What I read in 2020

Here’s what I read in 2020. Or more accurately, everything I read until I got a dog and reading became impossible.

Lots of books on shelves

Non-fiction

The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells

A terrifying read on climate change, with a hint of optimism and a passionate call for change.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff

It was a worthwhile struggle to get through this beast of a book. It’s a landmark examination of how corporations are predicting, influencing and controlling our behaviour.

Because Internet, Gretchen McCulloch

I loved this book about the new rules of language, and how the internet is shaping them. Gretchen McCulloch’s enthusiasm and passion jump off the page and make for an engaging read.

On Bullshit, Harry G Frankfurt

This was a gift from my lovely collaborators Julius and Laura at Contentious when we started working together.

Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble

An important book that destroys the notion that technology is free from bias. This book provides lots of evidence for all the ways technology inherits the racism of the people who make it.

Natives, Akala

A must-read for people in the UK who want to understand racism in our country.

Sex, Power, Money, Sara Pascoe

A well-researched and funny look at the interplay between sex, power and money in human society, and the biology and anthropology behind it.

The Forager’s Calendar, John Wright

A brilliant birthday gift. I’m looking at hedges with a new perspective now.

The Five, Hallie Rubenhold

The Jack the Ripper story we never hear — that of the women who were murdered. Hallie Rubenhold gives a detailed picture of the lives of each of the five women in a way that gives them the dignity they’ve historically been denied.

Good Services, Lou Downe

Essential reading for anyone interested in service design.

The Multi-Hyphen Method, Emma Gannon

A book on how to have a multi-hyphenate career.

Memoirs

Just Kids, Patti Smith

I listened to this one (I love listening to memoirs). A masterclass in how to namedrop without sounding smug, and incredibly evocative writing.

Heavy, Kiese Laymon

Kiese Leymon’s memoir is a powerful, beautiful, emotional look at his body, his mind, his family, and the experience of being a Black man in America. Perhaps the best book I read this year.

Notes to Self, Emily Pine

An emotional collection of autobiographical essays about work, fertility, relationships and family.

Waterlog, Roger Deakin

A charming record of a year Roger Deakin spent travelling around Britain, swimming in lakes, rivers, and the sea.

Fiction

Raven Black, Ann Cleeves

I went to Shetland at the start of the year and Ruth, my lovely host lent me this crime thriller set on the islands. Not something I’d usually read, but I love reading books set in a place I’m visiting and enjoyed this.

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy

The final instalment in many futile attempts to like Cormac McCarthy. I can understand how good his writing is, but I can’t appreciate it.

Convenience Store Woman, Sakaya Murata

Loved this — a perfect short read about an unconventional woman trying very hard to belong in Japanese society.

Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, MaddAdam, Margaret Atwood

Perhaps a bit on the nose to read a trilogy about a deadly pandemic in the middle of a deadly pandemic, but I love Margaret Atwood.

84K, Claire North

A novel set in a dystopian future where surveillance capitalism has reached its final form.

The Wall, John Lanchester

More dystopia! This was great — it creates an oppressive world that really sucked me in and made me feel cold. (Read it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams

I was late to the bandwagon with this one, wasn’t I?

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

What a book. Yaa Gyasi’s incredible novel starts in 18th century Ghana and ends in contemporary America, taking in colonisation, slavery, the American Civil War and Great Migration on the way.

The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller

I love Madeline Miller’s retellings of Greek myths for their pure escapism.

False Value, Ben Aaronovitch

The Rivers of London series follows the adventures of a police officer/wizard and is a guilty pleasure of mine. I enjoyed this one, set in and around London’s Silicon Roundabout and the world of tech.

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