Best books I’ve read 2022

In 2022 I’ve read 40 books. This year’s felt a bit like limbo, as we emerged from something transformative into … what? Some things have changed, for better and worse, and others have stayed the same, and where it’s all going who knows.

I read a LOT of Australian writing this year. There’s just so much exciting stuff at the moment. From Paul Dalla Rosa’s cattle prod of a collection of short stories, An Exciting And Vivid Inner Life, to Yumna Kassab’s unsettling portrayal of rural life in Australiana. I was shaken by Natasha Scholl’s primal depiction of grief in her memoir Found, Wanting, and thrilled by Liminal’s cutting edge anthology of non-fiction, Against Disappearance.

Overseas I enjoyed A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam’s inward-spiraling investigation into the Sri Lankan civil war, and was thoroughly entertained and challenged by David Graeber and David Wengrow’s reframing of history through the lenses of freedom and power, The Dawn Of Everything.

And thanks to the book club I’m part of, I’m continuing to rediscover the pleasures of the past, with highlights including the luxurious perfumery of Proust, the heat and humidity of Tennessee Williams, and the mad genius of Bulgakov. I savoured every bite of the second installment of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and savoured equally the stunningly beautiful TV adaptation.

The biggest book highlight of the year for me though has been seeing my boyfriend’s book, The Boy In The Dress, published (and tagging along on his tour of Australian writing festivals, from Townsville to Tasmania).

Here are my six favourite reads of the year:

Tilt by Kate Lilley — A deceptively technical collection, these poems come alive in their playfulness, whether it’s evoking the dangers and pleasures of Sydney in the 1970s, or delving into Greta Garbo’s archives. Bitchy, vulnerable and fabulously queer.

Tomb Of Sand by Geetanjali Shree (translated by Daisy Rockwell) — the most joyful book I read this year spends almost two-thirds of it’s near-800 pages confined indoors. But what riches it finds there, in this tale of a 80-year-old grandmother coming back to life and motion after experiencing grief. Read this to feel the boundedness of things coming loose.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro — from joy to unbearable bleakness, Ishiguro’s beloved “boarding school” novel forensically dissects incarceration and enslavement and how such systems can be maintained through control of information, all within an awfully tender depiction of young love and friendship.

Cold Enough For Snow by Jessica Au — an immaculate little artefact, this gorgeous novella follows a daughter as she takes her mother on holiday in Japan. Its stillness and meditative pace belie the fathoms it plumbs.

The Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Ghosh — whether Amitav Ghosh draws his bows a little long or paints his brushstrokes a little broadly in this revisionist history of the world since European colonisation feels a little beside the point. Its power is its reframing of this history as a conflict between different relationships with the more-than-human world, a story full of possibility that might yet guide us out of the climate and ecological crises we’re only just at the beginning of.

Modern Nature by Derek Jarman — After finding out he was HIV positive, British filmmaker Derek Jarman sought respite in a garden on an inhospitably shingle beach in southern England. From January 1989 he recorded his work on the garden in diary form. The result is an arresting, exquisite investigation into life, sex and death. A real lifetime book.

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