And this brings us to the non-fiction category! I categorised this further into the subsections Self Development, Educational Reads, Life Stories, Adventure Stories and Survival Stories so that you can browse them more easily. Let’s have a look!
Only one book in 2020 falls into this category, which is quite unusual for me! The one self development book I read last year was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In this book Ruiz shares a four step code of conduct of sorts that he takes from what he calls ancient Toltec wisdom. Through those four agreements, he aims to reduce limiting beliefs and self doubt whilst increasing joy and being present. I really liked the four agreements themselves – Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, Always Do Your Best – and how in each chapter he went into more detail what each one means for him. There is enough room to interpret what they mean for the reader and how to make them applicable for your life. A good read, but definitely a little on the spiritual side of things.
Honestly, I am not certain if this first one on the list for educational reads belongs here, you be the judge of that. Psychopathinnen (female psychopaths – the psychology of female evil) by Lydia Benecke is a book full of case studies of female psychopaths and their crimes, grouped together by their psychological condition and/or diagnosis. I would describe it as true-crime mixed with information around the underlying conditions and circumstances that led to the crime. The psychologist Benecke describes the current state of research and her personal experience in the field. A fascinating yet depressing read.
The two books that follow are certainly amongst my favourite books of the year. You already know that I am a massive fan of Caitlin Doughty and her work. I love her books, her podcast, Ted Talks, her YouTube channel – and of course the work that she does and the values she promotes. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking her out – you will walk away knowing more than when you came. And you probably will have giggled somewhere along the way as well.
Her books are no different; I had read her then-latest publication, From Here to Eternity, first when it was published, which instantly made its way into my all-time fave books.
In 2020 I followed up with her first publication Smoke Gets in Your Eyes whilst I eagerly awaited the next one, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is Doughty’s account of her education and first experiences in the industry as a death-positive mortician. It’s about the life lessons she learned during her work in the crematorium, about grief, taking care of our dead, attitudes towards death and dead bodies, dignity, and the logistics of it all. All peppered with her unique voice and sense of humour. It’s a book that revolves entirely about the death industry, yet it is full of lessons about life, society and yourself. If you pick up only one book from this list, make it this one!
Equally as entertaining but with a different approach is her latest book Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?
In this one, Caitlin answers kid’s questions about death and dead bodies. Her explanations are straight forward, humorous and combat misconceptions or irrational believes about death and dead bodies. You can read this one chapter by chapter – each question has its own little section which makes this book one you can ingest in chunks if you’d like. Super educational and really entertaining. Loved it!
If I was to pick another favourite amongst the books I read in 2020 No Time Like The Future by Michael J. Fox would be it. I’ve liked him since I was a child because Back to the Future III has always been my favourite movie. Only later did I understand that the real person behind Marty McFly is a pretty cool dude as well! This book gives an impressive insight into his family life, his health struggles (physically and mentally), his attitude towards it, his charity and much more. He has such a captivating writing style, comes across so genuinely likeable and boy does he have stories to tell! Big, big recommendation!
Completely different story but equally as interesting was The Ride Of A Lifetime by Robert Iger. In it Iger describes his journey to the position of CEO at Disney, his career and life leading up to it as well as what it meant to him to fill this role. He talks fondly of his beginnings in the media and of all the people and experiences that prepared him for Disney. Hearing about massive business decisions by someone who arguably remained quite human despite his position (or at least worked hard to portray that image) is indeed fascinating. Even more so if you have an interest in the brand and what goes in it to make and keep it what it is.
Please note, if you have problems with Iger always trying to play the good guy, his reaction to legitimate criticism and him rationalising acquisitions and brand decisions you might have strong feelings about, this book might anger you.
Everything ‘LeJog’ interests me greatly, so Free Country by George Mahood was no exception. Two guys, no gear. Zero money, one objective: To cycle all the way from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. Entirely relying on the kindness of strangers, problem-solving skills, improvisation, determination and sheer luck they work their way north and describe their journey in a very endearing way. The random acts of kindness and surprising encounters are heartwarming. I have to admit that their banter and their tough love with each other was a little bit on the rough side for my sensitive mind, but I enjoyed it regardless! If you need your faith in humanity restored, pick up this book.
And if you need your faith in yourself restored, pick up Ignore The Fear by Fiona Quinn. A powerful account of the importance of getting yourself to the starting line of an adventure. Maybe even more so than the finish line. You’re scared? Don’t entirely have it all figured out? Will probably encounter problems or push back at some point? Yes. But you started anyway. So here you are, you might as well continue. Her adventure, SUPping from Land’s End to John o’ Groats (oh, that one again… one might think I have a personal connection to that route…) didn’t go smoothly from start to finish. She had problems with gear, people, planning, weather… you name it. And she was scared. And you know what – she did it anyway.
Here we are, last but not least are the survival stories. Also only one this year. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer describes the unfortunate series of events that unfolded on Mount Everest in May 1996 that led to one of the deadliest days in the history of the mountain. Journalist Jon Krakauer was part of one of the groups on the mountain as the fatal storm hit. He gives a personal account of the events from his perspective and memory – writing it all down clearly a cathartic act for him. He’s been heavily criticized for publishing his version of events. In the chaos of it all unfolding, it’s inevitable that different people remember it differently and that your altitude sick brain gets stuff wrong. Other books from other members of the different groups on Everest that day are available as well as a bunch of documentaries and talks to add to the variety of voices about the events. As many people that experienced the disaster did not make it out alive to tell their version I found it helpful to turn to other sources afterwards for a rounder picture. To me his account was gripping and the book hard to put down, I do, however, appreciate, that this is not the complete and only version of what had happened.
And that is it – these are all the books I read in 2020. I do hope that you may have found your next read somewhere in the article and if so, do comment below which one!
As promised to finish off here are my top three favourite reads of the year:
- Smoke Gets Into Your Eyes, Caitlin Doughty
- No Time Like The Future, Michael J. Fox
- After The End, Claire Mackintosh