2022 may not yet have ended but I choose to review my reading year around Christmas as advocacy may provide inspiration to readers looking to make purchases – for themselves or others. Since I posted last year’s annual roundup, I have read a mixed bag of well over 100 books. I was actually quite pleased by that count as it has felt at times that my rate of reading has become unusually slow compared to previously. What is also pleasing is how hard I found it to narrow this roundup to a manageable number of recommendations. As I have said in previous years, this is not a ‘best of’ list as such but rather a collection of books I believe readers who choose to follow my blog would also enjoy reading. They have been chosen because their impact has lingered.
Let’s start with some older works. I wasn’t familiar with either of these authors but was pleased to be introduced to them.
Amongst Women by John McGahern, published by Faber & Faber
The Gamekeeper by Barry Hines, published by And Other Stories
Naturally, I also read books by authors previously enjoyed, finding further treasure that left me eager to read more of their work. If you have ever considered going on a writer’s retreat, do pick up the Alison Moore.
Foster by Claire Keegan, published by Faber & Faber
The Retreat by Alison Moore, published by Salt
Still Life by Sarah Winman, published by 4th Estate
Where I End by Sophie White, published by Tramp Press
Of new (to me) contemporary authors discovered, these following books had particular impact. This was down to both innovative storytelling and trusting the reader to unpeel layers that, while not always obvious, are there to reward those paying attention. It may take a little time to engage with some of the narrative styles but all are well worth pursuing.
Mischief Acts by Zoe Gilbert, published by Bloomsbury
None of This Is Serious by Catherine Prasifka, published by Canongate
Seven Steeples by Sara Baume, published by Tramp Press
After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz, published by Galley Beggar
A couple of short story collections make it onto my list. This is a form I enjoy reading when well done, as here.
The Bygones by Jim Gibson, published by Tangerine Press
Lunate Vol. 1, published by Lunate Journal
Another short story collection slipped in as translated fiction, a category that regularly provides me with literary gems.
Wilder Winds by Bel Olid (translated by Laura McGloughlin), published by Fum d’Estampa
Of Saints and Miracles by Manuel Astur (translated by Claire Wadie), published by Peirene
For a memoir to grab me it has to provide something a little different, as both of these books do. There is no self-aggrandising here but rather windows into worlds that proved interesting, presented in taut, engaging prose.
The Other Jack by Charles Boyle, published by CB Editions
Never Mind, Comrade by Claudia Bierschenk, published by Tangerine Press
Poetry is a form I often feel unqualified to review in depth but which I enjoy reading when, as in this work, entries are both entertaining and accessible.
Mathematics for Ladies by Jessy Randall, published by Goldsmiths Press
And finally, a few honourable mentions. I am always eager to read anything written by Jan Carson as I adore her playful writing style and how she so skilfully captures her characters. Louise Kennedy, a new author to me, also proved skilled at presenting those living in Northern Ireland, flaws and all, with honesty and compassion. I know less about South Africa than Ireland personally but, having visited friends there in the 1980s, staying in various homes and observing how they regarded and treated the ‘help’ who lived at the bottom of their gardens, Dawn Promislow’s writing resonated.
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy, published by Bloomsbury
The Raptures by Jan Carson, published by Doubleday
Wan by Dawn Promislow, published by Freehand Books
So there we have a top 20 of sorts from my year of reading. I do hope this will provide some inspiration. I wish you all a happy and peaceful festive season with some time to curl up and relax with your choice of fine literature.