Writing

The Best Books I Read in 2020

I like to approach writing in the same way that I approached football: spending plenty of time in training. That pretty much translates as reading loads of books from lots of different authors in lots of different genres. I aim for at least one a week, and because there hasn’t been much else to do in 2020 I’ve managed to get through quite a few. I’ve listed my favourites below, split into three categories: sport, fiction and non-fiction.

SPORT

Both Sides by Nicklas Bendtner

I came to this book with low expectations having rashly bought it off the back of a Donald McRae interview in the Guardian. It turned out to be brilliant, well-written and engaging throughout. Bendtner doesn’t come out of it very well, but at least he explains why.

The Breath of Sadness by Ian Ridley

There’s a reason this book features in so many ‘Books of 2020’ lists. The Breath of Sadness covers Ian’s reaction to the death from cancer of his trailblazing and inspirational wife Vikki Orvice. Seeking solace from his grief by watching county cricket, what follows is deeply poignant.

Raised a Warrior by Susie Petruccelli

There’s a section in Susie’s book where she goes off the rails as she searches for her identity. It ranks among one of the best sections of a book I’ve read for a while. Raised a Warrior won the Vikki Orvice Prize, run by Floodlit Dreams, and deserves to be read widely.

Johnny Ball: Accidental Football Genius by Matt Oldfield

Matt is one of the best at his craft. His writing leaps off the page at you, full of energy and personality. Johnny Ball took me back to my days of primary school football tournaments and all of the joys that came with them. 

Europe United by Matt Walker

Football. Travel. What’s not to like?

FICTION

The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett

At over 3,000 pages this isn’t a quick read. Or it shouldn’t be. I’ve only recently got into historical fiction but I found myself reaching for each book as soon as I woke up and for at least an hour before bed.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier, too, is a recent discovery. I’ve loved everything of hers I’ve read and Rebecca was no exception. 

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

It’s ridiculous that it took me so long to read such an iconic book. 

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Normal People was absolutely brilliant. This was not quite as good, but still up there in the last year. Sally Rooney has got a great style of writing and develops her characters well. 

The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer by Joel Dicker

Joel Dicker’s Harry Quebert Affair remains among my favourite books. It’s tough to replicate such a brilliant story, and though not a classic The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer proved to be a real page turner. 

NON-FICTION

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Anything by Malcolm Gladwell is always going to make a best books list. There are knowledge bombs left, right and centre in every page as Gladwell details why certain things happen to be successful. Disclaimer: it’s not what you may think. 

A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins

I picked this up through Bookbub (if you haven’t signed up I’d recommend doing so – it’s a daily email with all the latest eBook offers) and as with the Bendtner book, didn’t have massive expectations. What followed was a thoroughly readable tale of Atkins’s time as a very middle class man in prison after being found guilty of a tax evasion scheme. It’s his sections as a ‘listener’ which are most revealing, while the prison system itself emerges as woefully underfunded.

UP NEXT IN 2021

The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Born Fighter by Ruqsana Begum with Sarah Shephard

Blue & Gold Passion by Dan Williamson

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

War Journey: Diary of a Tamil Tiger by Malavaran

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