Tuesday 3 January 2023

Books I read in 2022

I started off well, went really slow somewhere in the middle and then finished mostly strong. I had a good mix of reading books and audio books. I really enjoy audio books and listen to them while driving, cooking, weeding and doing other tasks with my hands. 

There were probably a dozen other books that I started but didn't get more than a few to 50 pages in before moving on. I don't log these at all.

Let's see which books I completed and those that I found to be memorable and worth recommending. 

From this set, a number of strong reads.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams is charming and the most wonderful tale built around the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. Beautiful story telling.

I love Fredrik Backman's books - I've read a number. As I read Anxious People, there were dozens of sentences and paragraphs that stood out for me. I highlighted them (on my Kindle) to look through 'later'. When I finish a book, I find the image online to save in my 'Books 2022' album and then I delete it off my Kindle. As I hit delete, I remembered all those highlighted passages that had meaning for me. This deserves a re-read to capture the words that stood out for me.

Of course, I read 'Born to Run' by Christopher McDougall a bunch of years ago. I'd heard that 'Running with Sherman' was charming - and it was. I listened to this book and thoroughly enjoyed this tale of the donkey Sherman, Christopher, his friends and family, other donkeys and their preparations for a race.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi - another audio book that spun a yarn and carried me away on a story breeze.

I don't really remember most of these - regular, entertaining fiction. The Last Garden in England was an easy-listening fiction story.

The stand-out book here is Where's the Next Shelter by Gary Sizer, which I listened to. It was also narrated by the author. This is his account of being a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Superb and insightful about the route, terrain, weather, gear, overnight stops, and other hikers. This book got my feet itching...

Some general, entertaining fiction in this group. I've read or listened to a bunch of Jo Nesbo books and in many ways I prefer audio because the narrator, Sean Barrett, is so good. He brings detective Harry Hole to life. You can't really go wrong with any of Jo Nesbo's books for a good crime fiction read.

Hold The Line by Kim Stephens is the stand-out book from this group. Kim is local. Lives in CT. We're Facebook friends. She is a media-writer person and we have similar circles with people in common. Kim took the bold leap to write this book and self-publish. I am so glad that she did. 
There are two elements to this book: her blog posts from 2020 during and after COVID lockdown and chapters about her own life. These are read as alternating chapters. I had read many of her posts as they were written but what I most loved about this book was Kim's own voice in writing about her own life.

Where I've loved real-life adventure books for decades, I dare say that I'm at an age where I'm really enjoying biographies and autobiographies. Hold The Line hit the spot and even more so because she is someone I know. The real life of a real person - her challenges as a teenage mom, relationship successes and failures, self-awareness, work, raising children and many elements that mark our years.

If there is one criticism I have of this book, it is that there wasn't enough, for me, of her. I could have read double the content on her. The blog posts, many of which I read at the time, are good and they mark the period of time that we all went through. They are great reminders of things I've already forgotten. I would have liked to read more pages of Kim's writing about her life, people and experiences. As an experienced writer, she is good with words and descriptions and telling a good story. I hope she does more writing and publishing in years to come because she has a wonderful talent for no-nonsense narration.

Three solid books in this group - and all audio books. 

Matthew McConaughey. Matthew McConaughey. Matthew McConaughey. Greenlights is superb. This one was narrated by Matthew and I wouldn't have had it any other way. A story of his life, choices, lessons learned, experiences, people, making movies, family, and places all told in that delicious McConaughey accent. He is, of course, a brilliant narrator, playing with his own words as he lifts them from paper to voice. I'm sure the paper version will make for a good read but if you can get it on audio (I get my audio books through Audible), take this option because listening to Matthew McConaughey is part of the pleasure of this book.

The Twenty-Ninth Day by Alex Messenger is a story of a small group on a six-week canoe expedition in the Canadian wilderness. On day 29, Alex is mauled by a grizzly. He survives but is wounded and thereafter the story (the last third, I think) revolves around his team, their care of him and how they work together to get to where they can get help. No panic or excessive drama. The book is a solid recollection of the expedition, this awful situation and their calm and logical management of events. The story is packed with expedition experiences and  learnings, wilderness scenery, river adventures, wildlife encounters, and descriptions of this vast wilderness. I listened to this as an audio book.

The Ink Black Heart is the sixth Robert Galbraith book with her detective Cormoran Strike and his partner Robin Ellacott. I think I've now listened to more than I've read. Audio is my preferred choice as the narrator, Robert Glenister is phenomenal. The Ink Black Heart was a 33-hour listen and it whizzed by. Dealing with an infestation of broad-leaf weeds in my garden, I enjoyed a few merry hours of listening and weeding. For weeks I looked forward to every opportunity to do things that kept my hands busy and my mind free to listen. Most of Galbraith's books have been adapted for television (movies / series?). I haven't seen any of them. The books are delicious and I eagerly await each new release.

The last few books from around October to December were a mixed bag.

At the beginning of December I went away for a few days to a place with no wifi and no mobile signal. I found a book there of Roald Dahl's short stories, which I devoured.

(I've got a book on William Burchell's return journey through the Karoo, along the Garden Route and to Cape Town that I started reading while away but I haven't finished it so this one will be on 2023's list).

Women of Means I listened to. Each chapter on a different woman. The stories of their lives were very interesting and I completed about 90% of the book before deciding that I could live for the rest of my life without wondering about the few women that I missed out on. I needed to move on.

My People, The Amish was a free Kindle book. I seem to recall reading about 85% of the book. The content was interesting as I didn't know much about the Amish. I read before bed and being dog-tired, I was making very slow progress. It was time for me to move on to something different.

I love Hans Rosling's TED Talks and his were some of the very first and also some of the first that I ever watched some 15 years ago. Factfulness I listened to. The main theme of the book is that things are getting better in the world overall (medicine, life expectancy, elimination of poverty, decreasing child mortality) - as proven by data and research. Hans wants us to have a more positive outlook because of this and also to ask questions, don't just accept what we're told by sensationalist media and to verify what we hear and thinking for this to become a proven known and not just what we believe.

I can agree with him that things are getting better in the World - the data shows this, but I still can't help feeling blue about the general state of thing because of the influence of my South African experiences. Everyday I encounter for the people struggling and suffering in the here and now, it doesn't help them now to know that their children's children should be better off than they are. They're still stuck in a hard existence. Good book, solid content and good lessons.

I finished The White Masai on New Year. I picked the book up at a xmas fund-raising market a few weeks ago. This is an interesting story of a woman who visits Kenya, falls for a Masai guy and gives up her life to live in the sticks. 

Throughout the book I was bewildered by the author - her choices, decisions and motivations that really got her into a ghastly situation; one that she was fortunately able to get out of. She is resourceful, adaptable and courageous but also determined, single-minded and obsessive. She has two other books. If I come across them, I'll probably read them because I'm curious as to what happens next in her life. I have Googled her and her daughter but I'd be interested to know the inside story from her books. 

As the year turned, I completed listening to a superb series of lectures on 'The History of Scientific Medicine Revealed Through Biography'. This was a free audiobook on Audible. Every one of the 12 lectures had me captivated by the times, characters and discoveries. I would listen to another two dozen of these lectures without hesitation. The lecturer, Professor Sherwin Nuland, is superb in his delivery of educational content in a story woven with facts and good humour.

I've downloaded another of these lecture series listens, which I'll start in the next day or two. Audible also had a 2 for 1 credit sale last week so I've got four new books to listen to.