Getting a Read on 2020

John Clark deliberately ignoring the clusterdiddle in the capitol. If I’m going to look back, I’d rather look at something brighter. I had 4 stories published (two in the 2020 BOULD Anthology, one in Stop The World-Stories of the Pandemic and one in Masthead. I read 323 books last year, not counting picture books read to Piper and Reid. Some were borrowed from our great Waterville Public Library which participates in the statewide borrowing and lending program with daily van delivery, but many were bought or obtained through

If you’re unfamiliar with this website and are an avid reader, I encourage you to check it out. Members list books they no longer want and get a credit (two for audio books) when someone requests one from your available list. I’ve been a member for close to 20 years and have swapped or gotten more than 10,000 books. That seems like a lot, but many were gotten fro the collection when I was the librarian in Hartland. It made a huge difference in the audio book and young adult collections. I now pay $20 annually as a supporting member. That allows me to create a wish list of up to 500 items. You can search posted books on a daily basis by category. Since I like young adult and science fiction, I look at those almost every day. I particularly like finding ‘hidden gems’ books published by small presses, or self-published. Last year, I found at least a dozen that were very good reads by doing so.

We’re extremely lucky to have a Bullmoose store less than a mile from our house. I buy several dozen books from then each year. Any order over $35.00 gets free shipping and I often pre-order titles I know won’t be bought by a Maine library. Some titles I can’t get through either source are usually listed on Ebay where I also sell used books. My revenue becomes my ‘book play’ money. I’ll be the first to admit that I have zero self-control when it comes to buying or swapping for books. If I stopped buying today, what I’ve ordered or have on hand would last into 2022.

Most of what I’ve read is passed on to the librarian at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Sylvia and I went to library school together and she’s very much an advocate of teens reading for pleasure. In fact, her circulation has increased in the past year despite the pandemic. Duplicate copies and juvenile titles go to Holly at the Pittsfield Public Library.

It’s a challenge to pick out outstanding titles when You read in excess of 300 books in a year, but I can say that there were some really great dark fantasy and dystopian titles in young adult fiction last year. Here are a few: Assassins: Nemesis and Assassins: Discord by Erica Cameron are violent and profane, but feature tons of action and intrigue, not to mention a genderfluid character who changes from chapter to chapter. Perhaps the most striking book I read last year was A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen. It’s a story told by a girl shortly after she kills herself, looking back at what got her to that point. It’s a book that should be in every library. Across A Broken Shore by Amy Trueblood is a great historical fiction entry that takes place in San Francisco during the time the Golden Gate Bridge was being built. Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly is a neat retelling of Snow White. If you want to see everything I read and reviewed last year, go to I review every book I finish to support authors and give others an idea of what’s good.

Speaking of good, One author I love and have bought/read all of their books is Diane Burton. Her science fiction books are a neat blend of steaminess and space opera. She’s also written three cozy mysteries. I’m giving them to a reader who comments on this post and lets me know they’re interested. They are: The Case of the Fabulous Fiance, The Case of the Bygone Brother, and The Case of the Meddling Mama.

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4 Responses to Getting a Read on 2020

  1. Ann Hough says:

    That is a lot of books to read in a year. How on earth do you keep track of those you have read so that you don’t re-buy, etc. AND how large is your library room at your home?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Impressive, John. Very impressive. I imagine your postman is very, very tired!


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