📚 2020 ~ A Year In Books 📚

2020 has been a year like no other and through its ups and downs I have really enjoyed some anchoring and calming reading. With 55 books in total, I have read more this year than I ever have before (except maybe in the childhood years when I was flying through Famous Fives and Jill’s Gymkhanas!) – amazing what a few months of lockdown can do! I have done a fair bit of re-reading (one of my very favourite comforts) with 17 books either read for the hundredth time – proper old friends like Bridget Jones or Anne Shirley – or revisited for the first time since a distant memory, like The Secret Garden and Little Women, both of which I rediscovered this year. There have however been 38 books new to me, and among them some new absolute favourites.

I’ve read nine book club books, finding myself so very grateful for our book club finding a way to continue despite the library’s closure for most of the year. We covered such a variety of books I would never otherwise have come across, from Dolly Alderton’s memoir Everything I Know About Love to John Lanchester’s chilling dystopian novel The Wall. As well as opening me up to new types of books, it’s led to so many new favourites too. We discovered together a shared love for Sophie Anderson’s magical stories; Old Baggage had me fall completely in love with the formidable Mattie Simpkin (I now have two more Lissa Evans books now bought and waiting to read with a birthday voucher earlier in the year); and Eleanor Oliphant is a character I took so much to my heart and just rooted for so desperately all the way.

I’ve read nine crime or mystery books, Val McDermid’s Insidious Intent probably top of that list, my first Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, and more reading from her to come early in 2021 as I have a short story collection already started and a retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey I’m very keen to get into on the shelf.

Twelve of the books I’ve read have been typically children’s books, so often I find the most captivating of all – some old favourites including four of my beloved pony books (that actually seems low looking back on it for such a favourite escape, I’m sure will manage more in 2021!!!); but some new to me – like Sophie Anderson’s lovely The Girl Who Speaks Bear, which is set to be followed by her new book The Castle of Tangled Magic, which arrived with me at Christmas and is high on the list for the new year! I always seem to love children’s books so much and am often reminded of a quote I read by Philip Pullman:

““There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.”

There have been seven parenting books, from Sarah Ockwell-Smith and Dr Laura Markham’s handbooks to Giovanna Fletcher, Izzy Judd, Sarah Turner and Mindy Kaling’s reflective musings on their lives with their children; and eleven memoirs or biographies – Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm and Michelle Obama’s Becoming my favourites among some amazing stories; with some old-friend books of that genre returned to too, The Unumumsy Mum Diary and Tom Cox’s The Good the Bad and the Furry (my very first book of the year). And I’ve ended the year with a run of five Christmassy novels, which has been the most warming way to draw 2020 to a close.

My top five books of the year new to me have been Lissa Evans’ Old Baggage, following Mattie, a former Suffragette, adapting to older age and life after the cause; Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading, revisiting the magic of discovering books; Louisa May Alcott’s Good Wives, taking Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy into the next chapters of their lives; Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, an incredible story of resilience and strength of character; and Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing, a truly lovely novel set in the North Carolina marshlands following a young girl Kya as she grows up amongst the birds and nature.

My most-read era has definitely been the Victorian, finding myself lost in Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, Sherlock Holmes and A Christmas Carol all set within fifty years of each other around the end of the nineteenth century. Some had been long-standing favourites but I was so swept up in the ones new to me and found them so absolutely captivating and transporting that I really want to explore more in 2021, starting with Wuthering Heights on my list after making Jane Eyre my first Bronte, and A Little Princess too after loving rediscovering The Secret Garden so much.

My most-read author has been my very favourite, L.M. Montgomery, and I hope to read more from her in the new year too, returning to the Emily books which I’ve only read the first of a few years back; re-reading Rilla of Ingleside which I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and following that with The Blythes are Quoted, the final Anne book, only released in its complete form in 2009 and the only one I’ve never read.

I have had a wonderful time reading this year, and have been transported to so many different times and places in spite of spending much of the year in our own little home. Some have made me laugh, cry, feel such comfort or such inspiration – and some of the best all of those! So many of the books I’ve read too have been leant, gifted, recommended or passed on between the family and friends I’ve missed so much this year and have been a connection between us I’ve been so grateful for. I am so glad to have discovered so many wonderful books, and to have had so much fun journaling them too, and am forward to many more in 2021. A very happy new year to you all! 📖📚📚📖

2020 Visions ~ A few snapshots from the beginning of our year, and looking to the future…

As we stepped into 2020 earlier this month, it was from a full and busy end to 2019.

New Year’s Day, 2020

We had a Christmas period filled with family, friends and festivities; from our daughter’s 2nd birthday to Christmases with both sides of the family, games and merriment interspersed with a few much-appreciated quieter moments – walks underneath the twinkling lights, a time to pause at a Christmas Eve Christingle service, slow-start mornings at home just the three of us.

I also worked a few extra shifts over Christmas, my first year working in care over the holidays, and really enjoyed the chance to be a little part of such a special time of the year in the homes I visit. It was a lovely festive season – despite the logistical challenges of fitting everything in! – and one I was very grateful to have had. Still, as I always do seem to find in the steadying and refreshing first days of a whole new year; it has been wonderful to settle back in to a routine once more, open up a brand new diary, feel things slow down a little again and relax into the fresh start.

Sunrise from home, 2nd January 2020

My weekdays, spent at the moment at home looking after my daughter, have built over the last year to be generally quite structured, as we get out every morning to a toddlers group, class or a Bookbug session (the most wonderful free library singing and story groups we’re very lucky to have here for wee ones), and then in the afternoons have a walk, meet friends, do the shopping or more often than not head to the farm to spend some time with the pony. The little one really loves her routine, getting to her same groups every week with her friends and getting out and about exploring; and it’s all absolutely brilliant for building up to her heading off to nursery in what seems a crazily short time, less than a year from now!

All this was new to me last year, just coming out of maternity leave and finding my feet with it in the longer term, and our weeks were more flexible back then, being much more dictated to by ad hoc napping and feeding! This year though, I’ve so enjoyed returning to it all in much the same way I used to to work in the office, and it’s lovely to look ahead at the term unfolding.

Of course, life is going to change and rhythms adjust (or more likely be completely turned upside down!) for us in the coming months all over again, as we prepare to welcome our second child in April, with our due date now just 10 weeks away. It’s been lovely starting to get ready for that too – packing a hospital bag, getting our little crib out again and buying a new mattress for it, washing and drying baby clothes and finding it unbelievable how impossibly tiny they are!!

For his part, my old man Charmer has come through now the majority of this winter wonderfully well generally speaking – his arthritis, being managed every day this year just depending on how he’s doing, has for the most part been on an even keel.

This year I was more worried about the impact of the winter on him than ever since his legs had already been causing him some trouble in summertime; but we’ve been incredibly luckily from his point of view with the weather – not from every other horse owner’s I’m sure, or every other general winter fan, as the beautiful crisp frosty days here have been very few and far between, with generally damp, muddy and ridiculously mild weather throughout nearly all of November and December. For Charmer, this has actually been perfect, as it seems to be when the temperature drops below zero that his wee bones feel it, and so he’s managed to be sound and relatively pain-free with only some double doses of pain relief needed in the occasional colder snap. The biggest change to his management this year has been that for the first time in many years he’s managed to be wintered out (so far at least!), mostly due to an excess of grass we ended up with in the summer and a gradual re-widening of the field bit by bit over the last few months after having it partly fenced off. This has been wonderful for keeping him moving and reducing his stiffness, and he’s thrived on it so far, keeping weight on and enjoying his freedom.

He’s got to keep me on my on my toes to some extent though, of course (he just wouldn’t be him otherwise!), so at last week’s annual health check a damaged canine tooth was discovered which is unfortunately going to need X-rays and extraction up at the vet clinic next month. I just hope it can all go as smoothly as possible for him, as he is definitely not a fan of travelling in the trailer or really young enough to bounce back easily if the procedure turns out to be a complicated one; but we will just have to see how it all goes.

This year is undoubtedly going to be a big one for us all, and I’m so looking forward to it. We’ve actually been very lucky to have started it with some wonderful times already, even though we’re only a few weeks in; and it feels like we’ve had a chance to travel our beautiful country a fair bit, having started the new year in the south with my husband’s family, and last weekend having headed north for a wonderful farm weekend away with my sister. Very grateful for time with some of our favourite people in some of our favourite places, taking in amazing views and watching the beautiful January sunrises and sunsets. ❤

Looking forward to writing more in the coming months, and hope you are all having a good week. xx