Every Book I Read in 2022
I thought it might be fun to chronicle every book I read this year.
"The Every" by Dave Eggers is fun. While it has too many ideas about technology crammed into it, I still found it entertaining. Not essential.
"Sisters Brothers" by Patrick deWitt is terrific. A funny western about two assassin brothers.
"Eve's Hollywood" by Eve Babitz reads like Joan Didion if Joan Didion wrote for TMZ. Some essays are thoughtful about California and celebrities. Others are vapid and shallow.
I did not read "The Peregrine" by J. A. Baker but listened to the audiobook because David Attenborough narrated it. It's a book about a guy who follows a bird. I am 85 years old.
"The Go-Between" by L. P. Hartley is one of these old British books where nothing much happens, but every little thing carries great significance. Youth, love, class, and manners. I loved it, and I should read more books like this.
I wanted to like "Devil House" by John Darnielle, but I did not.
"A Little Devil in America" - a mix of history and autobiography - is my new favorite book by Hanif Abdurraqib. It covers Don Cornelius, Josephine Baker, Sun Ra, Whitney Houston, Dave Chappelle, Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, Merry Clayton, Mike Tyson, and many others.
I quickly read "True Grit" by Charles Portis but did not dig it. It has its moments, but the movies may be better.
Colson Whitehead books don't always do much for me, but I liked "Sag Harbor." It joins "The Nickel Boys" as a favorite, as I'm reasonably sure I prefer his more classic novels to the genre exercises.
I finally finished "The Sellout" by Paul Beatty after starting it several times over the years. It's a satire on race and slavery, and while I liked parts of it, I had trouble with the pacing.
"People from My Neighborhood" by Hiromi Kawakami blurs reality and fantasy in 36 concise, connected stories. I did not care for it.
Halfway through "No One Is Talking About This" by Patricia Lockwood, I didn't think it was for me. I found the first half (about life inside an internet portal) disorienting and exhausting. But the second half of this book is human and beautiful, and I liked it.
I tried another Charles Portis book and liked "The Dog of the South" more. It's an amusing book about the characters a man meets while tracking down his wife and stolen car.
"The Door" by Magda Szabo is another book where nothing much happens. It explores the complex relationship between a writer and her apolitical, non-religious, secretive, stern housekeeper.
I read one of the Patrick Melrose novels by English author Edward St Aubyn a few years ago, and I decided to read all five. In the first - "Never Mind," - Patrick is five and sexually abused by his father. This book is very dark and funny.
In the second - "Bad News" - Patrick is in his 20s and addicted to drugs. His father dies, and he travels to New York to get his ashes. Good.
The third book mirrors the first with many characters and jokes about wealth and privilege. "Never Mind" is probably the weakest of the bunch. In it, Melrose is sober and finally admits to a friend what happened to him as a child.
It was "Mother's Milk" that I had read previously. Patrick is married with two kids, and his mother is giving away his inheritance. Not as dark or funny as the first, but still very enjoyable.
In the final book - "At Last" - Patrick attends his mother's funeral: "I think my mother's death is the best thing to happen to me since… well, since my father's death." Final ranking: 1, 4, 2, 5, 3.
You know what you're getting with a Michael Lewis book, and "The Premonition" is no different: potentially dry, complicated topics explained through personal stories. This book details a group of people prepared for the pandemic and explores how it could've gone differently.
"Razorblade Tears" by S. A. Cosby is about two fathers searching for the killer of their gay sons. Strong characters, good pacing: I liked this book even more than "Blacktop Wasteland" from 2020.
"Corporate Rock Sucks" by Jim Ruland is about (and subtitled) the rise and fall of SST Records. I wanted more about Minutemen, Meat Puppets, and Sonic Youth and less about the 35 iterations of Black Flag. Summary: Greg Ginn blew it.
I took a flier on "The Other Dr. Gilmer" by Benjamin Gilmer because the story takes place in North Carolina. A doctor kills his father and goes to jail. A second doctor (with the same last name) takes over the first's practice and tries to figure out what happened.
"Either/Or" is Elif Batuman's sequel to "The Idiot" from 2017. Selin Karadag is in her second year at Harvard, navigating literature and relationships. Compelling narrator but not essential.
I did not care for "Killing Me Softly" by George Higgins - a crime fiction novel heavy on stylized dialog, later made into a Brad Pitt movie that I will not watch.
"Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties" by Tom O'Neill is a bit of a mess, a sometimes exciting book searching for a tin foil hat.
I liked "Guston in Time" by Ross Feld, an elegant memoir of artist Philip Guston. He gave up abstract expressionism in favor of a crude, figurative painting style that everybody hated at the time.
Poet Lucille Clifton's memoir "Generations" is a slim, beautiful book about ancestry, slavery, geography, and names.
"One-Shot Harry" is Gary Phillips's historical crime novel about an African-American photographer investigating the death of his friend from the Korean War. I used to read numerous books published by SoHo Crime; I may start again.
Ostensibly another "the internet is terrible" book, "We Had to Remove This Post" by Hanna Bervoets, is actually about the relationship between Kayleigh and her girlfriend. Dark and depressing, I liked it.
Funny and strange, I dug "The Hearing Trumpet" by Leonora Carrington. It's impossible to describe the plot, so I'll say only that one of the quotes on the back is from Björk.
I know Amanda Petrusich from her thoughtful music writing in The New Yorker. "Do Not Sell at Any Price" is just as engaging, covering obsessive collectors of 78rpm records.
Of the three memoirs in "The Copenhagen Trilogy" by Danish author Tove Ditlevsen, I liked the first one, "Childhood," the most.
I enjoyed but did not love "Lemon" by Kwon Yeo-sun, a concise murder mystery with three characters narrating, but I got the narrators confused more than once.
I liked a few stories but would not recommend "Filthy Animals" by Brandon Taylor, a collection of interconnected short stories.
A novel that reads like a memoir, "My Government Means to Kill Me" by Rasheed Newson moves quickly, covering a gay Black teenager's adventures navigating NYC, civil rights, and the AIDS crisis.
Strange multi-dimensional things happen when a woman moves to a subdivision where she lives with two judges named Clara and has to finish a giant puzzle. I thought "Subdivision" by J Robert Lennon was funny but slightly tiresome.
"First Love" by Gwendoline Riley is a depressing but compelling novel about Neve and her sick, hostile husband, Edwyn.
Not every short story in "Liberation Day" is great, but some are, and I will continue to read every book George Saunders writes.
I did not care for Cormac McCarthy's "The Passenger," a muddled mess about a deep sea diver in love with his dead schizophrenic sister.
You-Jeong Jeong's "Seven Years of Darkness" is a trippy murder mystery set in South Korea. The first half is terrific, but the storylines and characters get thin by the end.
"Less Is Lost" by Andrew Sean Greer is a warm, funny, road-trip novel about a gay writer making his way from the west coast to the east after his former lover dies. It is the sequel to "Less," a book that won the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago, and not quite as good.
Gwendoline Riley's "My Phantoms" is a better novel than "First Love" - a thoughtful, touching, funny, sad examination of a woman's relationship with her mother.
Beautifully written but often disorienting, "Flights" weaves several different storylines and narrators with no delineation. I can see why this book won awards, but I'm all set with Olga Tokarczuk.