December 2022 books and 2022 books roundup

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

Two trips out of Belgium that month, one to London where I also took in the Science Museum’s (somewhat disappointing) exhibit about science fiction, and a spontaneous excursion to Amsterdam with F to meet up with my brother and his daughter just before Christmas. Meanwhile I got in the moo for the office Christmas party, which had a “jungle” theme:

I read 30 books that month.

December 2022 books

Non-fiction 5 (YTD 97)
Warriors’ Gate, by Frank Collins
Zink, by David Van Reybrouck
The Romans, by Jacob Edwards
The Ahtisaari Legacy, ed. Nina Suomalainen and Jyrki Karvinen
What If? by Randall Munroe

Non-genre 3 (YTD 18)
A Darker Shade, ed. John-Henri Holmberg
A Ship is Dying, by Brian Callison
On Black Sisters’ Street, by Chika Unigwe

SF 17 (YTD 122)
The Spare Man, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Titan Blue, by M.B. Fox
Filter House, by Nisi Shawl
The Splendid City, by Karen Heuler
Looking Further Backward, by Arthur Dudley Vinton
Ion Curtain, by Anya Ow
Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen
Bluebird, by Ciel Pierlot
“Schrödinger’s Kitten”, by George Alec Effinger
The Turing Option, by Harry Harrison with Marvin Minsky
The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness
“The Last of the Winnebagos”, by Connie Willis
Shadows of Amber, by John Betancourt
The Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard
Killing Time, by Caleb Carr
The Free Lunch, by Spider Robinson
Sewer, Gas and Electric, by Matt Ruff

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 34)
Doctor Who: Origin Stories (ed. ?Dave Rudden?)
Doctor Who and Warriors’ Gate, by John Lydecker
Doctor Who: The Romans, by Donald Cotton

Comics 2 (YTD 20)
Official Secrets, by Cavan Scott, Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson and Marco Lesko
The Carnival of Immortals, by Enki Bilal

7,100 pages (YTD 66,500)
9/30 (YTD 109/298) by non-male writers (Suomalainen, Unigwe, Kowal, Shawl, Heuler, Ow, Pierlot, Willis, de Bodard, Melo)
4/30 (YTD 39/298) by a non-white writer (Unigwe, Shawl, Ow, de Bodard)

The best of these were the essay collection The Ahtisaari Legacy, which is out of print, and The Red Scholar’s Wake, which you can get here; the worst was Titan Blue, which you can get here.

2022 books roundup

I read 298 books in 2022, two more than in 2021, the fourth highest of the nineteen years that I have been keeping track, and the highest since 2011. 

Page count for the year: 76,500, ninth highest of the nineteen years I have recorded, almost in the middle; there are some very short books in there.

Books by non-male writers in 2022: 109 (37%), second highest tally and fourth highest percentage of the years I have been counting.

Books by PoC in 2021: 39 (13%), second highest tally and third highest percentage since I started counting.

Most-read author: a tie between two previous winners, Terrance Dicks and Kieron Gillen, with five each. The Dicks novelisations were all re-reads.

1) Science Fiction and Fantasy (excluding Doctor Who)

122 books (41%) – 4th highest total, 8th highest percentage.

Top SF books of the year:

When I first wrote up my books of the year I didn’t name any of the Clarke submissions. I will now say that the three I enjoyed most which I read in 2022 were:

  • Tell Me An Ending, by Jo Harkin; get it here
  • The Flight of the Aphrodite, by S.J. Morden; get it here;
  • The Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard; get it here.

Add to that two Hugo packet entries:

Honourable mentions to:

Welcome rereads:

The one you don’t have:

The one to avoid: 

2) Non-fiction

95 books (32%) – highest ever number, third highest percentage. I think this has been driven upwards by the excellent Black Archive series of short books about Doctor Who stories, but that’s not the only factor.

Top non-fiction book of the year:

Honourable mentions to:

The one you haven’t heard of:

The one to avoid:

  • Duran Duran: The First Four Years of the Fab Five, by Neil Gaiman, early stufffrom a writer who went on to much better things; out of print.

3) Doctor Who

Fiction other than comics: 39 books (13%), 10th highest total (dead in the middle) of the last nineteen years and highest since 2017, 13th highest percentage

Including non-fiction and comics: 72 (24%), 7th highest total and 6th highest percentage, both highest since 2013

Top Doctor Who book of the year:

Honorable mentions to:

The one you haven’t heard of:

The one to avoid:

4) Comics

20 (7%), 11th highest total and 12th highest percentage, both lowest since 2015.

Top comic of the year:

Honourable mentions:

  • Snotgirl Volume 1: Green Hair Don’t Care, by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Lesley Hung, an encouraging start to a new series; get it here
  • Once and Future vol 3: The Parliament of Magpies and vol 4: Monarchies in the UK, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain, continues to delightfully and brutally subvert Arthuriana; get them here and here

The one you haven’t heard of:

The one to avoid:

5) Non-genre fiction

18 (6%); second lowest tally and lowest ever percentage of the nineteen years that I have been keeping track.

Top non-genre fiction of the year – joint honours to two very different books:

Honourable mention:

The one you haven’t heard of:

  • A Ship is Dying, by Brian Callison, gripping account of a maritime accident in the North Sea; get it here

Nothing that was so awful that I would recommend avoidance.

6) Others: poetry and scripts

I read two excellent poetry collections by Northern Irish writers, Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney (get it here) and The Sun Is Open by Gail McConnell (get it here). I also read a very odd play, Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar (get it here), which was the basis for the much better film Beasts of the Southern Wild.

My Book of the Year 2022

The 2022 winner of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize was, for the first time, a book of poetry, The Sun is Open, by QUB-based writer Gail McConnell. In fact the 119 pages of text are one long poem broken into chunks, playing with text and with font colour, processing the writer’s reaction to going through a box of her father’s things, long after he died in 1984 at 35, shot dead by the IRA while checking under his car for bombs, in front of his wife and his then three-year-old daughter.

Gail McConnell barely remembers her father and has no memory of that awful day, but of course it has affected her whole life, and the poetry captures that disruption and the effect of engaging with her father through a box of personal souvenirs, most notably a diary and a Students Union handbook from his own time at QUB. There is some imaginative playing with structure – quotations from the box are in grey text, documents are quoted in fragments to let us fill in the blanks, at one point the page fills with vertical bars to symbolise the prison where her father worked. It’s provocative and unsettling, and meant to be. 

I thought it was incredible and it’s my book of the year for 2022. You can get it here.

Previous Books of the Year:

2003 (2 months): The Separation, by Christopher Priest (reviewget it here)
2004: (reread) The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin (reviewget it here)
2005: The Island at the Centre of the World, by Russell Shorto (reviewget it here)
2006: Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles, by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea (reviewget it here)
2007: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel (reviewget it here)
2008: (reread) The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, by Anne Frank (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray (reviewget it here)
2009: (had seen it on stage previously) Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (first volume just pipped by Samuel Pepys in 2004) (reviewget it here)
2010: The Bloody Sunday Report, by Lord Savile et al. (review of vol Iget it here)
2011: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (started in 2009!) (reviewget it here)
2012: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë (reviewget it here)
2013: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf (reviewget it here)
2014: Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (reviewget it here)
2015: collectively, the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, in particular the winner, Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel (get it here). However I did not actually blog about these, being one of the judges at the time.
– Best book I actually blogged about: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, by Claire Tomalin (reviewget it here)
2016: Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot (reviewget it here)
2017: Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light (reviewget it here)
2018: Factfulness, by Hans Rosling (reviewget it here)
2019: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo (reviewget it here)
2020: From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull (reviewget it here)
2021: Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins (reviewget it here)