what i'm reading: 2022 wrap-up

The results of my 2022 reading plan were completely predictable. I created an overly long list, and that created pressure, and that ruined the point and the enjoyment of the plan. I knew that would happen, and it did: I wrote about that here

I started feeling this self-inflicted pressure in May. In August, I released myself from the plan. 

Yes, I had to give myself permission to not follow an arbitrary rule that I invented. Good to know I'm still me. Ha! But also good to know I've learned a few things: I did eventually drop the plan. Take that, old self! 

Big win: serializing the doorstoppers

My biggest win this year was my New York City history project. In 2018, I started reading weekly chapters of the mammoth Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, intending to read both that title and the equally humongous follow-up, Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 in weekly installments. When we started preparing to move to BC, I let that go, but I very much wanted to return to it. And this year, I did! 

I discovered that my first go-round went further than I thought; I had read a good 8 or 10 chapters. But for continuity and enjoyment, I re-started from the beginning, and read one chapter (or occasionally, a half-chapter) every week, unless I was away. (1,400-page books don't travel well.) 

I am thoroughly enjoying it, and will definitely read both books, and will write about them eventually. I may attack two other titles the same way: London: The Biography (2000) and Dickens: Public Life and Private Passion (2001). Both are somewhat intimidating to me, and coincidentally, both are by Peter Ackroyd. (How the hell can anyone be so prolific?)

Still reading, still planning

I did enjoy having a reading plan in 2019, 2020, and 2021: something to focus and guide me, but not a to-read list, which feels mandatory. I'm thinking about how to create a workable reading plan for 2023.

One thing is certain: I read a shit-ton this year. And these lists don't even count all the feature-length articles that I save through Chrome's Reading List feature and actually read later, plus countless book reviews. Reading more -- deep reading, as opposed to scrolling through headlines or reading the first paragraph of a story -- has been an ongoing life goal of mine, and I'm very pleased that I'm always working on it.

Here's what I read in 2022, both from the plan and off-plan.

Important note: I didn't necessarily finish every book listed below. I have no problem sampling a title, realizing it's not for me, and moving on. This is especially true with fiction. 

If you're curious about a title that I didn't review, please ask me in comments.

From the 2022 reading plan


Men Explain Things to Me and The Mother of All Questions, Rebecca Solnit essay collections (ongoing)

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, David Wallace-Wells (review)

A Primate's Memoir, Robert Sapolsky

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age, Annalee Newitz (review)

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe (review)

The Turning Point: A Year That Changed Dickens and the World, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst (review)

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann (review)

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal, Mark Bittman (review)

Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Always, John McWhorter (review)

Four Fish: the Future of the Last Wild Food, Paul Greenberg (review)

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine, Janice P. Nimura

Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century, Charles King (review)

Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, Barbara Ehrenreich


Charlie Savage, Roddy Doyle

Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

Razorblade Tears, S. A. Cosby

The Electric Hotel, Dominic Smith

Marley, Jon Clinch

Christine Falls, John Banville as Benjamin Black

Gods with a Little G, Tupelo Hassmann

Simon the Fiddler, Paulette Jiles

The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish

The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich (review)


Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood, Gary Paulsen (review)

The Leak, Kate Reed Perry (review)

Kaleidoscope, Brian Selznick

Pumpkinheads, Rainbow Rowell 


As I started the next book in each of these, I remembered why I don't enjoy series, and stopped reading both.

Harlem Detective series, Chester Himes

John le Carré re-reads

Long-term goal

I am doing this!!

Weekly chapters of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 and Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919.


Here's what I read after I ditched the plan. The same caveat applies: I didn't finish all of these.


21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality, Bob Joseph (Will review; should be mandatory for all Canadians.)

Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a RealityBob Joseph with Cynthia F. Joseph (in progress; reading for work)

The Noble Hustle, Colson Whitehead

It’s Time for Socialism, Thomas Piketty (I read very little of this. It wasn't what I was looking for.)

Rin Tin Tin, Susan Orlean

Krakatoa: the Day the World Exploded, Simon Winchester (review)


The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner

Celestial Bodies, Jokha Alharthi

The Sentence, Louise Erdrich

The Violin Conspiracy, Brendan Slocum (really enjoyed this; review to follow)


A Year to the Day, Robin Benway

Like Other Girls, Britta Lundin (review)

Important bonus

This beautiful book was a birthday present from my partner. I'm reading it off and on, in random sections.  


John F said...

Hello! I am commenting here after a long absence (it’s been a rough couple of years). I am happy to say that I am not familiar with anything on this list. Why happy? Because you’ve given me lots of new material to discover.

I am currently enjoying The Word Hord: Daily Life in Old English by Hana Videen. And my gift to myself this week will be Kate Beaton’s graphic novel memoir Ducks:Two Years in the Oil Sands. I have yet to see a negative review of the latter, and I am a big fan of Beaton’s webcomic Hark! A Vagrant!.

All the best to you in 2023!

Marie Snyder said...

I'm taking classes again, so it's ruining my casual reading time, but I did read one great book in the summer: The Overstory by Richard Powers. Fictional but with lots of info about trees. I highly recommend it.

allan said...

I have noticed positive mentions of Ducks here and there.

I became curious about The Overstory after reading Peter Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees and wondering if he is legit (he may not be).

laura k said...

Welcome back, John F! I'm sorry to hear you've been struggling. Both The Word Hord and Ducks are going on my List.

Marie, the worst thing about going to grad school was not having time/energy for my own reading. I heard about Overstory from this long article, where various scientists are weighing in on the question Is the Wood-Wide Web Real? I will probably read it.

Also Marie, I'm glad you're here, so I can thank you for turning me on to Wayne, which you mentioned in comments here. :)