Yale Staff Pick: Our Favourite Books of 2020

Happy New Year! We are looking back at some of our favourite reads of 2020.


January’s Staff Pick – Bread Winner

Senior Commissioning Editor, Joanna Godfrey recommends Bread Winner by Emma Griffin

This is an eye-opening account of the Victorian domestic economy and the role of women within it. Griffin brings the stories of working-class women and men to life and highlights the many challenges faced by ordinary families in a time of extreme inequality and widespread economic precarity.

Find out more about Emma Griffin’s ‘Bread Winner’ here


Other Recommendations

Production Editor, Linda McQueen recommends The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar and MI9 by Helen Fry.

The first is the new paperback of The Madwoman in the Attic, by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. This is a classic text on the feminist approach to literature; it played a big role in directing my studies decades ago, and it’s great to see it spruced up afresh and made available to a new generation of readers and students.

The second is Helen Fry’s MI9. I’m not usually a fan of Second World War books, but this is such a lively account of the most exciting department of military intelligence during World War II. It was a perfect book for a difficult year, because I needed some heroes to look up to, and these are inspiring tales of courage and commitment showcasing the best of humanity in challenging times. Plus it reads like a thriller!

Learn more about then men behind the MI9’s Q-gadgets in this blogpost


Acquisitions Editor, Art and Architecture, Sophie Neve recommends The Bloomsbury Look by Wendy Hitchmough

Not only is this book beautiful – I love the fresh pinks and greens of the cover – it is a fascinating and highly original take on the Bloomsbury Group, exploring how the group fashioned their distinctive aesthetic. With a wealth of images, including intimate and never-before published photographs, it paints a vivid picture of this radical collective. 

Author Wendy Hitchmough reveals the story behind the most defining image of Virginia Woolf in this blogpost.


Editorial Director: Art & Architecture, Mark Eastment recommends Artemisia by Letizia Treves et al, Eileen Gray, Designer and Architect by Pitiot et al. and Ceramics of Iran by Oliver Watson.

2020 was a difficult year for museums and cultural institutions with major exhibitions being closed, delayed or cancelled. Two such exhibitions produced catalogues, the National Gallery’s Artemisia, on the fascinating life and work of an outstanding Italian Baroque artist, Artemisia Genileschi who at 15 started to paint in a time when few women artists existed or indeed were encouraged and is today revered as ranking alongside Caravaggio and other artists of the period.

Moving into the 20th Century is the Bard’s beautifully designed book by Irma Boom on Eileen Gray. An Anglo-Irish who lived most of her life in Paris who died in 1976 just short of her 100th birthday and was an architectural pioneer in the Modern Movement as well as being a celebrated furniture designer. Both shows opened and then closed around the Covid-19 restrictions but these incredible catalogues reprinted and act partly as souvenirs to the exhibitions but also provide fascinating insights into the life and work of two very different and accomplished women.

Of our own art books nothing in 2020 can quite match Oliver Watson’s Ceramics of IranCelebrating over 1000 years of Persian Islamic Pottery, as well as being yet another beautifully designed and printed object in its own right, the book contains stunning new photography of over 250 objects with transcriptions of the inscriptions found on many of these pieces along with newly translated texts on the production of ceramics in medieval Persia.


Publisher & Managing Director, Heather McCallum recommends Blooming Flowers by Kasia Boddy

Choosing your favourite book as an Editor is rather like naming your most loved child.  Although I’m selecting one of my own books, I could equally jump for A Little History of Poetry or The Bloomsbury Look or any one of a number of our titles.  However, ‘Flowers‘ is a special book, being a uniquely rich interpretation of their place in our culture and literature… and I like flowers!  I enjoyed its development because as with so many of our works, it was entirely a team effort across editorial, production, design, marketing and sales, involving a great many of our talented staff.  I think that the result is tremendous – it’s a real treat to read, to hold, to enjoy.

Read a free extract of Blooming Flowers here

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