10 Books to Read for 2020 I Oxford Open Learning


    10 Books to Read for 2020

    The dawn of 2020 marked not just a new year, but a new decade – and with a new decade comes the opportunity to read more books! With most of us now spending more time indoors, what better time to settle down with a good book and escape from the news for a few hours? The books that we’ve selected hope to educate, intrigue and inspire. From Nobel-Prize winners to heart-stopping mysteries, these are just some of the incredible books that you could read during the lockdown and beyond.

    Thinking-Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

    Have you ever wondered why some politicians are more successful than others, why some people are plagued by phobias, or how we sometimes make mistakes when presented with the simplest of tasks? This book may go some way to finding the answers. Kahneman’s radical study of our two systems of thinking uncovers the logical reasons behind the seemingly illogical.

    Reasons To Stay Alive, Matt Haig

    Mental health is one of the most pressing and frequently misunderstood issues of our time. This book uncovers an individual’s deeply personal response to his mental health crisis, whilst also considering how anachronistic attitudes to mental illness are intensifying the taboo surrounding this increasingly common life experience. Published in 2015, Haig’s memoir is a beautiful and simple love-letter to life.

    Normal People, Sally Rooney

    Set in Ireland, Rooney’s second novel follows the complex relationship between teenage friends and lovers Marianne and Connell. Rooney’s novel is a poignant and often funny depiction of the inner lives of her characters. A BBC3 adaptation is set to air at the end of April, but will it live up to the inextricable magic of the novel?

    Smile, Roddy Doyle

    Irish author Roddy Doyle has become known for his unique wit and masterful storytelling. In Smile, his middle-aged protagonist Victor Forde chances upon Fitzpatrick, a man who claims to have known Victor as a child. Both mysterious and heartbreaking in equal measure, Doyle’s novel tells a tale of memory, remembrance, and the indelible scars of childhood.

    Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

    The epic story of a country divided, war, loss and re-birth, Midnight’s Children is a reading experience like no other. Part historical fiction, part magical-realism, Rushdie takes us on a captivating journey of sights, sounds, and fantasy.

    The Mill On The Floss, George Eliot

    ‘We could never have loved the earth so well if we had no childhood in it’, writes Eliot in The Mill on The Floss. Eliot’s novel is indeed an ode to childhood and nature, exploring family bonds and protagonist Maggie Tulliver’s search for inner peace. Thought to be a semi-autobiographical tale, the ghost of tragedy ripples through every page of this Victorian classic.

    The Time Waster’s Letters, Robert Popper

    The Time Waster’s Letters chronicles one man’s quest to send the most absurd, and quite frankly hilarious, letters to everyone from children’s book publishers to Prince Charles. If you want cheering up, Robert Popper’s book could be exactly the medicine you need.

    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

    Harold Fry is an ordinary man with an extraordinary mission. After learning that a former colleague is in a hospice with just days to live, Fry sets off on a unique ‘pilgrimage’. Whilst Joyce’s novel is a sweeping tale of bereavement and loss, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry shows that there remains a place in grief narratives for an abundance of unexpected joys.

    Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker

    Reading about sleep might not sound like the most exhilarating of bedtime reads, but neuroscientist Matthew Walker knows what he’s talking about. From improving your grades and memory to reducing anxiety and warding off disease, Walker makes a strong case for its remedial power.

    Moab Is My Washpot, Stephen Fry

    The first in the series of Stephen Fry’s autobiographies, Moab Is My Washpot takes us on a rambunctious ride through Fry’s adolescence. From the boarding school tuck-shop to credit card fraud, this is Britain’s national treasure as you’ve never seen him before.

    And if none of these sound like they’re for you, come back here on Friday, to have a look at my second set of suggestions for this year. There are books for everyone on a shelves somewhere.


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    Jessica is a freelance copywriter and content writer based in Richmond-Upon-Thames. With a degree in English Literature from University College London, she has experience as a private tutor for 14-18 years olds and adult learners. She has also worked in Widening Participation as a Mentor, Student Ambassador, and Student Leader. As someone who achieved A-Levels through distance-learning, Jessica has first-hand experience of the unique challenges and rewards that distance-learning offers. She regularly contributes content to educational websites including eNotes and Tutorful.