Top 10 2020 Reads

As an avid bookworm since childhood one positive thing to come out of 2020 for me was the additional time to read. The cancellation of A level exams last March meant that for the first time in a long while I could devote some of my limited energy to reading for pleasure instead of academic purposes. 

To be quite honest I surprised myself with how many books I managed to get through. Having not picked up a fiction book until the March of 2020 and my move to university in September interrupting my reading spree, I still got through 35 books, the equivalent of 11325 pages. Certainly the most I’ve ever read in a year. 

I know that many of you who read my blog are also of the bookish kind so I thought I would take the opportunity to share my top 10 books of 2020. They are listed in no particular order, given that even narrowing them down to 10 was quite the challenge. Attempting to rank them would have been near impossible. 

  1. Girl in the Window- Penny Joelson 

Due to her ME Kasia is mainly housebound. She observes the world from her window, nothing out of the ordinary ever happens- until one day. Kasia sees what she thinks is a kidnapping but she wasn’t the only one who witnessed it. So did the girl in the window across the street. When she approaches the neighbours she is told there is no girl living there- can she trust her own eyes?

Witness the story unfold as Kasia tries to uncover the truth, whilst trying to navigate the very unpredictable nature of ME. From pacing to relapses and mobility aids it gives an incredibly accurate insight into life with ME.  

If you have been around for a little while you will know that Girl in The Window holds a very special place in my heart. You can find out more about thoughts from this blog post: Disability Representation in Books: Girl in The Window. 

  1. Are we all Lemmings and Snowflakes?- Holly Bourne 

Olive is struggling to cope with the world, the noise of daily life is just too much for her to bear. She’s getting closer and closer to the edge. Her mental health is plummeting and following a disturbing episode during her father’s birthday celebrations, she agrees to attend Camp Reset, the country’s first residential facility for mental wellness solely for young people. Struggling to engage in the program, Olive takes matters into her own hands devising a treatment program with the help of nerdy Lewis. Soon her idea snowballs into a large scale project focused upon the contagious nature of kindness. An incredibly valuable read for young people in today’s society. 

  1. Dear NHS: 100 Stories to say Thankyou- Compiled by Adam Kay

In a year where the entire country has become more appreciative of the NHS than ever before, Dear NHS has a vast array of contributors including: Stephen Fry, Emma Watson, Alex Brooker, Miranda Hart and Malala Yousafzai, sharing their encounters with the NHS either as patients themselves or as a concerned family member that NHS staff comforted during the uncertainty of their loved one being unwell. 

The book is home to a multitude of heartwarming stories, that just made me so incredibly grateful to every member of staff working on the frontline in these unprecedented times. A particular favourite story of mine comes from Jack Whitehall. He describes the moment he met George, who was fighting Ewing’s Sarcoma at the Oak Centre in the Royal Marsden. Expecting to find George in bed Jack was concerned when this was not the case, he needn’t have worried as he soon found George and his brother playing football in the corridor. Jack then became the goalkeeper as George took a penalty. Jack thought to himself “whatever you do DON’T save this penalty. If you don’t let him score you are going straight to hell”… Jack only went and saved it.  

  1. Speechless- Kate Darbishire 

Eleven year old Harriet has just started secondary school, she is subjected to daily ridicule which makes making new friends hard enough. But for Harriet things are complicated by the fact she has Cerebral Palsy. She is a wheelchair user and is unable to talk. For someone who has a lot to say this is frustrating. Fiery, determined Harriet becomes even more independent when her Grandmother has to look after her and her older brother Jake. Without parents around Jake begins to act strange, Harriet notices and knows he’s in trouble but what can she do when her Grandmother is too busy worrying about nail polish to care? 

Whilst reading this book, I couldn’t help but notice just how well Kate handled the portrayal of Harriet’s Cerebral Palsy. It was only once I had read the book I found out the reason why. Kate’s daughter has cerebral palsy and spent almost a decade working in a special needs school.  

  1. Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People- Frances Ryan 

Frances Ryan writes through harrowing personal stories about the austerity crisis and the direct impact this has upon disabled individuals in all areas of their lives. As a someone who grew up with disabled family members and then became disabled myself I have seen first hand some of the impact the austerity crisis has had not only within my family but among others in our local community. Despite already being aware of the issue, before reading this book I never realised quite how deep rooted and widespread the implications were and continue to be. The stark facts and figures throughout give real insight into the gravity of the situation the disabled community find themselves in. 

  1. Some Kids I Taught and what they Taught Me- Kate Clanchy

Kate Clanchy invites you to meet a classroom’s worth of pupils she has taught over the course of her 30 year teaching career. The book is an uplifting read, encompassing many of the qualities I wish to take forward in my future teaching career. Whether in the multicultural poetry group or in the inclusion unit a love for writing is fostered by all. We learn about the pupils’ backstories and how they came to be in Kate’s classroom. It is framed entirely around the young people and their beautifully insightful poetry. We watch the pupils’ lives be shaped  through the lens of a teacher that loves them, fears for them, and respects them in equal measure.   

  1. Half a World Away- Mike Gayle 

This tear-jerking read follows the story of two siblings who begin as strangers living completely different lives. Kerry was taken into care when she was a child , the life she left behind can never be forgotten. Now a struggling single mum, cleaning homes she could never afford, Kerry attempts to reach out to her long lost brother. 

Noah never looks back to where he came from. The life he is is living now as a successful barrister, with his wife and daughter, miles away from the life he lived before he was adopted as a baby. 

We see the relationship between the pair of them develop, starting a series of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both. 

  1. After the End- Clare Mackintosh 

The novel opens with everyone in a courtroom, waiting for a ruling that will change many lives. Max and Pip’s son is ill, really ill. The doctors suggest that withdrawing care is the only option for their baby boy. Putting the decision into the parents’ hands they cannot agree. What follows is heartbreaking as the parents take each other to court. We view the story from mainly the perspective of Pip and Max as they grapple with the what ifs and fight for what they believe would be best for their darling boy Dylan. But we also hear from Dr Khalili, Dylan’s doctor who highlights just how hard it is to not get emotionally involved with her patient’s. 

As I read the novel I found myself thinking what I would do in their shoes. I became so emotionally invested I was moved to tears at multiple points. No moment more so than after the end when I came to read the author’s note. And realised that Clare and her husband had themselves been faced with the decision of whether to keep their own critically ill son alive or withdraw his care.    

  1. They Both Die at the End- Adam Silvera

Mateo and Rufus wake up to the text that everyone dreads. Mateo and Rufus are going to die today, they don’t know how or when but they know it will be before the day is up. They begin the day as strangers and change each other’s lives over the course of this fateful final day. For varying reasons they both find themselves needing a friend for their End Day. Thankfully Last Friend is there for them both- an app to bring lonely people on their end day together. Mateo and Rufus are about to meet up for one wild final adventure,living an entire lifetime in a day   

  1. And the Stars Were Burning Brightly- Danielle Jawando 

This novel highlights a lot of issues that are very prominent in today’s society. From male suicide and grief, to bullying and growing up in the age of social media. We follow the story of Al learning his brother has taken his own life. The way in which he searches in desperation for answers he may never know for certain and fights to keep the memory of his beloved brother alive. Whilst retracing the steps of his brother he meets Megan, who also wishes to keep all burning brightly among the stars in everyone’s memories’.

What were your top reads of 2020? I’d love some recommendations- leave a comment or tweet me @AspectsOfAmber_  

One thought on “Top 10 2020 Reads

  1. Sue Atkinson says:

    Wow Amber, that’s quite a list. Some I’ve read, some not. I love Penny Joelson’s writing. I’ve just read ‘The good thieves’ by Katherine Rundell. It’s for 9 to 12s and it’s outstanding. Hope you are keeping safe


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