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Our favourite books we’ve read in 2020

We invited Alex from Sheffield’s finest book shop, La Biblioteka, to join us for our final favourites of the year.

As a bookseller, people assume you read LOADS of books. While this is usually the case this year has been a little different, what with one thing and another. While I read Mini Rabbit Not Lost at least 12 times a day, pivoting a business daily, long walks delivering books and doom scrolling the news leaves little space to read too much.

Thankfully I read Do Pause at the beginning of the year, as we were decompressing from last year, and unknowingly it has helped me through this one. In Do Pause, Robert Poynton argues, clearly and proactively, that regular pauses – in life, work – are more than just ‘time off’ but time to do work of a different kind. Resetting, regenerating, reconnecting, with yourself and others, and deepening our thinking in light of new stimuli.

It’s a book I’ve returned to frequently this year. And one I’ve been recommending to anyone over the age of 16. In this oddest of years where pauses have been enforced, to different degrees, it’s a useful guide to this opportunity to ‘enjoy the view’ along the path we are each on. [Alex Maxwell]

I’ve really found it hard to get stuck into reading this year, but my dad gave me Rummage recently. I’m looking forward to reading it and hopefully feeling inspired for some re-use projects at home. [Claire]

In a vague effort to be useful as a GCSE parent, I caught up with a bit of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and really enjoyed it. [Jess]

My favourite book for 2020 is This Golden Fleece by Esther Rutter. A cosy and inspiring story that takes you on a journey of Britain’s knitted and social history. You find out that wool was at the centre of history in Britain and shaped communities across the country.

Each region had an intimate relationship with wool, creating a strong identity that you could tell where a person was from just by looking at their jumpers, I mean, that’s just amazing. It’s a joy to read for all yarn enthusiasts but not only! [Julie]

In lockdown, I had a good look through all my books and found that I own precious few written by female authors [and have since endeavoured to rectify this]. However, a while ago I had picked up Ann Quin’s Berg and had been desperate to read it but never found time.

So I did and it was wonderful. Hard work in places. But Ann Quin has the most unique prose that reads at all sorts of different paces whilst simultaneously melting the distinction between internal and external dialogue. Would have loved to have hung out with her. Immense. [Liam]

This year’s favourite book for me would have to be Afropean by Johnny Pitts, purchased during the first lockdown. The book describes the journey of the author (a man of both African and European heritage) through modern-day Europe. A very insightful read that I couldn’t recommend enough. The author grew up in Sheffield too, a bonus! [Alex]

At the peak of the first lockdown when the world felt pretty gloomy I was given The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by my mum. You can’t help but smile when reading it with the beautiful illustrations, adorable characters and heartfelt messages throughout. It’s a book for everyone, old or young, happy or sad. The pages have been made into prints and even hung on hospital walls which says it all. [Mo]

I’m only partway through Alastair Campbell’s book on coping with depression but have already found it hugely powerful. I’m sure most of us have spent time somewhere in at least the middle reaches of his 10 point scale of depression, if even briefly. Living Better is a very frank and moving book and one I would recommend everyone read at some point. [Paul]

I really enjoyed this tale of a Detective set in 1920s Berlin. Babylon Berlin full of twists and turns but I especially enjoyed the rich descriptions of the Berlin architecture and nightlife of the time. It’s also set in a really interesting turning point in history just as the Natzi’s begin to emerge and I’m looking forward to reading the next few books in the series. [Alan]

I would encourage anyone and everyone to read Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. It should be added to the national curriculum. [Fera]