2020 Wrap Up

2020 gave me more reading time, but less energy to read and review. From a posting standpoint, 23 reviews is fairly typical, but my optimism for 2021 impels me to say that next year will be better. Well, 2021 optimism and my site redesign—I like how it looks, now it needs content. 🙂

2020 Reviews

2021 Goals

  • Read more than in 2020. This goal feels attainable because I read more in 2020 than in 2019. Only by ~200 pages (per Goodreads), but it counts as a win!
  • Read more classic fiction. I’m working on a list for The Classics Club. There are plenty of classics on my TBR and I’m a fan of the five-year goal on this challenge—I need a push, but I don’t need to be rushed.
  • Commit and stick to a posting schedule. The instability of 2020 has given me greater appreciation for habit and routine. Shifting some book-writing time to review-writing time would make a big impact around here.
  • Continue reading (and posting) books in translation. I’ve had fun with Excel this year, so here’s a chart showing the original languages of books reviewed on this site:

Have a happy and safe holiday! I’ll be back next year!

Review: The Coral Merchant by Joseph Roth

The Coral Merchant is a collection of six stories by Joseph Roth. The second didn’t appeal to me, but the others were extremely good, with “The Bust of the Emperor” being a stand-out. This is the first time I’ve read Joseph Roth, so I can’t speak to the quality of the translation, but the writing is smooth with a touch of dry humor. The collection is a good mix of long and short stories, but one (“The Rich House Opposite”) might be a little too short. read more

Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

The premise of Piranesi is that an unreliable narrator (Piranesi) is wandering a maze to help “the Other” find secret knowledge. It’s written as a series of journal entries and before long I knew more than the narrator—not necessarily a problem—but this reveals something about his selective memory: Piranesi forgets whatever might make the book shorter or less mysterious. Once he catches up to the reader, conflicts are resolved quickly and it’s hard to understand why the set-up went on for so very, very long. read more

Review: The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay is funny, but not as funny as advertised. The titular aunt was a child bride at age seven, and widowed by twelve, so that’s hardly the foundation of a laugh riot. What redeems this book is that its characters, primarily Somlata, are charming and the overall plot is optimistic. While the women’s voices sound strange at times, I can’t tell whether that’s attributable to a male author, translation issues, or cultural differences. read more

Review: Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser

As much as I dislike Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, I’m second guessing that opinion as I flip through my notes. So many quotes are lovely and the story sounds good when summarized . . .

Martin Dressler rises through the hospitality business in the late 1800s through a combination of work ethic and happy timing. The first 250 pages are rosy and predictable as potential obstacles are overcome by his natural virtues. The only question in Martin’s life is which of two sisters he’ll marry: Caroline, beautiful and lethargic, or Emmeline, his eventual business partner. He picks Caroline, even though she’s too tired to open her eyes all the way. Drama ensues. read more