2022 felt like a bit more of a return to normal – or at least, a new normal. Certainly, I had more time to read this year thanks to a return to commuting but also, I had some health issues this year, which are continuing into 2023 (albeit will hopefully be rectified early in January) which also created more reading time.
I ended up reading 118 books in 2022, which was much more than my target of 90. In terms of my other reading targets for 2022:
- I actually managed the 50/50 gender split with 60 of the books I read this year being written by women;
- I was just short of my target for 25% of the books read to be by or co-written by writers of colour. I ended up hitting 23%, with 28 of the 118 books being by or co-written by writers of colour so I need to work on this more in 2023 – I have bought a number of books by writers of colour so will look to read them rather than leaving them on my shelves;
- I exceeded my target of 40% of the books read to be non-fiction with 44% (or 52 of the books read).
My blog’s stats have really taken off this year, for which I have to thank Gary Oldman and the team behind the SLOW HORSES TV adaptation because those reviews are by far the most popular ones on my site. In fact Slough House by Mick Herron was my most popular review of the year, which was first posted in 2021 and my most popular review from those written in 2022 was Bad Actors by Mick Herron￼. I expect both to do good numbers in 2023 when series 3 of SLOW HORSES drops.
I’m going to retain the Affiliate links to Amazon UK, Waterstones and Bookshop.org because they’ve been performing fine but I am reviewing whether to keep the Affiliate link to Amazon USA. I don’t view this site as a side hustle – it’s very much a hobby – but Amazon USA has strict criteria for sales and if you don’t reach it, then they pull your account and you have to start over and with the number of reviews I’ve done, that takes upwards of 4 hours to do, which is a lot of time to spend on it. (That is not a whinge, by the way – it’s purely because I have a number of projects I want to tackle in 2023 and that’s going to put other demands on my time). If I do pull the Amazon USA links then I’ll review how things stand in 2024.
I’m still not going to schedule regular reviews but aim to post about 2 per week, most likely on Wednesdays and Sundays.
As has become my tradition, I’ve set out below my favourite reads of the year in no particular order:
Buzz! Inside The Minds Of Thrill-Seekers, Daredevils, And Adrenaline Junkies by Kenneth Carter￼ is very easy to read book delves into the psychology of why some people engage in thrill-seeking behaviour (e.g. BASE jumping, eating exotic and potentially deadly foods or sky diving). I found it fascinating and came away with more of an understanding for what drives people to do these things and what they gain from it.
The Return Of The Russian Leviathan by Sergei Medvedev￼ is a very readable book (translated from Russian by Stephen Dalziel) first published in Russia in 2017 and published in the UK in 2020 that’s scarily relevant and prescient to Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine. Through short essays, Medvedev describes what’s driving Putin’s colonialism and how it’s caused by Russia’s failure to reckon with the traumas of its past.
Critical Thinking: The Essential Guide by Tom Chatfield is a really useful book is aimed at students but has a lot for ‘ordinary’ people who want to work on their critical thinking skills, including sorting through and questioning information, understanding biases and how to make a strong argument. It’s clearly written, easy to follow and has useful summaries at the end of each chapter.
Nothing But The Truth by The Secret Barrister is a searing memoir recounting their journey to the bar and later as a blogger and, more importantly, how working as a criminal lawyer changed their own views of criminal law and those who run up against it. It’s honest, funny, horrifying and is a great way of learning how the legal system works.
Bad Actors by Mick Herron￼ uses a missing person case to incorporate a savage commentary on UK politics. Like SLOUGH HOUSE there’s a strong set-up feel with Herron manoeuvring characters and motivation for Book 9 but Wheelan’s return, Taverner’s tribulations and Shirley’s rage issues are all a lot of fun, I enjoyed seeing John Bachelor from the novellas and there are some hilarious lines such that I can’t wait for Book 9.
The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman is an absolute delight. Osman’s lightness of touch carries the plot forward with a lot of humour while Ron and Ibrahim are fleshed out a lot more here than in the previous books. At the same time, Stephen’s Alzheimer’s is sensitively shown and is slowly becoming more heart breaking while the hint of a new Coopers Chase resident in the next book offers a lot of potential.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION:
Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson￼ accomplishes that rare feat of being an even better read than the first book. Jackson sensitively deals with the fall out from the first novel (for Pip and her friends and family) and then creates a new mystery that significantly overlaps with the first. I have some nitpicks (mainly around the rape trial but also some about Cara) but it is a genuinely gripping read and I am looking forward to the concluding book in this trilogy.
Ambrose Follows His Nose by Dick King-Smith and Josie Rogers￼ sees Josie Rogers complete her great-grandfather Dick King-Smith’s unfinished manuscript for release on what would have been his centenary, creating an utterly delightful read for children aged 6+ that’s filled with King-Smith’s warmth and wit. The illustrations by Stephanie Laberis are charming and there’s a lovely end note by Rogers. Younger readers will enjoy the adventurous bunnies while older readers will enjoy the sly humour and nostalgia.
Marie Curie by Nell Walker is a fascinating biography of Marie Curie for readers aged 7+ covers her childhood in Poland (where education opportunities were restricted), her work on radioactivity and marriage to Pierre and role in the development of x-ray machines. Charlotte Ager’s sensitive illustrations work well alongside photographs and Walker clearly conveys a woman of remarkable spirit and ability.
I Don’t Have Enough by Pat Thomas and Claire Keay￼ is a deeply compassionate non-fiction book (part of a series) aims to introduce the subject of poverty to children aged 5+ in a very sensitive way that encourages discussion and understanding without causing stress or worry or causing bullying or alienation. It’s a great book with wonderful illustrations and worth a read.
Artists: Inspiring Stories Of Their Lives And Works by Susie Hodge for readers aged 8+ combines profiles of artists from Ancient Egypt to the present day with summaries of schools of art and how to make art. Hodge features a diverse selection of artists and mediums and Jessamy Hawke’s illustrations perfectly complement the text. It’s perfect for young readers with an interest in art because it conveys passion for the topic.
Mr Men And Little Miss: The Royal Party by Roger Hargreaves and Adam Hargreaves￼ has all the charm and silly humour of the original books and although it’s aimed to tie in with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, works on its own merits aside from that. I particularly enjoyed Little Miss Naughty’s devilish cunning and how things nevertheless come good at the end.
Big Sister: Ruby And The New Baby by Fiona Munro￼ with illustrations by Darshika Varma is perfect for young readers who are finding it difficult to deal with a new baby sibling and gives useful tips for parents who want to help them with that adjustment. Varma’s illustrations deserve special mention for the inclusivity, including Ruby’s wheelchair using mum but Munro also gets Ruby’s emotions spot on and I really felt for her when Ravi snaffled Blue Bear.
Mr Men and Little Miss Happy Eid by Roger Hargreaves and Adam Hargreaves￼ has all the charm and silly humour of the original books but offers very young readers a chance to learn a little about Eid and Ramadan in a way that’s entertaining and informative.
Gretel The Wonder Mammoth by Kim Hillyard￼ is both a charming and moving story about feeling anxious and alone and how the best way of coping is to tell someone and ask for help. I really loved the birds who think Gretel is awesome and Gretel herself is adorable (loved the spectacles). All in all, I think young readers will enjoy it and it’s also a good way of introducing them to managing their mental health.
Anansi And The Golden Pot by Taiye Selasi￼ is boldly and beautifully illustrated by Tinuke Fagborun and takes the traditional Akan character of Anansi and weaves him into a clever tale of family and the importance of being generous while also introducing children to the food and folklore of Ghana. It’s an entertaining read that parents will enjoy with their little ones and I particularly enjoyed the illustrations of Anansi himself, with his dapper outfit.
JoJo & Gran Gran Go To The Hairdresser by Pat-A-Cake Books is the 5th in the JOJO & GRAN GRAN picture book series that accompanies the CBeebies series (which itself is based on a book/characters by Laura Henry-Allain). Sometimes tie-ins can feel stale and ho-hum, but a lot of thought has gone into this and I loved the way it celebrates Black hair and hairstyles. JoJo has a lot of personality and the love between her and Gran Gran is very moving and I think younger readers will thoroughly enjoy it.
Our Tower by Joseph Coelho and Richard Johnson is a beautiful read that shows both the wonders of the natural world and the community within city tower blocks. Coelho brings an evocative lyricism to the text (although having stayed in a tower block, I did find myself having to suspend disbelief at times) while Johnson’s illustrations are extraordinarily beautiful, using a muted palate to bring nature and city to life.
Looking forward to 2023, my To Be Read Pile stands at a humiliating 888 (at the start of 2022 it was 860). I was better behaved last year and did not take every ARC and review book that was offered to me and neither did I go crazy in book stores, but there’s still no getting away from the fact that I’m ending the year with more books than I started it with, even if I did manage to get through some books that have been in that pile since 2006.
My reading aspirations for 2023 are:
- I want to make some inroads into my To Read Pile in 2023 and ideally end the year with fewer books than I started with. No laughing at the back.
- I am setting a reading target of 100 books minimum.
- I want to read a gender split of 50/50 male and female authored books.
- I want 25% of the books I read in 2023 to be by writers of colour.
- I want 40% of the books I read in 2023 to be non-fiction.
I’ll round up by offering a sincere and massive thank you to everyone who has stopped by this blog during the year. I really do appreciate you taking the time and I hope that you find my reviews helpful. I hope that you all have a smashing 2023 and wish you all happy reading.
FOR THOSE BRAVE ENOUGH TO CHECK BEHIND THE CUT TAG, I HAVE SET OUT MY TO BE READ PILE IN ALL ITS GORY GLORY: