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  • Writer's picturePatricia Afonso

6 Books And 3 TV Shows That Got Our Volunteers Through 2020

We've asked our CB Magazine volunteers what resources helped them get through 2020, and ended up with a varied mix of inspiring ideas.

Activities with body movement (such as yoga and pilates classes) and hobbies that use hands (such as embroidery, baking bread, or making pasta) were particularly helpful - especially when it was difficult to concentrate.

Many excellent books and TV Shows also kept us entertained and we've summarised our top picks below, hoping to inspire you. Enjoy!


'Boys Don't Cry' by Malorie Blackman (2010)

In Boys Don't Cry, bestselling author Malorie Blackman explores the unchartered territory of teenage fatherhood. Her dramatic new novel will take you on a journey from tears to laughter and back again.

What if YOU were left holding the baby?

You’re waiting for the postman – he’s bringing your A level results. University, a career as a journalist – a glittering future lies ahead. But when the doorbell rings it’s your old girlfriend; and she’s carrying a baby.

You’re fine to look after it, for an hour or two, while she does some shopping. Then she doesn’t come back and your future suddenly looks very different… Praise for 'Boys Don’t Cry':

"An extraordinary book, and truly is Malorie Blackman at her best." — Guardian

"Blackman’s emotional intelligence is such that Boys Don’t Cry should be read aloud in every secondary school." — The Times

"Her writing at its best, creating characters and a story which, once read, will not easily go away." — Independent

'The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories' by Angela Carter (1995)

Discover the classic feminist retelling of favourite fairy tales interwoven by a master of seductive, luminous storytelling. The Bloody Chamber is a collection of short fiction by English writer Angela Carter. It was first published in the United Kingdom in 1979 by Gollancz and won the Cheltenham Festival Literary Prize.

From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires and werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

Praise for 'The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories':

"She was, among other things, a quirky, original, and baroque stylist, a trait especially marked in The Bloody Chamber - her vocabulary a mix of finely tuned phrase, luscious adjective, witty aphorism, and hearty, up-theirs vulgarity." — Margaret Atwood, Observer

"Magnificent set pieces of fastidious sensuality." — Ian McEwan

"She can glide from ancient to modern, from darkness to luminosity, from depravity to comedy without any hint of strain and without losing the elusive power of the original tales." — The Times

'Opening the Door of Your Heart: And other Buddhist tales of happiness' by Ajahn Brahm Venerable (2004)

In times of uncertainty, words of comfort are essential, and the stunning overseas sales of this title are testament to its universal appeal. These modern tales of hope, forgiveness, freedom from fear and overcoming pain cleverly relate the timeless wisdom of the Buddha's teachings and the path to true happiness in a warm and accessible way.

During his wanderings and work over the last 30 years as a Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm has gathered many poignant, funny and profound stories. While traditional Buddhist philosophy is at the heart of this collection, these thoughtful stories are written like playful parables.

Praise for 'Opening the Door of Your Heart':

"It combines the best tales from Ajahn Brahm, covering all the situations that we might find challenging. Definitely a good read, especially during this pandemic and the uncertainty that it created." — CB volunteer (who also recommends Ajahn Brahm's talks on the "Western Australia Buddhist Society" YouTube channel).

"Ajahn Brahm is the Seinfeld of Buddhism." — Sumi Loundon, editor of Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists and The Buddha's Apprentices

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz (1997)

In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.

The Four Agreements has sold around 9 million copies and has been on the New York Times Bestselling list for almost a decade. Everything we do is based on agreements we have made - agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves.

Praise for 'The Four Agreements':

“Don Miguel Ruiz’s book is a roadmap to enlightenment and freedom.” — Deepak Chopra, Author, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

“An inspiring book with many great lessons.” — Wayne Dyer, Author, Real Magic

'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (2014)

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's great masterpiece is the story of seven generations of the Buendia family and of Macondo, the town they built. Though little more than a settlement surrounded by mountains, Macondo has its wars and disasters, even its wonders and its miracles. A microcosm of Columbian life, its secrets lie hidden, encoded in a book, and only Aureliano Buendia can fathom its mysteries and reveal its shrouded destiny.

Blending political reality with magic realism, fantasy and comic invention, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most daringly original works of the twentieth century.

Praise for 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' :

"Should be required reading for the entire human race." — The New York Times

"The book that sort of saved my life." — Emma Thompson

"No lover of fiction can fail to respond to the grace of Marquez's writing." — Sunday Telegraph

'The Shelf' by Helly Acton (2020)

A funny, feminist and all-too-relatable novel set on reality TV show, highlighting our obsession with coupling up, settling down and the battle we all have with accepting ourselves.

Everyone in Amy's life seems to be getting married, having children and settling down (or so Instagram tells her), and she feels like she's falling behind. So, when her long-term boyfriend surprises her with a dream holiday, she thinks he's going to finally pop the Big Question. But the dream turns into a nightmare when, instead, she finds herself on the set of a reality television show, The Shelf. Along with five other women, Amy is brutally dumped live on TV and must compete in humiliating tasks in the hope of being crowned 'The Keeper'.

Praise for 'The Shelf' :

"I absolutely LOVED The Shelf. One of those delicious books you just can't put down. So many gorgeous witty one-liners. Utter PERFECTION!" — Marian Keyes

"Really entertaining read ... a feminist takedown of reality TV." — STYLIST

"This brilliant novel is a really fun read. Very entertaining!" — Jo Whiley, BBC Radio 2


'Horizon: Feast To Save The Planet', by the BBC

Horizon tells amazing science stories and reveals worlds you've never seen before.

In this episode, Gregg Wallace and mathematician Hannah Fry invite five special guests to a unique dinner party where they are scored on the environmental impact of every dish they choose.

"The program is data-led which gives an interesting impartiality." — CB Magazine volunteer.

'The Queen's Gambit' by Netflix (2020)

Based on a young female chess prodigy, the critically acclaimed Netflix miniseries has been viewed by a record 62 million people in the world.

Tenacity is a skill we can all do with more of at the moment and we can be inspired by Allan Scott, the producer behind The Queen’s Gambit. Scott recently revealed on BBC News that it took 30 years and 9 rewrites to finally get the TV show on our screens - as every studio he previously showed it to said that no one would be interested in chess.

As pointed out in a viral tweet, Scott’s eventual success is a lesson to us all in the power of perseverance. Since the show aired, people have also been inspired to take on chess as a hobby - buying chessboards or playing online versions.

'Normal People' by the BBC & Hulu (2020), based on the book by Sally Roon (2018)

If you haven't read it, start with the book, named book of the year by Waterstones in 2018: "Capturing the zeitgeist with all the skill and subtlety of her debut novel (Conversations with Friends), Sally Rooney’s Normal People follows the intersecting story of Marianne and Connell as they navigate the changing landscape of their relationship into adulthood. Deftly written, emotionally honest and devastatingly perceptive, Normal People is an award-winning modern classic."

On the other hand, Lucy Mangan at the Guardian praises the BBC/Hulu adaptation of the hit novel about the on-again, off-again relationship between the two Irish teenagers as "a small-screen triumph (...) capturing the beauty and brutality of first love perfectly".

BONUS: A Science Article On The Power Of Love

'Love & The Immune System', Psychic Garden article by Anna McLaughlin

An in-depth exploration into how falling in love can actually boost your immune system, a new article by Psychic Garden creative Anna McLaughlin, a clinical neuroscience PhD student & science writer.

The article is brought to life with some beautiful illustrations and definitely an inspiring read proving LOVE really is the drug.


Patricia is part of the CB exec team and a Leadership & Personal Development Coach accredited at Practitioner level by the European Mentoring & Coaching Council. She helps individuals and business leaders achieve their personal and professional goals – and get greater life satisfaction – through tailored coaching programmes (amongst other neat things you can read about here).



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