Staff's Favourite Reads of 2020

For all the challenges 2020 has brought us, we’ve had plenty of time to devote to reading some fantastic titles, both new and old.  Our wonderful CCL team have put together a list of the books they just haven’t been able to put down this past year.

The Dark Corners of the Night by Meg Gardiner

Chosen by Michelle McLean, Information Services Coordinator

Still reeling from her best friend’s close call in a bombing six months ago, FBI behavioural analyst Caitlin Hendrix has come to Los Angeles to assist in the Midnight Man investigation and do what she does best—hunt a serial killer. Her work is what keeps her going, but something about this UNSUB—unknown subject—doesn’t sit right. She soon realises that this case will test not only her skills but also her dedication, for within the heart of a killer lives a secret that mirrors Caitlin’s own past.

Riveting, not-put-downable and an intriguing read. I have read Meg Gardiner’s novels since she was first published (this is her 15th) and enjoy the exploration of the human condition, both from the dark and light sides.  Highly recommended.

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

Chosen by Lynda Knights, Customer Experience Officer

Adam Kay’s insight into the NHS system is hilarious and often graphic – but never dull. He shares (or rather, over-shares) the good, the bad and the ugly of hospital life, and the toll it took on his personal life.

From itchy teeth to toilet brushes (I will not elaborate on that one…), 90+ hour weeks, poor pay and the ever-present threat of malpractice lawsuits, it’s a surprise that anyone would voluntarily become a doctor in Britain – but then again, the stories that you get to tell are probably worth it.

I did get strange looks in the lunchroom when I snort-chortled reading this book. Although painfully funny, we get to see the failings of the healthcare system, and the truly heroic doctors and nurses who keep it working to the best of their ability. Often, they are working double shifts with little-to-no sleep, and the parking meter gets paid more than they do. They would not be able to do their jobs without a little dark humour to get them through, and Kay’s diaries are a testament to that.

The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle

Chosen by Janine Kimberley, Customer Experience Officer

Iris & Summer are mirror image twins – startlingly alike but underneath very different.   When Summer disappears while on a yacht with Iris, Iris believes this is her chance to take what she’s always wanted – the idyllic life she’s always coveted and assumes her sister’s identity.   This was a riveting domestic thriller full of twists and turns and an ending you just don’t see coming.   My top read for 2020!

I interviewed the author on our Book Matters Podcast!

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

Chosen by Erin Commerford, Marketing Manager

This book covers 3 generations perspectives and 3 approaches to bringing babies into the world. Neva is the third-generation midwife almost 30 years old and surprises her mum Grace and grandmother Floss with the news she is pregnant.

Neva, Grace and Floss all have their own secrets which slowly unravel. A grandmother with a lifelong secret. A mum who is like a dog with a bone and a daughter who holds her cards close to her chest.

This is one of my fav 2020 reads. the characters have depth, intrigue and the love and bond between them gets stronger and stronger until the very last page. I am in my mid 30’s and could relate to the three women in different ways. Sally’s writing is witty and engaging and once you pick up a book of hers you won’t want to put it down.

Cursed Thomas Wheeler

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

Chosen by Courtney Rushton, Branch Manager

Cursed is a thrilling, gruesome, female empowering retelling of the Arthur legend from the perspective of a young Nimue. I loved getting to know such well known characters from a different perspective, from the not quite all there Merlin to the deceptive Arthur and the untrustworthy Lancelot (when he finally arrives!), these characters are not the ones we’ve come to know and love.

The plot goes from 0-100 from the very start and kept me on the edge of my seat till the very last page. While you may know the Arthur legend, rest assured, you don’t know Nimue’s. This has got to be one of the best books of 2020 and I myself can’t wait for the sequel.

12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson

Chosen by Rachel Dawson, Customer Experience/Accounts Officer

“Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping”. Jordan Peterson’s original post on Quora boasting 42 rules for life went viral.

The outcome was a book; encompassing the meaning of life and why we should stand up straight with our shoulders back to accept the terrible responsibility of life. He is a visionary thinker and thought provokes the minds of his deathly silent audiences. Because “the purpose of life, as far as I can tell…is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.”

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

Chosen by Beth Luppino, General Manager Customer Experience

I liked ‘The Flat Share’ by Beth O’Leary. This is a great summer read for anyone who likes Chick Lit or Contemporary Fiction.

It is also available as an audio-book on BorrowBox. It is the tale of two flat mates who initially never cross paths, but gradually find themselves destined to be together. Lots of fun, and satisfying romance.

Folk by Zoe Gilbert

Chosen by Heidi Kennedy, Youth Services Librarian

Folk by Zoe Gilbert was a great chance find for me in 2020.  Gilbert takes us to visit the imaginary island of Neverness, calling in on the hard and troubled lives of the folk that live there. 

It is a richly evocative and darkly fantastical read, perfect for those who like sparse tales of tangled, haunting lives reminiscent of the work of Margo Lanagan. I was completely caught up in the strange rituals interlaced with a drop of fantasy and grounded with the harsh daily living that made this cruelly magical world feel so very believable. 

Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

Chosen by Wendy Morrison, Youth Services Librarian

This book reminds me of the film the Breakfast Club. Five people that would never have normally been friends in high school, come together and form a friendship through their role-playing game.

Unlike the Breakfast Club, someone is trying to kill these friends off one by one and the twist at the end is one I did not see coming.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Chosen by Georgia Hillebrand, Customer Experience Officer

Where the Crawdads Sing is a coming of age story unlike any other. The character of Kya stays with you long after you finish this book, as will the rich evocation of small-town life and the natural surroundings in North Carolina in the 50s and 60s.

Mostly abandoned by her family as a child, Kya is raised by the marshlands she inhabits. Her intense connection to nature is the only things that holds at bay the loneliness and struggle for survival.

As the story follows Kya’s life, Owens blends together romance, murder mystery and a profound exploration of loss and the beauty of nature. A must-read that packs an emotional punch and is engaging at every turn.

The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall

Chosen by Sue Walters, Team Leader

My favourite book from 2020 is The Motherfault by Kate Mildenhall. 

Brilliant new book from the Australian author of “Skylarking” – set in the near future it is a heart stopping and frighteningly realistic story of one woman’s race to find her missing husband and keep her children safe. Loved it!

Us by David Nicholls

Chosen by Jenny Bremner, Customer Experience Officer

My favourite read for 2020 was Us by David Nicholls. It’s a bittersweet story of love, loss, family and what it means to be a parent today. I absolutely loved it.

The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh

Chosen by Sarah Litchfield, Youth Services Librarian

This story tells the story of Severine Kassal, the only surviving member of a Jewish family who were all murdered during the war by the Nazi, Ruda Mayek.

Severine has rebuilt her life and re-invented herself but her new life is threatened when pearls stolen from her by Mayek are lent to the museum that she works for.  This story is beautifully written and simultaneously both gripping and devastatingly sad.

McIntosh’s development of Severine’s tragic story is well crafted and designed to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. A brilliant read.

The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan

Chosen by Cass Reeves, Digital Support Officer

This is the third in Richard Morgan’s A Land Fit For Heroes series and opens you up to a world full of magic and gruesome battles where people actually die, which in turn makes you actually care about the outcomes of each character.

The story revolves around three main characters who are all featured in alternating chapters, where you find out a lot about each but are still left wondering how things will turn out.

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Chosen by Ivy Tucker, Outreach Librarian

I was taken by surprise by this book.  I did not expect it to be so incredibly charming or so deeply affecting.  And for someone who spends a lot of time reading, I’m pretty good at predicting storylines, but this story kept me guessing. 

For anyone who has ever felt out of place, disconnected or forgotten; for anyone who has cared for a friend; for anyone, really…I would recommend this book.  It is a book entirely appropriate for children (I read it aloud to my 9 and 12 year old), but adults will also enjoy it.  You don’t even need to be reading to a child or have children of your own to appreciate this beautiful story about Livy, a girl rediscovering a world she left behind and Bob, her friend that she somehow forgot.

Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully

Chosen by Aiden Johnson, Digital Support Officer

This was an amazing book for a history nerd, and a detective story 70 years in the making. The historic forensics that went into it are nothing short of astonishing, with a multi-national research team scouring dusty old archives and interviewing surviving veterans to piece the story together.

This book was first published in 2005 and had many decades of research behind it, largely predating the digital revolution in archiving, translation and interconnectivity we enjoy today, which in my opinion makes the exhaustive research all the more impressive. It’s a dense work but written in an accessible way and paints a incredibly detailed minute-by-minute breakdown of what exactly happened that fateful day, along with the events strategic, historic and mental that lead up to it.