If you’re looking to start your year right, direct your gaze to books! They are momentous teachers, and we love them. Due to COVID-19, lockdowns may have rekindled many information seekers’ love of books already, or they may have introduced nonreaders to words in a whole new light! Either way, here are 10 of the best books to read and put on our bookshelves as we meet the year to come.
Written by Nobel Memorial Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, this book is simply brilliant. It’s engaging. It’s a must read. It’s a book about experiences and human nature, an interesting take on behavioural economics and a study of systems of thought. The pages are quite thin, the information is dense, so if you really aren’t much of a reader but want to know what Kahneman has to offer, download the audiobook.
A book of business, innovation and philosophy. It’s for those who are playing with the idea of how to start a company (but more than that, it’s about how to build the future) and how to save the world. Peter Thiel explores the relationship between technology, society and historical moments.
Historic fiction at its finest, Tan Twan Eng’s debut novel is an utterly remarkable feat. Written in lush prose, it’s a story of love, family, war and of acceptance and defeat. This is one of those books that once read, the story will follow you everywhere. Well worth a try, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an audiobook, you’ll want to hold the pages.
This is a book to remind all adults how important the imagination is. Set in a secret underground world, a labyrinth tells a cleverly woven story of discovery. Erin Morgenstern writes with enough space to leave the reader to think for themselves. Magic is in the everyday if we are open to seeing it, you won’t want to put this book down.
A powerful, challenging, and crucial read on the fundamentals of what it means to be human. Michel Serres writes with an ambitious philosophical narrative and references art, poetry, science, philosophy and literature. He covers matter, space, thought and life. Non existence and nonsense. This is a book that you will continue to read even with the pages of it shut.
If you’re craving a mystery novel that will lift you up and into an entirely new world, this is it. Simply and personally, this is one of the best books I have read in 2020. Delia Owens writes a story that asks how isolation influences our behaviour, it will question your relationship with not only your perception of yourself but also, I hope, it will allow you to fall in love with nature. Nature holds many many secrets, even some of our own without us ever noticing. Read this book.
An ultimate vintage (1977) classic. Roland Barthes writes this book for everyone and anyone who has ever been in love, or thought themselves immune to it. This book is filled with references that range from Goethe’s Werther to Winnicott, from Plato to Proust, from Baudelaire to Schubert. Love is universally known or misunderstood to all of us, and it is possibly the most contemplated idea of all. This book is an analysis of the experience and language of love.
Madeline Miller retells Homer’s epic iliad in an extraordinary way. An almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart. This book is truly unputdownable, it is profoundly moving and I was completely floored by the sincere and complex beauty of the story, which felt undeniably relatable and I feel it will be for all who reads it.
Raven Smith’s debut novel is a refreshing and irresistibly funny book that explores everyday modern life and culture. The book echoes a witty and curious stream of consciousness that will surely entertain anyone who reads it, some parts may even feel like your own stream of consciousness. Hilarious and unapologetic, I loved it.
Vulnerably honest, Allie Brosh’s autobiographical comic will have you in fits of laughter. I’m not a reader of comics in general, but this one was well worth trying. The story is filled with general musings on life and as Bill Gates reviewed it has “the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian.” Brosh is also the author of the bestselling book Hyperbole and a Half, which was named the Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Best Humor Book of the Year.
As the new year approaches, so do our usual expectations, and the first thing to unpack, instead of pack, into 2021 is a little less of those expectations, because we never really know what will happen next over the course of our lives or the lives still to come. 2020 has surely taught all of us that, right? At the same time, preparation is a key part of any success, whether that be within yourself or your business. Set yourself up to be caught and picked up by yourself if you were to fall, and trust that your plan is flexible enough to find your path again!
2020 hasn’t taught us to let go of our plans altogether, but it has allowed us to step back from them, to tweak and adjust them with the same goals in mind. When an ideal outcome is swept from under our feet with no warning, it’s so difficult (for lack of a better word) to zoom out and see what options we have left. However, the collateral damage caused by a plan failing, when looked at from a disconnected perspective, usually isn’t as overwhelming as the collateral damage felt when looked at from the thick of it.
No matter how much we wish for things to be different, no matter how badly we dream of a different past, the ‘should-ofs’ and ‘would-ofs’ will not change an irrevocable truth—we must go on. To attempt changing our perception of the world as it is, we must first let go of what our perception of the world will be. There is nothing certainly more than what simply is, so why not enjoy it?
Innovation is in a league of its own, it will happen with or without you, because there is always someone out there attending to an idea. We have been forced into questioning what makes our own lives worth getting up for this year, with many losing their jobs, friends or family members, finding reason to keep going has become paramount. 2020 has also allowed us to miss what we hadn’t allowed ourselves to see as there for the taking before, what’s next on your bucket list? Just decide, and do, no matter the obstacle.
A lot of us have also been gifted with time, time that we already had before, but felt too busy or pressured to use. Time runs faster than we remember to remind ourselves, grief on any spectrum has made us realise to truly live in our time fully (even if that means sitting still and finding calm). It has introduced us to having our hearts on our sleeves, even for those who never unshielded it before. The worst that can come out of showing your love, for fear of it not to be met in return, is freedom and truth. What’s so bad about that?
This is a big one. At some point this year, each and every one of us found our boundaries in some way or another. From turning off the news, muting notifications, finding distance from social media and self comparison. Also from relationships, realising those that affected you negatively and taking steps back to buffer the bad energy.
We may have even done this subconsciously, so find a moment right now to see where you find newly enforced boundaries, and pat yourself on the back for honouring how you want to feel and live, because that is what these boundaries do. They allow you to value your worth, which is infinite. No other person or thing should make you question that. A last thought on this, is that you don’t need to respond to others right away, and work is not everything, you have choices even when you can’t see them. Your energy is only yours to spend.
A lot of the time we ignore what is around us, even in our own homes. Having spent so much time indoors this year, the space we live in has become a character in itself. We have changed it to adapt to what we need, we have not only noticed, but perhaps also fixed what was bothering us about the space too. We may have decided that we need a complete change of location, decoration or people within our space. Nature has found centre stage for many of us, because it is not uncommon for us to yearn for what we can’t have. As lockdowns release us, which they will eventually, what will you surround yourself by, or what changes have you made already?
If you have at some point reached the absolute threshold of your pain, grief, anger or loneliness tolerance and surrendered to your rock bottom moment, notice that you are not in it anymore right now as you read this. That moment has passed, and if you are at rock bottom right now, or if your moment hasn’t arrived yet, remember that it will pass. Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to find and lean on comfort. We all have desperate moments, but because we all have them, it does not mean that your desperate moments are any less important.
Humanity, over all, has significantly shown up this year. Not only have protests for all necessary reasons reached tipping points towards creating change and influencing hope within communal interests, especially within the younger generations, but the global pandemic has pushed many of us as individuals to seek community locally. Be it community centres, local coffee shops or walks with neighbours. Also within online social groups, or organisations supporting mental health and even online educational programmes, we have all been introduced to a newly found platform of free discussion that may not have been typically engaged with before.
Tomorrow, next week or even the next five minutes are founded in uncertainty. This has in fact, always been the case, but it has been bred into society that what we desire must and will be obtained in an instant. COVID-19 has forced us to wait, to be patient for an outcome that is beyond our control and potentially opposing our initial desires, but because of this, many of us have grown to trust in our own patience and therefore release the fear that goes hand in hand with uncertainty.
These are all lessons to be learned, and they are all lessons that humans have not been taught for the first time, although it may feel like it from time to time. Change is gradual as well as abrupt, but our ability to adapt is phenomenal. If we pack these 10 lessons into our 2021 pockets, and every year after that, then 2020 will stand for the start of a truly valuable life for all of us.