Our Reading Lives

Our Biggest Bookish Achievements of 2020

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Whew, it’s been a year, hasn’t it? Honestly, just making it to the end of it is achievement enough. So if you’re reading this, congratulations!

If you’re looking for inspiration or motivation as you look forward to the (hopefully better) year to come, have a read through some of our book-related achievements and small victories of 2020. May there be many more in 2021.

For my part, I finished the draft of my first proper romance novel, set partly in a bookshop on Capitol Hill. (If you’re thinking of trying one out, I highly recommend the guide Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.) I have a lot of work to do on it still, and it was much harder work than most of my other first drafts have been, but I’m proud I got to the end and gave my booksellers their happy ever after!

I also got to spend several months working with the wonderful audiobook company Libro.fm. They put out a call for out-of-work booksellers to work with them for a month this spring, and I was one of those chosen, and then got to stay on through the rest of the year. I’ve guested on podcasts for them and written blog posts, and I’ve learned a lot about working with influencers and about the audiobook business in general. It’s been engaging and inspiring, and they’re a great team. I’ve loved having a job in a different part of the publishing industry that aligns so well with my bookselling at East City Bookshop.

Oh, and I also started a Bookstagram! I’ve wanted to get better at photography for a while, so it makes sense to incorporate my love of books into the endeavour.

Here’s what my fellow Book Riot contributors wanted to shout out this year.


For my bookish achievements of the year, I won a journalistic award for blog writing this summer for an article in Worthy Magazine, about books and other aspects helping my bipolar disorder. I also was featured in the book Saved by the Page for a short story that I wrote. I was also selected to attend the Key West Literary Seminar in January 2020, where I went because author Meg Cabot recommended me and urged me to apply as a journalist and teacher. We got to have a drink together and I heard authors speak live as well. It was fabulous. Not a bad bookish-related year, despite the craziness that was and is 2020.

Aurora Dominguez

I finished The Silmarillion and found a genre I deeply enjoy writing (cozy mysteries). I know this doesn’t seem like much, but given the way this year has gone, I am content with it.

CJ Connor

It was an achievement that I read anything at all—despite the fact that I had so many personal crises and traumas! Also, I dove into picture books deeply for the first time since my master’s program.

Sarah Hannah Gomez

I finished reading the complete unabridged edition of Les Misérables, which I started way back in 2012. As a lover of the musical, the overall story is one I am extremely familiar with, so I was luckily able to go at this extremely slow pace without having issues remembering plot points or characters as I undoubtedly would have with any other book. Over these eight years, I’d range from sometimes reading a few pages a day over a few weeks to sometimes not picking it up for months at a time. For the last couple years, I’d been stuck at somewhere around 100–150 pages left (out of a total of about 1500), and somehow this past year gave me the perfect opportunity to finally pull off this feat. In this time during which reading new things has been difficult and overwhelming for me, going through the last 10% of this story I already know and where I didn’t feel the need to pay attention to every single word was something that I felt great about being able to accomplish.

Patricia Thang

This year I set out to read a big list of books on the bias, dismissal, misdiagnosis, and more that women face in medicine and healthcare. It was a personal reading quest, something that meant a lot to me personally—I’d been misdiagnosed before, but in 2019, I went through a particularly traumatizing experience where worsening chest pain and shortness of breath were dismissed by several doctors before I got a diagnosis. So this year, I dove deep into the topic, and eventually put out a piece of the ones that I recommended. I found that my reviews and the piece itself really resonated with a lot of people who are also seeking books that speak to their own experiences, and it was extremely rewarding to dig in so deep, learn so much, and see it make an impact.

Leah Rachel von Essen

I’m so grateful that this year the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association named me Long Island Poet of the Year 2020 and Oceanside Library (NY) invited me to be their first Poet In Residence. Also, I won the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Creative Endeavors. I was also nominated for Best of LI Author 2020 and 2021. Additionally, I took up hiking and have survived pretty well, which made me make a new to-read list starting with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild

Christina M. Rau

I sold a book! I have been thinking so much about the experience that is being Black and reading or creating romance, and I was able to put that into words and get other people to do most of the work. (Just kidding.) (Or am I?) In just over a year, there will be an essay anthology about love and love stories and representation by a bunch of people I admire and respect coming out in the world, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Jessica Pryde

I’ve started enjoying reading books again. Somewhere along the line, reading just about anything other than one of my old favourites became a part of the work to-do list in my brain—and sometimes on paper too–and it’s been really lovely to remember why I even wanted to be doing book stuff at work in the first place. Not the biggest achievement in the grand scheme of things, but definitely the happiest for me. I adore fan fiction, but I was honestly starting to run out of new fic to read.

Neymat Raboobee

I was offered representation from a literary agency for my first novel! I wrote it about two and a half years ago, and I spent a good year and a half querying to many, many literary agencies. After 36 rejections, I received one request from a literary agent over the summer to read the full manuscript, and she blindsided me with an offer of representation in the beginning of September. After the year we’ve all had, there was definitely some crying. We’re in the editing phase now, and the novel (a speculative contemporary romance) should go out for submission by the end of the year. I hope there’s a publisher out there who loves it enough to give it a home! 

Melissa Baron