With thanks to one of my fave book bloggers and reviewers (and Rebeccas), Bookish Beck, for the inspiration … I present to you my year in books (or novels, really–I do love an escape!), in a nutshell.
Note that this reading summary doesn’t include the books I read as a beta reader or as a member of a fantastic writers group I joined this year–a 2022 highlight–or books I read for a class. Then there are also the craft books and collections of poetry and stories that I dip in out of and don’t always log. Do I sound like I’m making excuses? The thing is, I never feel like I read as much as I want to, but I try.
Longest book read this year: Chimes of a Lost Cathedral by Janet Fitch at 752 pages. Was it worth all those many pages set during the Russian Revolution? Mostly yes, worth all 22 CDs of the audiobook listened to on the way to and from my kids’ school. Second longest, if you’re taking notes: The Nix by Nathan Hill at 640 pages. Another (very different) historical novel, that one was one of the funniest books I read this year. (Want a book that will undoubtedly make you cry? Try the gorgeous Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.)
Most popular book read this year (735,545 reads on Goodreads): An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Did it live up to the hype? Pretty much, even if the ending was tied up with a bow a little too neatly for my tastes.
Best first line: “God was dead: to begin with.” From Winter by Ali Smith. This is a play on the famous first line of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: “Marley was dead: to begin with.”
The best first line also leads into the best opening paragraph, imho:
God was dead: to begin with. And romance was dead. Chivalry was dead. Poetry, the novel, painting, they were all dead, and art was dead. Theatre and cinema were both dead. Literature was dead. The book was dead. Modernism, postmodernism, realism and surrealism were all dead. Jazz was dead, pop music, disco, rap, classical music, dead. Culture was dead. Decency, society, family values were dead. The past was dead. History was dead. The welfare state was dead. Politics was dead. Democracy was dead. Communism, fascism, neoliberalism, capitalism, all dead, and marxism, dead, feminism, also dead. Political correctness, dead. Racism was dead. Religion was dead. Thought was dead. Hope was dead. Truth and fiction were both dead. The media was dead. The internet was dead, Twitter, instagram, facebook, google, dead.
Have I gotten around to the other novels in this seasonal quartet? Not yet.
Most challenging book read this year (but not as challenging as it would have been if I’d not read it as an audiobook): Matrix by Lauren Groff. Worth it? Definitely. Also it was the first novel I read of hers. What should I try of hers next?
Most Rust Belt-y (and that’s a very good thing): Hungry Town by Jason Kapcala. Read my interview with the author here. Have you every made a play list for something you were writing? Check out the author’s take on literary play lists here.
Book I’m most glad I read despite the literary community’s love of hating the author: Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen. Another doorstopper (at 592 pages), this is the first book in a projected trilogy. Do I plan to read the next couple? Maybe, but the more than a little depressing personal lives of the characters make me a little reticent to re-enter their world.
(And now you see why the Franzen also wins for worst cover!)
And last and the opposite of least … my favorite book of 2022 (drumroll, por favor): Book of Extraordinary Tragedies by Joe Meno. If you’re on Twitter, you know I can’t shut up about this book. Really, it’s wonderful and, the author says, his most autobiographical novel yet. This book–that ticks all my boxes for a story that sings–also wins for a favorite passage that will stick with me well into the new year:
[The MC says] I put on my headphones, pull up my hood, and go through my CDs, looking for the right composition. Be it a riot, Mozart. Having your throat cut, Beethoven. Be it the beginning or end of the universe, Bach. Getting your nose broke, Wagner. Having your head stomped, Mahler. A knife in the back, Bartók. Death by drowning, Haydn. Blunt-force trauma, Grieg. Slow poisoning, Puc- cini. Blown to pieces by cannon fire? Brahms. A car acci- dent with multiple fatalities? Stravinsky. Strangled to death by someone you know and love. Stauss. Overdose? Liszt. Suffocation? Handel. Internal bleeding? Ravel. But what symphony do you play while riding your wobbly bike across the southside?
And that’s a wrap! Want to see more of my year in books, find me at Goodreads.
Please share your top reads for 2022 in the comments. I’d love to hear about what you’ve been reading–or writing.
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And a very happy, book-filled New Year to all!
*free header image courtesy of Pexels