Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 24, 2020

Ho ho ho, another meme: EOY Memento Mori

I last did this meme in 2018, so I thought I’d give it another run in 2020.  I found it via Stuck in a Book, who got it from Rick who keeps putting out memes/tags on a vlog somewhere.  Ignore this if you are still racing around doing Christmas, join in with your own suggestions if you are all organised already!

1) What’s the longest book I read this year and the book that took me the longest to finish?

I won’t be the only person with this book for an answer: at 883 pages, it was the third and final in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell Trilogy: The Mirror and the LightWhat will she write next, I wonder?

The book that took longest to finish was Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls read by Campbell Scott, which took four weeks. This was my umpeenth re-read of this book, which I like to listen to on long-haul flights. But this year, (apart from the obvious that *sigh* there were no travels anywhere), I listened to it after cataract operations which left me unable to read at bedtime for weeks.  And since the headaches also did not go away for weeks (and still haven’t entirely), the heavy-duty painkillers made me nod off so often that I listened to some chapters over and over again before actually finishing them.

2) What book did I read in 2020 that was outside of my comfort zone?

Hmm. It says “read” not tossed across the room, so that reduces the number of contenders.   I think I’ll go with The Matriarch by Witi Ihimaera because I do not like books that justify violence against innocent civilians.

3) How many books did I re-read in 2020?


4) What’s my favourite re-read of 2020?

Apart from For Whom he Bell Tolls, my only re-read for this year was Peony (1947) by Pearl S Buck.  I was sharing my original review ‘from the archive’ and something I’d written in my journal didn’t make sense and I couldn’t remember one of the plot points.  So I found a copy online and re-read it.

5) What book did I read for the first time in 2020 that I look forward to re-reading in the future?

This is a no-brainer: it’s Patrick White, A Life, by David Marr.  I’ll be re-reading it when I read White’s autobiography Flaws in the Glass.  And any time I re-read any of PW’s novels.

6) What’s my favourite short story or novella that I read in 2020? 

My rough and ready reckoning for novellas is between 100 and 200 pages so at 194 pages, I think this one is ‘just’ eligible: such a beautiful story: A Jealous Tide, by Anna MacDonald. But in case you’re a purist about this things, I’ll draw your attention also to The Private Lives of Trees, by Alejandro Zambra, translated by Megan McDowell which comes in at 98 pages.  It’s a lovely story about fatherhood.

7) Mass appeal: which book would I recommend to a wide variety of readers?

Hmm.  This is a tricky one.  Readers of literary fiction like me are not great at choosing books for mass appeal.  But few people could resist Rivers, The Lifeblood of Australia, by Ian Hoskins. Armchair travel for those confined to C-19 barracks, beautiful photography and fascinating bits of history about this big beautiful country of ours.

8) Specialised appeal: which book did I like but would be hesitant to recommend to just anyone?

That would be The Tolstoy Estate, by Steven Conte. You don’t need to have read Tolstoy, and you don’t need to have been to his estate at Yasnaya Polyana outside Moscow, and you don’t even need to know how close the Nazis came to defeating the USSR in WW2 and how that would have impacted the fate of our democracies.  I loved this book and I hope it’s successful for its author here and overseas.  But not everyone likes historical fiction, even when it reveals the truth about things that haven’t come to light in other ways.

Best wishes for the festive season, everyone!



  1. My answer to number 1 would also be Mirror and the Light – it’s the book I will forever associate with lockdown in UK since I started it on the eve of the announcement and finished it just as restrictions were lifted….

    PS – look at your question 3 again. Was there a mistype in the question? I don’t think you did re-read 160 books :) If you did AND you also read 160 books for the first time then I have to ask – when do you have time to breathe!!


    • LOL you are right, it is indeed an error. Thanks for picking it up, I’ll fix it now.


  2. That’s a nice meme which alas I don’t think I’ll have time to do – but I enjoyed reading our answers!


  3. […] again, I am tempted by Lisa who wrote:  I last did this meme in 2018, so I thought I’d give it another run in […]


  4. And, of course, you tempted me :-)


  5. Yes, I saw! Merry Christmas, Jennifer:)


  6. Hi Lisa, like you and others, the longest book to read was The Light & The Mirror; 2. Outside my comfort zone was about the Irish conflict -Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe; 3. I don’t have my journal with me, but I know I have read over 100 books this year; 4. My favourite reread for the year was Jane Eyre; 5. The book I am looking forward to rereading in 2021 from my 2020 reads is American Dirt; 6. My favourite short story was Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan; 7. The book I would recommend to a wide variety of readers is Good Dogs don’t make it to the South Pole by Hans Olav Thyvold; 8. The book I would hesitate to recommend because of its specialised appeal is Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs.


    • I love Jane Eyre…
      Good Dogs Don’t Make it sounds like an interesting read. I understand why they don’t allow them there anymore, but I reckon there is nothing like a hug with a dog when feeling lonesome, as I’m sure they do when they are stuck down there for months on end.


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