I’ve been burning through the books this year. Figured I’d post what I’ve read to date.
****Updated: Where you see 4 asterixis, those are books I have read since I posted in late July. I read a total of 49 books this year.
Top Books of 2022
Allow Me to Retort
The Kaiju Preservation Society
Light from Uncommon Stars
Tomorrow & Tomorrow & Tomorrow
The 1619 Project edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones (Non-Fiction: Social Sciences/History)
I admit to only reading a few pages at a time because these essays contain hard truths about the slavery and institutional racism that is foundational to America, and some thoughts on how we might change our way of thinking going forward. Begun in 2021.
****1776 by David McCullough (Non-Fiction: American History)
The preeminent historical author David McCullough passed away in July. I decided to read one of his seminal works, and enjoyed it. The writer lays out how Washington somehow failed us into winning against the British. A fascinating read.
Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth Powell (Science Fiction)
Alternate history meets near-future. Action, adventure, and a Spitfire-flying, cigar-chomping monkey. What’s not to like?
Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor (YA Science Fiction)
Wonderful finale(?) to this series that is basically Hogwarts in Africa with Hermoine as lead. Sunny grows up in this one, and the maturity is not just in her powers.
Allow Me to Retort by Elie Mystal (Non-Fiction: Current Events/Social Sciences)
Wondering why the Constitution doesn’t really work for everybody except the wealthy whites, and how the Right keeps weaponizing it? Elie Mystal breaks it down in easily comprehensible chapters with his trademark wit and bombast.
Atlas Six by Olivie Blake (YA Science Fiction)
I was initially quite taken with this book about a parallel magical world that works with and for normals. Six young medeians (magicians) are chosen to serve the Library of Alexandria, which a) survived and lives on in London, and b) is magic to the point of sentience. Cool premise… and then about mid-book it gets bogged down, only to resolve into a series ending in the last 20 pages. Bleh.
****Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence by R.F. Kuang (Fiction: Alternate History)
Sort of an “Atlas Six” meets “Night Circus” that might have been written by Umberto Eco if he’d been Chinese (semiotics plays a major part). An alternate history of the British Industrial Revolution/Opium wars. Really stellar.
****Becoming by Michelle Obama (Non-Fiction: Biography)
I know—everyone’s already read this, right? As a bookseller, I must have sold over 100 copies off the waist-high pile we had at the store (that sold through 3 times). For some reason, I never got around to reading it until this year. Such a fascinating study of Black excellence, the ability to change course, and sitting ringside as history was made—while trying to raise 2 girls. Recommended.
Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson ARC (Fiction)
More enjoyable than the 1st one, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek about librarians who ride mules into remote poverty-stricken areas. My only bone to pick with it is that Honey isn’t terrified of dating a white boy with her parents sterilized and imprisoned for “miscegenation.”
Caliban’s War, The Expanse Book 2 by James Corey (Science Fiction)
A sprawling space opera set in a time when humans have populated the entire solar system, and the economics/societal problems/politics that follow suddenly confronted with some sort of alien incursion. The introduction of Avasarala (played to perfection on the TV series by Shohreh Aghdashloo) and “Gunny” Bobbie Draper just makes this series even better. Sometimes repetitive, but always cutting-edge fascinating.
The Cartographer’s Secret by Tea Cooper ARC (Fiction)
A historical fiction set in Australia in the 1800s. Seemed like a good read until the end when you realize that the whole thrust of the book was a mysterious disappearance that IS NEVER SOLVED. Disappointing.
Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner (Science Fiction)
I’m a Trekkie, so of course I was going to read this. Who is leaving strange and threatening packages for Brett Spiner? Is his FBI agent coming on to him? Often hilarious, totally bizarre, fan fiction/autobiography(?) will leave you wondering what about this was true.
The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management by Eric Verzuh
I have taken a new job in which my title is Project Manager. Seemed like a good idea to understand all that goes into that. I’ll probably be studying for certification in ’23. An OK book that helps me understand better than webinars have previously.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jamieson (Science Fiction)
A three-in-one perspective of a world in a constant civilization collapse cycle. Imaginative and complex. I didn’t care for the 2nd person present perspective, but that’s just me nit-picking.
The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (Science Fiction)
I’ve read this trilogy every few years for (mumbly decades). Obviously, a mid-1950s story is going to suffer—in this case, women are practically non-existent in the story, and when they are, frequently are portrayed as dull, vapid, or appendages who accidentally do something. Also, Asimov thought he was a mystery writer… and nope. Still, complex world-building and fascinating sweep of centuries make this a seminal book all would-be sci-fi writers should read.
****Harry Potter Illustrated Books 1 – 4 by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by (YA Fiction)
Yes, I have read the entire series before, and watch the movies regularly. Yes, I am aware of Ms. Rowling’s vile internet behavior. Still like the books. The charming illustrations that Mr. Hill created for these books are charming and bring out the fun bits that the movies just didn’t quite get right. Book 5 is expected by Christmas (production was delayed by the pandemic and Mr. Hill’s mental illness (he will not be continuing the work after Book 5, but the series will be finished by someone else)). Recommended for all Potterheads.
Hell yes, I re-read my own books from time to time. Sometimes I’ll even enjoy the experience!
Heliopause: The Questron Saga Book 1 by J. Diane Dotson (Science Fiction) indie author
A rare DNF. I follow the author on Twitter and she seemed fun, but this book did not make the grade.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Science Fiction)
Enjoyed this tale of a woman living centuries after making a deal with a dark force. I could have done with less of the male character, but that’s just a quibble.
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (Science Fiction)
The author refers to this book as the equivalent of a “pop song.” It’s certainly a romp of a book that takes the reader to an alternate world where Godzilla is an everyday occurrence – and of course, some billionaire wants to exploit them. Lots of fun.
****Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (Non-fiction: biography)
It’s stunning when you first realize how prolific Leonardo WASN’T. Unlike Michelangelo, Leonardo finished few paintings, did no sculptures, but did a whopping amount of nattering in dozens of journals. Leonardo didn’t like people telling him what and when to do things. He rarely finished with a painting, because he was always coming up with new ideas to improve them. And he really, REALLY wanted to be a civil or military engineer. I’m not sure that I have a better understanding of Leonardo the man, but you get quite a disquisition on his art and studies.
Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (Science Fiction)
A completely unique spin on the classic Faustian Bargain tale, while addressing transgender and queer topics. Wonderful read. Keep a Kleenex box handy.
The Measure by Nikki Erlick (ARC Fiction)
What if one day, every single adult on the planet received an accurate measure of when they would die? What does it mean to have a short string? A long one? And how will that effect the nature of love, politics, and our sense of who we are? This is very well handled. I have already recommended it.
Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice (Fiction)
The 1st part of the book is depressingly poor. Lestat the vampire of the previous books isn’t just a brat prince, he’s a whiny one. Things get more interesting in the 2nd half as he discusses with the Devil about humanity and divinity. I would place this with “The Screwtape Letters” in terms of a different take on “evil.”
****The Mercenary’s Blade (Lord’s Legacy Book 1) by Eleanor Swift-Hook (indie author)
An immensely enjoyable historical fiction. Set during the English Civil War, this period drama involves a mysterious military commander and a socially clueless London lawyer who falls into his orbit. There’s everything to like here: a dashing hero who may/not be a villain, a blundering but clever “Doctor Watson” character, witches, a rich tapestry of social upheaval, mysterious conspiracies, and a love interest. I can’t wait for the rest of the series to come out!
****Mistborne by Brandon Sanderson
Extensive worldbuilding underpins this story of a street thief with mysterious powers joining a band determined to bring down the aristocracy, the feudal system that disenfranchises the native population, and the god/ruler himself. While there is quite a bit of what I might call “filler,” bulking the book up, it still is a good read. Will probably read the next book in the series.
The Night Circus by Erin Mortgenstern (Fantasy)
I reread this book annually. It’s one of 2 books in my life I read to the end and immediately restarted it. Two magicians fight a proxy war using young people who are uncertain what the war is about or their actual part in it. Their venue? A magical circus. Brilliant writing, world-building, conflict set-up, love story. One of the few writers I can say I am jealous of – just magnificent writing.
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah (Fiction)
I read this simply because the author has such a dedicated following & I must have sold 200 of these when I was a bookseller. The tale of 2 very different sisters, their estranged father and occupied France. Like most “women’s fiction” it manipulates the tears (yeah, I did cry). I felt the writing was uneven, the characters strangely under-developed, and many repetitive moments (it felt like the copy and paste things hadn’t been removed). It was likeable enough, but I am still not a fan.
****Noor by Nnedi Okorafor (Science Fiction)
A partially mechanical woman (AO) flees society and meets up with a tribesman (DNA) fleeing hatred. It seems the whole world is against them as AO’s enhancements connect to the insidious surveillance and control of the mega-corp and she discovers just how thoroughly they control everything. Thought-provoking as always, but not my favorite of Dr. Okorafor’s books.
****Shards of Earth (The Final Architecture Book 1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Science Fiction/Space Opera)
The “usual assemblage of misfits take on the galaxy baddies” isn’t a bad place to start. Some really interesting themes developed here, but not enough to make me remember all the names & species. I won’t be looking for book 2.
****The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien (Fantasy)
I can’t explain why I never finished this; I started it several times. This time, I skipped over Tolkien’s lengthy explanation of why he wrote the world he did and dived into to the stories. Obviously not as compelling as The Hobbit of Lord of the Rings, it fills in the backstory well. I can’t think of any author who has had more impact on modern entertainment. Gaming owes its existence to him, every fantasy screen/writer labors under his shadow. Truly remarkable.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Science Fiction)
The first book in the Dresden Files series. I have read some odd reader reviews of this book. Plenty of magic & detective noir. What’s not to like?
Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein (Science Fiction)
I re-read this every couple of years because it is so much fun—even if it is misogynistic and paternalistic. The idea of some horn-dog surviving 3000 years and somehow conning the universe to his will is irresistible to me.
****To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini (Science Fiction)
I was an early fan of Chris’ Eragon fantasy series. Given the immense amount of pressure he was put under (recall he was 15 when he wrote the 1st book), I wasn’t surprised he didn’t write for a long while afterwards. His latest books haven’t been all that interesting. Sleep is a big sprawling space opera with Kira and an alien skinsuit at the center of everything (and I do mean everything. The main conflict springs from her choices). I think the book could use about a 150 page haircut, but otherwise a fun read.
Tobacco Wives by Adele Meyers ARC (Fiction)
A 15-y.-o. is dumped at her aunt’s. The aunt is a dressmaker to the top executives. Aunt gets sick, 15 y.o. sews all the party dresses AND uncovers the truth about cigarettes (it’s 1950). Not even barely believable. As Dorothy Parker said: “This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be flung across the room with great force.”
****Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Fiction)
I became mildly obsessed with this book about a quarter of the way in. A love story in which love is never consummated (or is it?). A book not unlike Ready Player One except from the game designers’ POV. Don’t over-think it, just go read the book.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Fiction)
Powerful and elegantly written story about belonging, the nature of faith, grief, and family. An immigrant woman struggles to understand her identity, her relationship with her parents, and her place in her adoptive country. Didn’t care for the scenes operating on mice, but I understood it was part of the levels of understanding God.
The Tree Singer by Jacci Turner Indie author (MG/YA Fantasy)
YR/YA read about a land where humans have special talents that help the entire community. When all the trees are dying, a quest is launched to see if the land can be saved. A coming-of-age novel with an ecological and communitarian POV. Lovely.
What It’s Like to Be a Bird by David Sibley (Non-Fiction: Nature)
I am a backyard bird fan, currently feeding about 200 birds (songbirds and hummingbirds), so you know I’m going to love this. Great illustrations, simple explanations of how birds fly, swim, love, nest, raise their young, and migrate.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (Fantasy)
Maybe I’m no longer an “epic fantasy” fan. This seemed to be a lot of walking around doing nothing in particular to get the characters to the last 40 pages when all the action happened. I am watching the series, and thinking it is better than the book (a rarity).
Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Durham (Fantasy Horror)
I wasn’t aware fantasy horror was even a category until I read this book. Several young people are excited to be invited to the abandoned residence of the author of their favorite childhood book (think something close to Wind in the Willows). They arrive and discover the mansion is filled with the talking characters: a rabbit, a gourmet chef frog, a hard-drinking fox, a non-verbal bear. After a wonderful meal, the killing begins… and goes on and on and on. I read this just to see what the author would do. Written in 1950s prose with an odd backstory woven in. Bleh. Avoid.
That’s it for 2022!
And don’t forget my Paranormal Romance series The Heirs to Camelot
The Midsummer Wife (Book 1)
The Solstice Bride (Book 2)
Mistress of the Rose Moon (Book 3)
The Priestess of Camelot (prequel)