The books, podcasts and ethical brands I’m excited about for 2020

Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 10 February 2020

To kick off the new year, I set myself some challenges and goals for the year ahead. From reading more fiction, scheduling in weekly dates with my husband and friends, making more sustainable choices and saying ‘yes’ to different opportunities. The kids favourite has been my goal to learn three songs on the piano and they've kindly been helping me out.

Image from Holly Branson
Image from Holly Branson

I was at a bit of a loss to know where to start so decided to share my goals across social media and was overwhelmed by people's recommendations! So much so that for the first few days I was just reading the list rather than the books and podcasts themselves! From books about atomic habits to scientific podcasts about happiness and brands that make swimwear out of recycled plastic bottles – the suggestions have been fantastic. Here are just a few of the books, brands and podcasts that really jumped out.

Image from Jackie McQuillan
Image from Jackie McQuillan


1. Atomic Habits by James Clear – looks like a great examination of how we can transform habits. Seems timely as we head into a new decade!

2. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – this is one of my Mum and my brother's favourites too. Not exactly a new one but I've only heard amazing things.

3. The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony  – after watching The Elephant Queen last year, this one will be high on my list.

4. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow – I've started reading this exposé of the Harvey Weinstein case and it's been brilliant so far.

5. Engineering the Future of Civilisation by John Browne. I sat next to him at a dinner last week and had some fascinating discussions!

David Watts
David Watts

Sustainable fashion brands

1. Meander Apparel – amazing multi-functional pieces that encourage people to create a more minimalist, thoughtful and ethical wardrobe.

2. Stella McCartney Kids – Stella is a pioneer of sustainable fashion, a friend of mine and the best person to get hand-me-downs and gifts from! I also love how she is helping kids learn more about where their clothes come from and why it’s important to look after our planet.

3. Tallis –  a wonderful brand that used responsibly sourced materials and their products can be returned and turned into a hat when you're finished with them!

4. Sandbanks – a friend of mine created this collection made almost entirely from recycled plastic bottles from the oceans and landfill. 

5. Urban Kissed – I spent way too long checking out this marketplace of ethical brands. The website also includes a slow and ethical index that explains their sustainability selection criteria and is well worth reading.

Image from Holly Branson
Image from Holly Branson


1. 1619 by the New York Times  – this sounds like a really thought-provoking look at the history of slavery in America – 400 years after the first ship of enslaved Africans arrived on the continent.

2. How I built this with Guy Raz by NPR  – I’m fascinated by entrepreneurs and where they find their light bulb moments so these stories about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists sounds brilliant.

3. Dolly Parton’s America – this was being recommended left, right and centre. Might have to be top of my list! I’ll shamefully admit I know very little about the icon called Dolly!  

4. The Happiness Lab by Dr. Laurie Santos – love how he explores scientific research about happiness and tips to change the way we think.

5. Unlocking Us by Brené Brown –  I love Brené’s work and I can’t wait for this to launch in March.

Image from Holly Branson
Image from Holly Branson

Thank you so much to everyone who sent so many great pointers - you’ve definitely inspired me to stick to my new goals.

If you have any other recommendations, please share them below!