My books of 2022, including my book of the year

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 this year: it’s a tie between two previous winners, Terrance Dicks and Kieron Gillen, with five each. The Dicks novelisations were all re-reads.

(previous winners: Neil Gaiman in 2021, Kieron Gillen in 2020, Brian K. Vaughan in 2019, Tove Jansson and Marcel Proust in 2018, Colin Brake and Leo in 2017, Christopher Marlowe in 2016, Justin Richards in 2015 and 2014, Agatha Christie in 2013, Jonathan Gash in 2012, Arthur Conan Doyle in 2011, Ian Rankin in 2010, William Shakespeare in 2009 and 2008, Terrance Dicks in 2007, Ian Marter in 2006, Charles Stross in 2005, Neil Gaiman and Catherine Asaro in 2004).

1) Science Fiction and Fantasy (excluding Doctor Who)

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

Top SF book of the year:

I have to be a little coy here, because there are some very good Clarke nominees coming through the mix that I don’t yet feel free to discuss. Apart from that, I’m going to give a joint award to two books which were in the Hugo packet:

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 stuff from 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. Not quite sure why this is; perhaps as I work through the unread bookshelves more ruthlessly, I am getting through loads of previously unread sf, where I had already got to most of the non-genre fiction I had bought on a whim.

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

This year’s 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 (review; get it here)
2004: (reread) The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (review; get it here)
– Best new read: Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin (review; get it here)
2005: The Island at the Centre of the World, by Russell Shorto (review; get 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 (review; get it here)
2007: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel (review; get it here)
2008: (reread) The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, by Anne Frank (review; get it here)
– Best new read: Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray (review; get it here)
2009: (had seen it on stage previously) Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (review; get it here)
– Best new read: Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (first volume just pipped by Samuel Pepys in 2004) (review; get it here)
2010: The Bloody Sunday Report, by Lord Savile et al. (review of vol I; get it here)
2011: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (started in 2009!) (review; get it here)
2012: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë (review; get it here)
2013: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf (review; get it here)
2014: Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (review; get 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 (review; get it here)
2016: Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot (review; get it here)
2017: Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light (review; get it here)
2018: Factfulness, by Hans Rosling (review; get it here)
2019: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo (review; get it here)
2020: From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull (review; get it here)
2021: Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins (review; get it here)