I read so much more in 2020 than I have in years. It was in part a conscious decision – I find reading (paper) relaxes me much more than reading on a screen, and I’ve been setting up online courses and this website since 2018, I missed the ‘old’ days when i wasn’t online all the time. Little did I know the pandemic would hit and we’d be forced inside anyway..!
Turning everything off and opening up a paperback book is a wonderfully therapeutic activity. Did you know it’s called bibliotherapy?
Well I started 2020 with the goal of reading more and since I’m quite a slow reader, my goal was 24 books and I made it to 20.
Here’s my reading round-up for 2020. My top three books (in no particular order!) were Maid by Stephanie Land, The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel, and How To Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. Each of these books helped me with my teaching memoir, writing a memoir (based on a found manuscript), and writing a book proposal. Here’s the rest…
Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
I bought this as a pre-order when Marie ran an online competition, all you needed to do was forward the receipt for pre-order to be part of her live coaching program. Way to end up on the New York Times bestseller list, Marie! Loads of writers don’t understand how important pre-orders are to overall book sales (and who stocks your book) so it was good to see her strategy. I noticed Rachel Rodgers is running a similar competition for her forthcoming We Should All Be Millionaires.
As for the book itself? It was pretty light, to be honest, and didn’t teach me much that I didn’t already know. I appreciated the glimpse into Marie’s days as an early entrepreneur / life coach when she was also bartending and in her twenties, paying off her loans. I love learning about the early days of those who end up really successful.
Inside Out by Demi Moore (with Ariel Levy)
The Rules do not Apply by Ariel Levy
I’ve summarised these two memoirs here.
I also read Thyroid Healing by Anthony William AKA Medical Medium and Liver Healing by Anthony William. Highly recommend if you have auto-immune issues and / or hashimotos, like me. Some really good recipes, and I do agree with the assumption that Hashimotos is a reaction to a possible infection. It explains the waves of fatigue and fever issues…
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Interesting take on why we do what we do and how to change.
I Feel Bad about my Neck by Nora Ephron.
Amazing how many of the references in Ephron’s essays have aged, since the advance of the internet. Remember when we thought mobile phones were as technologically-advanced as we’d get?
Maybe you should talk to someone by Lori Gottlieb
I bought this book as we went down into lockdown in Melbourne from my favourite independent bookstore. Such a fantastic memoir. A work of art, structurally. 10/10! I’ve written more about it here.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
This was like the more readable version of the Duhigg habit book. I also used some of the tools and techniques in the re-vamped version of my 90 Day Memoir course. Best take-away – track your good habits and make them easy – make your bad habits DIFFICULT. And have a visual reminder that you use to track!
Quit Like A Woman by Holly Whitaker
I wrote more about this excellent non-fiction book and High Achiever here.
High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins
How to write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen
Using Larsen’s book, alongside an example of a successful memoir proposal that sold well (my agent sent me), I managed to write my book proposal for L’Australien Du Train (working title) and I’m really proud of it. Highly recommend Larsen’s book if you’re writing a memoir or non-fiction book proposal!
You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero.
This self-help book is fun and light and positive, just what the doctor ordered when you’re living through a pandemic and most media is contributing to a feeling of powerlessness
Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel.
This book is wonderful and really unique. I’d searched for examples of ‘found manuscript’ memoirs for my book proposal and someone in one of my writing groups recommended Red Leather Journal. Just an incredible tale, and so beautifully revealed. Koppel found the diary in a dumpster and set out to discover the woman behind the words. If you love history, memoir and old New York stories, you will love this memoir. Beautifully written.
You Are A Badass Making Money by Jen Sincero.
Again, i love Sincero’s ‘voice’, her sense of humour and the examples from her own life. I loved her descriptions of her double life where she was in a punk rock band living in her parent’s garage, starting a coaching business, hoping no-one recognised her in her marketing conferences. I could identify with so much of her story! Don’t be deceived by the playful nature of her writing, some of the money mindset exercises she shares are very deep. Nothing triggers our ‘stories’ more than unpacking our attitude to finances!
Resistance by Tori Amos.
I love Tori Amos and loved learning the stories behind some of my favourite songs such as Yes, Anastasia, but overall I found this memoir quite disjointed and patchy. I’m not sure if she was helped by a ghostwriter, but it wasn’t a smooth read. It was also quite harrowing, particularly the entire chapter on female genital mutilation. I had some pretty awful nightmares when i read it before bed.
The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester.
I love Lester’s books because even though they’re fiction (historical fiction) you learn about the unsung female heroines of the first and second world wars. This particular novel dove into the first female fighter pilots and all they endured. What struck me was that because they were considered less valuable as ‘assets’, they were given such dangerous and dodgy conditions – they had to be physically lifted out of the aircraft when they landed as they’d frozen in their seats. And, of course, Ravensbruck hasn’t had nearly enough attention in my mind. Very harrowing, but also very beautiful story in terms of understanding the strength and endurance of women in the second world war. These women were truly incredible and I love that Lester is bringing their stories out of the archives and into popular and commercial fiction.
The Paris Hours by Alex George
Again, historical fiction but it read like non-fiction, because it was a loose exploration of lives intersecting with Proust, Picasso, Josephine Baker and Hemingway in Paris in the 1930s. It was so beautiful to walk the streets of Paris in this book – I miss it, so. With reading, we can still travel. I loved returning to the streets of Montmartre! The author explores the less well-known parts of Paris, which is another reason I loved it, plus some of the lines were exquisite, and the finale comes together like a musical piece.
This book wins my cover award – isn’t it beautiful?
Blood Vows by Helen Cummings
Helen is my great uncle’s granddaughter, so I like to call her my cousin (!) and she sent me a copy of her book while we were in lockdown, just as a gift. This memoir is about her marriage and escape from a man who then went on to kill his second wife, daughter and himself. A harrowing and all-too-familiar story of coercive control, abuse of power and violence. Sadly, as i was reading the story I kept thinking I’d read it before. Because I do – every second week, in the news, here in Australia, where family violence is at epidemic proportions.
Unfortunately, I can’t find a link to share it for sale anywhere, it must be out of print.
Maid by Stephanie Land
I read this in about two days over Christmas, and I can’t recommend this memoir highly enough.
I’m going to do a more comprehensive review where I examine how Land used the hero’s journey to tell her story because it is truly a heroic tale with all the ingredients of myth that you can relate to: Land had minimal family support and through a sequence of bad events, ended up living in a homeless shelter with her young child.
The memoir explores how certain cultural and societal constructs mean it’s basically considered a ‘sin’ to be so poor in the United States, how complex and hard it is to get any welfare or support, and how she dragged herself out and up by the skin of her teeth. Loads of aspects of life in poverty in the US amazed me, but couldn’t believe how low minimum wage is in the United States, and how welfare recipients weren’t allowed to have visitors if they were living in public housing. The punishment and cruelty to the ‘have-nots’ in the States is completely baffling. From the cleaning companies who made her pay for supplies and drive half an hour to a job where she’d be lucky to take home $5 to the people in the supermarket shouting at her for using food stamps… she does an amazing job of explaining things so clearly without being self-pitying. It’s truly staggering what she was able to endure and overcome. And – like with any great hero’s tale, the end is very satisfying.
Maid is now being made into a Netflix series.
But read the book, first! It’s hard to put down.
What about you – What did you read this year? What do you recommend?
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