Tuesday, June 18, 2024 -
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Reading in 2020

When this pandemic started, I didn’t think there was any way I would achieve my status as a paid-up member of the “reading class,” as I did last year.

A brief reminder: Coined by Northwestern sociologist Wendy Griswold, the “reading class” are Americans who read 50 or more books a year. Part of my doubt was because the library, my main source of books, was shut for so long.

But I also found that during March and April I didn’t have my usual attention span. It was an odd feeling as I consider myself a voracious reader, but like so many my mental capacity was overwhelmed by the stresses of an unfolding, unknown pandemic.

Yet here I am at the tail end of 2020 and I’ve found that I did read 50-plus books this year.

My way back into was re-reading childhood favorites. One of my pandemic keep-busy activities was to sort through my collection. I created three piles: Keep; replace water-damaged favorites; re-read once more and toss (these included water-damaged ones).

I found myself re-reading whole series as well as stand-alone books. Turned out, these trips down memory lane were just the kind of comfort reading I needed.

By the time the library reopened for collection, I was ready for my usual mix of memoir, history, literary fiction and domestic suspense.

Here are a few recommendations from my 2020 reading list:

• “The Great Brain,” by John D. Fitzgerald.

Set in late 19th-century Utah, this series tracks the exploits of the eponymous Great Brain who manages to swindle both his family and neighbors while also pulling off incredible feats. My favorite volume: The Great Brain at the Academy.

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid. It was highly anticipated and did not disappoint. At its center, the novel is about race, but also gets into class as well as the dynamic of middle-aged people trying to live vicariously through younger people around them.

• My slow pace at the beginning of the pandemic, along with the lack of library due dates, meant I had all the time to work through Margaret MacMillan’s dense Peacemakers, about the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. I might devote a future “Snapshot” to this book, but it is a must-read to understand the world order we live in today.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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