For 15 years, I have been logging my reading at LibraryThing, so I decided to peruse my statistics and share some recommendations.
Favorite Books of 2022
I have been reading more books in recent years, up from a little over one per month in the early 2010s to three or more per month for the past four years. I haven’t watched television in decades, but YouTube is now a daily distraction since there is so much highly focused and decent content being produced for it.
An obvious reason for my increased reading in recent years was my declining interest in day hikes. The median American reads four books per year, so even when I was distracted with day hikes, my reading was more than three times that rate, and lately it has been about ten times. But I know folks who read 60, 80, and more books annually. At any given time, I am usually working my way through multiple books in various formats, switching from one to another, so it may take me weeks to finish a particular book.
In 2010-2012, I drove out for day hikes almost every weekend, with 44-50 hiking days each year, with a bit over six miles of hiking each day. In 2013-2015, I was still doing about 30 hiking days each year, even though the novel trails within driving range had been exhausted, as I took Wendy out to enjoy my favorite trails. But by the time we married in July 2016, we had hiked the best nearby trails, and that freed up more time for reading.
It is no surprise that my reading peaked in 2020, as that was the year of pandemic lockdowns and highly circumscribed travel before vaccines were available. I moved our covered patio swings onto a deck at the side of our yard and have spent many hours out there from spring through autumn, reading my Kindle Voyage or listening to an audiobook. The daylight glare prevents me from using my iPad, thus freeing me from the distractions of YouTube and web surfing. I finally stopped tracking my day hikes in 2022, focusing much more on weekend walks and photography along the Pathfinder Parkway trails in Bartlesville during the warmer months.
Years ago, I embraced audiobooks to keep me entertained when on the road and on day hikes. I still listen to them when walking on the Pathfinder Parkway, and sometimes listen to them when I’m out relaxing on my side deck swings at home.
But when inside the house, I mostly read e-books using either my Kindle Voyage or the Kindle app on my iPad. I purchased the first generation Kindle in June 2008 and have purchased and used five later models. In addition to the Voyage, I still have a slightly larger Kindle Oasis along with a big 10″ Boox Note Air e-reader, but I like the portability and physical buttons of the older Voyage.
Hardcover and paperback books are now mostly limited to things unavailable in the other formats, books where diagrams or high-quality photographs are essential, or ones I purchase when browsing at Barnes & Noble. I want those remaining bookstores in Tulsa to stick around, as I discover books while browsing there that I would never discover online.
My top genres over the past 15 years are science fiction, history, biography & memoir, mystery, and science & nature. Below I provide some details on my history with each of those top genres.
As I child, I ordered The Haunted Spacesuit and Other Science Fiction Stories from Weekly Reader. I loved the featured story by Arthur C. Clarke, and would go on to read everything by him, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. While I’ve read a few works by Robert Heinlein, his style wore thin pretty quickly for me.
Hard sci-fi was my thing, so I went on to read all of the solo works of Larry Niven, his collaborations with Jerry Pournelle, and I read a lot of Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, and Charles Sheffield. I also read Frank Herbert‘s Dune books, and when cyberpunk hit, I enjoyed the books of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Specifics on my top three science fiction authors:
- My favorite science fiction setting would be Known Space by Larry Niven, with Ringworld as its peak.
- My favorite Arthur C. Clarke novels are The Fountains of Paradise and A Fall of Moondust.
- My favorite Asimov books are the original Foundation trilogy.
You can find much more on my science fiction preferences in that recommendations section of this website.
This genre inherently depends on which topics are of personal interest, but I have thoroughly enjoyed every American History audiobook by Sarah Vowell. The Wordy Shipmates, Unfamiliar Fishes, and Lafayette in the Somewhat United States were all treats for me. I first encountered Sarah via audio essays on NPR, and as with the hilarious essayist David Sedaris, I would feel cheated if I didn’t listen to Sarah reading her own works.
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe, a renowned writer for The New Yorker, was a superb 2022 publication, and can be enhanced by watching Georg Rockall-Schmidt’s three-part video series on the Sacklers.
And if you’re an Oklahoman, it is eye-opening to read David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Anything by Erik Larson is great, and I love listening to Simon Winchester read his books.
I count myself fortunate to have been able to attend in-person talks by Winchester and Larson via the University of Tulsa Presidential Lecture Series and to have met Fears at a Circle of Excellence meeting of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. See more on my favorite history books in that recommendations section of this website.
Biography & Memoir
This genre also requires personal interest in the particular subject, but recent highlights for me have included:
- Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon audiobook by Malcolm Gladwell
- All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business by Mel Brooks
- Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945 by Leo Marks
As child, I loved juvenile adventure series: The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators, plus, by raiding a spinster aunt’s collections, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and The Dana Girls. When I was a bit older, I read all of the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories by Arthur Canon Doyle.
As an adult, I first read a great deal of true crime by Ann Rule and Vincent Bugliosi. Then my librarian friend, Carrie Fleharty, introduced me to the Brother Cadfael mystery books by Ellis Peters, which was a pseudonym for Edith Pargeter. So I started checking out that series on cassette tapes from Tulsa’s Central Library to listen to on all of my road trips and later day hikes, enjoying the narration of Patrick Tull.
I stumbled into mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, a pseudonym for Barbara Mertz, since those were shelved next to Ellis Peters at the library. I particularly enjoyed her Vicki Bliss and Jacqueline Kirby series, although I disliked her characters in the more popular Amelia Peabody series. I’ve listened to several gothic thrillers she wrote as Barbara Michaels, but those books are pretty formulaic.
Then I decided to listen to Agatha Christie. I already knew about the most successful of the mystery authors, having enjoyed Hercule Poirot movies with Peter Ustinov. (And it is a blessing that Ustinov encouraged David Suchet to do his more accurate portrayal of the character on television.) I purchased most of Christie’s works via Audible, and was struck by her particular mastery of dialogue, enjoying everything she wrote, although I like her standalone works better than her Poirot and Miss Marple series.
During the pandemic, I returned to Edith Pargeter, listening and/or reading to her entire Inspector Felse series, which was mostly excellent. I listened to the first of the Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy L. Sayers, but that Richie Rich character didn’t appeal to me. Lately I’ve been listening to America’s answer to Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart. She is funnier than Christie, but her writing style is more dated.
- And Then There Were None is top-notch Christie, even though it doesn’t feature Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.
- City of Gold and Shadows is a great Inspector Felse book.
- The Vicky Bliss Mysteries are hilarious to listen to, especially Herr Professor Anton Z. Schmidt as performed by Grace Conlin.
And you can find additional info in the recommendations section of this website.
Science & Nature
My all-time favorite science writer was Stephen Jay Gould, a paleontologist polymath whose collected columns were a treasure trove, and it was an honor to meet him at a National Science Teachers Association conference in the 1990s. Another great favorite of mine is Martin Gardner, another polymath and a renowned skeptic. And there is no funnier science writer than Mary Roach. Some more information is in the recommendations section of this website.
I have never paid much attention to the gender of authors, and grew up voraciously reading both boys’ and girls’ adventure series. But my early interest in golden age science fiction meant that I read a lot of fiction by males, while all of my favorite mystery authors are female. Here is the gender breakdown across my entire LibraryThings database:
Fiction vs. Nonfiction
LibraryThing reports that in the past 15 years, 53% of my reading has been fiction.
And if we delve into the nonfiction categorization, we see that I particularly enjoy literature, the arts, and history and geography, while avoiding philosophy and psychology, religions, and language. But I did recommend three philosophy and religion books, and I enjoyed Asimov’s Guide to the Bible.
Since audiobooks are published much later than their source texts, that completely skews the LibraryThing tracking, which fails to accurately reflect that I’ve read a number of Mark Twain books from the late 19th century and many novels from the first half of the 20th century, including 50 of Agatha Christie’s books published before 1950…and dozens published later, up until her death in 1976. During the pandemic, I listened to eleven books by P.G. Wodehouse to cheer myself up, and those were published between 1915 and 1964. I also listened to eight books by Mary Roberts Rinehart, published between 1908 and 1945.