2022: Year in Reading

by James Wallace Harris, 12/30/22

It’s always amusing to look back over the books I read during the year to see how many I’ve forgotten. For some reason, I remembered them all this year. Oh, I couldn’t have made a list from memory, but when I look at Goodreads database every book came back to me. That’s unusual. It could be I’m getting better at picking memorable books to read. I tried to review many of them, so that might be a factor too. I read eight anthologies for a Facebook group devoted to reading a science fiction short story daily. And six books were read for a nonfiction book club. Also, I got interested in four authors this year: Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Elizabeth Strout, and Anthony Powell. Finally, this was my year for reading history, especially about the ancient world.

2022 was the year of reading Elizabeth Strout. I read seven of her nine novels. I binged on them, reading those novels in about seven weeks. But when I look at my list, I see I read Bewilderment by Richard Powers at the beginning of the year. If I think on it for a while, my memories suggest I might have liked it better than Lucy by the Sea, my favorite Strout book, and the novel I currently think of as the best I read in 2022. Memory is tricky and comparing books is so hard.

On the other hand, An Immense World by Ed Yong feels like my favorite nonfiction book right now, but when I dig through old thoughts, I have to wonder if I didn’t like Where the Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon better? It wasn’t The Soul of a New Machine or Hackers, but it did press my love of computer history button long and hard.

Whether I’m reading a novel or a nonfiction book, the best ones often feel like the most amazing book I’ve ever read — while I’m reading them. So, instead of picking the best books of the year, I’m going to bold any book below that I highly recommend. I really enjoyed all the history books I read, but I doubt many people would, so I’m hesitant to recommend them.

Here are the books I read in 2022. Links are to my reviews.

  1. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
  2. Bewilderment by Richard Powers
  3. The Great SF Stories 25 (1963) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  4. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony
  5. We Can Build You by Philip K. Dick
  6. Dr. Bloodmoney or How We Got Along After the Bomb by Philip K. Dick
  7. The Other Side of Philip K. Dick by Maer Wilson
  8. Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebrght by Tessa B. Dick
  9. Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Breman
  10. The Big Book of Science Fiction edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  11. Star Science Fiction Stories No. 1 edited by Frederik Pohl
  12. Hugo & Nebula Award Winning Stories from Asimov’s Science Fiction edited by Sheila Williams
  13. The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber
  14. Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living by David Fideler
  15. Over My Shoulder: Reflections on a Science Fiction Era by Lloyd Arther Eshbach
  16. The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone by Edward Dolnick
  17. Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World by Philip Matyszak
  18. Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon
  19. No Man on Earth by Walter F. Moudy
  20. The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six edited by Neil Clarke
  21. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
  22. The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer
  23. The Arbor House Treasury of Modern Science Fiction edited by Robert Silverberg
  24. In the Funhouse: 17 SF Stories about SF edited by Mike Resnick
  25. Galaxies by Barry Malzberg
  26. Time’s Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer
  27. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  28. The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade by Susan Wise Bauer
  29. Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller by Alec Nevala-Lee
  30. John Brunner by Jed Smith
  31. Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein
  32. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
  33. Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein
  34. Sixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein
  35. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  36. For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein
  37. Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein
  38. The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
  39. A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell
  40. A Buyer’s Market by Anthony Powell
  41. The Acceptance World by Anthony Powell
  42. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  43. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
  44. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
  45. Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
  46. The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople by Susan Wise Bauer
  47. At Lady Molly’s by Anthony Powell
  48. The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler
  49. Index: A History of the by Dennis Duncan
  50. Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout
  51. Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout
  52. The Good New Stuff: Adventure SF in the Grand Tradition edited by Gardner Dozois
  53. The World Turned Upside Down edited by David Drake, Eric Flint, and Jim Baen
  54. Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout
  55. An Immense World by Ed Yong

For many years I’ve ended my yearly summary of reading with my reading ambitions for the following year. I’m not going to do that this year. My reading tastes seem to be in flux. I like trying to read one book a week, or 52 books a year, but I’m not sure is that’s a useful goal anymore. What I love is finding great books to read. I think I’ll worry less about genre or subject, or how many, and focus on making every read count. It felt really wonderful to discover Elizabeth Strout this year. And to be honest, I am finding reading science fiction, by favorite genre, becoming less rewarding. I might just be burned out on the genre for a while.

I’m also excited about the Anthony Powell books from his A Dance to the Music of Time series of twelve novels. I’m on the fifth book and so far they show more promise than they deliver. I’m hoping if I read all twelve, and think about their total impact, my impression might change.

I’ve been studying the Best-Books-of-2022 lists and there are many I want to read. So, I’ll just call them my reading goal for the year.

JWH

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