was inspired to pick it based on Geoffrey O’Brien’s review in the New York Review of Books.

As for last year’s books, the best non-fiction book I read was undoubtedly Nick Estes’s “Our History is the Future.” It combines history, critical theory, and Estes’s own experience to provide an analysis of what happened at Standing Rock and why it matters. I wrote about it in a review essay for the Journal of Unitarian Universalist History so I won’t write more about it here.

In terms of fiction, I greatly enjoyed re-reading both Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” and Camus’ “The Plague.” They are classic texts and I have read them before. I anticipate I will read them again. I get something new from them each time I pick them up.

The worst thing I read all year was, quite surprisingly, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Black Panther.” I have been profoundly influenced by Coates’s non-fiction, particularly “Between the World and Me,” and love Black Panther so my dislike for his rendition of the classic comic was quite surprising. The text wasn’t bad or offensive or anything like that. It was just incredibly hard to follow. The graphic novel picks up mid-story, assumes the reader knows an incredible amount of backstory, and makes little attempt at explication as it unfolds. It took me probably about 100 pages to sort of grasp what was going on and I don’t think I ever got to the point of fully understanding it.

I am hoping that 2021 is going to be a more normal year for reading. I am attempting to read 75 books for the year. By my own historic standards it is about an average number and should be achievable.

Books Read in 2020

The Invisible Kingdom, G. Willow Wilson
Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse, John Lithgow
Lima :: Limón, Natalie Scenters-Zapico
To Carl Schmitt; Letters and Reflections, Jacob Taubes
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890s to the Present, David Treuer
Our History is the Future, Nick Estes
Primitive Rebels, Eric Hobsbawm
Die, Vol. 1, Fantasy Heartbreaker, Kieron Gillen
Monstress, Vol. 3, graphic novel, Marjorie Liu
Monstress, Vol. 4, graphic novel, Marjorie Liu
Sontag: Her Life and Work, Benjamin Moser
Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South, Albert Raboteau
Political Theology of the Earth: Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public, Catherine Keller
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, Vol. 1, fiction, Lemony Snicket
First Chronicles
The Origin of the Species and Other Poems, trans. John Lyons, Ernesto Cardenal
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest, Alan Moore
Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, Susan Sontag
Preacher: Gone to Texas, Garth Ennis
The Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle
The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman
The Plague, Albert Camus
The Preacher Book Two, Garth Ennis
The Preacher Book Three, Garth Ennis
For A Left Populism, Chantal Mouffe
Second Chronicles
What is Populism?, Jan-Werner Muller
Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, Susan Sontag (read the book twice)
Standing at Armageddon: A Grassroots History of the Progressive Era, Nell Irvin Painter
The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On, John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis
No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era, Portland, Oregon, Robert Johnston
How to an AntiRacist, Ibram X. Kendi
Dawn, Octavia Butler
Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America, Edmund Morgan
Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, non-fiction, Eddie Glaude
The People, Margaret Canovan
Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, David Graeber
Populism’s Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America, Laura Grattan
No Name in the Street, James Baldwin
SFSX, Tina Horn
Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America, Lawrence Goodwyn
Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi, Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose
Monstress, Vol. 5, Marjorie Liu
Biking Riding in Los Angeles, Marc Norman
Black Panther, Vol. 1, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Preacher, Vol. 4, Garth Ennis
Little Culinary Triumphs, Pascale Pujol
Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman

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