Book Blog: January 2022 Favorites
A new year and a new opportunity to read all the books, my literary friends! Last year was a monster reading year for me (check out my 2021 favorites here), but with a new year the counter starts again at 0 with the opportunity to try new types of books and catch up on the books I got from some of you this year for the Jolabokaflod (Yule Book Flood), as well as my impulse buys (cough, Ken Follett, cough).
Winter months in Seattle tend towards cold, rainy, and dark, so I read 14 books this month! As always, I’m sharing my favorites with y’all today.
Never (Ken Follett): Wow. Just wow. This book was blazing fast and just a little too-close-for-comfort for me. Set in the present day-ih with known nations but fictional people, this book follows a female(!) Republican(!) president dealing with rising tensions between the US and terrorists in Africa, North Korea, and, by extension in both cases, China. There are other plotlines — a Chinese intelligence officer, CIA operatives in Chad — but most of the story follows the president as she tries to respond to the crises that pile up. Given the current geopolitical challenges this book his a bit close to home, but that’s what a modern thriller should do — freak you out just a little!
Lie Down With Lions (Ken Follett): Wow, this book really grabs ahold of you in the first few chapters with a change of speed and a change of pace, and even though it was written in 1986, it feels strangely (sadly?) current given the current challenges in Afghanistan. This love-triangle of a book includes two intelligence officers, one American and one French, and an American translator caught between the two. Most of the book is set in rural Afghanistan as the USSR and Afghan rebels fight for control of the country in the 1980s. Sharing more would deny you the pleasure of following this story as it unfolds. Classic Follett. Happy reader.
Endless Night (Agatha Christie): I was a bit confused by this book at first — especially as this is supposedly one of Christie’s favorites. The book is about a love story between people (Michael and Ellie) and also with a house (Gypsy’s Acre) and how things can go a little off-center when all isn’t right. As in all Christie stories I started very. suspicious of everyone and everything, but the book was definitely a slow burn for the first two-thirds. And then comes the speed up and the twists — and of course, it was brilliant. If you’re interested in a different type of mystery, I’d recommend this one.
The Lyrics (Paul McCartney): Already going to be in my year-end favorites, this I can promise to you. Because WOW what a book and what an experience! These two GIGANTIC tomes are lyrics from original McCartney songs (mainly written with John Lennon) along with photos and memories from the song — whether it is musical memories, the circumstances of the song, what inspired it, etc. Through his songs we learn so much about Paul!
I decided to listen to each song (only two were unavailable on YouTube Music) as I read the book and it was a FANTASTIC addition to the reading experience. I discovered many new songs, mainly from his solo + Wings days and I’m grateful for this insight into a man in a way that’s not the “I was born, etc., etc.” autobiography.
Agatha Christie: An Autobiography (Agatha Christie): This is not a traditional autobiography, but as Christie isn’t just any ol’ writer I’m not surprised. Finished in the mid-1960s, more than a decade before her death, this book is somewhat chronological but she writes what she feels like writing and omits the rest. And though she certainly puts words to her writing, the book is much more about her family life, her travels, the two world wars she lived towards, and her rich inner life. It helped me to gain a much deeper appreciation oof her as a whole person. Do note that it’s quite a thick 500-page book, not nearly as sporting as a Poirot mystery.
My favorite passage from the book:
“I have never been back there. I am glad of that. A year or two ago, we contemplated taking a summer holiday there. I said, unthinkingly, ‘I should like to go back.’ It was true. But then it came to me that I could not go back. One cannot, ever, go back to the place which exists in memory. You would not see it with the same eyes — even supposing that it should improbably have remained much the same. What you have had you have had . . . . Never go back to a place where you have been happy. Until you do it remains alive for you. If you go back it will be destroyed.”
Parkland (Dave Cullen): Dave Cullen’s “Columbine” was a 5-star book for me, and I’d say this one is probably a 4.5 rounded down to 4 (no half-stars, thanks Goodreads). At first glance you might think the book is more or less the same, but even though they both detail school shootings, they have different areas of focus and different moods. Where Columbine was more somber and looked into the gunmen and victims, the killer in Parkland is never named and not given more than a few paragraphs. The victims are honored, but this book is primarily about the March for our Lives movement that arises from this shooting when students at the school decide to put gun control into national focus again. Cullen does a great job in pulling apart some of the dominant narratives, sharing how the kids adapted, listened to feedback, worked to stay untethered to either party, and how they received death threat after death threat. It blows my mind that the earthquake drills of my childhood morphed into active shooter drills. This has to stop with commonsense legislation.
I hope you have some good books in your to-read stack, and we’ll chat again next month with more great reads!