40 Books I Read in 2020

I discovered Goodreads a couple of years ago and thought it would be a brilliant thing to track all the books that I have read. It would certainly avoid wondering if I'd already read that novel or self help book that had just landed on my desk! Then I discovered their 'Reading Challenge' and my competitive spirit kicked in. So this year I set a target to read at least 40 books. With the global pandemic and two lockdowns I think I've perhaps had more opportunity to read this year than usual so I was thrilled to achieve my target in just 11 months. There were some shorter books in there too which helped.

My Year in Books Heather Thomas

I thought I would share what I read with you and perhaps inspire you to set yourself a challenge in 2021. I've listed them in the order that I read them. 

I must admit I'm not quite sure what target I'm going to set for next year just yet!  

Normal People

Normal People, Sally Rooney

The first read of the year was Normal People by Sally Rooney which I devoured in just a couple of days. A really lovely story and the purists may disagree but I thought it was a brilliant bonus that it was made into a TV series too. 

 Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach

The second read was the philosophical Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I think this would be a great one for a book club read as it would benefit from having someone to talk through all of the themes with. 

Diary of a Book Seller

The Diary of a Book Seller, Shaun Bythell

I could definitely relate to a lot of what Shaun Bythell says in this hilarious account of life as a book seller. 

Where the crawdads sing

Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

Where The Crawdads Sing is a definite contender for one of my favourite books of the year. Not one I would usually pick up but a brilliant read. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

I was disappointed with this one as I'd heard it had really good reviews. It just felt a bit average really and clunky to read at times. 

Live Green

Live Green: 52 Steps for a more Sustainable Life, Jen Chillingsworth

Learning to be more eco friendly is so important and this book was great for some bite size hints and tips to inspire me. 

HUrrah for Gin

Hurrah for Gin: A Book for Perfectly Imperfect Parents, Katie Kirby

A laugh out loud read for any parent to be honest! 

Bothy Tales

Bothy Tales: Footsteps in the Scottish Hills, John D Burns

This was such a lovely book that had me wanting to hike into the Scottish hills as soon as possible. A good one for curling up with on a Winter's night.

Just what kind of a mother are you

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? Paula Daly

I'm not usually one to read any kind of crime or thriller books but this was recommended to me and had the added attraction of being set in the Lake District. Some great twists and turns in this story. 

Tickling the English

Tickling the English, Dara O Briain

I loved reading this account of Dara's travels whilst on tour around the UK. Funny and insightful. 

Sloth Philosophy

The Little Book of Sloth Philosophy, Jennifer McCartney

A fun self help style book, it was an easy and light read. 


Boy, Roald Dahl

Our son recommended that I read Roald Dahl's account of his childhood and it was well worth it. I hadn't realised how interesting his life had been. 

Going Solo

Going Solo, Roald Dahl

Of course, the obvious next step from Boy was Roald's account of his life as a pilot in the war. Just as fascinating with the bonus of being a little more light hearted as it's aimed at children. 

Five People You meet in heaven

The Five People you meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom

This one was a bit of a tear jerker but a great read nonetheless. 

Equal Rites

Equal Rites, Terry Pratchett

As we have a house full of Pratchett books, I asked Paul to recommend me one to read and this is what he chose. 

Summer Book

The Summer Book, Tove Jansson

I absolutely adore the Moomins so I thought I'd try some of Tove Jansson's writing for adults. This was a dreamy insight into life on a Finnish island in the summer.


Wild, Cheryl Strayed

I found this one hard going to start with but worth it in the end. A true story with sadness and lots of challenges but eventually triumph and personal growth. 

The Boy The Mole The Fox and The Horse

The Boy The Mole The Fox and The Horse, Charlie Macksey

This book is truly beautiful. One that everyone should have and pick up on days of struggle (which we've had plenty of this year!)

For One More Day

For One More Day, Mitch Albom

After reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven, this book appeared in the shop so I had to read it. Another one with sad moments but brilliant writing. 

On Chapel Sands

On Chapel Sands, Laura Cumming

Another true story, this was a fascinating insight into Laura's own family history and a secret that had been kept for many years. Beautifully written.

Better than Before

Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin

I'm a sucker for self help books and I've followed Gretchen Rubin on social media for many years so this was a must read. Some really useful tips for improving your productivity.


1984, George Orwell

With the dystopian kind of year we've had I felt it was about time I read this classic. Our son read it first and raved about it so that sealed it for me. It didn't feel perhaps quite as 'out there' as it might have done when it was first written which only added to the weirdness!

The Salt Path

The Salt Path, Raynor Winn

I'd heard lots of good things about this book so again, grabbed the chance to read it when it appeared in the shop! Another true story that pulled at the heart strings but felt like a really positive read. 

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman

The reviews I'd seen for this one had said it was an uplifting read so I was disappointed when it began rather glumly. It's one you have to stick with right to the end to understand the positive message behind it. 

Why Mummy Swears

Why Mummy Swears, Gill Sims

Another funny take on parenting that made me laugh out loud. Every parent needs a relatable book to make them smile every now and then! 

Why I'm No Longer Talking about Race

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

At one point this year you couldn't get hold of a copy of this book as it was so popular, which was heartening to see. When we did get some copies I made sure to grab one for myself. It was really informative and I'm so glad I did. 

It's All in Your Head

It's All in Your Head, Suzanne O'Sullivan

This was an absolutely fascinating read about the body's ability to turn mental pain and stress into what we perceive as more acceptable physical ailments. We meet several patients who react differently to the revelation that their injuries and issues may not be entirely physical in nature. 

The Outrun

The Outrun, Amy Liptrot

Another true story, this time about escaping life on a small Scottish island but only having to return later to help family. 

J M Barrie Ladies Swimming Society

The J.M Barrie Ladies Swimming Society, Barbara J Zitwer

This was such a sweet and uplifting read that I really enjoyed. It's not often that I keep novels  once I've read them but this one is staying firmly on my shelf. 

I am an Island

I Am An Island, Tamsin Calidas

Another true story set on a Scottish island, there was definitely a theme here for a while! Tamsin tells her story of moving away to an isolated croft and getting to know the locals. 

Women Don't Owe You Pretty

Women Don't Owe You Pretty, Florence Given

This one was recommended to me by a staff member. There was lots that I agreed with but I wasn't sure it was really aimed at my circumstances as a married, middle aged mother. If you're a twenty something single it might appeal more. 


Animal, Sara Pascoe

I absolutely loved this one, Sara Pascoe's honesty and humour was brilliant. 

My Name is Book

My Name is Book, John Agard

This was a short but quirky introduction to the history of books. Written as an anthropomorphic book autobiography it was an easy and fun read. 


Solitude, Michael Harris

Another self help type book looking into the benefits of solitude and how to find it. This was a well timed read for me with all of the enforced time at home this year. 

Noone is too Small to Make a Difference

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, Greta Thunberg

A short read, this is a collection of Greta Thunbergs speeches and commentaries on global warming and her motivating us all to get involved and make a difference. 

Grief is the thing with Feathers

Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Max Porter

Embarrassingly, I'd never heard of Max Porter until a customer asked about his books so when one passed under my nose at the shop I had to read it. A beautiful half poetry half memoir style read about coping with grief. 

I Feel Bad About My Neck

I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron

The blurb on this one made it sound like a fun read but I was really disappointed with it. Despite the desperate pleas implying that all women would understand, I couldn't relate at all to many of the scenarios Nora wrote about such as buying expensive handbags and overpriced flats in New York. If you're an American millionaire it might be more your thing! 


A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, Ruby Wax

More self help, but this time from the fabulously funny and honest Ruby Wax. I really enjoyed her chatty style of writing, and the week by week plan for learning mindfulness techniques. 

A Winter Book

A Winter Book, Tove Jansson

Following on from reading The Summer Book this was the obvious next step from Tove Jansson. Another beautiful set of writing from her that made me want to move to Finland. 

Utopia for Realists

Utopia for Realists, Rutger Bregman

With the release of Rutger Bregman's Humankind to rave reviews, stumbling across this in the shop seemed like the perfect introduction before I can get my hands on the latest book. Well worth a read if you're looking to be inspired to make a difference around you.


If you're interested in any of these books you can contact us directly to order copies or shop the list on bookshop.org here. (Please note, not all titles are currently available on bookshop.org and any orders placed with them are not sourced by or shipped by us.)