Books & Writers

Book Reviews of 2020 :: Part I

Every year since 2009, I’ve made a note of my reading habits.

I decided to begin tracking what I was already reading, and ended that 6-month period with 26 books read. I’m no longer reaching those kinds of numbers, but this is something I’ll be looking at for 2020. 

The problem I’ve having is that my life has slowly unravelled since 2014. From trying to build a career as an author to my mental health problems, moving houses and jobs, my mum’s cancer and bereavements in the family… 2019 was basically my unravelling; where I found myself back to square one a little bit.

I managed to read 8 books in 2019. 4 of which were read in December, and half of those were chosen because they were short.

So, I’m thinking carefully about my plans for 2020. Partly because I’ve fallen behind where I’d like to be, but because I’ve fallen behind in so many things.

I exercised 3x a week for 18 months solid. I cut sugar. I meditated regularly for years. I wrote 100,000-150,000 words of fiction each year without too much struggle. I blogged here every week. I read 12-26 books a year from 2009-2016.

I had these habits truly solidified into a life I enjoyed and felt right.

And now, I’m staring at the face of 2020 thinking how on earth am I to read more while also rebuilding even half of these healthy habits?

But, as the dates on these reviews may help to show: prioritising my reading is definitely working for me.


January :: How To Write This Book: Write, Publish & Market Your Business Bestseller – Laura Gale

5 Stars

I’ve been umming and erring about writing a handbook of all I know (and use in my business) and thought this book would be a helpful part of that process. I write fiction, and article-style blog posts, but long form non-fiction is new for me.

With that question in mind, it was helpful. Clearly written, fairly up-to-date and full of timeless ideas, I definitely got some clarity on marketing. For now, I’m not going to write my book, which feels a bit odd to me having just read a book about this, but it did exactly what I was seeking: it helped me decide if this was my next step or not.

As someone who knows very little about online ads, I learned a few general tips that will help me generally understand the funnels a little bit more. In terms of planning, writing and marketing the book, this had a great structure. I edit things in a fairly specific way, but again, it’s useful to have somewhere to start when I reach that stage, since I’ve not written long form non-fiction with the idea of widespread publication at the end.

Overall, a great place to start if you’re considering writing and publishing a business book.


January :: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do – Sarah Knight

5 Stars

I’m no stranger to this kind of book: I read John Parkin’s F**k it book in 2009, and read Marie Kondo’s book which inspired this title in 2015. I say that specifically because this is as good a meld of the two as I can think of.

I had heard positive things about this book, but hadn’t quite got around to really exploring if it was “for me” until this year.

Turns out, it was. By 30% in, I knew this was going to at least help me shift some of the mental weasels racing around in my mind.

The tone is realistic in terms of what is possible within our current western culture, hilariously funny in places (and definitely worthy of a wry smile in others) and still a useful, practical guide-book.

It was, very much, a deep dive on one concept and two steps. And that was refreshing for me to read. Even in books about one topic, there are so many aspects, and as a holistic practitioner I love that fact. However, the simplicity of this book is what really helped me learn it in my core. I highlighted a total of 41 passages throughout my read and took my time digesting it so that I could create my own lists and personal policies.

I would have benefited from a pause to write each list, perhaps with a few prompting questions beyond the examples, but in reality, reading the book all the way through and then returning to the “write the first list” was good enough.

A thoroughly useful book. Does contain some swearing though; just to warn you.


February :: Song of the Dryad – Natalia Leigh

5 Stars

I’ve been following Natalia on Youtube as I also write fiction, and love to see the process others use. Having watched so many videos on this book, I had to grab myself a copy.

In short, I loved it. The characterisation was very distinct for each person, the pacing was very well timed, the descriptions and the writing itself is just wonderful. Enough detail to picture but not overkill for my active imagination. As a fantasy reader and writer of new adult fiction myself, this was definitely a very good example to study for my own learning.

But mostly, the book made me laugh, cry and /squee/ as things progressed and I felt for the characters. I would also love to meet Butternut.

I will definitely be reading any further fantasy books she writes, because this is magic I want to spend more time with.


March :: The Middle Finger Project – Ash Ambirge 

5 Stars

I began reading Ash’s blog and newsletters in April 2011. Thus, this is not the first, nor will it be my last purchase from TMFP. I knew I liked her way of teaching, and I already knew this book would be valuable.

But holy hell Batman, I did not expect my mindset to make actual shifts purely from reading a book. It isn’t a workbook where you explore your blocks and coach yourself out of impostor syndrome, but her writing just *clicked* things for me and I’ve come out of this 6 weeks (I took my time digesting it) feeling like my “worth” isn’t actually a question.

If you’re new to Ash, her tone is consistently brash and hilarious, and I love how she matches realness and practicality with the “this is BS” approach. She swears but isn’t harsh, and the way she weaves her own experiences into little pep talks meant that I highlighted every few pages.

I’m not a re-reader but this is definitely a ‘must-read’ for me. And in the hour since I finished it, I’ve recommended it in two separate emails to friends… that basically said “this book actually seems to be changing my feelings around self-confidence, impostor syndrome, and my “enoughness” fears purely by reading it: with no prompts or exercises.. just reading it I’ve begun to feel more worthy of being me.”

If you struggle with self-trust, taking real action and being a rebel in this world… give this one a look.


We’ve survived Quarter One of 2020: How is your reading list doing?

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