Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a good book. I even ask for book tokens for Birthdays and Christmas - yes, they still exist and yes, I am always absolutely thrilled to receive them.
I've been a "book -geek" with zero shame for as long as I can remember. As a child, my Dad illustrated a children's nursery rhyme book and brought a copy home. I insisted on it being read to me at every opportunity and then when I became tired of waiting for other people to read it to me, I read it myself. I was three years old.
My Mother tells me of the time my reception teacher approached her after school one day explaining that I didn't seem to want to join in the activity of cutting and sticking some bits of God knows what together for that day's activity. The reason? I was busy reading the newspaper protecting the desks. I was never cast in the highly sought after parts of Angel or Mary in the nativity play, purely because I was the ideal candidate to narrate the entire thing, providing my primary teachers with a much-needed break I guess.
My absolute favourite way to pass my time as a child was to curl up somewhere happily reading a book. I wasn't fussy, sometimes it would be in my room, or weather permitting I'd be outside on top of the coal bunker or up the tree over the road. It still remains my favourite way to pass time, though in the absence of a coal bunker and now possessing 43-year-old knees I stick to an armchair, the bath or my bed for optimum peace and quiet.
Unsurprisingly I read quite a lot in 2020. In 2019 I managed to read a total of 67 books. (Yes, I am that kind of geek that keeps count and finds it fun.) Last year I hit 79. I didn't get my summer holiday fix of reading on a sun lounger all day every day but I had lockdown instead.
So, I thought I'd let you into my 2020 favourites - this way I get to write a blog post, re-visit the fantastic books I've loved and get to recommend any for those of you who are also book-nerds like me.
I've compiled a little list of my 10 favourites out of the 79 I read. These are in no particular order but take a deep breath, grab a coffee and a comfy chair, tree or coal bunker and sink into a little spot of book heaven with me.
(I'm even such a geek, I've linked them all to Waterstones site for you. This post is sadly not sponsored by Waterstones but if by some ridiculous chance Mr Waterstone is reading this, feel free to ask, I'm a big fan!)
This is Bryony's own story of literally hitting rock bottom after realising her drinking and drug use had spiralled totally out of control. It's hard-hitting, made me laugh and cry in equal measure and frighteningly made me think again about my own wild nights out in days gone by and wonder how I'm still here. Incredibly brave writing from an author I love.
The life story of Cyril Avery, an Irishman who was adopted into a family who didn't entirely accept him. This book has so many twists and turns, it kept me on my toes throughout. Incredibly moving in some parts, particularly with the topics of unmarried pregnancy and homosexuality in 1950's Ireland, it gripped me from start to finish.
I had planned (and still do!) to read more of the "classics" and this one was first on my list. It's a book I'd started many years ago and for whatever reasons, didn't finish. This time around though, I absolutely loved it. Set in one of my favourite places, Cornwall, the characters came to life in my mind as I was reading and the suspense and turns in the story take you with them. The opening sentence "Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again" rang true for me, I went there long after reading this.
This is a series of letters (and followed on in diary form) between New Yorker Helene and the staff at Marks and Co. booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Road, London. It genuinely felt as though I was nosing into someone's private life, and let's face it, who doesn't love to do that? It tells the true story of Helene, a frustrated writer to Frank and his staff and the many purchases of books that she made over the years. It says so much more than just a few transactions, delving into the lives of the characters and is a fascinating insight into the era it is set.
A story of the fictional band and their heady rock and roll lifestyle throughout the seventies. This has everything, the lyrics to their songs, the backstage stories, the complex relationships - I found myself getting so hooked into this I googled them, I so wanted them to be real! A fantastic escape into the seventies rock scene, I wanted to be there, I loved it.
I'm a big fan of crime and seeing as this was advertised as "bone-chilling terror" I was fully on board. The hook "If you have read it, you must die" gives you goosebumps even thinking about it, but when Angela Wood takes a bag containing a book that didn't belong to her, she was unaware of what was to come. Gripping, creepy as hell and brilliant. The author, Chris Carter is a former criminal psychologist and he really knows how to put a serial killer into words.
If like me, you are a child of the seventies or early eighties, I can almost guarantee you'll love this book. A story of a boy growing up in Birmingham after moving from Cyprus with his parents in the 1960s, this tells the story of him growing up with music as almost another sibling, being such a huge part of his life. Visits to record shops, faithfully watching Top Of The Pops and writing and analysing song lyrics on your bedroom floor, I literally felt transported back to my childhood in the best possible way. I even made a playlist afterwards with most of the songs mentioned. (Gotta love a playlist!)
I have to add this one next as it also spurred me on to create a playlist! Do you remember the days where you'd make your friends (or crush) a mixtape with all your favourite songs? Daniel is the guy who made Alison's first mixtape and years later a text message to her from Daniel begins a beautiful story. I really enjoyed this for the nostalgia, the songs I hadn't heard before and the story of the one that got away.
To say this is crazy, sinister, confusing and an absolute page-turner is an absolute understatement. Beth hasn't seen her friend Flora for many years, since her children, Thomas and Emily were five and three. Until the day, twelve years later, she drives past Flora's home and sees her, with Thomas and Emily, who are still five and three. This hooked me throughout and I was desperate to find out what on earth happens.
Sometimes a book comes your way that takes you to a different place and gives you a form of escapism that you haven't had in the longest time. This for me was just that and is definitely going to be one that I come back to time and time again. It has a little bit of everything - a coming of age story, murder mystery and suspense. The writing is beautiful, I was genuinely sad when it ended and I could "see" every part of the story in my imagination. Gorgeous.
And there you have it! Believe me, it took me some time to narrow down almost eighty books to just ten but I think I've done it. This year? Of course, I want to read more. I have discovered the Goodreads App, which is the sort of geeky book app that promises to spur me on even more. I have already read two books since the start of the New Year and I have a feeling I already have a definite contender for next years top ten!
Which books did you read in 2020 that you loved? Let me know if there are any I've missed, I'm always on the lookout for more to take to my coal bunker!