At around this point in December, I usually like to round up my ten favourite books of the year, in no particular order, and with the caveat that the list refers to the year of reading rather than the year of publication. However, 2020 has been a year like no other, and between Covid, lockdown and publishing my own novel recently, it’s occurred to me that I haven’t even updated the blog with the books I’ve been reading since September, so let’s begin with a whistle-stop tour of those. I won’t go into my usual long-winded analysis of these books, or we’ll be here till 2021 (plus: one downside of not updating on my reading habits more regularly – a rather vague recollection of plot details). So here they are, in case you’re interested – bringing my books-read total for 2020 to 41 publications. More than last year, less than the year previous. As I say, 2020 has been anything but a normal year.
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING LATELY
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – the follow up to The Handmaid’s Tale, which I read (and loved) over the summer.
Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato – an intricate, dark story about a young boy and his family – a book for fans of unusual, character-driven tales.
Cop O’ the North by Robert M Sutherland – an engaging, heartwarming and often hilarious account of life in ‘the force’ in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland between the 1970’s and the 1990’s.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans – a beautifully written observation of identity, motherhood, love, marriage and race.
This is How by M.J Hyland – the story of a young man who commits a crime which will change his life forever.
Half a World Away by Mike Gayle – a heartfelt tale of family and reunion, love and loss.
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout – a collection of interrelated stories revolving around the return of an author to her rural hometown in Illinois, America.
The Things We Left Unsaid by Emma Kennedy – an engaging story about a woman seeking answers about the past – and her own identity – after her Mother’s death.
Boy Erased by Garrard Conley – a stark memoir of life in a devoutly religious family, and the author’s harrowing experience of so-called ‘gay conversion’ therapy.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman – a powerful story of the romantic relationship between a young man and a scholar who spends the summer with his family in 1980’s Italy. (Note: the last two books have also been made into films).
MY TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2020
Larchfield by Polly Clark – I loved this time-slip tale of two poets, one a fictional WH Auden, the other a Mother struggling with the isolation of her new home in Scotland.
Orkney by Amy Sackville – the story of an aged professor and his mysterious young wife on honeymoon on an Orkney island – a mesmerising tale of watery obsession and the sea.
The Province of the Cat by George Gunn – a wonderful wander through the history and landscape of my home county, Caithness.
Healing Threads by Mary Beith – a fascinating blend of Highland healing tradition, storytelling and lore.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn – one woman’s beautiful account of homelessness, health and the restorative power of nature.
The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon – because what would a top ten list for any year be without my favourite time-travelling romantic drama, Outlander? And of course, my favourite romantic duo – Jamie and Claire.
Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner – Anne’s portrayal of life on the fringes of royalty is a fascinating account of drama and personal loss – a must for fans of The Crown on Netflix.
Our House is on Fire by Malena and Beata Ernman, Svante and Greta Thunberg – a demanding, urgent manifesto on climate change (you can read more about that here).
Animal Farm by George Orwell – this fable-like commentary on the corrosive nature of power is simply outstanding.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Atwood’s account of a totalitarian state which forces fertile women into sexual slavery is as chilling in 2020 as it no doubt was when it was released in 1985.
MY READING PLANS FOR 2021
The fantastic thing about books, of course, is that no matter what else is happening in the world, you can always transport yourself away to a thousand other lives and a thousand different places – that’s part of the magic of reading. There are always more books, more stories, more people writing about the fascinating lives they’ve led – whatever 2021 brings, just know, there will always be more books.
Next year, I’m looking forward to reading more from my local writing friends – George Gunn’s The Great Edge, Sharon Gunason Pottinger’s Returning: The Journey of Alexander Sinclair, Meg Macleod’s Raven Songs and Charlotte Platt’s A Stranger’s Guide will all be in my reading pile. I also can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, and Barack Obama’s A Promised Land is also high up on my 2021 to-read list. Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library sounds amazing, as does Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens …..the list is never ending.
I’ve also heard that Castles of Steel and Thunder by little-known Caithness author Gail Anthea Brown isn’t bad for a first novel…. 😉
Whatever you’re reading this Christmas, I hope it brings you comfort, happiness – and peace.
Disclosure: Although I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate scheme, none of the links in this article have been affiliated to Amazon. Also, vis-à-vis my attempt at witty banter, please note that the novel Castles of Steel and Thunder is my own.
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