My books of the year 2020 – Part 1: TL;DR

My favourite fiction, non–fiction and business books of 2020.

When the going gets tough, the tough get reading.

We all had extra burdens to carry in 2020. People found their different consolations, found their own way through. Reading was one of mine, but not all of the time. 

I read less during the first, darkest phase of lockdown in March and April, due to a vicious run in with Covid-19 itself combined with intense challenges at work, not least dealing with the shift to remote working, furloughs for some of our colleagues and supporting our clients as they took stock of their businesses. I was too exhausted to focus on reading a book for long. As the spring came and we recalibrated the business, reading returned as a source of pleasure, inspiration, relaxation and a place to reflect.

I also wrote a great deal this year. Together with my Brilliant Noise colleague Stephanie Hubbard we published a short book about influencers and marketing on Amazon called Cut Through The Hype. Note: it’s good for apps but not e-readers as it is a print replica – hit me up if you want a PDF. As well as being well-written (ahem) it is a design triumph thanks to our design colleagues.

I also developed a habit of writing to my company every day, something that worked really well for myself and my team. In all I wrote about 80,000 words in daily letters to my company. A few of them I adapted as articles for LinkedIn (my favourite and most personal was Invisible Bombs, but the one people mention most is What Colour is Your Mood). I’ll talk more about this approach to reflection and communication more another time, but it’s something I intend to continue doing even when we are through the other side of the pandemic. 

In three categories – fiction, non–fiction and business – I’m picking my three to five best reads and may mention a handful of others I recommend. The pool these come from is the 50–60 books I read this year. If you’re interested you can see all of these on my Goodreads profile along with – sometimes – reviews. 

Partly because we’re back in lockdown over the Christmas holidays, I’m deeply valuing the opportunity to reflect on a year’s reading. I’ve gone longer in my writing about some of the books as usual, and will break this post into a short series to make it more digestible in blog form, and also to try out the newsletter format for the first time. So there will be four main posts – this introduction, the three genres and then a couple of bonus posts about The Mirror and the Light, which was my absolute favourite book of the year

The complete list of the year’s best reads: 


  1. The Mirror & The Light, by Hilary Mantel

  2. Outline, by Rachael Cusk 

  3. Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie


  1. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo–Lodge

  2. Daemon Voices, by Philip Pullman 

  3. Arabs: A 3,000–Year History, by Tim Mackintosh–Smith


  1. Lessons From A Warzone, Louai Al Roumani

  2. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, by Shoshana Zuboff

  3. No Rules Rules, by Reed Hasting and Erin Meyer

This is the sixth year of writing a review of the best books I read this year. Previous years are here for the reading: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019