My favourite books of 2022
2022 was a good year for books, both in terms of number read (95) and in the pleasure given.
Below are the 18 fiction and 15 non-fiction that I gave the highly recommended award, with the best of the best highlighted in bold.
The 18 fiction delights
- About the Author – John Colapinto [Accidently re-purchased 8 years after I first read it! As good the second time around. A book about a book, it’s a clever psychological thriller.]
- The Last Thing to Burn – Will Dean [Extremely tense abduction tale. Terrific.]
- Those Who Walk Away – Patricia Highsmith [Wife commits suicide and father challenges husband in psychological thriller set in Venice. Absolutely brilliant.]
- Under Your Skin – Sabine Durrant [TV presenter finds a body whilst running and becomes a suspect. Superior whodunnit.]
- The Gravediggers’ Bread – Frédéric Dard [An undertaker, his unhappy wife and an opportunist. Fabulous, little tale.]
- Bird in a Cage – Frédéric Dard [Man returns to his home town and meets a mysterious woman. Another short, 1950s, French, suspense novel.]
- The Executioner Weeps – Frédéric Dard [An artist, a violin and a car accident. A French love story and thriller. Another fine, short tale by FD.]
- Crush – Frédéric Dard [17-year-old Louise escapes her dull life and moves in with an American couple. A short, 1950s, French, suspense novel.]
- The King of Fools – Frédéric Dard [A mere 160 pages, a delightful 1950s tale of obsession from a prolific, French writer. ]
- The House Uptown – Melissa Ginsburg [Carefully woven tale of an artist and granddaughter and the past.]
- My Phantoms – Gwendoline Riley [A wonderful tale of an appalling father and a dreadful mother.]
- Seasonal Work – Laura Lippman [Superb collection of short stories.]
- How to Measure a Cow – Margaret Forster [Woman with a past tries to move on. Superb.]
- Heaven My Home – Attica Locke [Superb tale about race and a missing child in rural Texas.]
- The Standing Chandelier – Lionel Shriver [A mere 120 pages but a hilarious tale of male/female friendship.]
- My Policeman – Bethan Roberts [Fabulous love story set in 1950’s Brighton.]
- Idaho – Emily Ruskovich [Superb tale of family and tragedy set in rural America.]
- The System – Ryan Gattis [Superb tale about the American justice system as experienced by all of those involved.]
and the 15 non-fiction delights
- Licence to be Bad – Jonathan Aldred [Terrific critique of “How Economics Corrupted Us”. Will need to re-read to do it justice.]
- Outraged – Ashley ‘Dotty’ Charles [Internet outrage – why we shouldn’t.]
- Why the Germans Do It Better – John Kampfner [20th/21st century history, politics, people.]
- Wayfinding – Michael Bond [“The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way!” Brilliant.]
- Dancing with the Octopus – Debora Harding [An assault, a horrible mother and how a daughter copes. Brilliant.]
- The Moth and the Mountain – Ed Caesar [“A true story of love, war and Everest”. A fascinating, well-written read.]
- Another Day in the Death of America – Gary Young [In America, ten violent deaths of children on the same day. Shocking. ]
- The Life of an MP – Jess Phillips [Superb and honest account of what it’s like to be an MP.]
- Four Thousand Weeks – Oliver Burkeman [“Time Management for Mortals”. Superb.]
- In the Wars – Dr Waheed Arian [Inspirational bio of an Afghan refugee who fought to become an eminent doctor.]
- The Weather Machine – Andrew Blum [The global weather forecasting system. Fascinating.]
- In Control – Jane Monkton Smith [“Dangerous Relationships and How They End in Murder”. A brilliant study. A must-read.]
- Batavia’s Graveyard – Mike Dash [17th century, Dutch shipping disaster and mutiny off coast of Australia. Brilliant.]
- And Away… – Bob Mortimer [Bob’s wonderful and funny autobiography.]
- Working on the Edge – Spike Walker [Crab fishing off Alaska. Fabulous tales of the dangers and of the fishermen.]
I do like Dorking, and there appeared to be a freshness to the place following recent rain. Since I was last here a few months ago, the high street appears to have a few more empty shops, but it’s still a very pleasant, small town. Today’s visit by train was to donate around ten books to the Oxfam Bookshop (and to pick up another three!). Probably over three-quarters of the books I read end up here. I only keep those I flag as highly recommended, the rest are donated to Oxfam Books. A coffee and date-slice in the Two Many Cooks coffee shop rounded off a nice morning.
A lovely day at Polesden Lacey with the kids. And the bookshop was open, too – see below! Those black specks in the image on the right are actually a flock of birds (not dust on the lens). Click to enlarge.
My local library is quite small but I can usually manage to find something interesting. Today was no exception – two science books (my daughter would approve of The Knowledge, which is subtitled How to Rebuild Our World After an Apocalypse!), a novel about football and an American crime novel.
Whilst on a short holiday in Aldeburgh I bought three paperbacks from the excellent The Aldeburgh Bookshop. I’ve just read, in no time at all, the short (160 pages), 1952 thriller, The King of Fools by French author Frédéric Dard. It’s a charming read. At the back of the novel there’s an interesting potted history of the author’s life. I checked out the publisher’s website and found that they have a bundle of 4 of his novels for a mere £20.
All for a tenner!
The libraries are open again and there are the necessary Covid precautions – masks, a one-way system and an ID registration. I must have been there three-quarters of an hour yet I was the only visitor. After several circuits of the shelves I was almost resigned to coming away with nothing but then a flurry of possibly interesting reads appeared. In addition, the library was disposing of copies of Matt Haig’s Midnight Library, leftovers from World Book Day. Well thank you very much, I’ll have one!
The shackles have been relaxed a little and the shops have reopened, including Waterstones the bookshop – yay!
I’ve just finished reading my 100th book of the year so what better way to reward myself than a little restocking. Three very different non-fiction books – a true crime, an autobiography and some history/politics.
I’m currently reading Dictators, by Frank Dikötter. It’s an examination of eight twentieth-century dictators. Fascinating stuff with astonishing parallels with the personality of the current American president. It’s enthused me to make an effort to read more history.
My local high street was heaving, due no doubt to the relaxing of the Covid restrictions as well as being not-long-to Christmas. And with Debenhams about to shut, the scavengers were out looking for a bargain.
A selection of books from a couple of charity shops, all for the grand sum of £6.50.
In my twenties (or was it thirties?) I read many of the American crime/ thriller novels of Ross Macdonald and John D MacDonald. Both authors are highly regarded and I remember much enjoying the books.
Decades later, on one of my occasional clear-outs, I disposed of their books and those of other authors. I remember thinking twice about getting rid of the John D MacDonald books because they had such fabulous covers. Interestingly I’ve started following a blog devoted to his book covers, and it was this that’s motivated me to re-read some of the two authors’ books. I’m sure the image on the right is from the range I had once owned but I can’t find images of the other books in that range.
I’ve only managed to find two ebooks by RM or JDM at my local on-line library. RM’s The Dark Tunnel was one of his early novels – and it shows! Absolutely terrible, though it won’t stop me looking out for his later works. However, JDM’s Nightmare in Pink is a superb read.