2022 Reading Roundup

It’s that time of year where people humblebrag about how much they read, under the pretence of making recommendations for others. You can hardly move on Twitter for end of year reading lists. And Phil Whittall’s roundup of roundups takes it to an Inception-level extreme – lists within lists.

As Qoheleth might have said,

‘Of making many end of year lists of books there is no end’

(Ecclesiastes 12.12-ish)

But hey, I’m not one to let the moment pass me by. So here’s my summary of all the books I’ve completed this year. I also have a large pile of half-started books, some of which I hope to get round to finishing next year. And you better believe that if I do end up finishing any of them before the end of December, I’ll update this post, coz every book counts!

And I’ve also read a few unpublished manuscripts this year, which annoyingly I can’t put on this list. (Note to self… in future years only read friends’ manuscripts if they’re gonna be published the same year, so they can count towards my Goodreads challenge! Otherwise, where’s the value for me?!)

Anyway…

Fiction

My favourite novel this year was Robert Galbraith’s The Ink Black Heart. I love the Strike series, and think J.K. Rowling does a great job of keeping the reader gripped through a far larger page-count than I would normally consider necessary! This book had some complex formatting challenges – simultaneous online chats between anonymous characters – which I thought would be laborious, but actually worked surprisingly well. It did drive me crazy that some of the characters had Twitter handles that don’t fit with the conventions of Twitter! But I’ll let that slide… a great thriller that kept me guessing right to the end!

I finally got round to reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall this summer. I rarely read historical fiction, and I’m undecided whether I will persevere with the rest of the trilogy… but this was so beautifully written and I’m glad I made the effort. And it was a nice pairing with Melvyn Bragg’s biography of William Tyndale; a figure whose presence lurks in the background of Mantel’s work, both through direct mentions, and biblical quotations.

I also binged a fair bit of teen fiction – seven Alex Rider books while in Covid isolation. I really enjoy them and they’re great for boosting your reading stats, although I did not like Snakehead one bit. (I also like Horowitz’s adult fiction too, and enjoyed A Line to Kill, the third in his Hawthorne Investigates series). And over the summer I read Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. I had tried book one a while back and didn’t get on with it – I found the footnotes frustrating and struggled to get beyond the backstory and world-making to actually enjoy the tale. But I tried again in the summer (encouraged by my wife, who had read further ahead and always knows best!) Books 2-4 were something else. There were tears at the end.

Worst novel of the year – The Fox by Frederick Forsyth. Lazy. Dull. Complete waste of time. Although it’s currently on offer on Kindle – only 99p. So if enough people buy it through this affiliate link I might earn enough money to almost make up for me having wasted my time on it!

And controversially, I didn’t think much of The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman either. Book 1 was enjoyable, book 2 was far better, book 3… it was ok, but I kinda feel like the charm has worn off and I want something a bit more substantial. Would probably read future books if I find myself with little else to do… but not very enthusiastically.

Non-Fiction

I’ve enjoyed some great non-fiction this year and have read a number of books which have really helped me understand our current cultural moment.

Glen Scrivener’s The Air we Breathe and Graham Tomlin’s Why Being Yourself is a Bad Idea both make a compelling case for Christianity, in a way that resonates with the longings of this cultural moment, and redirects them to the One who can satisfy. I’ve reviewed them both here. (Andy Kind’s Hidden in Plain Sight also does a similar job, and is far funnier!)

Strange Rites by Tara Isabella Burton is a fascinating tour of American religiosity, looking at the many ways our ‘remixed world’ crafts bespoke forms of spirituality to take the place previously held by religion. In the light of the recent UK census, and reports about the increase of spiritual nones, many of her observations cross the Atlantic pretty well.

Tim Keller’s How to Reach the West Again and Paul Williams’ Exiles on Mission both help us rethink mission in the twenty-first century western world, and Mark Sayers’ A Non-Anxious Presence is full of insights to help us understand this ‘grey zone’ in which we find ourselves, and consider what it looks like to lead well in a complex and chaotic world.

I also enjoyed a couple of books on the reliability of the Bible, including a re-read of Amy Orr-Ewing’s short book, Why trust the Bible? And at the other end of the page-count spectrum, K.A. Kitchen’s enormous On the Reliability of the Old Testament was a really eye-opening survey of the different types of evidence for the events recorded in the Hebrew Bible.

Other honourable mentions include Chine McDonald’s God is not a White Man, which was really provocative and insightful, and Sandra Richter’s Stewards of Eden, which I think may be my new favourite book on Creation care. Having read a fair amount on this subject it’s rare to be surprised, but there were insights in here I’d not seen elsewhere, and her e-course at Seminary Now was also really helpful and engaging.

Looking ahead to 2023

As for the books I didn’t finish in 2022… they are many. Some of them I probably won’t return to. (The previous completer-finisher in me would have bravely battled on to finish even the most arduous book, but these days who has time for bad books?) But a few I am really enjoying and intend to continue in 2023 include Michael L. Morales’ magnificent Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? and James Hamilton’s wonderful commentary on the Psalms. Both are slow reads, as there is so much to take in.

I’ve also got a couple of books I’ve been wanting to start for a while, which I hope I will get to soon, for example Abraham Heschel’s The Prophets and N.T. Wright’s commentary on Galatians. And I also have a few books on healing and prayer that I’m eager to get stuck into.  

Now if only people would take a year off writing interesting things, I might have a chance of catching up!

The Full List

The Windsor Knot – S.J. Bennett
A Three Dog Problem – S.J. Bennett
William Tyndale – Melvyn Bragg
The Fire that Never Sleeps – Michael Brown and John Kilpatrick
Strange Rites – Tara Isabella Burton
The Fox – Frederick Forsyth
The Ink Black Heart – Robert Galbraith
Ark Angel – Anthony Horowitz
Snakehead – Anthony Horowitz
Crocodile Tears – Anthony Horowitz
Scorpia Rising – Anthony Horowitz
Russian Roulette – Anthony Horowitz
Never Say Die – Anthony Horowitz
Nightshade – Anthony Horowitz
A Line to Kill – Anthony Horowitz
How to Reach the West Again – Tim Keller
How (not) to Read the Bible – Dan Kimball
Hidden in Plain Sight – Andy Kind
On the Reliability of the Old Testament – K.A. Kitchen
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
God is not a White Man – Chine McDonald
Why Trust the Bible? – Amy Orr-Ewing
The Bullet that Missed – Richard Osman
Playing to the Gallery – Grayson Perry
Holier than Thou – Jackie Hill Perry
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness – Andrew Peterson
North! Or be Eaten – Andrew Peterson
Monster in the Hollows – Andrew Peterson
The Warden and the Wolf King – Andrew Peterson
God Inside Out – Simon Ponsonby
Stewards of Eden – Sandra L. Richter
A Non-Anxious Presence – Mark Sayers
The Air we Breathe – Glen Scrivener
A Song from Dead Lips – William Shaw
Dead Rich – G.W. Shaw
Practicing the Power – Sam Storms
Why Being Yourself is a Bad Idea – Graham Tomlin
Exiles on Mission – Paul Williams


If you found this post helpful or thought-provoking (even if you disagreed with it!) chances are someone else you know may do too. So please take a moment to share it on social media. If you would like to support me further, please consider buying me a coffee via my ko-fi page.

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

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