My 2020 Books of the Year

2020

In a year when I thought I might have read more than ever, I read only 30 books, much below my GoodReads challenge of 40. You can see the full list HERE

So, you should rightfully temper any judgements I make here with that caveat firmly in mind! Nevertheless, here’s my list:

  1. Horizon by Barry Lopez (NF)
Horizon, by Barry Lopez

I was surprised to feel as sad as I did when I heard the news that Barry Lopez had died on Christmas Day. I’ve valued his work over a long time but that news, coming so soon after I finished Horizon, shook me a little. Horizons is a fitting end-piece to a career of genre-defining writing about space and place. The NY Times Obituary likened him to Thoreau; what a compliment: 

‘In a half-century of travel to 80 countries that generated nearly a score of nonfiction and fiction works, including volumes of essays and short stories, Mr. Lopez embraced landscapes and literature with humanitarian, environmental and spiritual sensibilities that some critics likened to those of Thoreau and John Muir.’

2. Wallace Stegner Crossing to Safety (F)

I hadn’t read Stegner before, and also read *Angle of Repose’ this year, but this novel seems stronger, masterly in its construction. As with all great novels I wonder at how it could be constructed by one mind. Beyond the great art of its making, it spoke to me too about friendship and a life in and around writing and reading.

3. Richard Ford – Sorry For Your Trouble (Stories)

Richard Ford has won my Book of the Year Awards three times, and almost won it again with this collection. A writer who keeps delivering, with a body of work behind him as substantial as any contemporary American novelist.

4. Haruki Murakami – Dance Dance Dance (F)

Weird, but wonderful. I’m always about halfway through a Murakami book and wonder, is this going anywhere? Maybe not, but the strange journey is enjoyable, and provoking.

5. Jonathan Bate – Radical Wordsworth (NF)

A not so radical biography of Wordsworth that focuses on the early years and the revolutionary Wordsworth who would return from revolutionary France and put all that away.

Walked along Bird Rock beach …

Walked along Bird Rock beach this morning in the cold wind; early enough to be the first footprints for the day; choppy little waves and not a lot of beach but good to see the concrete remains of something (pier?) again unburied at the point. The foundations come and go irregularly. No seal sighted this morning, but I was thinking of trying to write a poem about that encounter a few weeks ago and the line ‘webbed hand’ kept coming to me. I thought of the Barry Lopez book I’ve been reading; “Arctic Dreams” and his encounters with nature.

Odd to find as well a balloon still inflated and jammed under the low bushes, then a green tennis ball floating in the shallows and finally an orange in the sand; these three round shapes in all the wind and sand and flat shapes of the world.

Walking up the steps I thought that the platforms (31 in all) would make a fine idea for a walk poem; but walking up to the road, or down to the beach? Each platform different and unique; like a stage in life or ascension (how many stages of the cross are there?) Then if it was platform would that be too railway-like an image? Could be a poem there though?