The last quarter of 2020 and here are the books that I read and the audio books that I listened to. If you want to read the earlier instalments I've linked this post to them.
Before we dive in a quick message regarding links to books I mention.
Disclaimer: I have recently started to support Bookshop.org, please have a quick read of the following to understand how I may benefit from you purchasing books that I recommend.
"Bookshop.org is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops. We also support anyone who advocates for books through our affiliate programme, which pays a 10% commission on every sale, and gives a matching 10% to independent bookshops."
The 5am Club features a few main characters, The Spellbinder, Billionaire Mr. Riley, Male Artist and Female Entrepreneur to highlight why rising early and taking control of your day is the best thing for long-term career excellence. I personally really enjoyed the book, and have kept using several of the principles from it in my daily life.
Dina Nayeri fled Iran with her mother and brother as an 8 year old child. She never went back. Eventually she became an American citizen. This is a really amazing book that examines in a lot of detail the lives that refugees often lead. How they never fully integrate, and can often feel lonely their whole lives. She spends time in refugee camps as an adult interviewing those currently living in them. She really looks into the cases of rejected refugees, the time it can take to have your case heard even if you make it to another country in the first place. And she explodes the idea that the west is under attack from refugees, with clear figures of how many people actually end up making it into the UK and US.
I was late to the TV series, only watching all 8 of the HBO series last year in about 3 months. And I am even later to the books. This one the first in the series came out in 2000, yet people tend to see Game of Thrones as quite a new thing. It is actually part of a series of 7 books called A Song of Ice and Fire, which there are currently only 5 books available of. I do love the books and highly recommend them for a spot of escapism.
The fact this was Zadie Smiths first book and that she was a university student when she wrote it is amazing enough. But then you begin reading the story of two families who are drawn together in a saga encompassing 3 generations with multi cultural heritage and on several continents and experience quite clearly what a master storyteller she really is. The original 3 part Channel 4 series is available to watch on Netflix too if you want to watch it.
This book promised an insight into the early life of Donald Trump. A chance to see the family that produced one of the most controversial presidents that America has ever had. Mary Trump is the daughter of Donald's eldest brother, who died young. You do get a real insight though reading the book. I did feel sorry for the child that Donald was. His family do seem very dysfunctional.
This was a free book published by a well established self published author David Gaughran. He gives this out as part of his free course which teaches writers how to grow an audience of people who will be interested in your books. You can only get this by joining his email list, I do recommend it because he only sends out highly useful information.
I know one of the authors of this book (Angela Burgess) so I was lucky enough to receive a copy for review. This is such a useful read for any small business owner who wants to learn what building blocks to put in place to have successful sales and a good business life.
David Gaughran is a successful self published author with books across a range of fiction and non fiction. I read this because I did a bit of his online course to learn how to self publish myself and to build an author platform. I find him very easy to read, and he links to a lot of online resources like videos on his YouTube channel. If you want to understand how to sell more books then this is an excellent book.
The second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (what was used to create the Game of Thrones series) I won't say too much because you either know the story already from the series or you are considering reading from scratch so no spoilers here! By the way as an aside, if you like a bit of company whilst reading, are a fan of book groups etc, there is a fun read along Podcast on this show called Davos Fingers your welcome :)
I read this fantastic book in an afternoon. Rachel Allen runs a Facebook group that I am a member of and she was giving a copy to members at that time. Rachel wrote 30 days to save your business when the pandemic first hit in 2020 and she found clients cancelling, no new ones appearing, and with real worry to deal with, she wanted to pass along her learnings to anyone else that could benefit. This is really worthwhile to read, if for no other reason than to learn from someone who really had to get out there and save their business.
I was sent a copy of Sarah's book to review for Parents in Biz magazine. I highly recommend it. And since reading it I interviewed her on Instagram live, and wrote a blog up about that if you'd like some more background.
This is perfect reading for a lockdown, sit in your bedroom and read all about the adventures of a brave and funny adventurer as she works her way across New Zeland on foot with a giant rucksack. Warning, it will make you want to go and do the Te Araroa trail!
Book three in the A Song of Ice and Fire series ( Game of Thrones) these books are hellishly long, but well worth the reading. I loved the TV series, but the books are better in my humble opinion. See my notes on the others above for extra stuff like podcast recommendations.
Another that I was sent to review for Parents in Biz so I can't say too much until my review goes out there. Ryan Jackson is an excellent example for anyone looking for an entrepreneur who has made it on their own terms, with little early life support, and now seeks to give back to others coming up the same way. Full of accessible life advice for those wanting to go into business for themselves.
I felt compelled to read this from the moment I heard about it. This won the international booker prize in 2020 for the author who at only 29 at the time. They became the youngest author ever to win the Booker international prize. This is truly a story that will shock you a little, about the death of a child, and the response to that death by the children and parents of the remaining family. Set in Holland on a farm, there are themes of isolation, abuse, and obsession running through it. Do read, but not a cheery book.
Another for the Parents in Biz review list, I had a bumper year in 2020! This was such a great read by one of the legends of children's writing in the UK Michael Rosen. It contains lots of different ideas for how to build more play into our lives, and all of the reasons why play is important mentally and historically. For example, many of the great discoveries of the world came when someone was just messing around. Do read!
I picked this one up in my local bookshop, and read it in pretty much a day. Written by two authors with creative strategy backgrounds this is a fab read for anyone wanting to learn how you can create your own amazing properties online. How to get your ideas in front of people. Who to learn from. And lots about the tools of the trade (social media, websites etc)
My father in law died 2 years ago, he was amazing. This was his favourite book. I had never read it before, and I think perhaps the title had put me off, but there is so much in this book to sit with and consider.
Even if you think you haven't read this book, if you've been to any weddings at all you are bound to have heard passages from it.
"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself”
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
It is a truly beautiful book to read and deserves all the praise it has received over the years.
This short book of poetry is so beautiful to read. I am sure you will be familiar with WH Auden from his poem Funeral Blues which featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral. I also loved the eponymous O Tell Me the Truth About Love and Eyes Look Into The Well
Such a great film and an even better screenplay to read. I know the film is problematic now because it features someone who has been accused of molesting younger actors. The intent of the original screenplay remains excellent.
One of the first true viral hits in the world. When this book came out it was wildly successful despite its criticism of religion and the establishment. Subsequently banned in many places it tells the story of the naive Candide and his belief or not in the teachings of his tutor Dr Pangloss. The phrase " The best of all worlds" seems to stem from the book.
This book reminded me a little of Breakfast at Tiffanys, and a lot of Tennessee Williams Suddenly Last Summer. It has the same impending sense of doom, the this can't end well feeling.
This was my second reading of this book. A short but powerful book with a message that the title covers very clearly. Accessible for younger readers too if you have children in the house that you want reading material to help create discussion.
Another classic that I had not read before. Tells the story of two men who have formed a bond and travelled America together working along the way. Deals with mental health issues and the lack of control that poverty brings.
Answered Prayers was Truman Capote's unfinished novel. It tells the story of P.B. Jones who is a male prostitute who ends up in some interesting situations. This one is probably the most explicit of the books by Capote. As always his characters tend to be fairly dysfunctional.
The bond that you find in the books of Ian Fleming is not a nice man. It's interesting to note the differences that they smoothed out in the films. He is a cold, calculating man who treats women with little respect. The plot of this book is good, reducing Bond to his weakest point and showing him capable of love and sadness ultimately.
I hadn't read Catcher in the Rye in recent years and I was keen to go back and see how I felt about it now. It's a book that seems to divide people. It feels a lot like nothing really happens, a young privilege boy gets kicked out of yet another prestigious school and doesn't want to face his parents. It's the details that I love the most about this story. How Holden feels about his brothers, his little sister. How he struggles to really connect with the others around him.
This is a short story by the author of The Buddha of Suburbia. It tells the story of a father dealing with a son who has become radicalised.
One of the earliest works of Jane Austen, she wrote this when just fourteen years old. It is a a book of letters between Laura (the main character) and her friend Marianne.
The story of a writer and the life she has to lead, travelling the country to promote her latest work at book groups. This tells the story of one such stay at a hotel somewhere out of the way, where the author encounters an interesting young woman.
This is not the actual copy I read, mine was from the library but this one is available for purchase from Amazon. This story is about a dog who becomes lost from his owner. The new home he finds is unusual to say the least.
Twenty-one celebrities came together and each contributed a story to a book called Reader, I Married Him - one of the most celebrated lines in fiction - inspired by Jane Eyre. Dorset Gap by Tracy Chevalier tells the story of a group of young students who go to a rave in the Dorset countryside and what happens next.
A young woman turns off her phone and books herself into a deserted seaside hotel. In a state of shock, she starts small conversations with the staff and begins to unfurl, until someone turns up to claim her. Short but interesting.
98. A is for Acid Rain, B is for Bee - Joanne Harris
Oddly I can't find a link to this story anywhere! It was one I read on my library BorrowBox App. Set in the future, where people live separately to the natural world, a group of children encounter the last bee in the world.
This was the second collection of short stories Ian McEwan wrote. The stories are pretty weird to be honest. A man falls in love with a shop window dummy, a woman lives with her ex partner who happens to also be an Ape. Mix of sci fi and fantasy.
“Lesley Castle” is a novella by Jane Austen, unfinished at the time of her death. As with Love and Friendship (see no 93) It is a series of letters, following the conversations between Miss Margaret Lesley and Miss Charlotte Lutterell.
Final Total of Books for 2020 - 100
Audio Books - 25
I finished the year on 25 Audiobooks, Brit(ish) was the perfect one to end on. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to understand more about the ongoing experience of Black British people.
Fascinating book all about how human brains work, and why we will always seek to innovate.
22. British Politics - Richard R Grayson
An interesting overview of British politics over the last 100 years.
The story of London. How it formed, how architecture continues to evolve within the city, and how social mobility has changed over the time the city has been here.
The story of a girl who grows up pretty much alone in the marshes of America. You have probably heard a lot about this one this year!
Afua Hirsch is a brilliant storyteller. Her own family experience was that she was raised in a comfortable middle class family in Wimbeldon. Her husband is the exact opposite coming from a family who struggled financially and lived in an inner city area. She has a black mother and a white father, with Jewish family who fled the Nazis during WW2. As she explains she felt isolated from her black heritage during her upbringing and didn't have many black friends growing up. In this book she talks of how people have often expected her to come from a deprived background simply because of her colour. And how once someone mistook her for Michelle Obama simply because of the restaurant she was in at the time. When you consider how different the two women are it seems very hard to understand that mistake. This book is more widely about the way non white British people are often made to feel like outsiders in their own country.
Thanks for reading, I hope that you might find something to interest you to read in amongst all of those.
Apart from reading books I have also written one of my own, which launched on September 22nd 2020 if you'd like to find out more read on!
Would you like more help with your marketing? My new book is out now
If you would like a book of 100 Marketing Tips written just for small business owners then do have a look here. I wrote this book to be easy to read cover to cover or to be kept as a reference to dip in and out of!
Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in SE London. Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.