My reading year, 2022 – Austin Kleon
I have read a wonderful series of novels this year. Gabrielle Zevin Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow it surprised and delighted me to no end, and I think that book deserves every accolade it gets. of Don Delillo White noise it was spectacular and also had an extra layer of meaning as I read it right after reading Ernest Becker’s book Denial of death, a noticeable impact. I liked Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven much more than the TV show, which I understand is a somewhat controversial opinion? (Every year I read a bestseller, and every year I’m reminded that all bestsellers have this in common: they turn the page, they make you want to turn the page.) of Iris Murdoch Sea, Sea it absolutely drove me crazy, but I have the odd urge to re-read it, that’s how I know if something is good. of Antoine Wilson Word of mouth it made me want to go to bed early so I could stay up reading it.
At the very end of the year I read of John Higgs William Blake against the world, a book which somehow managed to tie together many of my year’s readings: of William James Varieties of Religious Experience especially. (A great book. James can write his ass.) The sections on neuroscience and hemispheric change overlap with a large two-volume Iain McGilchrist. The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Illusions, and the Unmaking of the World. As for Blake himself, I see his influence on Gareth Brookes The dancing plague AND Edward Carey’s Plague and Pencil: A Year of Pandemic Sketches.
My comfort reading is books about music. There is a perfect book with 250 pages in 400 pages of of Dan Charnas My Dilla. I have read an essay or two by WA Mathieu’s The Listening Book: Discovering Your Music every night at the dinner table. Craig Brown’s 150 Beatles appearances it had a great ending – I love it when a book goes downhill. I was surprised I didn’t connect of David Toop Ocean of Sounds more so, as it’s full of writing about the music I love. (It can be a cozy book – and I mean this as a compliment – one that you dip in and out of casually). we have My Bloody’s Loveless and they did. Chuck Klosterman The Nineties: A Book it was much more than music, but we’ll throw it in here. A big nostalgia trip for me.
I’ve read tons of books about movies and making movies. Kyle Buchanan Blood, Sweat and Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road it made me love that movie even more than I already did. It is a miracle that it happened. I read Aljean Harmetz’s The Creation of the Wizard of Oz as I had an unexpected emotional reaction to watching Dorothy’s Adventures with my children for the first time. Matt Zoller Seitz’s The Wes Anderson Collection mixes fine art and interviews with the director. I had been looking forward to it for years of Ander Monson Predator: A Memoir, A Movie, An Obsession, a great opportunity to study in depth something you like.
This is a golden age for non-fiction comic books. I thought Box Brown’s Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America it was a true showcase of his talents. (See also his strip Legalization Nation on his Instagram.) I liked it too Darryl Cunningham’s Putin’s Russia AND Billionaires. A book that seemingly came out of nowhere was Two heads: A graphic exploration of how our brains work with other brains. I admired the cartoon on Kate Beaton duckshow she managed to stay loose while dealing with a serious subject.
My main obsession this year was my bike and I was instantly in sync with the spirit of Grant Petersen Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike. (I also enjoyed reading his Bicycle Sentences illustrated by Betsy Streeter and posted on Instagram. Publishers take note: They’d make a great book.) I thought Jody Rosen’s Two Good Wheels: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle it would be right up my alley, and the pieces definitely were, but I ended up wishing it was tighter and shorter and felt less like magazine clippings strung together.
For a short, beautiful week, my son and I played chess every day. i loved by David Shenk The Immortal Game: The History of Chess, especially the brilliant structure of alternating chess moves of the famous game with historical chapters. I also made my way through the classics, Bobby Fischer learns chess.
I read some great art books, of course. Annie Albers’ In Weaving it is unbelievably wonderful. of Martin Gayford Spring Can’t Be Canceled: David Hockney in Normandy it was a great first spring read by one of my favorite artists. Lourdes Grobet’s Lucha Libre: The Masked Superstars of Mexican Wrestling it’s out of date, but worth tracking down. (Fun fact: her son was a cinematographer for Nacho Libre and the second season of The White Lotus.)
I’m always interested in the intersection between art and family, and I’ve been trying to find my own book on the subject for years. Ada Calhoun’s Also a poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father and Me it was a really beautiful memoir, and it has added power and depth if you read The Art of Dying beforehand by her father, the art critic Peter Schjeldahl. Julie Phillips’ The baby on the run from the fire: Creativity, motherhood, and the mind-baby problem will move to the top of my list of favorite books on art and motherhood.
My youngest son was diagnosed with ASD this year, and while I’ve read tons of books about autism, Barry M. Prizant and Tom Fields-Meyer’s Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Looking at Autism it is probably the first book I will recommend to family and friends. An extremely hopeful read.
And two books I liked that somehow don’t fit anywhere else:
I love the series “Little Stories” and Nigel Warburton’s A Little History of Philosophy it did not disappoint.
by David Graeber Debt: First 5000 years it was long but very good.
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I’ve been doing a year-end roundup of my reading since 2006. You can read it all here.
I hope you read widely and with adventure, but most importantly, I hope you read what you want to read! Life is short and time is precious, and any book that doesn’t keep you turning the pages isn’t the book for you right now.
Having trouble reading? Here’s how to read like one artist.