Books of 2020

This started out as a light hearted recap of what I read and quickly devolved into a bit of a train wreck. Sorry.


I Started this year by making a short list of things I wanted to accomplish in the following 12 months. I did this in the before times. Simpler times when no one was expecting a pandemic and a year's worth of lockdown.

One of my goals was to read more. I originally set a goal that wouldn't be too hard to acheive but that would still force me to change my reading habits: finish reading 12 books in the year, at least 50% of them not written by men. I had 2 books carried over from the previous year, but reading one book a month seemed like a nice pace. The real difficulty would be adding some diversity. A couple of years ago, my wife decided that for a set amount of time she'd make an effort to read books exclusively written by women and she got a lot out of the experience. It's about supporting women authors, changing perspective and reading different types of books. So thanks to her experience I decided to do something similar, albeit not to the same extent. My excuse is that I already had several books by blokes in my queue. In reality, if you'd have asked me to name 5 non-male authors I don't think I'd have managed, so the idea of completly discarding my references was unsettling.

As Winter was coming to an end, our lives came to a stand-still. The corona virus took over our lives for a time. For some of us things stopped, for others they continued but within an unknown and terrifying new reality.

On the 25th of May, George Floyd was killed in broad daylight while pedestrians witnessed and filmed his murder. A wave of protests took over the USA and other parts of the world. Systemic and Institutional racism became, once again, a matter that couldn't be ignored closely followed by police brutality. This sparked a lot of discussion and debate in public and private life. For many these discussions weren't anything new, people have been calling out white supremacy for a long time. This was the first time I took a moment to think about these topics more (systemic racism, white supremacy, color-blindness to name just a few), to pay attention to what was being said and what was happening both abroad and at home and realising that this also concerns me and I cannot ignore this despite it making me mildly uncomfortable.

Wild fires tore through the pacific coast of the States; The melting of Siberian permafrost released more green-house gases than expected and 2020 was, once again, one of the hotest and driest years since time immemorial. The pandemic is an urgent matter that needs to be resolved, but its effects will pale in comparison to the effects of climate change.

This was all in the first half of the year.

The Second half wasn't much better.

In the USA, a white 17 year old proud boy took an assault rifle to a protest and shot several people, killing 2 of them, before being peacefully escorted by the police. His 2 million dollar bail was paid through crowdfunding.

Several terrorist incidents occured in a couple of european countries. Samuel Paty was beheaded in front of the school he worked at by a radicalised young man. This happened after a students father posted a video demanding the teacher be fired for showing one of his classes the famous caricatures printed in Charlie Hebdo. There were three fatal stabings in a church in Nice several days after by another radicalised individual. The predicatable happened, Islamophobia and racism in France had once again been cranked up to 11, closely followed by restriction of civil liberties and handing over more power to an already "over zealous" police force.

Several Islamophobic incidents struggled to make headlines whilst the french government ordered several anti-racist associations to stop their activities (CCIF). The french government decided to also tighten regulations around home schooling and faith schools, with a strong emphasis on muslim faith schools (because financing comes from abroad, "political islam" etc). Several weeks later, as Europe goes into a second lockdown, the french government started discussing a new set of "Global Security" laws with a particularly problematic article: filming and publishing videos of french police officers, that are identifiable, "with the intent to cause harm" would be punishable by law. During public debates aroud these laws, a black music producer was assaulted in his studio by three police officers. The assault was caught on the victim's cctv, and later published online. The victim was released as he was facing charges of assaulting the police officers.

A couple of days before sitting down to write this, Fouad, a 17 year old transgender girl living in the north of France, died by suicide. The day before her death she had been humiliated by school staff for choosing to wear a skirt to school. I still don't fully understand why this particular incident upsets me as much as it does.

Apparently, freedom of expression is only allowed to those in a priviledge position on the condition that they support the status quo.

Half way through the year, I decided to expand the scope of my readings. I took the decision to also include non-white authors into my reading list. It's quite embarassing that not only could I not name 5 women authors, I couldn't easily name 5 non-white authors. I know that life is a journey and you learn along the way, that's good and all but it's really fucking embarrassing to get to your thirties and just start to realize that a) your existence and life is built on white supremacy and b) that point 'a' is a problem.

2020 has been, to put it mildly, pretty shit. I originally just wanted to share what I read and give a bit of context about what I chose, then things got out of hand. I personally had a good year, got into my new job, managed to go to Austria for a short break, got into birding. I'm also in a quite secure and priviledged position, I was able to work from home quite easily, I didn't suffer form loneliness as much as most people have.

I feel inadequate writting about having read some books as if it's some kind of accomplishement. I actually learned some great stuff from all of this and I'm really happy to have kept at it and to have read more than planned. But it's honestly risible to be treating this as if it is in any way important considering that the death count for COVID is over 1.5 million.

Anyway here's the fuckin list (chronological order):

title Author emoji review
Crime and Punishement Dostoyevsky 😐
Thinking Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman 😐
DerniΓ¨res nouvelles de la science Mathieu Vidard πŸ‘
How Did We Get into This Mess? George Monbiot πŸ‘
Getting Real Jason Fried 😐
Brotopia ; breaking up the boys club of silicon valley Emily Chang 😐
Men Explain Things to Men Rebecca Solnit πŸ‘
Moan; anonymous essays on female orgasm Emma koenig πŸ‘
Dans les forΓͺts de SibΓ©rie Sylvain Tesson πŸ™ (he can go in the bin)
The Hidden Life of Trees Peter Wohlleben 😍
The End of Nature Bill McKibben πŸ‘
White Fragility Robin Diangelo 😐
Go tell it on the Mountain James Baldwin 😍
An Indigenous Poeples' History of the United States Roxanne Dunbar-Oritz 😍
How to be an Antiracist Ibram X Kendi πŸ‘
Shinrin-Yoku Dr Qing Li πŸ‘
The Secret Network of Nature Peter Wohlleben 😍
Bientot Papa Lionel Pailles & Benoit le Goedec 😐
So You Want to Talk About Race Ijeoma Olou πŸ‘
The Fire Next Time James Baldwin 😍
The New Jim Crow; Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Michelle Alexander 😍
Headscarves and Hymens; Why the Middle East needs a Sexual Revolution Mona Eltahawy 😍
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism Shoshanna Zuboff 😍