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When we were put on house arrest in March, I didn’t really know what to do with myself for a while. Then I realised that being out of work – as shit as that is – would give me the opportunity to finally read some of those books that had piled up in my room that I never took the time to read. So I started reading… and until now I barely stopped for a day.

I’ve managed to go through a number of books – some good, some not so good – and I thought I’d share my favourites with you. I managed to find a few real gems this year…

My books of 2020

In the past, I barely read anything that wasn’t fiction. Mostly out of habit, partly because business and self-help books always sounded a bit meh. But I’ve joined a couple of book clubs this year and I can only recommend it. Thanks to those book clubs, I found books I never would have considered reading otherwise. Most of them were business and marketing related and went along with my theme of the year of learning how to run a better business. But some books go more into personal development than anything else. So below you can find a good mix of different topics – including some fiction as well. Cause sometimes all you want is just some entertainment.

Non-Fiction

James Clear - "Atomic habits"

“Atomic Habits” was one of the first book club books I read this year and I loved it. It’s all about how to create healthier habits in your life.

The book talks about about the things you might want to change in your life or lifestyle and how it’s not about the end goal but about the process of making those changes. Basically, any habit you’d like to introduce needs to be easy and tied to a reward or positive enforcement that will motivate to go through the inconvenience of changing something. The book is filled with lots of practical advice and tips on how to succeed in creating new and better habits.

Jon Acuff - "Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done"

A lot of people struggle to finish things. The problem is sometimes thought to be the start but actually it appears to be that once we can’t be perfect anymore, that’s when we tend to give up. Want to improve your health? Ok, let’s got to the gym 5 days a week. But then life happens and you skip a day and the winning streak is broken which means you’ve failed so you might as well give up, right?!

There are lots of ways how to overcome the mindset that slipping once means failure and in this book, Jon Acuff gives lots of tips and suggestions on how finishing can be easier to achieve.

Bob Burg - "The Go-Giver"

While the story of the Go-Giver is fictional, this book still belongs to the non-fiction category. It’s a story about a person who learns how giving without expecting anything in return can change your “luck” in life and work. Bob Burg explains in 5 steps how giving is the recipe for a more successful life. While I personally find the ending too cheesy, the lessons learnt throughout this book definitely deserve a mention on my list of books I enjoyed reading.

It’s a quick read too and something I will probably come back to every now and then to remind myself of easy ways to give more than to take and how this will serve me well when looking at the big picture.

Matthew Dicks - "Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling"

I’m personally almost addicted to good storytelling. It’s part of what I do as a documentary family photographer and how I create impactful brand videos for my clients. So finding this book through one of my book clubs was one of my highlights. Matthew Dicks explains how to tell stories well, where to start and finish and how to keep your audience engaged. The content of the story doesn’t matter as much as one might think, it’s the structure and delivery that’s important. Also, good stories are not about crazy situations but about little moments that people can relate to – that’s how you get your audience to care about what you’re telling them. That’s all I’m going to say… If you’re interested in how to write better content or tell better stories, do yourself a favour and read this book!

Sarah Akwisombe - "The Money is Coming: Your guide to manifesting more money"

There have been a lot of controversial news and posts about Sarah Awkisombe this summer – mainly about her courses and approaches that she’s using to make more money herself and reach her financial goals. You can think about her whatever you like but if you’ve never tried to dive into your own money mindset, “The Money is Coming” is a book worth reading. It’s not super scientific, nor is Sarah a financial advisor. However, the way she’s approaching money, money mindset and financial goals really hit a nerve with me and made me rethink how I feel about money. I started changing my vocabulary and tried to be less judgemental about how people spend their money. I still have a long way to go and there is lots more to learn for me but reading this book was a great step into the right direction for me and my perception and evaluation of money.

Sarah Townsend - "Survival Skills for Freelancers"

I’ve had my business since 2010 and while this year I realised that there are a lot of things I didn’t know or haven’t done right in the past, I still think that I’ve been in the game long enough to not benefit from books that are geared towards new freelancers. So when “Survival Skills for Freelancers” was put on the list for a book club, I was sceptical. Having read another book that seemed similar and feeling pretty lectured and underwhelmed, I expected to not like this book. However, Sarah has a great style in explaining not just all the things that are necessary to succeed in being your own boss but also tapping into her own archive of stories of being a freelancer for 20 years. It might also be that she as a woman just has a very different tone of voice when explaining business decisions and necessities than men seem to have.

While I actually didn’t learn many new things by reading this book, I would definitely recommend it to anybody starting out as a freelancer or business owner.

Elizabeth Day - "How to Fail: Everything I ve Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong"

A few years ago, my friend Stacey recommended a few podcasts to me. One of them was “How to fail” by Elizabeth Day. Every episode she talks to a different person, dissecting 3 of their biggest failures in life and what they’ve learnt from them. I’m not gonna lie, I do have a bit of a girl crush on Elizabeth Day – and once you listen to her interviews, you’ll understand, I’m sure. So the main message is that without failure there is no success and ultimately we can only leran from things going wrong. Also, there are loads of life lessons in any failure.

In her book “How to Fail”, Elizabeth uncovers some of her own big failures in life. If you like her podcast, you will like the book. I love it!

Elaine Welteroth - "More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)"

With the Black Lives Matter movement that got new steam in 2020, we started looking at more black writers and their works. That’s how Elaine Weltheroth’s book made it to one of my book clubs.

It’s the autobiography of a mixed raced woman in the US who has always been too black or not black enough to fit in. However, raised by a fierce black woman, Elaine learnt to stand up for herself and reached her goal of becoming editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue – something that seemed unthinkable when she grew up and no fashion magazine ever represented anybody looking like her.

This book is an easy read and while I can’t possibly understand the struggles she went through or identify with her challenges, I still really enjoyed reading her story. It’s also a good way of educating yourself with the struggles other people deal with.

Emma Gannon - "Sabotage: How to Silence Your Inner Critic and Get Out of Your Own Way"

Who doesn’t have a very chatty, annoying inner critic who likes to chime in whenever possible? Exactly!

“Sabotage” is a short self-help book that tells us all the things we already know: self-doubt, procrastination and perfectionism stand in our way and the only way around them is to challenge them and prove them wrong. There are no massive revelations in this book, however, it’s a wonderful reminder that we all struggle with self-sabotage and that there are ways to succeed despite dealing with those.

Chidera Eggerue - "What a Time to Be Alone"

So, I bought this book when it came out in 2018. I heard Chidera aka The Slumflower speak on a podcast and really liked what she had to say. So when she published her book, I wanted to have it and enjoy the beautiful layout and the completely new concept of delivering important messages. However, I never actually took the time to read it – until the scandal about how Florence Given’s book “Women don’t owe you pretty” (which was a huge hit) came to light and the fact that it was basically a copy of Chidera’s book. I do also own “Women don’t owe you pretty” but I have yet to read it. But it made me finally sit down to read what the Slumflower had to say.

I’ve never read a self-help book like this. The messages are important: Leave toxic people behind, put yourself first and don’t feel guilty for it and being alone is not a bad thing. Most of what is being covered in this book, is something we all know already. Similar to “Sabotage” that doesn’t make the book useless though – some messages we need to hear over and over to let them sink in. Getting reminders that putting ourselves first is not selfish but necessary to live a happy life, is something we all need to hear and internalise constantly.

what a time to be alone - chidera eggerue - books of 2020

Fiction

Oyinkan Braithwaite - "My Sister, the Serial Killer"

I bought this book for my friend last year – mainly because I loved the cover (yes, I do judge books by their covers!) and the title was more than intriguing. When I read it, I instantly got sucked into the lives of our 2 protagonists: 2 sisters, one beautiful, the other one always helping out.

The story is quite dark but I loved the writing style. The chapters are short and draw you in so it’s hard to put the book down. I particularly loved the ending – while part of it seemed obvious, not everything was to me. Nothing better than a little twist at the end of a good book!

Anna Hope - "Expectation"

“Expectation” is the story of 3 women and their lives in London and beyond. Growing up, growing apart, learning different lessons and making decisions that don’t always resonate with your friends. It’s a beautiful story of friendship and finding happiness. It’s about the ordinary lives we live and the expectations our younger selves used to have for what life should be like.

Julie Cohen - "Louis & Louise"

My friend Louisa bought this book on vacation. I actually think that 50% of the purchase was motivated by the title and how close it is to her own name. Not judging though! The other 50% were most likely driven by the fact that she had already finished all books she brought on the trip and is obsessed with reading. No judgement there either though.

Louis & Louise is a 2-fold story of a baby – being born as a boy in one reality and a girl in another. The way their lives develop shows how actions, preferences and interests are not necessarily tied to the gender of a person but to their social surroundings and personality in general, no matter their sex. It’s a wonderful story about growing up, love and forgiveness.

fiction book 2020

Your recommendations?

So, what were your books of the year? Anything you can recommend? Leave a comment and let me know if there are any you think I should put on my reading list for the next year!

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