Books That Made 2020 Less Terrible

Claire Stapley
Dec 16, 2020 · 4 min read

Because, it’s been pretty hard, right?

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

2020 has been a pretty shitty year for a lot of us, I’d go as far as saying that everybody in some vein has been affected by the devastating effects of a global pandemic.

A lot of people have tried to see the good in adversity, which I can highly respect — however struggle to empathise with.

Being someone who is naturally a realist (and often, a pessimist) a glass half empty approach is how I viewed the most part of 2020. However, one thing I can agree — is that it’s ignited an old flame of mine that was slowly burning out: reading.

At the beginning of 2020, I had an unnecessary obsession with Instagram, and although I can blame it on the fact that I was backpacking and wanted to capture each moment — I do think being so engrossed in technology stops you from feeling present in the moment.

When lockdown struck, and I was forced to fly home from Malaysia, I became increasingly anxious and worried about the future, like many others. This stress turned me into somewhat of an introvert, for the first time in my life.

The last time I’d felt like this was probably as a child/teenager, whilst I was trying to navigate being a young adult. Reading has always been a huge part of my life, but it’s only really in the last year or two that I’ve fallen back in love with it.

This year, I read about fifteen books in total, all varying in terms of genre, length and subject matter. Although the below books weren’t released in 2020, they were the books that gave me a glass half full approach and made 2020 feel less depressing.

So, without further ado — here are the books that made 2020 less terrible!

Everything I Know About Love — Dolly Alderton

After being recommended this book by one of my girlfriends nearly two years ago, I bought the book and immediately fell in love with the pace of the book and how relatable the book was due to Dolly’s age and experiences. With Dolly only being five years older than me, there were a lot of synergies with growing up in the boom of the internet (yes, I’m that old that dial up internet worked through a phone) and the world of MySpace and MSN.

It felt very nostalgic, and a window into Dolly’s life and her experiences as a woman growing up in London. Although I left London at 18 to go and study, I still consider myself a Londoner at heart and felt right in the midst of this book the whole way through. It made me laugh, cry and reflect on the importance of female friendships — which this book encapsulates beautifully. Strangely, it was a book that helped me to feel present despite what was going on around the world.

My Sister The Serial Killer — Oyinkan Braithwaite

This is a book that definitely leans into dark humor and taboo topics, and you become so invested in the protagonist and her sister! Set in Nigeria, what I loved about this book isn’t just the hilarity of it, and beautifully short chapters (great if you have a short attention span like me) — is that it isn’t set in the classic locations you always get with every book.

There’s something about learning about a new culture or location that appeals to me, and although there’s a nostalgic familiarity with reading something set in London — somewhere new is always something that I love when reading. I wish I found this book sooner, and I’m hoping that Braithwaite releases another book soon!

Crazy Rich Asians — Kevin Kwan

I committed the unthinkable crime last year, and that was watching the film before the book. Although this is suicide amongst avid readers, hear me out — I didn’t realise that it was a book until after I watched the film. Not only did I fall in love with the film, but I honestly think the book is better and juicier than the movie.

After visiting Singapore in March 2020 (shortly before I had to fly home) I fell in love with everything there. The food, the grandness of it all and of course, the glamour. This book had me in stitches, and is definitely one of my favourite books of all time. The film is also brilliant — and makes you wish that you were in every single scene!

Before The Coffee Gets Cold — Toshikazu Kawaguchi

After walking into waterstones in the summer, I randomly decided to pick up the first book that I saw, which led me to picking up before the coffee gets cold. I had no idea what to expect as I didn’t even read the blurb — instead just purchased it and went into it with an open mind.

Translated from Japanese, the story is (in essence) about time travel, and that’s the only spoiler I’m going to give! It’s a short book with four interlinking stories, and I really found it a beautiful book that evoked emotions that I wasn’t expecting. I planned to go to Japan in August for my 25th birthday, so reading this book was the next best thing!

Overall, beautiful stories — and I hope to read more from this author when his books are translated!


Although I read a lot of heavy books this year, the four mentioned brought me the most joy, and ultimately helped me to get through some pretty tough months this year.

I’d love to hear which books should be in my “to be read pile” for 2021 — ideally ones that aren’t hyped too much as they usually end up being a bit disappointing…


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Claire Stapley

Written by

Freelance copywriter. Passionate about mental health, travel, films and people.



A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (

Claire Stapley

Written by

Freelance copywriter. Passionate about mental health, travel, films and people.



A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (

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