This certainly was a year like no other. With all its few ups and many downs, at least it got me back into reading. I was an extremely avid reader during my childhood, but in recent times I only finished a handful of books each year. Luckily, this has drastically changed in 2020 and it has enriched my life in every sense.
Altogether, I read 13,727 pages across 39 books.
23 of these were non-fiction, 16 fiction. The overwhelming majority of books were written in English (35), I only read four in German, my native language. I want to share some of my highlights from various categories that may help you decide which books to add to your reading list. At the end, you also find my complete list from this year with ratings (out of 10) for all books. If you are interested in my favourite scientific papers from this year you can find them here.
Feminist Fiction: Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo
This book shines through its unique voice and its perspective on a variety of people whose stories are cleverly intertwined. It is both extremely current and timeless and leaves you breathless as you plunge from one story into the next one.
Read this: to broaden your horizon.
Crime: Camino Island – John Grisham
First and foremost John Grisham is known as a legal thriller author, but his detour to general crime has been very successful! Camino Island is a fast paced, easy going novel, ideal to dive in and spend some hours curled up on the couch under a thick throw!
Read this: if you want to escape to a seaside town and like a game of hide and seek.
Popular Science: You’re Not Listening – Kate Murphy
This is one of the books that could be summarised in a TED talk or an article. In typical American fashion one core idea is presented from a variety of viewpoints and embellished with examples and anecdotes. While the hard facts of this book might be summed up on a few pages, I nevertheless advocate to read this book as it forces you to spend time with its ideas and concepts and nudges you to reflect on your own habits. It takes you on a well laid out journey about a key human competence: listening.
Read this: if you think you are a bad listener – and even more so if you think you are a good listener!
Feminist Non-Fiction: The Guilty Feminist – Deborah Frances White
Deborah Frances White is the creator of the amazing Guilty Feminist Podcast, “the podcast to discuss the big topics all 21st century feminists agree on, whilst confessing our “buts” – the insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that undermine our lofty principles.”. This sentiment is very much carried forward in the book! It is a great romp through everything that may concern women (and men!) around the topic of feminism. Frances White strikes the extraordinary balance of being both kind and informative, while always remaining funny!
Read this: if you have a vulva or (vaguely) know someone who has one.
The Very Best
Best Fiction: Middle England – Jonathan Coe
This book takes you on an extraordinary journey from a pre to a post-Brexit Britain. Coe excels at dissecting the topics from a variety of vantage points through the multiple characters he creates. Moreover, he paints a painstakingly accurate (and through that hilarious) picture of the United Kingdom. For example, his vivid three page long description of what a garden center is made me laugh out loud.
Read this: if you ever happen to be stuck in a pandemic.
Best Non-Fiction: Machtmaschinen (“Power Machines”) – Thomas Ramge and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
While this work builds upon some of the ideas from an earlier book by these two authors called “Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data”, it works perfectly as a stand-alone book and, in my opinion, expresses their ideas even better and in a more refined way. Drawing their concepts from various disciplines the authors provide a multifaceted view of why data monopolies pose a threat to our democracy and society. It’s a short and catchy read that works for any (or no) level of prior knowledge.
Read this: as soon as it is translated into English (probably April 2021)
Bonus: The books I did not finish
Too bad to finish: Sex Robots and Vegan Meat – Jenny Kleeman
I really do believe that the author had great intentions when she set out to investigate the prospects of life, death, food, and sex in the future. However, she obsessively focuses on obscure edge cases that don’t have any relevance for broader society (yet), and then complains just about that very fact. Her writing style is snarky and comes from a position of superiority that has no justification. Don’t bother with this.
Read this: if you really don’t trust my judgement.
Too good to finish: Invisible Women – Caroline Criado-Perez
This book really has it all: a strong, feminist agenda backed by an abundance of scientific evidence, wrapped up in a captivating writing style. Criado-Perez highlights the structural bias caused by data that women live with everyday. Her diligent research made me so angry with everything that is wrong in our world that I could only read a few pages in one sitting to contain my rage.
Read this. Fullstop. Just go and read it!
My 2020 Reading List
|1||Camino Island||John Grisham||336||F||ENG||8|
|2||Rogue Lawyer||John Grisham||352||F||ENG||5|
|3||The Partner||John Grisham||412||F||ENG||7|
|4||Finders Keepers||Stephen King||434||F||ENG||7|
|5||The Firm||John Grisham||544||F||ENG||6.5|
|7||Knots and Crosses||Iain Rankin||270||F||ENG||5.5|
|8||Camino Winds||John Grisham||304||F||ENG||6.5|
|9||The Guardians||John Grisham||384||F||ENG||6|
|10||The Hate U Give||Angie Thomas||464||NF||ENG||7.5|
|11||A time to kill||John Grisham||752||F||ENG||6.5|
|12||The Girl on the train||Paula Hawkins||408||F||ENG||3|
|13||Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race||Reni Eddo-Lodge||288||NF||ENG||7.5|
|14||Women don’t owe you pretty||Florence Given||220||NF||ENG||8|
|15||The Associate||John Grisham||370||F||ENG||6|
|16||Normal People||Sally Rooney||266||F||ENG||3.5|
|17||Middle England||Jonathan Coe||420||F||ENG||9|
|18||More Than Enough||Elaine Welteroth||320||NF||ENG||7.5|
|20||You’re Not Listening||Kate Murphy||220||NF||ENG||8.5|
|21||Girl, Woman, Other||Bernadine Evaristo||452||F||ENG||8.5|
|22||Personal MBA||Josh Kaufman||420||NF||ENG||7|
|23||Future Politics||Jamie Susskind||367||NF||ENG||8|
|24||The Guilty Feminist||Deborah Frances White||320||NF||ENG||8.5|
|25||Why we sleep||Matthew Walker||339||NF||ENG||8|
|26||Dirty Money||Marina Adshade||251||NF||ENG||7|
|27||Atomic Habits||James Clear||369||NF||ENG||8.5|
|28||Dear Oxbridge||Nele Pollatschek||258||NF||GER||7.5|
|29||Reinventing capitalism in the age of big data||Thomas Ramge and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger||225||NF||ENG||8|
|30||Sex at Dawn||Cacilda Jethá and Christopher Ryan||315||NF||ENG||7.5|
|31||Low Born||Kerry Hudson||239||NF||ENG||7|
|32||Generation Haram||Melisa Erkurt||188||NF||GER||7|
|33||Lean In||Sheryl Sandberg||180||NF||ENG||7|
|34||Machtmaschinen||Thomas Ramge and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger||200||NF||GER||8.5|
|35||Uncanny Valley||Anna Wiener||280||NF||ENG||6.5|
|36||Starkes Weiches Herz||Madleine Alizadeh||296||NF||GER||6|
|37||Learning from the Germans||Susan Neiman||391||NF||ENG||5.5|
|39||How Spies Think||David Oman||296||NF||ENG||8|