2022 in Books
Friday January 20, 2023 — Brooklyn, New York
2022 was a reasonable year for reading, for me. Not including books I abandoned or reread, short stories not included in collections, etc, I read 15 books (that I’ve managed to remember or find notes on). Highlights include The Dispossessed, A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Turn This World Inside Out, Exhalation, Convenience Store Woman, and The Lathe of Heaven.
The complete list, in order:
- The Right to Sex: A reasonably good history of feminist thought, with a focus towards more modern issues. There isn’t a lot that’s really novel here, but it’s well written and worthwhile.
- Turn This World Inside Out: Extremely good. Expanded from an essay on “Nurturance Culture,” I tend to describe this book as being like The Will to Change but without the transphobia.
- The Will to Change: I was turned off by the transphobia and generally surprisingly reactionary tone in this. I see how it could be useful to people, but I wouldn’t recommend it now that Turn This World Inside Out exists.
- What Love Is: I don’t think that this is a useful question, but this is perhaps the only serious philosophical investigation of this question I’ve found, and I have tremendous fondness for it for that reason.
- A Psalm for the Wild-Built: A thoroughly lovely book.
- Convenience Store Woman: There are two extremely frustrating and bad stereotypes in this book that make me not want to recommend it, which is a shame, since it’s a otherwise extraordinarily good book, and one that really came at the right moment for me.
- Tao Te Ching (Ursula K. Le Guin translation): This is a beautiful book, but I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that I can’t recommend it without more caveats than it’s possible to give. If you remember that you are getting Ursula K. Le Guin’s highly idiosyncratic view on a particular Daoist text (one which is generally given more importance than it warrants in the west), then I think it’s excellent. Unfortunately, it can be hard to keep that in mind. If you want a more accurate English translation, I’ve been liking Philip J. Ivanhoe’s.
- Nevada: This book hit uncomfortably close to home, but it’s excellent and I’m glad I read it.
- The Secret Life of Groceries: Pretty good nonfiction on groceries and grocery stores. I liked it, but not a lot to say.
- On Immunity: An Inoculation: A very beautifully written book that covers some interesting ground, but on the whole, it didn’t really do it for me.
- Hunt, Gather, Parent: The actual parenting advice here seems good, but I was put off by the “You Won’t Believe These Secret Ancient Parenting Techniques” and general exoticization of the cultures it talks about.
- The Dispossessed: Very very good.
- Life in Code: I enjoyed these essays, and particularly think a lot about the “real techies don’t worry about eugenics” one, which I would recommend for anyone who has the misfortune of interacting with the tech industry. That said, this didn’t blow me away as much as some of Ellen Ullman’s other writing has.
- Exhalation: Very very good.
- The Lathe of Heaven: I quite liked this — there’s a lot to think about in it, in a well told story.
Other notable items that I read but which don’t fall into the catogory of “standalone books that I finished for the first time this year” include:
- In the Dream House: This book is incredible — one of my all time favorites. I accidentally re-read it after picking it up to reread the “Dream House as Newton’s Apple” chapter, which destroys me every time.
- Solitude (Ursula K. Le Guin): A really excellent short story, that came at the right time for me.
- Figuring (Maria Popova): History told in a manner that tries to address the reality that everything is connected. I really like this style of writing and this book in particular. Unfortunately, it was a bit too long for what I wanted of it, but I still recommend it.
I would like to read more books in 2023. For the first few months of 2022 I was reading several books a month, which seems like a good pace, and I read maybe half a dozen books in a single week in July, in a beautiful and secluded cabin in Norway, but I read almost nothing for the last half of the year, I think mostly due to some pretty bad depression. I’d like to more consistently read at least a book or two a month in 2023.