Since 2019, I have compiled an annual list of books that I have read throughout that year – excluding any academic or reference texts. Documenting things in this way has been both motivational and useful, but also humbling.
As somebody that has long considered myself an avid reader, it can be a bit of a shock to realise the number of books that you can or do actually ‘consume’ in reality. Reading is a commitment, and working your way through a book takes a significant amount of time and focus, both things which I feel I increasingly lack.
What I’ve discovered is that reading even what I would consider to be a relatively small number of books can be a challenge, particularly with the myriad of ways in which we can now fritter away our time, and I’ve come to appreciate the value of what we turn our attention towards. How many books can one person realistically enjoy over the course of a lifetime, and given that knowledge, how should we approach our selections? That perspective can be extrapolated and applied to other elements of our lives as well… and though I am not sure I want to meander too far down that particular path, reflecting upon what we wish to spend our limited time is perhaps something we should do more than we do.
This year, I was determined to read more than I did in 2021, where I completed what felt like an embarrassing total of just 13 books. 2022 started out slowly, but I found a rhythm while on holiday, sinking one after another. I must confess that a number of those at the end are short books, but they still count. If we get too far into the weeds of how long a book needs to be to be a book, then we’re probably over thinking things.
According to GoodReads, the total page count for 2022 was 8,110.
- Frank – Jon Ronson (2014)
- Dune Messiah (Dune #2) – Frank Herbert (1969)
- Blindness – Jose Saramango (1995)
- Seeing – Jose Saramango (2004)
- Binge: 60 stories to make your brain feel different – Douglas Coupland (2021)
- Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars – Nick Duerden (2022)
- The Every – Dave Eggers (2021)
- Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood (2003)
- The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood (2009)
- Sex with Lepers – Chris Dire (2022)
- Leading from Anywhere – David Burkus (2021)
- Meantime – Frankie Boyle (2022)
- The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds – John Higgs (2013)
- How to Write One Song – Jeff Tweedy (2020)
- Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A Life in Computer Games (2020)
- What I do – Jon Ronson (2007)
- The Ultimate Introduction to NLP – Richard Bandler (2013)
- Let’s Go So We Can Get Back – Jeff Tweedy (2018)
- Bodies: Life and Death in Music – Ian Winwood (2022)
- NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories – Jeff Alulis (2016)
- Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami (1987)
- Fake Law – the Secret Barrister (2020)
- Nothing But The Truth: A Memoir – The Secret Barrister (2022)
- Songs in the Key of Z – Irwin Chusid (2000)
- Upgrade – Blake Crouch (2022)
- Run – Blake Crouch (2011)
- Summer Frost – Blake Crouch (2019)
- You Have Arrived at Your Destination – Amor Towles (2019)
- The Last Conversation – Paul Tremblay (2019)
- Emergency Skin – NK Jemisin (2019)
- Randomize – Andy Weir (2019)
- Ark – Veronica Roth (2019)
The full list with commentary that I wrote immediately after completing each book can be found after the jump, but on reflection, some of my highlights were:
- Blindness – Jose Saramango (1995) – A particularly dark tale centred around a pandemic of blindness which felt chillingly prescient, particularly as I read it while we were still enduring COVID-19 restrictions here at the time. It speaks of humanity and hopelessness in a way that I would recommend anybody read, but which you should probably approach with caution. It can be graphic.
- Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami (1987) – I had tried to read Murakami books in the past and never quite managed to complete them. This particular novel came recommended by a colleague, and it found me at a particularly emotional time. Its themes spoke to me in a way that – while I’m not sure I would say that I enjoyed it – it definitely made me think, acting like a mirror to much of what I felt at the time.
- Upgrade – Blake Crouch (2022) – Crouch is steadily becoming one of my favourite authors. His dystopian novels are compelling, and I find myself flying through the pages. This is his latest, and worth a read for anybody who is a fan of that genre.
For 2023 I’m aiming for 50 books. We’ll see if I manage to get that far… You can find me over on Goodreads, if that’s a thing you do.
- Frank – Jon Ronson (2014). I always enjoy Jon Ronson’s books, though I often wish they were longer. I guess this is perhaps part of the nature of his journalistic tendencies. I was always curious to find that Frank was based on a true story, and as somebody who has spent many years playing in bands, was interested to read this account of a rather strange group. It makes me want to go back and watch the film again. Finished January 2022.
- Dune Messiah (Dune #2) – Frank Herbert (1969). An interesting continuation from the classic first novel. In some ways, I enjoyed it even more than the original, especially as there was more of a focus on the politics. Given how it ended, I am curious to see what happens in the third book. I’m glad I read this. Finished January 2022.
- Blindness – Jose Saramango (2013). Wow. This one started out as a fairly interesting, conceptual dystopian novel – the kind of thing I really like, but it quickly became very dark (no pun intended). The graphic description of the descent of humanity after a pandemic of blindness strikes is both gripping and also disturbing. The first book in ages that I’ve felt compelled to stay up into the wee hours reading, if only through the hope that things for the characters might improve so I won’t have nightmares. Finished January 2022
- Seeing – Jose Saramango (2004). This is the sequel to ‘Blindness’, and I picked it up after really enjoying that book. The premise was really interesting to me, and overall I enjoyed the plot and oddness. In the end I felt less compelled by the execution as I was by Blindness, which might partly be down to me reading this late at night and finding it hard to grok through the dense style of writing. Either way, another interesting book by Jose Saramango, and I’ll seek out more of theirs after a wee break. Finished March 2022.
- Binge: 60 stories to make your brain feel different – Douglas Coupland (2021). Douglas Coupland has been my favourite author since I was a young teenager, and I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by him. When I saw he had released a new book I jumped on it, and was even more pleased to find that they were very short stories. Tales that make you think and feel something like only Coupland manages to. My only wish is that there were more of them. Loved it. Finished April 2022.
- Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars – Nick Duerden (2022). A rare case where the title is pretty much self explanatory. An interesting series of stories dipping into the lives of different pop stars and how they’ve dealt with the rise to fame and aftermath. With relevant and contemporary examples and interviews. ****Finished July 2022
- The Every – Dave Eggers (2021). The Every is the follow up to Eggers’ sharply incisive novel ‘The Circle’, which warned of a potential and eerily possible dystopian future through the blind expansion of the power of technology companies and unquestioned surveillance. I loved The Circle, and so jumped on this when I saw it. However, while ultimately I enjoyed the story, the allegories seemed a bit too on the nose; the examples less believable or well crafted than previously. The bus full of hysterical vegans tipped it over the edge for me – feeling clumsy rather than clever. This is perhaps because this felt dangerously close to conservative satire as opposed to something deeper. Or maybe it was just too close for comfort. Finished July 2022.
- Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood (2003). This is a strange book. I love dystopian novels; discovering the dark worlds that authors conjure up and give life (or death) to. In many ways, this particular story denies you of that – at least from the start. Rather than describing the current state of affairs and then having the characters go on a journey within that setting, you gradually have to peel back the various layers and piece together what has happened through the different strands of the main characters’ life. At first I found this pretty tough to get into, but in time it sucked me in. I didn’t love this book as it wasn’t as immediately gratifying in the way I like my dystopias to be (what a strange turn of phrase), but it was also impressively well done, and left me jumping straight into the second book in the series, which says a lot. Finished July 2022.
- The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood (2009). This is the second in the Oryx and Crake series, which I jumped into immediately after finishing the first. Rather than continue the story from that book, it provides a parallel perspective from different authors. This was surprising, and I was slightly disappointed at first, but as the story unwound it helped uncover more of the world, and I found myself really drawn into it. Similar to its predecessor, it started out a bit slow but picked up pace. Finished July 2022.
- Sex with Lepers – Chris Dire (2022). This book recounts tales from Dire’s travels, written in a lurid, poetic manner. This is art. More please. Finished July 2022.
- Leading from Anywhere – David Burkus (2021). A book designed for those who lead remote teams. Fairly digestible, with practical tips and insights whether you are new to remote work, or a veteran. Finished July 2022.
- Meantime – Frankie Boyle (2022). The first novel from funnyman Frankie Boyle. I like Frankie’s stand up, and his political columns, so was looking forward to this. I enjoyed the story and observations, though it did have a tendency to be overly descriptive for the sake of jokes, in a way which didn’t really add to the narrative, and could be distracting. I’m curious to see if Frankie writes more, as I’d read them. Finished August 2022.
- The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds – John Higgs (2013). I don’t really know whether I loved or hated this book. Maybe that’s too extreme, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected. Rather than taking a linear approach to the KLF’s career and development, it dives head first into the world of magic, philosophy, and post-modernism in an attempt to give one particular explanation of why the band may have decided to burn a million quid on an island. This is less of a biography, and more of a philosophical book using the KLF’s narrative as a vehicle. It’s a heavier read than one might anticipate, and as I got near the end I was a bit fed up of its seeming pretense. The epilogue and outro sections helped give it more context though, and I found myself curious to read more by Higgs. I think I liked this book, but I don’t think I really know all that much more about the KLF. Finished September 2022.
- How to Write One Song – Jeff Tweedy (2020). I loved this! I am not especially familiar with the music of Wilco (Tweedy’s band), but after reading this book I am going to delve into their back catalogue. In a relatively short read, it gives an interesting take on songwriting which is both practical, but also warm and accessible. So many other books on this topic come across as clinical or dry, and this is neither. A must read for any songwriter – aspiring or otherwise. Finished October 2022.
- Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A Life in Computer Games – Sid Meier (2020). Sid Meier created one of my all time favourite games – Civilization. This is a title which I have a lot of fond memories of, and which I associate strongly with my early interests in technology. However, until now I’ve known very little about the man himself. This book takes us through his journey into creating games, and does so in a completely non-pretentious, interesting manner. A book like this could all too easily turn into a rather dull list of observations about different products, but it is far deeper than that, and I enjoyed it a lot. If you are interested in ‘retro’ games, game development, or our relationship with them, give it a read. Finished October 2022.
- What I do – Jon Ronson (2007). Another collection of interesting tales from Jon Ronson, which is a collection of articles from the Guardian. The first section is shorter, and the second has longer tales of true and weird circumstances. I enjoyed these, but felt like I had read some of them before – perhaps in another collection? Similarly, it overall felt a bit disjointed, and I wish there was a bit of a deeper dive into some of the later parts. Finished October 2022.
- The Ultimate Introduction to NLP – Richard Bandler (2013). I was intrigued by the story about NLP in Jon Ronson’s ‘What I do’, so I picked this up. It is a bit of a strange book, in that it presents the ideas of NLP from a perspective of somebody attending an NLP seminar. Because of this, it reads a bit like an extremely cheesy self-help guide without any real sense of self awareness or critical thinking. However, if you can get past that, some of the ideas are pretty interesting. I’m not sure what I make of NLP, but this was at least a short introduction to some of the main concepts. I might go on and read something a bit more detailed or less… err, dumbed down in future. Finished October 2022.
- Let’s Go So We Can Get Back – Jeff Tweedy (2018). I was so enthralled by Tweedy’s writing style in ‘How to Write One Song’, that I immediately bought this. It details the history and background of the author’s upbringing, early interest in music, and then the twists and turns along the way. All of this is done in his distinctive, warm narrative. I don’t know a huge amount about Wilco’s music, but it didn’t matter at all. A fascinating read. Finished October 2022.
- Bodies: Life and Death in Music – Ian Winwood (2022). This book received many accolades from big names in the music business. It was billed as tackling and exposing the failures of the industry to deal with addiction and mental health problems. In some ways, it does that – but it is very different to what I expected. Rather than providing a comprehensive overview and making arguments based on critical analysis, this is more of a memoir – with first hand accounts and anecdotes from the author’s time as a music journalist. There is a significant amount of personal history in here, which is interesting on its own – but it’s not really what it has been billed as. It felt fragmented without an over-arching or connective narrative, and while I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I would have read it if I knew what it was actually going to be like. Finished October 2022.
- NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories – Jeff Alulis (2016). Following on a recent theme of reading music related titles, I picked up this book, which contains a series of tales from the members of punk band NOFX. Expect to be disgusted, moved, and impressed. Sometimes all at once. Finished November 2022.
- Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami (1987). A bit of a change in pace from the last few books. I read this on the strength of a recommendation, having had it on my list for some time but so far unable or unwilling to dive into it after getting only part of the way through the Wind Up Bird Chronicle previously. This is a strange book, and I feel conflicted on my feelings about it. On one hand, I found the characters exaggerated and difficult to connect with, yet at the same time, both the themes explored, and feelings conjured up were evocative; tugging at the strings of the inner conflicts and struggles we (all?) share. Loyalty, pain, loneliness, longing. I’m not sure what I made of Norwegian Wood, but it made me think, or at least feel something, and that’s more than most manage. Finished November 2022.
- Fake Law – the Secret Barrister (2020). A book which tackles and explains different areas of the English and Welsh legal system that have been materially misrepresented by Government, the media, and others. Somewhat disturbing that it takes a book like this to represent these perspectives, when it should be the role of the press. Finished November 2022.
- Nothing But The Truth: A Memoir – The Secret Barrister (2022). My favourite of the three Secret Barrister books. This tells of the author’s journey to the bar, including how their perspectives on law, justice, and criminality have changed over time – complete with humour, poignancy, and depth. It adds a welcome human side to the shadowy figure, compared to their previous offerings. Finished December 2022.
- Songs in the Key of Z – Irwin Chusid (2000). This book chronicles a number of different ‘outsider’ musicians, including folks like the Shaggs and Daniel Johnston. This was the first (and one of the only) documentations of this kind, put together by somebody who clearly has a passion for the topic. Funny and thoughtful, I picked this up after falling down an outsider music rabbit hole, and now I have a list of artists to check out. Can’t wait to dive in further. Finished December 2022.
- Upgrade – Blake Crouch (2022). I loved this book, and flew through it in a couple of nights. Set in a near dystopian future where genetic modification has become normal (but outlawed), it was topical and poignant and compelling. The story never dragged or felt dry, and there’s something about the way Crouch writes that I really appreciate. Finished December 2022.
- Run – Blake Crouch (2011). Wow. I don’t say that lightly. I picked this up after enjoying Crouch’s newer books, and found this to be quite different. In contrast to the more mind-bending storylines of parallel universes and other such things, this was a dystopian horror – with an emphasis on the horror part. It is one of the few books I’ve read which cast such a dark, gruesome shadow. I felt the hopelessness and terror of the families involved, and was honestly left afraid to read it on my own in the dark at night. It feels weird to say I loved this, because it wasn’t a ‘pleasant’ experience, but it definitely left an impression. Don’t read if you don’t like horror. Finished December 2022.
- Summer Frost – Blake Crouch (2019). A short story, part of the ‘Forward Collection’ that was curated by Crouch. This imagining takes a look at the possible rise of AI in ways that can’t be controlled by humanity, with all of the emotional complications. I really enjoyed this, but it was a bit too close to the plot of ‘Her’ (2013 film) for me to love it. Worth a read if you like dystopian sci-fi. Finished December 2022.
- You Have Arrived at Your Destination – Amor Towles (2019). The second short story I read from the ‘Forward Collection’. The premise is fairly simple: In the future, wealthy folks have the option to create ‘designer babies’ based on predictions about how their lives will turn out. As part of the process of picking a child, the protagonist reflects on their own life and the arc they’ve taken. While I enjoyed this, I didn’t love it. The story didn’t develop too much from the initial idea, and I found the end a bit confusing/nonsensical. That said, I will be seeking out more books from Amor Towles, as I liked the style of writing. Finished December 2022.
- The Last Conversation – Paul Tremblay (2019). The third book I have read from the ‘Forward Collection’ of short, dystopian future stories, and probably my favourite so far. Without spoiling anything, the main character wakes up in a room, unable to recall who they are, and forced to follow the directions of a voice which tells them they need to get better before they can be released. Even before the story develops, this quandary elicits questions of trust, reality, and memory that I found compelling. I’ve added Paul Tremblay to my list of authors to investigate deeper. Finished December 2022.
- Emergency Skin – NK Jemisin (2019). This is probably my favourite of the ‘Forward Collection’. A breakaway civilisation from Earth that forged out to escape apparent doom sends back a scout to obtain samples for their technology. Things are not quite as they seem. Well written, and an interesting idea. I did find it a bit tough in places to follow what ‘character’ was saying what due to the way things were laid out, but I enjoyed it and will be seeking out more from the author. Finished December 2022.
- Randomize – Andy Weir (2019). I have read almost all of the Forward Collection stories at this point, and while it feels unfair to judge an author based on such a short offering, unfortunately this has been my least favourite so far. There was an interesting premise, but in the end it didn’t really get far beyond that – perhaps due to the limited space. Essentially, this is about the use of random number generators for casinos. The twists felt a bit obvious or contrived, and didn’t do much for me. Sorry! Finished December 2022.
- Ark – Veronica Roth (2019). Closing out the year with another short story about the end of the world. I enjoyed the premise here, though would have liked to see things developed a bit more. Obviously difficult in a short story! Finished December 2022.
3 thoughts on “Books 2022”
Thanks again for your reviews, I immediately purchased Emergency Skin yesterday and was finished it before bed, really enjoyed it.
Upgrade – Blake Crouch (2022) – Put this on my library hold list, thank you.