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What I loved reading in 2020

📅 2021-Jan-01 ⬩ ✍️ Ashwin Nanjappa ⬩ 🏷️ book ⬩ 📚 Archive

2020 was probably the most tumultuous year of my life. Working from home blurred the boundary between work life and personal life. And our son's first year at school, done fully from home, also severely exhausted us. What this meant was that I had very little time and energy left in 2020 to devote to my own interests. No surprise then that reading suffered. I wouldn't even had read the 12 books that I did if not for the pandemic book club we created at work.

When COVID took over the world's news cycle, I decided to go back and read Crichton's The Andromeda Strain again. Even after all these years, it stood out pretty well in the seriousness with which it treats an alien virus. And then our book club began and lo behold folks voted to read Camus's The Plague, a fictional retelling of a year in an Algerian city beset by the pestilence. Besides Camus's brilliance at shining a light on human behavior, the book was also a sad reminder that even a century later mankind has barely changed in how it behaves in the face of a global pandemic.

With BLM protests taking over the USA, the club also read How to be an Antiracist. Since I have not really read anything about the US racism problem this turned out to be quite an eye opener. A calming influence amidst all this chaos was my first Kawabata read The Sound of the Mountain. What I discovered was a master of the written craft who captured everything about family life and the human condition perfectly.

With The Invention of Nature, I discovered the incredible naturalist Humboldt and also got a keen sense of how the world and the scientific community was at the turn of the 20th century. Feynman's QED was a mind-bending study that pushed me to understand the strange behavior of light and matter. (I'm still a bit confused.)

I got to read yet another Arthur C Clarke gem with Rendezvous with Rama. While sticking to themes similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Rama craft here delves more into the hard science-fiction territory. I am looking forward to read a few more from this series. Finally came Dune, a sci-fi fantasy tome that I had been putting off for many years now. With a new movie based on the novel coming soon, I was highly motivated to finish it. This book was a blast, especially the massive world building and the characters and the sheer will of a people to survive amidst one of the harshest settings for humankind in a novel.

There were other reads besides these which you can find among my 2020 posts, but the ones above are what I can recommend knowing how stretched everyone is for time and attention. So, I had a goal of 24 books for 2020, but managed only 12. What does 2021 hold? I don't predict any change in the burdens of working from home and the son's education, so I think realistically it might be 12 again. Our book club is also a factor in slowing me down since it pushes me to read books outside of my comfort zone (a good thing) and those tend to need a leisurely pace. Here's wishing for another year of good reads! 🥳