Another of those annual posts. I usually pick five books I’ve read over the previous year to highlight. Past entries in this series:
However, I am having trouble picking five, or picking just five, or some variation on that. So I am just going to bulldoze into some books and see where I end up at the bottom of the page.
Part of my issue is that it has been something of a hectic year for me, which has tested my patience on many fronts, including my ability to put up with plodding narrative devices, over used tropes, and that sort of thing. For example, Connie Willis’ The Doomsday Book opened with such a stale scene I had to put it down and move on. The series was recommended, but I wasn’t having the kick off, and that was that.
Anyway, as usual, I am depending on Good Reads to guide my memory, because about half the titles on my list for 2022 I am looking at and saying, “Oh yeah, I guess I did read that.” You can see my book profile here, but this is my summary for 2022.
Hitting 37 titles puts me above par for annual reading, which surprised me a bit, but there is a reason for that, which I will get to.
Enough of that though, maybe I should just get into the books. These are the titles that stood out for me this year, though not to unreserved acclaim on my part. Life is like that.
- Slough House Series – Mick Herron
This is the book series that kicked off with Slow Horses, which was the basis for a series on AppleTV+ that I wrote a bit about back in May. The thing here is that there are 8 main books in the series and another five novellas… and I’ve read or listened to them all at this point. So there is a lot of Mick Herron to go around, and most of it is pretty good. I was invested in the series enough to go listen to the audio book versions of the novellas and… well, you can skip those really. They give you some background information about a couple of characters that will feature in the next full novel, but they aren’t all that interesting. That still leaves 8 books, which are mostly worth the effort, though the series does meander a bit. But Jackson Lamb is always fun to follow around. But I’m into my list with a series of books 13 deep, so you can see why I had problems getting a list of five.
- Russia: Revolution and Civil War – Antony Beevor
Long time followers of anything book related on this blog might recall that I am a big fan of Antony Beevor’s work. His books on the battles at Stalingrad and Berlin are essential reading in my opinion when it comes to those topics. He also tackled the war in general in one volume, which he did quite well, delving into bits often left unexplored in other general works. And here he was going into the Russian Civil War, one of my favorite topics, at least when I was much younger.
And it was okay.
I think my familiarity with the material was a bit of a spoiler. The book was not without nuggets of information new to me, but it is a well trodden topic and one I spent a lot of time with in the 80s and 90s, which even then was long after most of the main actors in the drama had passed, so there were no startling new revelations. If you want something beyond a basic level guide to events, it is a worthy volume. But if you want the depth and individual narratives of some of Beevor’s work, you likely won’t find it.
- Jack Reacher Series – Lee Child
A very popular book series, given there are 25 books or so already out and more in the works. After watching the Amazon Prime series (which I mentioned in the same post as Slow Horses) I decided to give the series a look.
And, I will admit, it starts out strong. However, it is, perhaps, a series that shouldn’t be read in a continuous trail. I got through the 6th book and was kind of done, though it was really the 5th book that did me in. Maybe I will return to it, but the tropes of the series were already weighing a bit on me. (Also the author, who is English, does get US terminology wrong now and then. The US Army, for examples, has engineers, not sappers.)
- Comfort Reading
At a few points over the course of the year I just needed something in my head to keep the world out without being too fresh and complicated. So I went back and read William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Count Zero, the Douglas Adams Dirk Gently books, Robert Harris’ Fatherland, and some of the Marko Kloos books again.
And then there is the occasional attempt to confront the current reality. I went back and re-read Everything Trump Touches Dies, so that might really apply to the previous category. Rick Wilson is about the same age as I am and his use of metaphor speaks to me.
Probably the best read was Elie Mystal’s Allow Me to Retort, which takes on the Federalist Society and its absolutist extreme originalist view on constitutional interpretation, which this book very much destroys. The founding father’s original view was slavery was okay, so if you start making exceptions on that front other originalist groundings are likely as weak.
Less entertaining was Weapons of Mass Delusion by Robert Draper that covers the Republican party from the January 6th insurrection to the 2022 mid-term elections and, while a thorough and detailed accounting of what was going on, it was also a litany of dumb people doing dumb things for stupidly selfish reasons. A good account of history, but history that is depressing.
- Honorable Mentions
I think I am almost 30 books in at this point, so why not mention one more? Hell, why hold myself to just one more? I also read John Scalzi’s Lock In, which is about a pandemic that causes a condition where a small percentage of people who get it lose the connection between mind and body, so are “locked in” to their bodies without control. Technology finds a way to let them out through a digital interface and what we might call presence devices like remote control bodies. And then there is a murder mystery in the mix. Interesting, but SciFi murder mysteries always run the risk of magical solutions because the reader can’t know everything about the tech.
I also read John le Carre’s Silverview, which was… okay. His work is a bit hit or miss with me already, and this was him going up one alley in pursuit of a point I wasn’t sure I cared all that much about once I got there.
Finally, there is Jeff Edwards, who I have followed on Twitter since he was on tap to write the book about The Fountain War back during that Kickstarter fiasco. I finally, got around to picking up one of this titles, Angel City Blues, and it was a solid tech noir tale. Would recommend.
And so it goes. I read a lot of stuff, but didn’t come out at this end of the year feeling like I had a few titles I needed to talk about, so you got a buffet of what I read.
I am going into the new year with Raymond Chandler. I feel like I need something out of old LA to get into 2023.