Blog | Literature | Non-Fiction

The Best Books of 2020

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The pile of books that I bought but still have to read is growing at about the same pace as I read. This year I read some of the books that I'd been looking forward to at the end of last year, when I browsed the end of year lists of various newspapers and magazines. Next year I'll be reading some of the books that I'm currently bookmarking.

Judea Pearl: The Book of Why
Armin Nassehi: Muster. Theorie der digitalen Gesellschaft
Jacques Rancière: Aisthesis

I've read various books and academic papers about causality and The Book of Why by Judea Pearl was a real eye-opener. Yes, there is progress in philosophy. This book should be compulsory reading for all university students in all disciplines. Muster by Armin Nassehi is a highly insightful analysis of digital society and deserves to be translated into many languages. Jacques Rancière is one of the few philosophers who takes dance as an art form seriously. Aisthesis is yet another intriguing book.

Best Art and Architecture

BIG: Formgiving
Pepe Karmel: Abstract Art. A Global History
Sjeng Scheijen: The Avant-Gardists. The Russian Revolution in Art 1917-1935
Nathalie Heinich: Le paradigme de l'art contemporain

I wish I had travelled to Copenhagen to visit Formgiving the exhibition, now even more than at the end of last year. I'd been hoping that the exhibition would travel to another city, Paris, London or Rotterdam. But at least there's now a wonderful book. Abstract Art. A Global History is a fascinating new take on the history of abstract art. The Avant-Gardists is an interesting history of the Russian avant-garde, Malevich, Tatlin, El Lissitzky and others. Nathalie Heinich argues that contemporary art constitutes a paradigm different from modern art. It leans a bit too heavily on Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton, an interesting book as well by the way, but I agree with most of her argument.

Best Fiction

Ted Chiang: Exhalation
Ted Chiang: Stories of Your Life and Other Stories

I greatly enjoyed Exhalation so I instantly read Stories of Your Life and Other Stories as well. I don't quite understand why these novels are classified as science fiction. Some stories are on par with the best Borges and Calvino. I also enjoyed the trilogy by Rachel Cusk and Herkunft by Sasa Stanisic.

Best Non Fiction

Robert MacFarlane: Underland
Paul J. Steinhardt: The Second Kind of Impossible

Best Book by Ali Smith

This year I read three books by Ali Smith, Artful, Spring and Hotel World. I loved them all but if I have to pick a favourite I'd pick Hotel World. Next year I plan to read three more books by Ali Smith.

Most Disappointing

Sander Kollaard: Uit het leven van een hond
Lydia Davis: Collected Stories

Uit het leven van een hond won a major Dutch literary award so I decided to also read. Boring and stupid would still be too much praise. It just shows the group think of Dutch critics. I was unimpressed when I read the collected stories of Lydia Davis. I'd completely forgotten I'd read it and noticed it while browsing the list of books I'd read this year. Utterly forgettable.