It’s the mooooost wonderful time of the year! Workbook season! And time to do my annual best books of the year list!
This has been an annual tradition for the last 8 years… to share the books that I’ve read for the last year that have I’ve adored. It started as a fun way for me to document and give gratitude for the book friends I’d made that year. And then I started hearing from readers who would order books based on my recommendations, and would adore them too! So it’s officially a Thing now!
As always, this is not a list of the best books published for the year – just the books I read in that year. As they say in High Fidelity, the records are organised autobiographically.
This year I have read a shit tonne of books… around 400.
So this will be the best of those 400!
HOW I READ THAT MANY
I started a project this year to read through my huge collection of unread books, and documented it publicly.
I shared here more about the project and what helped me increase the number of books I read.
I ran out of fiction books pretty quickly from my stash, so I did start supplementing my library with Kindle books as well. Fiction books are the way I give my brain a weekly holiday!
WHAT FORMAT I CONSUMED BOOKS IN
60% of the books I read were paperbacks
35% were Kindle books
5% were Audible audiobooks
I read stacks of paperbacks this year to wade through my library of them, and then gave them to friends and donated them to charity.
I have definitely started reading more Kindle books again. I think there’s a few reasons for that. After reading through and decluttering my book collection, I didn’t want to buy more because it’s a pain in the ass to move around, store and then find new homes for. I also feel even more conscious of environmental impact, so I appreciate there’s less product and delivery required for books. And I upgraded to a Kindle Paperwhite because I found the inbuilt lighting much better on my eyes.
I’m pretty sure next year I’ll be reading 80% of my books on Kindle… will see how we go though!
KINDS OF BOOKS I READ
I read my usual mix of business, personal development, racial justice, graphic memoirs and romance. The only changes from previous years are:
- my husband became obsessed with Bill Gates’ book lists after watching Inside Bill’s Brain. So he started reading Bill’s recommendations, discussing them in depth with me, and I began reading them too.
- my genre of romance changed! GASP! After years of subsisting on a steady diet of historical Victorian/Regency romance, I got bored this year with dukes fucking wallflowers, and started reading contemporary romance instead. GASP! I hope my excitement for historical trash returns. Probably when a new Tessa Dare book comes out!
RIGHTO! THAT’S ENOUGH PRE-AMBLE!
LET’S TALK BEST BOOKS!
Align + Attract – Kerry Rowett
This was one of my favourite business books of the year, written by one of my favourite mentors – Kerry Rowett.
It’s the parable of a woman building her online business, facing challenges and learning big lessons as she goes. It combines journalling homework for you to do as you go – I highly recommend you do it to get the most out of this book.
Honestly, this book left me gasping for breath – Kerry totally gets inside the brain about how we feel, and how we can continue turning up to shine our light bright.
Fully Alive – Pema Chodron (audiobook)
I’ve been on a Pema binge this year… I did two 8 hour+ online courses with her and listened to her audiobooks.
I deeply appreciate Pema’s teachings, and how she helps us develop resilience, compassion and stoicism.
Now, when bad things happen, I think of Pema’s voice: “Oh good… this is where my real learning happens!”
Many Love – Sophie Lucido Johnson
I like reading graphic memoirs to help me understand more people’s stories and lives. It’s such a beautiful empathy builder, I reckon. I feel like I’m getting to see into personal diaries with graphic memoirs!
I wasn’t super well versed in polyamorous relationships, so this book was really useful in understanding more.
Similar book from previous years’ lists: Queer
Onward – Howard Schultz
Maybe this is because of the stage of life I’m in, but I dig a book that’s about going through the hard stuff instead of just attracting only the good stuff.
This is the story of how Starbucks totally fucked up a bunch of things, and had to fix their company from the inside out.
It’s starkly honest and brilliant. It was a thrilling read.
I went through a stage a few years ago where I felt like my company was going in a direction I didn’t want it to be. I had to fight for it, and make so many changes to align it again. And it’s back to being exactly what I know it is supposed to be, but gosh it was hard to go through.
I feel grateful knowing that others go through similar phases, and come out the other side too.
Similar book from previous years’ lists: Risk & Resilience – Lisa Messenger
Gorilla and the Bird – Zack McDermott
A beautifully written memoir of a dude who works in mental health who suddenly finds himself experiencing psychosis and admitted to a mental institution. It’s tragic and funny and soaked with love all at once.
Pretending to be Normal – Liane Holliday Willey
This is a blend of memoir and how-to on living with Asperger’s Syndrome, especially as a woman. I’m an Aspie, and find it so useful to hear how my experience of the world is similar to others.
There’s a section in here on relationships and communication which completely rearranged my brain in an excellent way. Suddenly SO MUCH made sense!
Similar book from previous years’ lists: Aspiegirl – Rudy Simons
Quiet Power Strategy – Tara Gentile
I started this one years ago, and only completed it thanks to the challenge. It’s one of those books that is so simple and powerful that can take a while to read because it has so many nuggets of wisdom in it.
It’s for business owners and entrepreneur who want to harness their own strengths, and execute marketing in a way that works for them. It’s an anti-hustle book, which I love. And a pro-intentional productivity book, which is right up my ally.
Made By Hand – Mark Frauenfelder
This is the musings and stories of a dude who wants to become more handy and make things for himself – whether that’s musical instruments, brewing kombucha or raising chickens.
I adored it, and it’s inspired me to take up more DIY projects again!
Similar book: Living The Good Life by Linda Cockburn.
So You Want To Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
Oh mate. How do I even talk about this?
Maybe to say this:
When Ijeoma wrote this book, people found out her address (where she lives with her two children), and phoned in a report to police that someone had been murdered in her house. An armed SWOT team was sent to investigate.
And THAT is how much white people do NOT want to talk about race. And some will endanger the lives of a person who does.
That’s why we need this book more than ever.
Similar reads: I collate my favourite resources on Racism here.
The No Spend Year – Michelle McGagh
This was such an inspiring book – it’s the motivation behind my “Buy No More Books Until I Read What I Have” project this year.
Similar book: The Moneyless Man – Mark Boyle
This Will Be My Undoing – Morgan Jenkins
A thoughtful, searingly honest memoir on race in America. Beautifully written, and deeply thoughtful.
Similar reads: I collate my favourite resources on Racism here.
I Can’t Remember The Title But The Cover Is Blue – Elias Grieg
This is a short, hilarious book of actual conversations with customers at a book store.
I laughed my face off.
Say Hello – Carly Findlay
Carly is a wonderful, thoughtful activist for people with disabilities and appearance diversity.
We need more books like this in the world!
Educated – Tara Westover
This was a Bill Gates book recommendation – my husband bought it because it was a memoir from someone who was homeschooled (which we were doing with our kids). It’s so much more intense than that though. If you’re in the mood to read about what it’s like to grow up in a religious cult-like environment with scant regard for safety or education… this is the book for you.
The Highly Sensitive Person – Elaine N. Aron
This one has been out for about a billion years and is a huge bestseller. I can see why now – it’s a great resource if you are highly sensitive, experience sensory overload or have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Chillpreneur – DDT
DDT has been a mate of mine for a fair whack of time now, and she’s continued to astound me with her wisdom, grace and integrity. She is someone who walks her talk completely, and has so much gold to share. Highly recommend!
My favourite part of the book: DDT recommends beating perfectionism by using “placeholders” instead. So, if you’re creating a sales page, just do the best you can for today, as a placeholder for something you can fix later. And you may or may not get back to making it perfect, but the placeholder is there, getting you results anyway.
Similar book from previous years’ lists: Get Rich Lucky Bitch – Denise Duffield-Thomas
80/20 Principle – Richard Koch
So, I’m adding this in here because I love the 80/20 principle that much, and have been using it for YEARS.
I first read about it in Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week and have been applying it ever since… it’s why I’ve managed to create $10m in revenue while only working 10 hours a week.
Basically, the ye olden day mathematical principle (called “Pareto’s Rule”) says that 20% of your efforts create 80% of your results, and the remaining 80% of your efforts only create 20% of results.
In a business sense, that means you usually have 20% of your offerings creating 80% of your income.
For me, it means that I try and kill off the tasks that are 80% of my time and only 20% of my income, and only tend to the shit that makes a real difference.
Anyways, it was good to read a whole book about it, but honestly, just reading a 1000 word essay on the same topic would give you the same outcome.
Wilding – Isabella Tree
For me, this was one of the standout, world-changing books of the year.
Wilding documents an English farm being reverted to wilderness, and the flora and fauna miracles that occurred because of it.
It is a celebration of the innate wisdom of the natural world, and a clarifying call for conservation.
It’s a potent read during these days of climate change.
Plus, holy FUCK is it beautifully written.
BIG TIME RECOMMEND!
On Immunity – Eula Biss
Another one of Bilbo Gateso’s recommended reads.
“On Immunity” is a beautiful meditation – part memoir, part journalistic investigation – of that most contentious of topics… VACCINATION.
I said it! VACCINATION! Look at me go! I said it on the internet, and nothing exploded! I kid, I kid… that will happen later in my inbox I’m sure. And my VA’s eyes will glaze over, and she’ll delete. But I won’t know anything of it. I guess it’s that whole philosophical question: if a cranky email is sent, but nobody reads it, does it really exist?
I vaccinate my kids. And I also don’t care whether you do or don’t. I’ve got stacks of friends that do, and stacks that don’t.
I really did think this was a useful read on why people are so afraid of vaccinations, what created that fear, and how the research and statistics stack up. I think it’s a compassionate book as well: as a new parent, Eula talks about her parental fears as well, and how that plays into the debate. I found it useful.
Talking To My Country – Stan Grant
This was one of the most poetic, beautiful, heart-searing books I read this year. I reckon SMH was dead-on with their review. This should be required reading for Australians.
Stan is a celebrated ABC news and political journalist and is from the Wiradjuri people of New South Wales.
His story of growing up Aboriginal and how that affects his and his family’s life is incredibly important and heart-breaking all at once.
Similar reads: I collate my favourite resources on Racism here.
Bewildered – Laura Waters
I love me a good hiking novel. I imagine that it’s like I’ve walked the track, just without the blisters, bitching and moaning.
This is probably a bit like Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”, but more Kiwi. FUSH AND CHUPS!
Similar great books from previous years’ lists: Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time – Andrew Forsthoefel and The Salt Path: A Memoir by Raynor Winn
Oh holllly shittttttt this is a phenomenal book. Part graphic memoir, part scrapbook… this is an incredible illustrated memoir of a German woman investigating her shame of her homeland. Fuck, it’s powerful. And beautiful.
Kid Gloves – Lucy Knisley
Lucy is my all time favourite graphic memoirist. I’ve been so excited to read her book documenting her pregnancy… so much so I pre-ordered it! That’s how you know I love an author berrrrrrry much!
If you haven’t read a graphic novel/memoir before, I highly recommend starting with a Lucy Knisley book!
Similar great books from previous years’ lists: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen – Lucy Knisley
Special Exits – Joyce Farmer
An incredibly detailed graphic memoir documenting her elderly parent’s last decade or so of life.
If you’re dealing with elderly parents, this is potent, sobering and vulnerable medicine.
Similar books from previous years’ lists: Can’t We Talk About Something Pleasant? – Roz Chast
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
This is the least romance-y of my favourite fiction for the year.
It’s a little outside of my usual reads, but it sucked me in and I was fascinated.
Eleanor is an odd bod… and you find out why as the story unravels.
DAH DAH DAHHHHHHHHHHHH (that’s my suspense noise! ha!)
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill – Abbi Waxman
I suspect the character Nina is a bit ASD – she has a highly structured routine, lives in books, and can have meltdowns in public.
She’s also bonafide adorable. This is her love story.
One Day In December – Josie Silver
Guys, I need to be real with you. I read this early in the year. And I absolutely KNOW that I adored the shit out of it.
But I can’t remember the plot now.
It’s a love story. Over ten years. Around Christmas time. Probably.
With two people. Probably.
But it WAS very good. YOU ARE WELCOME.
Josh and Hazel’s Guide To Not Dating – Christina Lauren
Christina Lauren are one of my favourite contemporary romance authors and I read my way through their complete cannon this year.
This was my absolute favourite (probably because one of the characters is ASD! I love a good ASD romance!)
The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang
Speaking of ASD romance, Helen Hoang fucking NAILS it.
I love her characters that don’t quite manage to step. in. time. to the beat of normality.
The Flat Share – Beth O’Leary
This was HOLY SHIT CUTE. And I can’t WAIT for her next one!
Tiffy and Leon share a flat… but not just that… they share a bed.
They work opposite hours to each other, so they rent the same room, but never meet.
DAH DAH DAHHHHHHHH (suspense noise again! Look at me go! Professional book critic absolutely NAILING IT!)
Finding Hope at Hillside Farm – Rachael Lucas
I think there’s a Rachael Lucas book on every one of my favourite books list for a few years now!
She writes the most delightful romances, full of people and the places they live. Totally endearing.
Rachael is also now a mate of mine, so I’m basically a star fucker! HEYOOOOO!
We Met In December – Rosie Curtis
This is another one by my BFF Rachael Lucas, but this is written under her non de plume.
Do you see how fancy I am? I have AUTHOR FRIENDS. Who publish books under OTHER NAMES AS WELL.
The Girl He Used To Know – Tracey Garvis-Graves
Fuck, this is a beautiful, compelling book.
Romantic. With a tiny bit of mystery.
Two teenagers fall in best friendship. Then in love.
Then something… happens.
DAH DAH DAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (you know the drill!)
I loved this kid’s book so much I ended up making a video of me (and Beth) reading it out loud.
Honestly, it’s so fucking spiritual I can barely stand it.
This is a new series me and my kids discovered this year.
I fucking LOVE reading these books to them.
They are so freaking funny! Adorably illustrated! Action packed! ALL THE THINGS!
We just binge-read all ten in the series… I can’t wait for more to be released!
Other kids book favourites:
- Truly Tan series – Jen Storer
- Marge in Charge series – Isla Fischer
- Treehouse series – Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
And of course, I’ve still got a raging lady boner for my own workbooks… I created them ten years ago (!!!!) and they’ve now been used by over 350,000 people worldwide! The 2020 editions are just out, and I am SO FUCKING CHUFFED with them – I added some new sections!
Thanks for joining me on this magical book adventure!
Happy reading my treasures!