Everything I Read in 2020

Breaking down my year of reading month by month: including my ratings, thoughts, and recommendations

Violet Daniels
Dec 29, 2020 · 14 min read

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know by now just how much reading has played a role in my life throughout the past few months. It’s pretty much been my lifeline.

Yes, I’ve read more this year because I’ve had more time, but I’ve also read more widely and thoughtfully. Writing online about books has had many benefits, but the most significant one has been encouraging me to think deeply about the books I have read.

When I finish a book I now ask myself — what did I like about this? What worked? What kept me reading? Would I recommend it to a friend? If so, why?

Of course, I don’t write reviews for everything I read, but on the whole, my reading habits have changed this year to be more reflective. That being said, here is a rundown of everything I read this year.

January

In January, I started a book blog. This was my first real attempt at regularly writing online. It was before I had considered Medium, that being said, I’m proud of some of the content on there.

To Drink Coffee with a Ghost, Amanda Lovelace

Genre: Poetry

Rating: 4/5

My first dealings with Lovelace, but a collection of poems I devoured in one sitting. I would recommend this to anyone going through loss, or grief. It is uplifting and comforting — accompanied by beautiful illustrations.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 5/5

One of my favourite reads of the year. I immediately related to the protagonist, Eleanor Oliphant, and was humbled by this uplifting story of friendship and struggle. Laugh out loud at times, but deeply revealing.

Minimal: How to simplify your life and live sustainably, Madeleine Olivia

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 4/5

“Love yourself. Love the planet.” This book combines the importance of trying to be as green as possible, whilst also looking after yourself. It’s a book full of realistic and small changes everyone can make to improve their life and the planet.

Social Creature, Tara Isabella Burton

Genre: Suspense/Psychological thriller

Rating: 2/5

This was very weird. Although gripping at times, I came away from reading it not knowing what to think or what to make of it. It reveals a stark account of privilege, the social media age and how a friendship drastically falls apart.

February

This was a difficult month for a lot of reasons, hence I didn’t read a lot. I had a lot on my plate — including starting a new job and dealing with some personal issues.

Bridget Jones’s Baby, Helen Fielding

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

As a committed Bridget Jones lover, reading this was like wrapping myself in a comfort blanket. It was cheesy, funny, relaxing and just what I needed in a difficult month. Bridget Jones is also somewhat of a chick-lit classic.

Stillhouse Lake, Rachael Caine

Genre: Thriller

3/5

I don’t read thriller’s nearly enough. But this was gloomy, atmospheric and alarming. It was one of those thriller’s that you could see happening in real life — which made it scarier. I would recommend this if you’re a thriller fan and haven’t come across Rachael Caine before.

Ducks, Newburyport, Lucy Ellman

Genre: Literary fiction

Rating: 3/5

I had been reading this book for months and I was so glad to finish it. Although I loved the ideas and themes explored in this book, I found the whole thing a bit performative and deliberate. And also, it could have been said in half the number of pages. A Booker nominee that is not worth your time — in my opinion.

March

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

When it all began. I still remember my last day at work before the UK went into lockdown. People were panic buying books and hoping lockdown would only last a few weeks.

Hiroshima, John Hersey

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 4/5

One of the most harrowing books I have ever read. Whilst certainly not light-hearted, this account of Hiroshima in 1945, is bleak, insightful and essential reading. Hersey features the accounts of numerous survivors who witnessed the tragedy and their unique stories.

No Filter, Grace Victory

Genre: Autobiography

Rating: 3/5

Grace Victory is one of the only YouTubers I watch who seems real, down to earth and relatable. She offers honest advice on mental health, self-care and coping with every other obstacle that life throws at her. It was nice to read about her life and to see how she got where she is today.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Before reading this, I always thought my favourite Orwell was Down And Out in Paris and London, but now it’s definitely this one. This is Orwell at his best, as he follows the life of Gordon, who leaves his secure marketing job to pursue his one true passion. A societal critique on capitalism, that’s endlessly relatable.

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro, Christine Féret-Fleury

Genre: Fiction

Rating 5/5

A book about the wonder of reading and stories, what’s not to like? I found this when I was experiencing a reading slump and was immediately uplifted by this charming little story. Short, sweet and lovely in so many ways.

Supermarket, Bobby Hall

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

An original, gripping and uncomfortable read with twists and turns I never expected. This is a novel which deals with living inside a mind you can’t always control, I’m yet to come across anything like it.

Wolf Hall #1, Hillary Mantel

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 4/5

A perfect, beautifully written, piece of escapism that I desperately needed. It runs pretty true to the history but sheds new light on Thomas Cromwell and his personal struggles, rather than solely focusing on Henry VIII.

April

We’re in full lockdown mode here — so reading became even more central to my life as I struggled to come to terms with empty days and the uncertainty that came with it.

Call Me by Your Name, André Aciman

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

A fellow bookseller (who I miss very much) recommended this to me. I devoured it in the space of a few days and got completely lost in this steamy, heartfelt romance set in the Italian Riviera. A tale of first love and intimacy like no other.

The Library of Lost and Found, Phaedra Patrick

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

A read that surprised me. This is a book about books, family, and finding yourself. It is gripping, uplifting and an easy read with a lovely message.

The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Another comfort read I devoured during the early lockdown days. I loved this because it made me laugh out loud but simultaneously, glad that I have never wanted to live in London. The characters are charming and relatable, and on the whole, this is a warming read.

How to Stop Time, Matt Haig

Genre: Fiction

3/5

I’ve always followed Matt Haig, ever since he blew up with How to Stay Alive. But this was his first fiction novel I read — and I have to say — I was disappointed. I found it to be incredibly cliche, overworked and a bit boring. I think Haig is a fabulous children’s writer but based on this, maybe not that great for adults.

Why I Write, George Orwell

Genre: Non-Fiction

5/5

Despite Deborah Levy’s criticism on how a white man shouldn’t t tell her (or any of us) how to write, I really enjoyed this. It was interesting to read about Orwell’s motivations for writing, what he aimed to achieve and how he (stress on this) thinks writing can be effective. Words of wisdom I’ll draw upon in the future.

Lonesome Traveler, Jack Kerouac

Genre: Auto-Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Dreamy prose, full of accounts of Kerouac’s own travels, that reak of the Beat Generation he was apart of. Carefree writing, which makes you want to pack a bag and leave everything to chase the wonders that the world has to offer.

The Graduate, Charles Webb

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 2/5

Endlessly disappointing — which was a shame — as I had quite high expectations. The characters lacked depth and authenticity when it could have been a heartwarming and comforting story about change, and learning to grow up.

Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 3/5

As a committed Ian McEwan fan, I expected more. The exploration of the idea that robots could eventually take over humans, was interesting. However, the alternative history universe that McEwan unravels throughout, is at times, ineffective and only made me grimace. Well worth a read though.

May

For some reason, nothing that happened in May really sticks out for me. Perhaps it’s because it was when lockdown was in full swing, and aside from the pandemic, nothing was going on. I remember the weather being nice though.

Frozen Butterflies, Simona Grossi

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

The main thing I remember from this is that I read it during a bout of insomnia I was having. It’s full of interesting, troubled characters and the story is propelled by a mysterious journal.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy

Genre: Literary fiction

Rating: 5/5

I’m pretty sure I’ve spent most of the year raving about this book. It’s beautiful, poetic and addictive but with a surprisingly simple story about a lost twenty-something. Immediately after finishing, I wanted to read it again.

Airhead: The Imperfect Art of Making News, Emily Maitlis

Genre: Autobiography

Rating: 3/5

This solidified my love and appreciation for the broadcaster and journalist, Emily Maitlis. However, I thought it would go a little deeper. The title suggests it was going to be about the art of newsmaking itself, rather than just an account of her career. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable read.

The Bridge of Little Jeremy, Indrajit Garai

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

A beautiful book about a boy who tries to save his family from succumbing to financial hardship. Set in the streets of Paris, this is a story about love, art and the importance of family. A wonderfully told story that leaves an impact.

The Past Is Present, John T Markowski

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

A gripping read that takes you on all sorts of twists and turns. The escapades of Ben’s youth soon catch up with him — but in terrifying ways, that could endanger his entire family.

June

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

This was the beginning of a long, hot, isolation summer. The days were getting brighter and I became more thankful for having a park near me to lounge about in, as the sun became almost unbearable in the flat.

The Sacrifice, Indrajit Garai

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 3/5

A beautifully written collection of three short stories, all with an important message that explores human relationships. Two of the stories were a bit slow going, but The Sacrifice was the best of all, which explores some interesting themes.

The Shelf, Helly Acton

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Baring many similarities to the reality TV show, Love Island, this follows the story of Amy who has been left alone on a TV set and has to endure a public breakup. This is a compelling, re-interpretation of the ‘chick-lit’ genre that places emphasis on the importance of loving yourself first at all costs.

All Men Want to Know, Nina Bouraoui

Genre: Auto Fiction

Rating: 4/5

A deeply moving novel that reveals the parallel life of its author. Nina has lived a torn life, situated between Africa and Europe. This follows her experience growing up and exploring her sexuality as Nina struggles to come to terms with her true identity. “France is an outfit I wear: Algeria is my skin, exposed to the sun and storms.”

The Truants, Kate Weinberg

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

A unique, coming of age story with a gripping twist. It follows the experience of Jess Walker’s first year of university whilst befriending her professor and falling head over heels in love with Alec, the guy you wouldn’t want your parents to meet. A well written, intriguing story.

My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

Genre: Crime fiction

Rating: 3/5

This gets all the points for originality and creativity — I just thought there was a lack of depth to the overall story. It was weird and wonderful in many ways and is well worth a read — however — it could have been developed into a more complex story.

Half a World Away, Mike Gayle

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

An emotive account of a brother and sister, torn apart by their troubled past, but brought together in unique circumstances. A story about how time is all we have, and how our life paths can diverge in completely different ways. Uplifting, but moving.

July

The long, steamy summer continues. I find myself reading in the park in the shade to cope with the heat and escape from the flat.

If I Could Say Goodbye, Emma Cooper

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 3/5

A story about love, loss and how to cope with it all. Jen starts to lose herself in the memories of her sister, Kerry, who recently passed away. In the process, she starts to lose her family too, until she finally learns how to, in her own way, say goodbye.

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones

Genre: Literary fiction

Rating: 5/5

Another firm favourite. This is a brilliant example of how fiction can open your eyes up to the struggles of others you wouldn’t always come across in your own life. It is a compelling and revealing account of how the criminal justice system in America, is perpetuated by ongoing racism and how it pulls one couple apart.

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Genre: Classic fiction

Rating: 5/5

A book I’ve always wanted to read, and one I’m glad I read during the pandemic. Set during the French revolution, it documents the revolutionary spirit and the uncertainty that dominated. Although years apart from now, it gave me a certain amount of comfort that we too, will get through this struggle.

Broadwater, Jac Shreeves-Lee

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Set in one of the most deprived housing estates in Tottenham, London, this follows the lives of the residents that live there. Although from a variety of different backgrounds, these people are united by hardship and struggle. This was eye-opening and beautifully written.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell

Genre: Political fiction

Rating: 4/5

As shockingly relevant today as it was a hundred years ago. A stunning portrayal of Edwardian, working-class poverty, false class consciousness and the importance of socialism.

August

The heat continued, as well as the afternoons spent in the park. This was also the month I started writing on Medium…

Midnight Sun, Stephanie Meyer

Genre: Young Adult fiction

Rating: 4/5

Reading this, I was able to live out my teenage dreams once again. But this time, the story was so much better told through Edward’s perspective. We get to learn more about the Cullen’s history and the Vampire world, which is more fascinating than listening to Bella.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 4/5

An essential read that takes a look at the persistent racism in Britain. Reni Eddo-Lodge writes powerfully and full of clarity, making it an informative and accessible read for all.

How I Learned to Hate in Ohio, David Stuart MacLean

Genre: Fiction (Expected publication January 2021)

Rating: 3.5/5

A dark, seemingly poignant demonstration of the hate that inflicts many communities across America. This novel shines a light on the multiple forms of hatred and division that define modern America.

The Little Friend, Donna Tartt

Genre: Literary fiction

Rating: 3/5

Let this be known as the first Donna Tartt novel I was disappointed by. I regularly cite The Goldfinch as my favourite read of all time, so I had pretty high expectations for this. The ending had a lack of clarity and detail and the overall plot was lacking. But as always, the writing was beautiful.

September

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

A lockdown birthday where I turned 23. Still at home and off work, reading continued to be my only form of routine and consistency, that and my new found love of writing on Medium.

Such A Fun Age, Kiley Reid

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 5/5

I’ve raved about this book from the rooftops, it’s simply wonderful in so many ways. It’s a sharp, witty book that encapsulates our present moment and explores issues of class, race and gender that still plague modern America.

Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of Covid-19, Jennifer Haupt

Genre: Creative Non-Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Although I still think it’s a little early to be writing about our experience of the pandemic, this was certainly an interesting read. Containing essays, poems and personal reflections on the pandemic from mostly, Americans, it was an insightful read on the different ways that Covid-19 has changed our lives.

Salvation Station, Kathryn Schleich

Genre: Crime fiction

Rating: 4/5

Less disturbing than the cover presents it’s going to be — but a fascinating and gripping read all the same. Full of great characters and a propelling storyline, I couldn’t help but be infatuated by this classic whodunnit story.

October

Normality was resuming. Little did we know then, that there would be another lockdown. This was when I thought I’d be going back to work, but I ended up having a few months yet.

Blog Is a Platform: What blogging can do for you and your career, Sergey Faldin

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 4/5

I really got into writing on Medium this month — can you tell? One of my favourite writers to date on this platform is Sergey Faldin as his work is honest, relatable and told from the heart. Hence why I wanted to read his book. This is a must-read for Medium newbie’s, as it teaches us the value of writing online and how the industry is changing.

Togwotee Passage, L.G. Cullens

Genre: Eco-Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Another book that surprised me. This is a character-driven story, filled with a love and appreciation for nature. It follows the life of Calan through multiple decades — and the life lessons he learns. Containing essential reflections on human greed and what it is doing to our planet — it is a striking and unique read.

November

Winter arrived — and so did a second lockdown. My reading slowed down a lot this month, and I’m not really sure why.

The Stone in My Pocket, Matthew Keeley (Expected publication January 2021)

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Another read of 2020 that surprised me, and one I wouldn’t typically go for. Nathan is a quirky adolescent that lands himself a job in the local bookshop, where he attends a Medium group hosted by the owner, little to his parents’ knowledge. Full of mysterious goings-on, this is a coming of age novel with unique twists and turns.

December

I finally went back to work, which felt very strange at first. It definitely wasn’t the same as sitting on my sofa reading and writing all year.

Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times in Television, Louis Theroux

Genre: Autobiography

Rating: 3/5

I got into Louis Theroux during lockdown and naturally turned to his book. I was slightly disappointed in the approach to this, but it was still interesting to read about his life and the motivations behind his work.

The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 5/5

The best thriller I have read this year and for a long time. Full of intriguing characters, and an important message about toxic friendships, this was a truly gripping read that I couldn’t put down. I immediately purchased another Lucy Foley upon finishing.

Knight in Paper Armor, Nicholas Conley

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Rating: 5/5

Another book that ended up surprising me, and there was nothing I could fault about it. Set in a dystopian world, it contains many elements that plague our current society — especially in America. But it also features elements of a classic coming of age story and is faced paced and full of action. A truly unique and insightful read that I won’t forget for a long time.

So that was my year in books. I am pleased to say I have read widely, beyond my comfort zone and thoughtfully. I have valued writing these kinds of stories because it encourages me to reflect on what I have read, instead of instantaneously moving onto the next read.

Here’s to a 2021 full of reading that surprises, challenges and comfort us.

A Thousand Lives

Because a good book can change the world

Violet Daniels

Written by

Navigating the world one word at a time ✨ I write about books, writing, mental health, and lifestyle 📧 vdaniels.journo@gmail.com

A Thousand Lives

We are a publication about books. We accept book reviews, ramblings, recommendations and stories about authors and writing.

Violet Daniels

Written by

Navigating the world one word at a time ✨ I write about books, writing, mental health, and lifestyle 📧 vdaniels.journo@gmail.com

A Thousand Lives

We are a publication about books. We accept book reviews, ramblings, recommendations and stories about authors and writing.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store