To be frank, 2022 wasn’t a fantastic year by any stretch of the imagination. But in particular, it was pretty crappy on the books-read front. Here’s what (according to the list at the back of my Hobonichi) I read last year:
- Eye of the World - Robert Jordan
- The Great Hunt - Robert Jordan
- Swordheart - T. Kingfisher
- The Kiss Quotient - Helen Hoang
- Gideon the Ninth - Tamysin Muir
- More than A Woman - Caitlin Moran
- The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen
- Gateway - Frederik Pohl
- (in progress) Don Quixote - Cervantes
- Steering the Craft - Le Guin
- The 10% Solution - Ken Rand
- The Bullet Journal Method - Ryder Carroll
- The Art of Writing Fiction - Andrew Cowan
- Million Dollar Outlines - David Farland
- My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrente
- A Pale View of Hills - Kazuo Ishiguro
(I’m 100% sure this isn’t everything; it feels very incomplete. In any case…)
Gideon the Ninth was the best; I can’t even remember Swordheart, embarassingly.
A Pale View of Hills was interesting but in many ways it felt sort of empty. Distant. I know Ishiguro has a bit of “that sort of thing” to his style, but whether it was because it was his first book, or because of the subject matter (Japan, post-Hiroshima, mothers and daughters), or his own close-yet-far-away relationship with Japan, or if indeed the style was completely intentional, that caused that sense of distance, I’m not sure. There were some vivid scenes and imagery, and quite sophisticated parallels between the two stories in the book. I’m just not sure how much I enjoyed it. I’m starting to suspect I like the idea of Ishiguro more than I actually like Ishiguro’s books. Also Ishiguro the person, who seems, I don’t know, like he thinks similarly to me. No–I mean, his brain thinks in a similar way.
Didn’t read a great deal, and I feel like I’ve left something off the list here. I got into dramas bigtime in 2022 and so read a lot less than I usually do. Maybe not a great time to write a reading post; I’m not even really sure what I want to say about Gideon the Ninth. So much of it felt hyped, I alternated between loving it and also feeling self-conscious on its behalf for all of the asides and wink-winks. Mind you I went out and bought the other two books, so I guess that says enough about how much the self-reverent nature of the book actually bothered me at the end of the day.
I continue to love, and also read extremely slowly, Don Quixote. I think it’s because I’m taking notes as I go, that the whole thing feels like a project, as opposed to a sit-down-and-relax sort of read. There are things in there that have my brain buzzing: codes of chivalry, hilarious archaic terms, the meandering structure, the scatalogical humour (always Sancho, always). I think Sancho is the most loveable character I’ve read in such a long time. He is so humble, and confused, and loyal, and ridiculous.
I also went through a few writing books (I’m sure I read more but these are the only ones I’ve noted down). The 10% Solution is barely even a book; it’s more of a checklist, a pamphlet. Things to go through when you need to slim down any piece of writing. But it’s bloody spot-on. The Bullet Journal Method I bought because someone on Micro.blog recommended it, but I got bogged down in the middle section about mechanics, and then was a bit glazed-over when the book got to the more philosophical sections (which I’d intentionally been most interested in). The whole “BuJo” thing has been done to death really, but at the same time it’s how I still structure my yearly schedule, so again…it just works. I haven’t finished the Cowan but it is meaty and useful and insightful, and I keep stopping to go off and do things that it encourages me to do. Tim Clare mentioned Andrew Cowan in his “Couch to 80k” podcast, and also interviewed him on his regular podcast. He seems like a very cool person with a lot of insight into writing.
Lastly I also got Million Dollar Outlines because I struggle to write a single fucking outline. I think I am just going to have to give up on this front. I simply cannot front load in this way, to this degree. But in terms of retrospectively applying an outline to a piece (the fuck-backwards way that pantsers, or gardners, or whatever we’re calling it these days, manage to incorporate structure) there are still some good things to remember in here.
The Ferrante I read because I was curious to know why so many people had fallen in love with her writing. I was less enamoured of the coming-of-age story than I was her wonderful depictions of the neighbourhood, of the slums of Naples, the weird rules about being a girl in that place in that time. The structure was a bit odd (especially the bookended bits about her lost friend) but as everything continues in subsequent books I’m guessing it may fall into place as the series goes. I’m not sure I loved it enough to want to read the rest, but I can see why people loved her tender portrayal of her characters.
As for the rest…I usually read a bit of romance here and there. The Kiss Quotient was something that had popped up on my goodreads radar. It was fine :) – I liked the on-the-spectrum pov that made for a more-interesting-than-usual female protagonist. I was a little disappointed with the Caitlin Moran; I’d read some of her earlier things and thought they felt more fresh. This seemed to be trying to tick all the boxes of “things that middle aged women might be titilated by,” and as a result felt a little bland. Then again, maybe I’m just jaded, haha.
In any case, going through the books I’ve read is an interesting exercise; I have a list of books I want to read this year, as well as the large pile beside the bed. Hopefully this year we’ll see If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (reread), I Capture the Castle (reread), Charlotte Sometimes, and some Borges work their way in there. I’ll try, going forward, to post a few wee book reviews in the “author blog;” maybe that’ll help keep me honest :)
PS I realise I haven’t mentioned any of the Robert Jordans… I never read Wheel of Time so these were new to me; I really enjoyed the first two, but wasn’t enamoured of them enough to feel like I need to read all however-many-of-them there are in the series.