My Year in Books

Kia Ora, I have a bit of a different blog for you all. At the beginning of this year I set myself a goal of reading 25 books. This seemed achievable as the previous year I had read about 22 books, just missing my goal of 25. I’m not sure how, but over summer I ended up reading about 15 books. This was while working a full time job as well. I love reading and I love getting book recommendations. I personally use Goodreads to keep track of my books and my ever growing ‘to read’ list. This year I read 40 books, with a few half-finished books to complete. So I thought I’d share with you my year in books. 

My reading nook in my room. This spot is now covered in tools and building stuff…

I’ve been reading quite a mix bag of books, getting most of my recommendations online or from friends. I’ve also had a really strange year full of change. I changed jobs, got in to freelance work, worked on the Green Party’s election campaign, helped changed the government (!), went on a few holidays (South Island and visiting family in Australia) WWOOFed, and started building a tiny house! It’s been a big year of change, and a lot of down time. I wouldn’t change anything that happened this year though, it’s been an adventure. This is going to be one of my more personal blog posts; I’m going to give you an insight into my year based on the books that resonated with me. 

Considering I’ve had such a weird year (including a quarter life crisis!) I ended up reading some pretty inspiring books, so thought I’d share my favourite, inspiring books. I get all my books from the library, as I’m down-sizing to live tiny! Auckland Libraries is pretty great, I always have a massive ‘on hold’ list and I have successfully requested books for them to buy too.

Non Fiction:

The Big Tiny: A Build-It-Myself Memoir:

Dee writes honestly about life, depression, illness and building a tiny house. I really loved this book, it was heart warming and heart breaking too. Dee is a key personality in the American tiny house community, and I can see why! Reading her story inspired me and helped me make the plunge to build my own tiny house. Recommended for: tiny house lovers

The Year of Living Danishly:

This was one of the first books I read this year, and it really motivated me. At the time of reading I was working in a job that I realised wasn’t going to lead me down the ‘career path’ I wanted. Reading about the author’s transition from working a full on corporate job, to slowing down and freelancing in Denmark was really inspiring. The book also covers a lot of information about Denmark’s customs, especially that of work life. Recommended for: People who work too much

You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap):

The author, Tammy, lives in a tiny house, so I was guaranteed to pick this book up. The book is more about minimalism and living unconventionally compared to the American average. It’s aimed at people that are living the typical “American dream, middle class life.” I read a few books with similar themes this year, and would say I am already living this ‘less is more’ lifestyle, but know it’s definitely something I want to fully commit to. I’m not a minimalist, but am working on down-sizing my belongings and moving in to my own tiny house, so this was a good motivational read. Recommended for: Wanna-be minimalists 

The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide To Spending Less While enjoying Everything More:

This book basically describes how I live, so it was refreshing to read and know I wasn’t alone! This year I  had a bit of time ‘funemployed’ and freelancing, where admittedly I wasn’t earning a lot of dosh. I’m fortunate enough to have enough savings and affordable rent to survive. I was often asked how I could afford this lifestyle (including build my tiny house), it is mostly because I am really frugal. My spending is mostly on essentials; rent, bills, food, and any unexpected essentials (car, doctor, dentist etc). I have been saving since I first started working when I was 15. When I worked full-time I continued my frugal life, so I had enough money stashed away to survive. Yet I am still happy living like this. So if you’re wanting to go down the path of living with less, this book is a great place to start. Recommended for: People who are happy to buck trends and go against the grain in order to live a happier and simpler life. 

Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay The Bills: 

As I mentioned above, I dabbled in the freelance life this year, this book helped with the transition! This book was recommended on the Bus Life NZ Youtube channel. If you want to quit the typical work life and go freelance or start your own adventure then give this book a go. Now’s also a good time for me to do a shameless self promo… ‘Hey I do workshops/talks about living zero waste and all the other projects I do! If you’d like to work with me, get in touch!’ Recommended for: Anyone wanting to quit the typical rat race and be their own boss. 

Wardrobe Crisis: 

I read this book when I was visiting my family in Australia. This was a ‘New Arrival’ at the local library (because I visit libraries on holiday too!), weirdly under the ‘Arts & Crafts’ section I happened to be walking past. I picked it up knowing nothing about fashion, other than it’s appalling environmental and ethical impacts (watch The True Cost documentary), but learned a history of fashion. It was an interesting read that delved in to the problem of the fast fashion industry, while giving some solutions. Recommended for: fashion lovers and anyone who buys clothes at the mall. 

The Whole Intimate Mess:

I read this book on a flight from Wellington, just after the election campaign (I worked on the Green Party’s ground campaign for 3 months). On the previous day I had been given a tour of parliament with the newest and youngest MP, Chlöe, so this was quite a fitting read. Holly Walker, a former Green MP describes her term in parliament while being a mother. I really enjoyed the honesty from Holly, especially when talking about mental health issues. At the time of reading this book I was dealing with ‘Post- Adrenalin Blues’ and anxiety, so I could appreciate the author’s struggles. Recommended for: politics junkies, NZers, mothers, lefties, anxiety sufferers. 

In Order to Live:

This book put things in to perspective for me. Holy heck, what a life story and yet Yeonmi is still so inspiring. Yeonmi writes about her life growing up in North Korea, and her eventual escape. I don’t want to give too much away about her story, but it was hard to read, there is a happy ending though. Recommended for: a must read for everyone. 


The Handmaid’s Tale:

I know I am late to read this! I never got to study it in high school as we usually studied NZ authors. How is it that  a book written in the 80s is so terrifyingly relevant?! Hard to read but also I couldn’t put it down at the same time! If you have not read this book I highly recommend you read it, and then go and watch the Netflix series. But perhaps don’t binge watch that, cause it’s pretty heavy watching. Recommended for: women and fans of dystopic sci-fi novels. 


Chilling at the my local second hand book store

Honorable Mentions:

I tried really hard to make this a ‘top 10’ list, and considering I read 40 odd (cause i’m still half way through some) books you’d think that would be easy… Picking the above 9 was easy, but I couldn’t decide on the 10th. So here are my ‘runners up’ for the top 10 place.

  • The Complete Maus; Art Spiegelman. A harrowing graphic novel based on the author’s father’s life surving Hitler’s Europe. 
  • Shrill; Lindy West. An honest and humourous auto-biography by a self described fat and loud woman.
  • Tiny House Living; Ryan Mitchell. Reading this book while camping at the beach made me decide I actually did want to build and live in a tiny house. 
  • Hillbilly Elegy: J.D.Vance. A glimpse at growing up white and poor in America’s working class. Described by some as explaining how Trump became President. 
  • Where Am I Now?, Mara Wilson. A look in to the life of growing up in Hollywood as a beloved child actor. 
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers. A more modern dystopia science fiction novel. Unfortunately doesn’t break any new ground and has an infuriating main character. Overall a good story though. 

And because I blog about zero waste and most of these books aren’t completely related (although there’s definitely an over-lap), I reached out to my fellow bloggers to see if they had an book related blog posts.

Further Reading Recommendations By Zero Waste Bloggers:

I recommend you borrow books from your local library, it’s the sharing economy in action! It’s also great for minimalists. If you do want to buy them, see if your local second hand book store carries it. My favourite book store is The Hard To Find Book Store in Onehunga. Unfortunately my book tastes have been a bit too niche/eclectic for them (hello books about composting poop and foraging weeds in NZ)! If you plan on buying books new, please help out a struggling blogger trying to build a (tiny) house and buy through my Dymocks affliate link. I’ll get the tiniest portion of your sale at no extra cost you, and it might even help me buy some screws and ply for my tiny house, thanks!

Have you read any of these books or can you recommend a book for me to read?

P.S. This will be my last blog post for this year, I’ll still be around on social media though. I hope you all have a wonderful, safe and well-rested holiday. Ka kite anō au i a koutou.


  1. naomi   •  

    A gem of a way to bring the year to a close – thank you! Will enjoy!
    I read more fiction than you – but I agree that the Attwood is a must – read.
    I’d like to recommend Leviathan or The Whale by Philip Hoare – às incredible as its subject.. and so worthwhile because this creature is surely the King Pin of what sustainable living is all about. Truly fascinating!

    • Amanda Chapman   •     Author

      Yay thanks for the lovely comment & recommendations! Adding them to my Goodreads list now.

  2. Rosie (@greenrosielife)   •  

    There are some interesting looking books I will have to search out in this blog post. Popping by from Zero Waste Heroes!

  3. Lili   •  

    You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap) – have just requested it from the library – looks really interesting. I love the idea of creating a book list from the year. must be interesting to see what you subconscously are interested in and choose throughout the year!

    • Amanda Chapman   •     Author

      Yes! I didn’t realise how much of a common theme there was in my reading until I looked it over at the end. It was pretty cool to see that.

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