It’s “Year in X” time, and here’s my 2022 Year in Books on GoodReads. I’ll cover some highlights here.
Many of these recommendations came from the Incomparable’s Book Club, part of the main Incomparable podcast. In particular, episode 600 The Machine was a Vampire which is a roundup of their favorites from the 2010s.
Bookended by Murderbot Diaries
I started and ended this year (so far) with a couple installments in the Murderbot Diaries. These follow a robotic / organic “Security Unit” that’s responsible for taking care of humans in dangerous situations. We pick up after an unfortunate incident where it seems to have gone rouge and murdered her clients (hence, the murderbot) and hacked its governor module to essentially become “free”.
There’s some exploration of “what does it mean to be human?” in these, but mostly they’re just fun.
I read a pair of books this year that are set completely different worlds (one in some facsimile of the Byzantine empire, and another in the earth’s near-future) that are related by the protagonist being competent at engineering and problem solving.
First up was Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary (a followup to The Martin, which falls under this category too). At times it felt like some challenges were thrown up just so that the main character could knock them down. But it also had one of my favorite fictional characters ever (no spoilers, but it’s Rocky).
The second was K.J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City. In this one, the main character feels a bit more balanced. His strengths around engineering and problem solving are offset by his (self-admitted) weaknesses. I really enjoyed this one.
After reading Jo Walton’s Among Others, which follows a Sci-Fi / Fantasy obsessed girl as she goes through some… things, I dipped in to some of the referenced works I had never gotten to before.
First was Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. This was great. I imagine it was groundbreaking and controversial when it first came out, but I still liked it as a story.
Next was Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Wow, was this good. I’d only read Slaughterhouse-Five before, and finally got around to some of his other stuff. Sooo good.
There were two books that I just loved (both got 5 stars on goodreads) that I want to label “wholesome”.
Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke, was just great. The setup is bizarre, but we follow our… wholly innocent (naive? definitely wholesome) main character in a world of classical Greek statues and water. Piranesi just Loves his World and that’s great.
Next up is Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. This a story of a fundamentally good person unexpectedly thrown into power. He does not simply roll over and get pushed around by the system, and he retains his fundamental goodness. It’s pretty long (449 pages) and not much actually “happens” (there’s maybe two or three “action” scenes). And yet somehow Katherine kept the story moving and all the factions straight.
My other 5-star book this year was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I know it’s super popular so you don’t need me recommending it, but dang this got to me a bit1. I don’t know how old The Boy is in the story, but mine’s six now and it was hard not to let imagination wander.
I think the only non-fiction books I read this year were
- Command and Control by Eric Schlosser about how (not) to safely have a nuclear weapons arsenal
- The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy by Michael Lewis, about the dangers posed by putting people in government who don’t care about doing a good job
- The Path Between the Seas about the development and construction of the Panama canal
This is less than I would have liked, but hey, I’ve been tired.
You can find my read books on goodreads. I don’t think I read (or at least finished) any bad books this year. My lowest-rated was Eye of the World (the first book in the Wheel of Time series) and it was… long. It world seems neat though. Leviathan Falls wrapped up the Expanse series satisfyingly. The Nova Incident is a fun spy / cold-war thriller set in the far future, which I’d recommend reading after the earlier ones in that series. On the other hand, Galaxy and the Ground Within (book 4 in the Wayfarers series) worked just fine without having read the others.
Overall, a good year in books!