Home > About reading, Personal Posts > My 2022 reading highlights : another excellent year with books

My 2022 reading highlights : another excellent year with books

It’s already this time of year : the end-of-year wrap-up. I feel like I’ve been in a rush all year long but when I look at my reading year, I still managed to read 75 books (that’s my usual) and a lot of them were excellent.

As usual, I’m not big on statistics about genders, centuries, genres and translated books. I’ll give you my very subjective list of best books read in 2022 and in totally random categories that make only sense to me.

Best Least Commented Billet

I looked into my billets in search of the least commented ones. This year, the winner is Shiner by Amy Jo Burns. It could have been a solid contender for a Bleakest Book category too. What a terrible story of the domination of men over their wives and children, of ignorance, of lost opportunities, of poverty and of the dying way-of-life of the mountains.

It’s a good book, I wonder why almost nobody responded to this billet.

Is it well-known in America and in the UK?

Best Gallmeister Book

I’m fan of books published by Gallmeister. They publish excellent American literature with a focus on crime fiction and Nature Writing, the books that Oliver Gallmeister loves and wishes to promote. Since 2022, they’ve branched out and have Italian books too.

Among the ten books that I read this year from their catalogue, all of them could be on my best-of-the-year list.

For this category, I choose Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, it lives up to its reputation. I haven’t read a lot of westerns but this one is really beautiful on every aspect. The characters, the descriptions of landscapes, the atmosphere of the ending of the Frontier era.

Best Non-Book post

2022 was the centenary of Marcel Proust’s death and I’ve attended several exhibitions and read books by him or about him. I loved visiting these exhibitions and sharing them with you. Given the responses I received to these billets, you have enjoyed your travel armchair visits to Paris and Proust.

There has been two billets about Proust and Paris at the Musée Carnavalet, one about Proust’s life in Paris and one about People and Characters that compared characters of In Search of Lost Time and their real-life counterparts. I wrote about the exhibition Proust on his mother’s side at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du judaïsme. This one explored Proust’s Jewish side as his mother was Jewish.

And the last one I attended was about the making of In Search of Lost Time at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Commenters were quite enthusiastic about it. Thank you for reading these billets about exhibitions you’ll most probably never attend.

Best Most Relaxing Book

Usually, this category includes lighter reads or books you read for entertainment only. This year I want to take “relaxing book” at face value and I pick Indian Creek Chronicles by Pete Fromm.

He describes his winter alone in the Idaho woods near Montana. It’s candid, well-pictured and it runs interference with whatever is bothering you.

Pure bliss, pure armchair travel and a book that reminds you what important and what isn’t.

Best Read With-Sister-in-Law

I read a book per month along with my sister-in-law. (Hi, S!).

In November, we had picked The Hot Spot by Charles Williams. I haven’t written my billet about it yet. I’m glad I waited until the beginning of 2023 to make my best-of-of-the-year list. This is a masterpiece of Noir crime fiction. Brilliant plot, excellent writing, convincing characters and all the Noir codes are respected. It was my first Williams and now he’s sitting next to Jim Thompson on my mental bookshelf.

Best Translation Tragedy

A Translation Tragedy is a book available in English but sadly not in French or vice versa. This year I’ve read twenty-three books that are not translated into English (more than last year, 15) and five that are not translated into French.

Only nine of the twenty-three books not available in English are French books, the others are from French-speaking Africa (Republic of the Congo, Benin, Algeria and Mali), Japan, Italy, Hungary, Mexico, Portugal and Sweden.

In this category, I also have Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami which is composed of various texts that exist in English but have not been gathered in a book. It’s the same for The Book of Christmas by Selma Lagerlöf.

On another note, I find it strange that The House Where I Once Died by Keigo Higashino hasn’t been translated into English since some of his books have been translated.

I’ve tried to read more books by African writers and I wish that Group Photo by the River by Emmanuel Dongala were translated into English. It’s a wonderful portray of women who fight for their rights in the Republic of Congo.

I can’t leave behind the wonderful Island of Souls by Piergiorgio Pulixi. It’s an excellent crime fiction book that mixes a fascinating murder plot, traditions from Sardinia, two catching investigators and a very atmospheric setting.

Among the five books not available in French, like last year, I wonder why Paul Thomas (New Zealand) is not available in French. Fallout was excellent just as Death on Demand in 2021. I’m would find its public in France as we are fans of crime fiction and his Maori maverick police officer would be a hit.

Best Book-I-Want-To-Buy-To-All-My-Friends

Well, it would depend on the time and the friend. I’d either pick All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren or The Marseille trilogy by Jean-Claude Izzo.

All the King’s Men is based on an actual politician and the author found the right balance between telling the rise and fall of a man, examine the life of his right-hand man and mull over the meaning of life and of right and wrong. Not a beach-and-public-transport book but still one I want to share and discuss. It has been republished in a revised translation and the book itself is beautiful.

The Izzo is more entertainment. I loved it and read it while I was in Marseille. It was a wonderful travel companion even if the city has changed a lot since Izzo wrote his books. The reason I loved it so much is the unique atmosphere of the books and how they transport you to Marseille and its area. And yet, Izzo doesn’t sugarcoat the Marseille reality and his tour-de-force is that you still want to hop on a plane and visit Marseille despite all the gritty places he takes his readers to in his books. You just wish that the main character, Fabio Montale, would take you on a ride by the sea and to a local restaurant.

Best Book Club Read

Our Book Club year picked In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and I’m really happy I have read it. I thought it could be too dry for me but not at all. I know it’s a controversial book because it’s based on a real case and it was written only a few years after it occurred but it’s still an excellent book.

Best Non-Fiction

I challenged myself with one non-fiction book per month. I’ve kept up with the list I had made, except for the “Derrida 101”.

The one I’d recommend, beside In Cold Blood and Indian Creek is Proust by Samuel Beckett. It’s an excellent companion book to In Search of Lost Time. Beckett wrote this when he was in his twenties and he’s incredibly insightful.

Best Recommended Book

My choice is Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk.

I started this reluctantly as I found it daunting but I trusted Bénédicte from Passage à l’Est when she told me I’d like it. I loved it and I’m grateful for book blogging or I wouldn’t have read it.

As we say in French, only stupid people don’t change their minds.

Best Book set in the Apalachees

I’ve read several books set in the Apalachees since we were travelling there in August. I read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and was a bit disappointed by it. I thought it didn’t age well but their hiking on the Appalachian trail was still a performance.

There’s Shiner by Amy Jo Burns that I mentioned earlier. Bleak but based on real patterns and events in the mountains. It’s set in Virginia or West-Virginia.

I loved Country Dark by Chris Offutt and its character, Tucker. This one is in Tennessee and hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park helped me understand Offutt’s novel even better as the constraints of nature became clearer. This billet didn’t get a lot of audience but you’re missing out on a great book.

North Carolina was represented by two books. The first one is Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. I wish I had had the time to do a proper billet about this excellent novel. Vishy read it too and wrote a review here.

The second one is The Night That Held Us by David Joy. It’s in the top five of the best books I’ve read this year and the winner in this category. You bet I’ll be reading more by him. He’s got everything I love in a writer: short books that pack a lot, a precise writing, a wonderful sense of place, complex characters who have to deal with a set of rotten cards and sometimes take wrong turns in their lives.

Best Chilling Book

That’s definitely Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett as it really gave me the chills but I could have chosen Little Rebel by Jérôme Leroy.

Both describe horrific situations that could come true. Vigilance is about a reality show that involves mass-shootings and Little Rebel how ordinary people become terrorists. Both plausible, both terrifying.

That’s when you need the comfort read delivered by novels set outdoors and with characters who find their peace of mind in a river.

Best Fly-Fishing Book

I didn’t read a lot of books involving fly-fishing this year but I did pass by a fly-fishing museum. I read another book by Keith McCafferty, Dead Man’s Fancy and it was lovely to spend more time with Sean Callahan and Sheriff Martha.

Best Feminist Book

Our Book Club had included in The Awakening by Kate Chopin in our choices for 2021/2022. I thought it was very ahead of its time as the heroin refuses to stick to the position she’s supposed to fill as a bourgeois wife in New Orleans.

Best atmospheric crime fiction

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden took me to the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. The crime fiction plot was excellent, well-driven and kept my attention. I got attached to the main character who’s struggling to sort out his life, raise his nephew who has lost his parents, grieve his sister and accept the support of his community.

As I’m always curious, I loved reading about life on the reservation and about Lakota customs. The author doesn’t reveal anything about secret rituals that hadn’t been described before. I am grateful that he managed to share about his culture without betraying confidentiality about certains rites.

Well, that was my year 2022 in books. I’ve spent a lovely afternoon among my books and plotting my 2023 reading year.

What about you? When you think of 2022, which book comes on top of your mind?

  1. January 1, 2023 at 5:24 pm

    I thoroughly approve of your very personal way of rounding up your books of the year! I do the same kind of thing myself… I’ve enjoyed your blog this year, and really appreciated your Proust posts. Bonne année! 😀

    Like

    • January 1, 2023 at 5:41 pm

      Thank you!

      I hope I’ll be better at reading other blogs this year. My issue is that after a whole day at work on the computer, I don’t want to be looking at a computer screen in the evening. That leaves me the weekend for blogging.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. January 1, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    I LOVED The Hot Spot, but you would have guessed that. Happy New Year.

    Like

    • January 1, 2023 at 6:03 pm

      Actually, my copy of the Hot Spot is the one you sent me. 😄
      I owe you a lot of book discoveries.
      Happy New Year!

      Like

  3. January 1, 2023 at 7:10 pm

    Your review of Shiner really stayed with me Emma. I just saw today that there will be a theatre production here in March, of Drive Your Plow… which looks really interesting.

    Like

    • January 1, 2023 at 8:33 pm

      Happy New Year !
      Thank you for your kind comment and for reading a lot of my billets.

      Oooh! I wonder how they did Drive Your Plow on stage! I’d love to see that!

      I’ve just seen As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing at the theatre and really, Shaskespeare rocks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. January 2, 2023 at 1:17 pm

    That does sound like a wonderful reading year. I’m glad you had so many excellent reads. Drive Your Plough is a book I hope to get to sooner than later. Happy New Year, and hope you have plenty of great reads this year too!

    Like

  5. January 2, 2023 at 2:48 pm

    Brilliant way of summing up the reading year – and quite a few of my favourites there as well (Marseille trilogy, Drive your Plow, The Awakening). I have not heard of Shiner at all – will look it up now. Thank you for the mention of Little Rebel – it really is a powerful book, packs so much in so few pages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 3, 2023 at 10:06 pm

      Our reading tastes often overlap.
      Have you read The Hot Spot? If you haven’t, I think you’d like it.

      I wish Corylus Books all the best for 2023 and Little Rebel is amazing for all it says in so few pages. It’s also something we’d rather not see. (and cannot really unsee when it’s come to our attention)

      Like

      • January 4, 2023 at 10:29 am

        Our tastes do overlap indeed.
        I am in the throes of planning to come to Quais du Polar this year, as a bit of a holiday treat for myself. So I hope we can meet up and discuss books to our hearts’ content again!

        Like

        • January 8, 2023 at 10:09 am

          I really, really hope you’ll be able to come at Quais du Polar.
          I’d be happy to see you again in Lyon at this fantastic festival. Let me know if you come.

          Like

          • January 8, 2023 at 10:56 am

            It looks like there’s a good chance (from the point of view of childcare and work etc.)! Cannot wait!!!

            Like

  6. Vishy
    January 2, 2023 at 3:49 pm

    Wonderful books, Emma! Loved your post! I want to read The Hot Spot, the Olga Tokarczuk, and the Pete Fromm. Thanks for sharing 😊 Thanks so much for recommending Ron Rash. Loved the two books of his that I read. Congratulations on a wonderful reading year 👏👏👏 Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2023 too. Happy reading!

    Like

    • January 3, 2023 at 10:08 pm

      Thanks Vishy. I think you’ll like The Hot Spot, the Olga Tokarczuk, and the Pete Fromm.

      Happy reading to you too! I’m sure 2023 will be another wonderful reading year.

      Like

      • Vishy
        January 4, 2023 at 9:46 am

        Thank you so much, Emma 😊 Looking forward to reading them soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. January 4, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    I’m going to have to read Lonesome Dove, so many bloggers recommend it. Not a fan of The Awakening, Chopin is unable to shed her antecedents in slave owning cotton plantations, and seems unaware that she should.

    Like

    • January 8, 2023 at 8:32 am

      I really think you’d enjoy Lonesome Dove, it sounds like your kind of book.

      I haven’t researched Kate Chopin enough to know what she thought about slavery. According to her bio on Wikipedia, she ran plantation after 1879, after the Civil War. Did she really own slaves?

      Like

      • January 8, 2023 at 1:16 pm

        As far as I know. Her father certainly did. Her attitude to the Black servant in the story is dehumanising.

        Like

  8. January 5, 2023 at 4:27 pm

    **blush** I’m so glad the Tokarczuk made such an impression on you. I guess it’s the most crime/mystery-oriented of her books so, when your TBR allows, I hope you’ll try some of her other books.
    You have so many one-a-month reading commitments! I should look up your book club list again.

    Like

    • January 8, 2023 at 8:34 am

      I’ll read other books by Tokarczuk but not right now.

      I have two one-a-month reading commitments and I enjoy them because you get to discuss a book you’ve just read with someone who has just read it too.

      Like

  9. January 7, 2023 at 7:27 pm

    A lovely selection and I’m so pleased to see Lonesome Dove in there (though I still find it hilarious that I did a whole Larry McMurtry project myself last year, read 11 books with 2 left to go, and a good few people read Lonesome Dove because of it, but I still haven’t and don’t really want to!). I hope you have a super reading year in 2023!

    Like

    • January 8, 2023 at 8:36 am

      Well your Larry MacMurtry reading project prompted me to take Lonesome Dove off the shelf. I don’t know why you don’t want to read it but it’s really wonderful. I’m not a real fan of westerns myself but if you had to read one western, Lonesome Dove is the one to read.

      Thanks for your good wishes and I wish you a wonderful reading year in 2023.

      Like

      • January 8, 2023 at 8:40 am

        He’s such a good and realistic writer that I can’t cope with the violence in his Westerns. I absolutely love his modern novels, though, and I am really chuffed that quite a few people read LD last year!

        Like

        • January 8, 2023 at 5:55 pm

          It’s true that some scenes are gruesome, but there aren’t so many.

          Like

  10. January 7, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    You’re the second blogger this week to highlight The Marseille trilogy among their favourite reads of 2022. I bought what I thought was book one in the trilogy only to discover I’d got the second one by mistake.

    Like

    • January 8, 2023 at 8:38 am

      The Marseille trilogy is truly excellent but you need to read them in the right order. So you’ll need to buy the first one but don’t worry, when you’ve read it you’ll be happy to have the next one already on the shelf.

      Like

  11. January 8, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    I was impressed with your list – especially the recommendation to read All the Kings Men. In Cold Blood is one of my longtime favorites that I first read when it was published in 1965 and I was 16 years old.

    Like

    • January 8, 2023 at 5:54 pm

      Thank you. I had a great reading list.
      I need to upload the full list on the Reading Lists pages.

      Like

  12. David
    January 27, 2023 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for your interesting list, which I belatedly read… quite a few are of interest to me and have been added to the ‘virtual TBR list’. Since ‘Winter Counts’ was on offer as an e-book at £0.99, I bought that anyway, and with any luck will enjoy it.

    Like

    • January 29, 2023 at 6:41 am

      Now I’m curious! Which ones picked your attention and went on the virtual TBR list.

      Happy that you caught Winter Counts on sale but I’ll never understand how it can be allowed to sell an author’s work for £0.99. Here it’s not possible. (and meanwhile princes crap books are sold a fortune)

      Like

      • David
        January 30, 2023 at 5:52 pm

        The others added to my virtual TBR list were ‘The Hot Spot’ and the Marseilles trilogy. I have read ‘Plow’ recently and ‘In Cold Blood’ a long time ago. (The list is already very long so I have to be sensible…)

        Like

        • January 30, 2023 at 8:39 pm

          Excellent choices!

          Like

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