2022 Goodreads Reading Stats
Reset, Restart, Recover
Before anything else, let me greet everyone with a Happy New Year! We welcomed the past two years with so much apprehension because of the pandemic but I want to believe that 2023 is really going to be a happy, if not a great year. After nearly two years of being basically paralyzed by the pandemic, things are starting to return to normal, not yet pre-pandemic levels but we are on the way. The vaccines, it seems, are working as expected. Travel and trade have started to resume in 2022, although with some levels of caveat. Oh yeah, I got to ride the plane for the first time in over two years. It was both nerve-wracking and exciting. The pandemic is still lurking, with new variants being discovered. Nevertheless, the future seems more certain than it was in the past two years and I hope we keep this up.
But just when we think things are starting to get better, pandemonium ensued. Tension escalated in various parts of the world The war between Ukraine and Russia is still raging. I hope that this conflict gets resolved soon. Too many lives have already been lost. On top of this is the drastic inflation experienced in various parts of the world. As someone who works in the back, I saw how interest rates ballooned in a matter of months. It is even said that a recession can be expected to happen this year which I am hoping will not. With the recession looming, everyone was advised to save and to hold back on any major purchases this year. These outlooks are bleak but I am still hoping that the year will be good for everyone.
Amidst the sea of uncertainties that swept us for nearly three years, some things remained constant. Reading and books, for instance, were some of the things that helped me keep my sanity. I have become more active in sports again – I have played more tennis this year than I have in the past years – but reading remained my constant go-to activity. Sure enough, the past three years have become my most prolific reading years. I read at least 90 books in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, I carried over this momentum. I went above and beyond my expectations as I have unlocked several milestones. I totally did not expect the reading year I had in 2022. When the year started, I had very modest goals as I wanted things to be realistic. I didn’t know that I would have my most successful reading year to date.
Numbers and Figures
2022, in more than one way, was a year of breakthroughs. The biggest of these breakthroughs was completing at least 100 books in a year for the first time; I ended the year with 103 books in total. You see, this has been a long-time goal of mine. I saw a couple of readers being able to complete at least a hundred books in a year so the ambitious person in me felt like I could do the same. Several times, however, I failed although I did come close at least three times, the three times I completed at least 90 books in a year. When 2022 started, as I have mentioned, I had very conservative goals. My initial target actually was just to read 70 books as I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. After all, I just wanted to take it in strides.
With not-too-lofty goals for the year, I opened the year by reading 2021 books pending on my reading pipeline. I had planned to read most of them toward the end of 2021 but I never quite got around to doing it. As such, January and February were spent reading these books. I opened the reading year with Sara Nisha Adams’ The Reading List, the book I felt was the most appropriate opener for the year. And it was, particularly how it captured the impact of books in bringing a community together. The titular reading list also included some of the most renowned titles in literature. I read all of these books, but one: Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. Interestingly enough, I added the book to my 2022 Beat the Backlist challenge and 2022 Top 22 Reading List. It would occupy a special place in my 2022 reading journey as it was my 100th read for the year and the last book from both challenges that I read.
The first two months of the year were quite the reading journey. I was almost always fed to the brim. For one, I read several award-winning books. Among these books were Nobel Laureate in Literature Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob which was cited by the Swedish Academy as her magnum opus to date; Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness which was awarded the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction; Anthony Doerr’s latest novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land which was a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction; and Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, the winner of the 2021 National Book Award. On top of these books are equally-recognized books which were shortlisted for one literary prize or the other. Over the course of the year, I would read more awarded books.
Women, the Nobel Prize, and Regional Fiction
For the first time since I started reading, I held a Women’s Fiction month (or two). As March is considered International Women’s Month, I used the opportunity to immerse myself in the works of female writers from all over the world, such as Denmark, Romania, Puerto Rico, China, and Chile. It was quite a global journey that occupied me for two months. By the end of the journey, I have completed 18 books which included the works of some of the most recognized female writers in the world, such as Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, Maryse Condé’s Segu, and A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. Among these books are two novels by two Nobel Laureates in Literature, including one whose oeuvre I am exploring for the first time, Herta Müller. Müller’s The Hunger Angel transported me to the Russian gulags, a place I haven’t been to in quite some time, figuratively of course.
A part of my reading year is immersing myself in the works of a particular region. 2022 was no different. I started this journey by immersing in the works of European writers in May and June. It was a healthy mix of writers I am familiar with and writers whose prose I am exploring for the first time. Among the familiar writers were Umberto Eco (The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana), Ismail Kadare (The Accident), Italo Calvino (The Baron in the Trees), David Mitchell (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet), Milan Kundera (The Book of Laughter and Forgetting), and Fredrik Backman (My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises). Meanwhile, I had my first taste of writers whose prose I have been longing to explore for the longest time such as Bernhard Schlink (Olga), Angela Carter (Nights at the Circus), Marcel Proust (Swann’s Way), and Javier Marías (Berta Isla). The more unfamiliar names were Bohumil Hrabal (The Little Town Where Time Stood Still), Tarjei Vesaas (The Ice Palace), and Aleksandar Tišma (The Use of Man). I also read P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley, my first by James in over a decade.
My journey then made me pivot toward Asia, starting with the works of Japanese writers. As many of you might have already noticed, Japanese literature is something that I can never pass up on. It was a journey filled with several familiar names such as Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Yukio Mishima, and Mieko Kawakami; they are also amongst the most popular Japanese writers. The books I read by them, Quicksand, The Sound of Waves, and All The Lovers in the Night, respectively, were all my third books by them. Interestingly, these books are deep ruminations on different forms of relationships, from our relationship with our community to relationships with our partners to our relationship with ourselves. Apart from these familiar names were new-to-me writers such as Masuji Ibuse (Black Rain), Naoya Shiga (A Dark Night’s Passing), and Ryu Murakami (From the Fatherland with Love). It was, as always, a stop in my annual reading journey that I relish. It was a journey that was equal parts scintillating and mind-boggling. There is also a reason why Japanese Literature month always falls on my birth month (July).
From Japan I then traveled across the Asian continent. I went to China, Malaysia, India, and even Turkey. A big win for me was reading Chingiz Aitmatov’s The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, my first novel by a Kyrgyz, even by a Central Asian writer. I loved the book and I can’t wait to explore more of Central Asian literature, a part of the literary world that I have never been to; even if I did, it would have been very rare. During my trip across Asia, I managed to read one of the books I have been looking forward to since I first encountered it: Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand. It was awarded the 2022 Booker International Prize, making Shree the first Hindi author to win the award. While it was not an easy book, Tomb of Sand was an insightful and even witty read. Overall, it was a great year for South Asian writers. Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida would go on and win the prestigious Booker Prize for Fiction. I am currently reading the book. I was well-fed during my Japanese-Asian literature journey, to say the least.
Like the previous years, my reading journey in 2022 was littered with the works of Nobel Laureates in Literature. My renewed interest in reading has made me want to devour the works of these renowned writers, even those who are touted to have the same caliber. They have also provided me some of my most memorable reading experiences in the past couple of years. I was actually planning to host a Nobel Laureate in Literature month but I overestimated myself and I had to abandon the plan. I am, however, reconsidering this plan this 2023 as I have several works by awardees lined up. It’s been a while since I read a work by José Saramago and Herman Hesse. I am also looking forward to reading the works of Knut Hamsun, Thomas Mann. and Patrick Modiano. I am also hoping to get a glimpse of the works of the latest Nobel Prize in Literature awardee, Annie Ernaux.
Among the awardees who really made an impression on me was Polish writer and 2018 awardee Olga Tokarczuk. Aside from my third novel by Tocarzuk and first by Herta Müller, I also read my second novel by Toni Morrison, Paradise. It was a mixed bag of experiences but these experiences only made me want to explore more of their works. Sprinkled across the year are the works of Kenzaburō Ōe (A Quiet Life and A Personal Matter), the 1994 awardee and just the third writer who I read at least two books by in 2022; Naguib Mahfouz (Palace Walk) whose Cairo Trilogy I finally started reading; and Orhan Pamuk (Silent House). I also read my first books by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Afterlives), Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (Wandering Star), Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (A Bend in the River), and Gao Xingjian (Soul Mountain).
American Literature and Reading Challenges
I was having such a grand time traveling all over the world that I nearly forgot about my reading challenges. By the end of August, I realized how much I have been lagging behind. With this in mind, I resolved to focus on my reading challenges for the rest of the year. This was also a conscious decision to avoid cramming toward the end of the year. One common denominator among the books remaining in my two primary reading challenges – my 2022 Top 22 Reading List and my 2022 Beat the Backlist Challenge – were that they were works of American literature. It was a no-brainer for me to pivot toward American literature. To transition between Asian and American literature, I read Salman Rushdie’s Fury, a book about and set in New York City. It was also around this time that the Indian writer was stabbed as he was about to give a public lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, United States.
The next three months, from September to November, would then be filled with nothing but works of American literature, which, until today, is my most-read part of the literary world. I realized that more than half of the books I read were written by American writers. The second closest was the works of British literature, but it is lagging behind by quite a long distance. It is also of note that the majority of my most-read writers are Americans. Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins-Clark, Nora Roberts, and Sidney Sheldon occupy four of my five most-read writers; Agatha Christie, second only to Steel, was the sole deviation. This was despite the fact that I have been journeying to other parts of the world in recent years. It is still my plan to tip the scale and explore other parts of the literary world. I might be listing more non-American works in my reading challenges to redress this glaring disparity.
Anyway, my line-up of American literature was filled with books from different reading challenges I have. My priorities were still the two primary reading challenges I have but I was also hoping to make strides on other fronts, such as reading at least 15 new books, reading 20 books from the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, reading as many books from the 2022 Booker Prize longlist as possible, and completing my 2022 Top 10 Books I Look Forward To List. In all but one, unfortunately, I would fail. For the fifth consecutive year, I failed to complete my Top 10 Books I Look Forward To; I was two books short. I also finished the year with just 17 books in the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List. Of the thirteen books in the Booker Prize longlist, I was able to read just two books: Hernan Diaz’s Trust and NoViolet Bulawayo’s Glory. Thankfully, I ended the year two books ahead of my new book target.
As one can expect from works of American literature, my journey had it all, from mystery to music to politics to environmental activism to the proverbial American dream. Two of the books I read were even winners of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize: Richard Powers’ The Overstory and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It was also great finding myself in the company of familiar names such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Beautiful and Damned), Donna Tartt (The Little Friend), Paul Auster (The Moon Palace), Jeffrey Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides) and John Irving (The World According to Garp). Exploration of communities and social dynamics were also common amongst these works of American literature. Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs and Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing were fine examples of this.
Looking back at 2022, I can’t also help but note the number of books that have explored the pandemic and the possibility of an isolated world. I guess this is but natural, considering how literature has been a vessel for memorializing several seminal historical events; the Second World War comes to mind. Among the books that referenced the pandemic or used it as an inspiration were Isabel Allende’s Violeta, Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise, and Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark, books that were published in 2022. The way they explored the subject also differed. While Allende’s used two pandemics to bookend her story, Yanagihara’s and Nagamatsu’s works were forward looking. What if the pandemic will not only end with the eradication or control of COVID-19? The possibility of new pandemics haunt our collective minds. I guess I will be encountering more works capturing the landscape of the past two years.
Apart from my new book target, I was also able to complete my two primary reading challenges. As I mentioned in the earlier paragraphs, it was Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy that completed these two challenges. Moreover, it was my longest read for the year and my first 1,000 +pager since Hungarian writer Péter Nádas’ Parallel Stories which I read in late 2020. Despite its heft, A Suitable Boy was a very worthy read. It explored a vast spectrum of subjects such as traditions, politics, history, and even music and mathematics. It was, to say the least, a very meaningful and memorable read.
I ended the year with a diverse mix of novels, such as Tara M. Stringfellow’s debut novel Memphis, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo. Each book stood out in its own way. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow was particularly memorable for it was a book I was apprehensive to read because of its title. Had it not been listed as one of the best books of the year by several literary publications, I might have not bothered reading it. And I would have regretted it for it was one of the best reads I had during the year. Memphis and Young Mungo, on the other hand, brought me to pretty much familiar territories. The former’s exploration of the heritage of the Deep South through the story of three generations of women was marvelous. The latter, meanwhile, had parallels with Stuart’s debut novel Shuggie Bain but it was surer in execution.
Milestones and Breakthroughs
As the update’s title suggested, 2022 was one for the records. I already mentioned one of the milestones I unlocked this year in the opening paragraphs. I am still in awe that I was able to pull off reading 103 books during the year. I mean I have been aiming to hit it for the longest time and just when I wasn’t expecting to, I finally managed to do so. Actually, even when I realized I could pull it off, I was still ambivalent. The closer I got to 100, I felt I would miss, considering that I have reserved the longest book for this special slot. I didn’t cut myself some slack until I was finally able to pull it off. I was beyond ecstatic because this has been one of the reading goals I wanted to achieve badly and many times I fell short.
What was more fascinating is that these 103 books were written by 97 different writers from different parts of the world; the only writers who I read at least two works were Agatha Christie, Kenzaburō Ōe, and Mieko Kawakami. This reset my previous record of 91 different writers in one year which I set back in 2021. Writing-wise, I also managed to establish a new milestone as I was able to publish 107 book reviews during the year, the most I had in a year. This is mostly due to the fact that I started the year with a lot of backlogs. 2023 is going to be the same. Unfortunately, I was not able to make good of my promise to read at least one work of a Filipino writer, thus breaking my streak which started back in 2018. This is something that I will be making up for in 2023.
Hitting 100 books for the year also means that I am getting closer to my 1,000th novel. This means that my day of reckoning with one of the most challenging albeit one of the most popular and studied titles in the world is looming. The unabridged version of James Joyce’s Ulysses was orginally part of my 2017 Top 20 Reading List. I was able to start the book and was even able to make it through half of the text However, it barely made sense and quick searches were not aiding me in understanding the book. In the end, I made something I have rarely done: DNF a book. It remains the only book I did not finish. But despite DNF’ing the book, I resolved to read it once I am more prepared. Almost six years, that day of reckoning is drawing closer. I am both nervous and excited. We’ll see how it goes.
2023 in Perspective
2022 has proven me that I am more than capable of breaking barriers. It was memorable in ways more than one. I will be carrying this momentum into 2023. Currently, I am completing all my 2022 wrap-up series, this being the second in that series. As mentioned as well, I am catching up on books reelased in 2022 I was not able to read in the past year. As for goals and targets, I still want to be very conservative. Apart from reading, other parts of my life are starting to resume. I have several travel plans which will, unfortunately, adversely affect any lofty reading plans I have lined up.
Speaking of goals, I have several reading goals for 2023, goals that I know are realistic and doable. I have already mentiond about hosting a reading month reading entirely the works of Nobel Laureates in Literature. I am also planning to have another set of African Literature and Latin American Literature months; I have not hosted either in 2022. This means, however, that I will be sacrificing other literary works just to make way for these parts of the literary world. I am thinking about limiting European and American literature. I can already envision that my 2023 Top 23 Reading List will be brimming with works of non-American writers. Japanese Literature will also be a staple, and so is the annual Beat the Backlist Challenge. Dang, I do have quite a hefty number of unread books on my book shelf.
There are quite a lot of books I want to read; too many good books yet too little time. The past three years have been marked by huge strides and milestones. I am looking forward to breaking even more barriers in 2023. Here’s a toast to an amazing, healthy, and safe 2023! May it be a great year for everyone, may it be in terms of reading or not. May we all achieve all our goals this year. Happy reading!