Inspired by the lists and favourites posted on the ABC Book Club Facebook group, I checked my bookshelf, Kindle and Audible library for the titles I’ve read and listened to in 2022. The results were interesting: I read six paper-based books and seven ebooks last year and listened to thirty-one audiobooks.
As I have admitted elsewhere, I am a slow reader, more often than not dozing off mid-sentence while reading in bed. But looking back at my year-end book blog posts, I was Mr Consistency in 2018, 2019 and 2020, reading sixteen titles, including one ebook and one audiobook in 2020.
Maintaining consistency, I read another sixteen books in 2021, spread evenly across paper-based and ebooks. I also listened to twenty audiobooks. And this reading trend is reflected in the forty-four titles I read and listened to in 2022.
My Paper-based Books for 2022 (6)
Journey Without Return by Raymond Maufrais: In 1950, twenty-three-year-old Maufrais set off from the French Guiana coast on a solo expedition to the remote and unexplored Tumuc-Humac Mountains on the border with Brazil. Critically under-resourced, he failed to reach his goal and disappeared without a trace. However, when Maufrais’s daily journal was discovered at his last camp, his father published it to fund a futile ten-year search for his son.
Lenin’s Embalmers by Ilya Zbarsky & Samuel Hutchinson: Zbarsky’s father was one of the principal scientists tasked with embalming Lenin after his death in 1924. And he headed the team at the Mausoleum laboratory, which included his son Ilya, responsible for preserving Lenin’s body until Zbarsky senior and junior fell out of favour with Stalin.
“Mini – The True and Secret History of the Making of a Motor Car” by Simon Garfield: I rescued this book from a Council cleanup pile, intending to send it to a Mini-fan friend in England for Xmas. But I posted it late because I started reading the book and became engrossed by the history of the Mini.
The Boy from Boomerang Crescent by Eddie Betts: This was a Father’s Day present from my son and one of my favourite books of 2022 – see below.
The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku: A gift from my father for Xmas 2021, who said it was one of the best books he’d read that year. And proving “father knows best”, the book was also one of my favourites for 2022 – see below.
The Sirens Sing by Kristel Thornell: I reviewed Thornell’s novelisation of the eleven days in 1926 when Agatha Christie disappeared, On The Blue Train, in 2018 (on Tall And True). And when she kindly offered me her latest novel to read, I was happy to review it again (Tall And True).
My Ebooks for 2022 (7)
Dear Ibis by Kate Liston-Mills: In a review of Liston-Mills’s slim volume of short stories, The Waterfowl Are Drunk, in 2017 (on Tall And True), I commented how she had achieved the effect of a novel by interconnecting her settings and characters. And the joy of the Dear Ibis collection is that she has revisited this style of storytelling.
Enclave by Claire G. Coleman: Having read and reviewed Coleman’s debut novel, Terra Nullius, in 2021 (Tall And True), I was intrigued by her follow-up speculative fiction, Enclave. “A powerful dystopian allegory that confronts the ugly realities of racism, homophobia, surveillance, greed and privilege and the self-destructive distortions that occur when we ignore our shared humanity.” (Hachette)
Reckless by Chrissie Hynde: I enjoyed Hynde’s memoir, which I bought after seeing her portrayal in the Pistol miniseries on Disney Plus. Although, as she warns early on, “In the end, this story is a story of drug [and alcohol] abuse.”
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: Inspired by an episode of ABC RN’s The Bookshelf, I bought this classic du Maurier novel and later risked expulsion from the ABC Book Club on Facebook by posting I’d been working on an alternative first sentence: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again, sacked Mrs Danvers, warned Maxim to stop bullying me or I’d report my suspicions about him to the local constabulary and made mad passionate love with Robert.” (PS. Robert is a footman at Manderley, not me.)
Smokehouse by Melissa Manning: Recommended by a Tasmanian writer-friend, Manning’s “linked stories bring into focus a small community and capture those moments when life turns and one person becomes another.” (UQP)
Twelve Furious Months by Robert Fairhead: A shameless plug for my second collection of short stories written for the Furious Fiction writing competition from April 2021 to March 2022, which I published in September 2021, and of course, read.
My Audiobooks for 2022 (31)
“2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke: I read “2001” after watching Stanley Kubrick’s film for the first time in the 1980s. And I enjoyed returning to it as an audiobook version, which sat somewhere between experiencing the screen and paperback mediums.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson: There are several “Brysons” in my bookcase, including “A Short History”. But as with “2001”, I enjoyed returning to the book as an audiobook.
Able by Dylan Alcott: After following Alcott’s career as an Olympic wheelchair basketballer, world champion tennis player and disability advocate, it was inspiring to hear him narrate his story.
Beatleness by Candy Leonard: I heard about this fan book on The Beatles Books podcast with Joe Wisbey. And it tells the story of what it was like to be a young person during the “Beatle years”.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: I loved this audiobook so much that I bought a paperback edition to reread and cross-reference the interconnected stories at my leisure. And it was one of my favourites for 2022 – see below.
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton: Thirty years after discovering Winton and Cloudstreet on a trip back to Australia in 1992, it was a joy to revisit his Miles Franklin Award-winning masterpiece.
Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy: I’ve read many travel books by “The Intrepid Dervla“, but Full Tilt sits in my to-be-read bookcase. So I took advantage of listening to it as an audiobook.
“Imagine: The Story of a Song” by Charles J Shields: John Lennon was my favourite Beatle, so, of course, I enjoyed the backstory of his most famous song.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl: This story is in two parts. In the first (which I found more compelling), Frankl chronicles his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. And in the second, he describes his psychotherapeutic method, logotherapy.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: Rushdie’s 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel has sat in my to-be-read bookcase for far too long. And I was pleased to finally hear Rushdie’s story and writing narrated by Homer Todiwala in this unabridged Audible audiobook.
Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle: I grew up in the 1970s and watched the Charlton Heston classic Planet of the Apes and its sequels on TV. Comparing and contrasting these with Pierre Boulle’s original story was interesting.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: At 16 hours and 10 minutes, this was the perfect audiobook for my weekend drive from Sydney to Melbourne and back to watch the Sydney Swans play Geelong in the 2022 AFL grand final. (Though the game wasn’t perfect for this Sydney fan!)
Shackleton’s Epic by Tim Jarvis: I heard Jarvis talking about his book recreating Ernest Shackleton’s epic Antarctic sea journey on ABC Conversations. And when I learned Jarvis had narrated the audiobook version, I added it to my library!
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts: This was my first audiobook “tome” at 43 hours for the unabridged version of Roberts’ (fictionalised) adventures in India.
So You’ve Been Publically Shamed by Jon Ronson: I found it interesting that this book, published in 2015, doesn’t mention “cancel culture”. Instead, Ronson writes about “public shaming”, particularly Twitter’s amplification of the shaming.
The Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland: This book came close to being on my list of Five Favourites for 2022. I bought it after hearing the story of Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, who escaped Auschwitz to warn the world of the Nazi death camps, in an interview with Freedland on ABC Nightlife.
The Midwich Cuckoos, The Chrysalids and Trouble With Lichen by John Wyndham: I was a big Wyndham fan in my mid-twenties and read most of his books, including these three titles. But I enjoyed reacquainting myself with Wyndham’s writing.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: I binge-listened to this audiobook (all 74 chapters) in 36 hours and loved its reflections on regrets and possibilities. And like The Escape Artist, it came close to making my Top Five list.
The Palace Letters by Jenny Hocking: I was only thirteen when Governor-General Kerr dismissed Gough Whitlam and haven’t “maintained the rage” over the years. But hearing of The Establishment’s role in his dismissal and how, decades later, they fought tooth and claw with taxpayers’ money to keep this secret from the Australian public ignited it again!
The Queen by Mika Gilmore: This book is not about Queen Elizabeth, but Aretha Franklin. And I searched for it after watching the biopic Respect for more background into Aretha’s troubled and brilliant life.
The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Trevis: Another book I searched for after watching the miniseries on TV. Afterwards, I learned that Tevis wrote six novels, and four were adapted for the screen: The Hustler, The Color of Money, The Man Who Fell to Earth and, of course, The Queen’s Gambit.
The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph: I learned about this fictionalised story of the first Black person to vote in the UK from an ABC The Book Show interview with the actor-writer-narrator, Joseph. And I enjoyed it so much that l listened to it again after finishing it!
The Secret History of Christmas by Bill Bryson: Written and narrated with typical Bryson wit, this short book (at one point, Bryson refers to it as an essay) was informative, entertaining and festively timed. (I listened to it between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve).
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein: I had a “D’oh!” moment when I realised Krasonostein’s story about Sandra Pankhurst was narrative nonfiction, not fiction. But knowing this made her story all the more incredible and, in parts, deeply discomforting.
The Uncaged Sky by Kylie Moore-Gilbert: I heard Kylie Moore-Gilbert on the Better Reading podcast talking about her memoir of 804 days spent in an Iranian prison. The podcast host remarked, “You’re brave, and you’re strong.” And after listening to Moore-Gilbert narrate this audiobook, I say, Hear, hear!
This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes: Listening to Margolyes on an episode of ABC The Music Show with Andrew Ford inspired me to download the audiobook version of her memoir. And I loved her opening sentences: “Suddenly I am eighty. How can that possibly be?”
Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies and The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel: Yes, I know, Mantel’s books are a trilogy. But I binged the audiobooks serially, so I think of her writing and Ben Miles’s narration as one long enjoyable “read”. And they made my favourites list for 2022 – see below.
My Favourites for 2022
Choosing my favourites for 2022 felt like being asked to choose my favourite child. However, upon careful consideration, five books stood out, regardless of their genre and medium:
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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
I discovered this book when Australian writer, Nick Earls, quoted it as an inspiration for his novella of interconnected stories, Empires, in a 2021 interview on ABC The Bookshelf. I hadn’t read the “interconnected stories” genre before and found both Empires and Cloud Atlas fascinating books. And as I’d listened to Cloud Atlas as an audiobook, I bought a paperback edition to reread and cross-reference the stories at my leisure. The only criticism I had of the book was that the characters and scenarios were so engaging I wanted to stay with them for longer.
Every Version of You by Grace Chan
I bought Chan’s debut novel after hearing an interview with her on the ABC Book Show. Speculative fiction set in a near-future Australia, the story and characters grew on me and had me binge-reading the final chapters. And when I finished, it left me wondering whether I would “upload” myself to a metaverse 2.0 virtual world to escape a climate-ravaged reality. Because, as the main protagonist, Tao-Yi, asks in one of my favourite lines: “Is this extinction or evolution?”
The Boy from Boomerang Crescent by Eddie Betts
My son bought me AFL legend Eddie Betts’s memoir for Father’s Day. And I later learned my brother gave a copy to our father, and my brother’s daughter had given him a copy, too. So Betts did well out of our family for book sales and deservedly so. His tale of how a “skinny Aboriginal kid” overcame adversity to become an AFL star is inspirational. But the racism he experienced on and off the ground also raises uncomfortable questions, as it should do.
The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku
This was a gift from my father for Xmas 2021, and in my card, he wrote it was one of the best books he’d read that year. Proving the adage from the 1950s American sitcom, “father knows best”, the book was one of my favourites for 2022. Like other Holocaust tales I’ve read, Jaku’s memoir is a mix of disbelief, shock, horror, suffering and despair. And yet, through hope and love, he led a good, long life, describing himself as the happiest man on earth.
Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies and The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
I was aware of Mantel’s writing and her “Wolf Hall trilogy” about the life of Thomas Cromwell, but I hadn’t read her books. And then I heard ABC The Bookshelf’s homage to Mantel on her passing this year and started the audiobook version of Wolf Hall. Two months and 68 hours of listening later, I finished the third in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. And I felt sad about it: partly as a human reaction to the endpoint of Cromwell’s story. But mostly because I knew I’d miss Mantel’s writing, wonderfully voiced by Ben Miles.
My 2023 To-Be-Read Pile
This year, I found it easier to read ebooks in bed than paper-based books (before I dozed off!). And I don’t doze off listening to audiobooks when walking my dog, which may explain why I enjoyed so many in 2022.
Because I only read six paper-based books, I still have several years worth of titles in my to-be-read pile (or bookcase!) for 2023. And the same has happened on my Kindle and tablet after impulse purchases of ebooks in 2022.
I should have asked Santa for a book on speed reading for Xmas! But then, would I ever get around to reading it?
© 2022 Robert Fairhead
N.B. In another shameless plug, here’s a link to a blog post about my first ebook collection of Furious Fiction short stories published in 2021, Twelve Furious Months.
Note: This post originally appeared on the Tall And True writers’ website.
Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of a middle-aged dad and dog owner. Robert Fairhead is a writer and editor at the Tall And True writers' website, and he writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast. In addition, his book reviews and other writing have appeared in various print and online media, and he's published three collections of short stories. Please see Robert's profile for full details.