At the beginning of 2020, I gave myself the target of reading a book a week. I thought to begin with this would be ambitious. I would normally read when commuting and a bit in the evening, probably getting through on average about 2-3 books a month. But with lockdown and working from home, I’ve been able to smash this target and made it through 60 books in 2020. I read books from the chart, but also have a great charity book shop and library where I live, so you may find some titles below you haven’t heard of before. So here is my list of the Top 10 Books I read in 2020.
10. Lost in the Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg
This is the book that the film Jungle with Daniel Radcliffe is based on. It tells the tale of Yossi who goes travelling in South America in the 1980s. Along the way, he meets a guy who says he can take Yossi and his friend into the jungle along the Amazon. As this seems a once in a lifetime opportunity, they go. Of course, the guy turns out to be a scammer with no jungle survival skills at all and Yossi finds himself in the middle of nowhere having to use his own wits to survive.
The book is brilliant. There is nostalgia as it’s set in the 80s, a time where international travel was still not mainstream. He even stays with nuns at one point- no 5-star hotels here. But it’s a brilliant story of survival that you’ll get carried away with. I absolutely loved it- one of my best charity book shop finds ever.
9. Three things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon
This book is literally stunning. Another great charity shop find. It’s about a woman called Flo who lives in sheltered accommodation. She likes to have three things to introduce people with and tells us three things about her friend Elsie as the book goes on. It begins with her falling to the ground, and while she waits for someone to find her, we go with her back in time. Her and Elsie have been friends since childhood, and we flip back and forth from their youth to their time in the home- their time in the home includes a man turning up who died over sixty years ago. As you can imagine, Elsie and some friends investigate.
It’s a part thriller, part crime, part mental health story. There aren’t a lot of books in the charts based around pensioners, and what this book does so well reminds us all that there is no age you stop being interesting. The characters are fun, funny, and at times outrageous; and I loved that. It’s a real life-affirming read and definitely worth a look.
8. Soon by Lois Murphy
This is a random library find. I picked it up as I liked the cover. It had a horror genre sticker, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway (horror isn’t normally my thing). I’m so glad I gave it a chance as I’ve never read anything else quite like it. It’s about a small town in Australia that has a ghostly mist that descends every night once the sun goes down. Anyone caught in the mist isn’t seen again. Most people have left the town apart from a hardy few. We learn about when the mist first descended, the resident’s theories of it, the tourists that first came to look, and how now they’re being cut off from the world.
It feels quite claustrophobic and the idea of the mist is really creepy. It’s really well done and I couldn’t put it down. Even though you want the characters to be OK, you definitely want to find out what happens to those caught up in the mist. Just a really great story, told really well. When you read a lot you can sometimes feel like everything you pick up is similar to something you’ve already read. If you feel like that- give this a go.
7. Break Point by Ollie Ollerton
OK, so all the Directing Staff from SAS: Who Dares Wins have had books out. They do all have the same kinds of themes in them. I can tell you that as I’ve read all of them out in paperback. I feel confident to tell you that this one is the best (maybe I’m a bit biased as I grew up not too far from Burton-upon-Trent myself too). Ollie tells us about his life from early childhood, about joining the army, through his time in the army, and then life after the military.
First, what I loved so much about this book was the passion with which Ollie talks about visualisation as a tool to achieving what you want. This really resonated with me and I actually started doing this more myself. I also love how openly he talks about the fact that he very often handed in his resignation while working for the army, as he didn’t always love it. So often these types of books can be filled with nothing but positives, so it was refreshing to hear a full rounded take on army life and the dissatisfaction we all feel at times with the job we’re doing. If you haven’t tried this type of book before, give it a go- they can be a real good kick up the arse to get going on that project you keep stalling on.
6. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
This was a big hit in 2020. I think a lot of people may have found this in the first lockdown in the UK back in March/April time. I do like to read a “chick lit” title now and again as we all love the rom-com sequence of events right? You know at some point they’ll be an issue, but ultimately they will end up together.
This book gives a bit of a twist on the usual love story though as the two main characters don’t actually meet for a long time. They share a flat but at different times. She lives there in the evening/night, and he lives there in the day as he works the night shift. They begin leaving notes for each other that start out about practical things, and then turn into something much more. It was a really lovely read, and if you’re looking for something to take your mind off the real world for a bit this is a good one.
5. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
I absolutely loved the series Big Little Lies which is based on the book by Liane Moriarty. So I thought I’d see if her books are as good as the screen adaptations. This is another book set in Australia (can you tell I’d been inside my house this year craving the Sun). Nine people apply to go to a health retreat in the outback. They all have their own issues they want help with. But from the moment they arrive at the retreat, it appears that this may not be the usual spa break. They are asked to fully immerse themselves in the activities which involve not speaking for days on end, and strange diets that consist sometimes of no food at all.
The characters in this book are all brilliantly written, and I found myself wanting to know more about all of them. This, coupled with the storyline of wanting to find out what this retreat is all about make it a real page turner. Some crazy stuff happens and you find yourself wondering if it’s all by design, or if the leader has really lost it. I can’t wait to read more by this author.
4. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
This is like an autobiography but with a message. Glennon talks about going from a fairly conventional life- husband kids etc, to what happened when she then met the love of her life. A woman. She talks about the journey of the change between relationships and how it affected her husband, her kids etc. And through talking about her life experiences she gives speeches on topics that we could all learn from, especially when she talks about her kids. There are so many things that come up in this book that she’s trying to teach her kids and it makes you think about your own views on the subject too.
Basically, it’s a bible to doing what you want to make yourself fulfilled rather than living by other people’s guidelines for you. A brilliant, inspiring read whether you have kids or not. You can find my full review of this title in the Reviews section.
3. Normal People by Sally Rooney
This was a hugely popular adaptation for the BBC last year but I loved the book so much I haven’t been able to bring myself round to watching it. The book follows two people, Marianne and Connell, who are at school together. Marianne is a total geek but somehow manages to bewitch Connell and they start a strange secret romance. They break up and the novel then follows them to university in Dublin where they are both students. Here, Marianne thrives in the environment and it’s Connell who struggles with popularity. We follow their relationship and how they grow as individuals.
The book is beautifully written and it conveys young love so well. The awkwardness is written better than I’ve seen anywhere else. It’s just so real. I can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t love this book. If you’ve ever been young and in love you’ll get this book.
2. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is such a cool book. It’s about the music scene in the 70s in LA. I mean you couldn’t get much cooler than that really. There is sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ rock. There is a band doing pretty well for themselves, and then along comes new girl on the block, Daisy Jones. She does one gig with them and all of a sudden they’re going on tour together. But one day at the height of their career the band breaks up and never perform together again. No explanations are given to their fans.
The book is written like a Netflix documentary, flicking back and forth between interviews of the band members in the present day. The format makes it really fresh and exciting to read and I just loved the vibe of the whole thing. I read it back to front in just a few days as I just couldn’t put it down. One best enjoyed in the sun with a cocktail for sure. Or read it now for those summer vibes.
1. How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran
So my top read of last year just had to be this. This is a sequel to How to Build a Girl (which is also a film on Prime). So in the first book, Johanna is a teenager in Wolverhampton. She is a massive geek and has a crazy family. I love her family as much as I love her. I could easily spend an afternoon having a few pints with her Dad. When she leaves school, she sets off to London to be a writer. Specifically a music critic for a magazine.
In this book, we follow Johanna as she grows up and learns about life and love. Set in the 90s there is such a great grungy feeling of old sticky-floored music venues and dirty pubs with unwashed glasses. I always feel so energised after I read something by Caitlin Moran, her books are just so uplifting. She writes about things that not many women do, and that’s why so many women can relate to her writing because there’s no filter. I highly recommend you read this series, and I hope there will be a third.
Here’s to 2021
So there you have it. My Top 10 Books I read in 2020. I’ve already got through a few for the new year, one of which I’m sure will make it to my Top 10 next year. If I’ve inspired you to get one of the reads above- give me a shout and let me know your thoughts. Or if you’ve read an amazing book recently let me know.