2020 in Books

Although I am, at this point, really dragging, unable to get back to any emails in a reasonable amount of time, and needing to lie down multiple times a day, I am gritting my teeth and making myself write this post, because it is February 2021 and if I don’t get around to this now, I never will.

2020 was a real [obscene hand gesture] of a year—I won’t bore you with details because, well, it communally sucked for everyone, didn’t it? If you’re interested, I wrote a whole piece over on Substack that is my best attempt at describing the suspended state of despair I think we were all in, and specifically describes the futility of making music in that state.

If you missed it, I also put together a blog post in August summarizing the things I had managed to accomplish; for the highlights of what else I was able to do after that, kindly see the press page on my website.

My reading goal in 2020 was to read more new books than I had the year before; since I finished 64 new books in 2019, my goal for 2020 was 65. I ended up blowing past that number in August, and by the end of December had finished a nice round 100. I have no idea what my reading goal is for this year, if any, since a goal of 100+ gets you into the realm of reading for the sake of reading, which goes against everything I stand for, so for now I’m just 🤷🏻‍♀️ about my reading goal for this year.

Before I get into my list, several observations I took away from a year of reading:

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2019 in Books

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions (my philosophy being that if you want to improve something about yourself, you just start doing it no matter what day it is) but one of my sort-of goals this year was to write more and to publish maybe one blog post a month.

There are twelve months in a year. I ended up publishing…two posts. The first one was mostly written back in December 2018 so I don’t know if it even counts.

I recently logged into my blog dashboard for the first time in months and was faced with this list of recent drafts, the dates for which at least back up the fact that I tried.

(To be fair, I did record and release an EP this year, so.)

One 2019 goal that I did achieve was my resolution to read 52 new books—one for each week of the year. I pretty much stopped reading once mid-November hit (the end-of-year struggle is REAL) and I still got to 64.

I love reading other people’s book lists, so I thought I would post mine. A couple of notes:

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Bad Book Review No. 2: On behalf of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I feel totally indignant

You’ve probably read at least one of the books from the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I first started reading them in kindergarten and instantly was smitten with the world that Wilder brought to life. I built houses out of Lincoln Logs and pretended that I was Pa, building a house on the prairie. My friends and I pretended that the playground was a forest and that we had to protect ourselves from bears.

My mom, who’d bought me my first copy of Little House in the Big Woods, got me a bunch of later books in the series, as well as biographies of Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Because, of course, this was back before Wikipedia and if you wanted to know about someone you had to get a book about them.) Somehow one particular four-pack of books from Costco made it into my possession; this was a chunk of a series called “The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

It took me a while to realize that these books were not written by Wilder, nor were they nonfiction biographies about her. They were fictional stories about things that never happened to Wilder, written by some guy named “T.L. Tedrow.”

Now that I’m older and wiser, I know what that means. These books are fanfiction.I don’t have anything against fanfiction as a concept. From a writer’s perspective, writing fanfiction is a great way to sharpen your wit, hone your prose, and practice developing characters and plots in a ready-made universe. I just don’t think anyone should publish their fanfiction and pass it off as literature.

It might be understandable, I guess, if Mr. Tedrow embellished on events in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life that she hadn’t described in-depth in her books. But no. What Mr. Tedrow did was create an entirely inaccurate character, make up wild events (cause, you know, her real life wasn’t at all interesting) and then slap Wilder’s name on it.Think I’m exaggerating? In the four books I have, Laura Ingalls Wilder goes to the World’s Fair and becomes Alice Roosevelt‘s new BFF, helps solve a murder, gets thrown in jail for advocating women’s rights with Ellen Boyle and Susan B. Anthony, and has a second daughter named Laurie (named after herself).

None of these things happened. Also, half the books are dedicated to three made-up kids called Sherry, Terry, and Larry, and the hilarious hijinks they have with their dog Dangit.

I know this makes me sound like a totally dumb kid, but I just couldn’t process the idea that someone would make up stories about an existing historical character who’d already written books about her life, and publish them. Therefore, I concluded, these stories must be true. I walked into my second-grade class after I’d read one of the books and told my teacher about the time Laura Ingalls Wilder and Susan B. Anthony got put in jail together.

It wasn’t until I got to the last book where Wilder has her daughter Laurie, who I couldn’t find in a single biography, that I started to suspect that maybe, in the real world, people really did pull stunts like this.

Bam! Disillusionment.

Seriously, Mr. Tedrow, these books are already 99% made up. Why didn’t you just give Laura Ingalls Wilder’s character a new name and market the books as historical fiction?