Been MIA for half a year, sorry about that. If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I am still very alive, but due to a number of circumstances, my year was absolute hell, and that sort of manifested in a total inability for me to concentrate on reading and writing. I really hope to be back more regularly in 2023 but I’m also not making any official resolutions to that end because I am trying to not give myself a hard time for not feeling up to any of this when it’s ultimately meant to be a hobby, not something that adds more stress to my life. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter if you are interested in hearing me be annoying about movies multiple times a day.
But I couldn’t let the year end without honoring this tradition, so I will be doing my two annual end of year blog posts. So without further ado… my most disappointing reads of 2022, out of the ~50 or so books I read:
5. Learwife by J.R. Thorpe
I think I read this in January of 2022 which feels like several lifetimes ago… but anyway, it definitely still deserves a mention here. King Lear is my favorite Shakespeare play by a landslide but one that I find particularly challenging to take out of its original context, so I’m always interested to see how authors are going to tackle it in retellings, and the answer here was ultimately just: not well. For a project that endeavors to answer the age-old question about what happened to Lear’s wife, this book didn’t seem particularly interested in the source material, altering a number of details that are kind of critical to the text and not doing anything interesting to expand on the characters and themes present in the original. I also found the writing overwrought and all of the narrative beats incredibly predictable; I just didn’t enjoy spending time with this at all.
4. The Magician by Colm Tóibín
It had been a while since I read a book and thought ‘now what was the point of that?’ but that’s where The Magician left me. Essentially a fictional biography of the life of Thomas Mann, The Magician is a thorough excavation of Mann’s life that spares no details but leaves so much to be desired in the way of intrigue and forward-momentum. I found this novel to be lifeless and plodding and so lacking in narrative substance that I couldn’t help but to wonder, over and over, why Tóibín (who’s published both fiction and nonfiction) opted to write this as a fictional story instead of devoting this effort to an actual biography of Mann. I like Tóibín’s writing on a sentence-by-sentence level and have generally enjoyed him very much in the past, but this project was a miss for me.
3. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
(cannot remember the translation I read; it wasn’t the one pictured here)
I read The Magician paired with Death in Venice for a bookclub and I pretty much disliked them both equally. This was my first foray into Mann and I honestly doubt I’ll be returning in a hurry—while I did enjoy our bookclub talk on this novella’s themes, Mann’s actual writing and sentence structure was just a giant headache for me that I didn’t find nearly rewarding enough to be worth the effort.
2. The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager
I’ve long been a Riley Sager apologist, typically holding the opinion that you can’t take his books too seriously, you should just try to sit back and enjoy the ride (I really enjoyed the much-maligned Survive the Night; I hear all the criticisms but at the end of the day I tore through it). The House Across the Lake was another matter entirely. This book wasn’t even entertaining, to start with, and to me that’s the biggest sin that Sager could commit; I can forgive a lot of nonsense in this genre if a story’s compelling enough, but this was a chore to get through. And then I found the main twist so stupid it almost defies comprehension, so, absolute shit reading experience from start to finish.
1. Sentence by Daniel Genis
In Sentence, Daniel Genis recounts the decade he spent in prison for armed robbery, centering his experience as an “over-educated” white man in US prison system, and treating the experiences of queer and non-white incarcerated people with downright distain. This whole book left such a bad taste in my mouth, which was only exacerbated by this author harassing me over my review nonstop for days on Goodreads, going as far as to insult the profile pictures of several of my friends, claiming they all have the same “ugly glasses”? Anyway. Good riddance to this book, which I will never speak on again after I post this.
So let me know what your worst reads of 2022 were, if you have a full blog post about it that I should check out (I haven’t looked at my WordPress reader in months and I find the prospect a little overwhelming at the minute if I am honest), or tell me something you’ve been up to while I’ve been gone. I will be back in the next day or two with my best books of 2022, which is a list that I’m actually very excited to share, because despite my mediocre year of reading overall, there were some absolute highlights that I’m looking forward to talking about.