MUTT PLOUGHMAN'S TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2022
My annual project to summarize, in one sentence, my ten favorite books read of the year, plus Honorable Mention.
10. LAURUS, Eugene Vodolazkin. (2012) Ambitious, sweeping novel set in medieval times by one of modern Russia’s most acclaimed literary figures concerns a young seeker raised by his grandfather in the art of healing via natural remedies who sets off on a lengthy spiritual quest across the Russian countryside after he fails to save the life of the young woman who means the most to him.
9. OMEROS, Derek Walcott. (1990) A full-length work of three-line stanzas set primarily on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where the Nobel prize-winning poet and playwright Walcott was raised; loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey, and dealing with such themes as slavery, love, and colonization, this book was way beyond me, but in reading it aloud I was thrilled to discover a satisfying challenge, and linguistic feats the likes of which I have not encountered anywhere else.
8. HOMICIDE, David Simon. (1991) In this massive account that eventually led to the extraordinary television series The Wire, ambitious young Baltimore Sun reporter Simon was given unprecedented access to the Homicide department of the city of Baltimore for the entire year of 1988—in the resulting study, he fades into the background to chart every last detail of the painstaking, thankless, and somber work of a gaggle of very human police detectives.
7. OUR STORY BEGINS: New and Selected Stories, Tobias Wolff. (2008) It’s nearly impossible to remember specific details of each individual short story in this majestic collection of fiction by the American master Wolff, but in tale after tale there is on striking display a remarkable talent to capture emotions and experiences recognizable to just about every human drawing breath - love, longing, despair, emptiness, hope, desire, fear, and wonder.
6. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, Erich Maria Remarque. (1928) Okay look: this novel detailing the absolute horror of World War I, originally published in Germany in 1928 and rendered in simple, readable, and stark language, is mandatory reading for anyone on this planet who would seek to fathom the futility and utter lunacy of armed conflict between nations or peoples.
5. THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT LAKES, Dan Egan. (2017) A depressing but absolutely fascinating narrative accounting of the historical significance of and the unprecedented damage being inflicted upon the Great Lakes in the north-central United States, the largest freshwater bodies on the planet, with detailed descriptions of stark environmental challenges both man-generated and nature-made.
4. THE CANDY HOUSE, Jennifer Egan. (2022) Riveting sequel or “sibling novel” to the consistently brilliant Egan’s previous A Visit from the Goon Squad (which won the Pulitzer Prize) takes full advantage of her ferocious intellect and impressive narrative gifts to appraise the vast implications of artificial intelligence and over-sharing in the age of social media.
3. THE PASSENGER, Cormac McCarthy. (2022) His first new book in sixteen years, the near-nonagenarian McCarthy’s return to form is a harrowing tale centered upon a grieving salvage diver haunted by the complex relationship he shared with his deceased sister and is vintage work from this unqualified American master - elusive, polarizing, penetrating, and mysterious.
2. PARADISE, Abdulrazak Gurnah. (1994) A rich narrative from Tanzania’s recent Nobel laureate in literature, raised in his native country but transplanted to England at 18, that follows a young boy’s journey to manhood after being essentially sold into slavery Old Testament-style to relieve his father’s debt obligations, probing themes of love, masculinity, multiculturalism, and colonialism in evocative prose.
1. THE WAKE, Paul Kingsnorth. (2014) Easily the most memorable novel I read this year, The Wake is the first of an audacious trilogy about members of the same bloodline across 1,000 years of history in the English country - the maiden volume, written in a quixotic simulacrum of an old English tongue and set around the end of the first millennium, initially challenges and even frustrates the reader, but with persistence gives way to a harrowing, dream-like, thoroughly unique experience. Stunning.
FINE JUST THE WAY IT IS: Stories, Annie Proulx
STELLA’S CARPET, Lucy E.M. Black
WHEAT BELLY, William Davis, MD
BEAST, Paul Kingsnorth