52 books in 2022

Updated: Feb 10

I’m going to take a wee break from my series about soap making to write about something else: book club. I don’t belong to a book club, but a few weeks ago, over a glass of wine with friends, the idea of meeting up regularly to chat about books came up. The conversation covered three main points: would there be wine (yes), would we all read the same book (yes) and would people whose favourite books included any of the Harry Potters be allowed in. No decision on this was reached because an argument broke out about which was the best book in the series and whether people who had read them could have meaningful relationships with people who hadn’t. In the interests of full disclosure, I have only read the first and last ones, but some of my best friends have the whole series in hardcover.



We agreed to start with Klara and the Sun (Kazuo Ishiguro). And then we agreed to open another bottle of wine.


One of the people there that night is reading 52 books in 2022, one book a week for a year. I thought this was a fantastic challenge, even for a person who reads a lot. It quantifies something that is joy and a pleasure to do and gives you an excuse to spend a whole afternoon reading – “I’m working on my New Year’s Resolution!” is a better comeback to ‘why are you still sitting there?’ than “because every single fibre of my being is engaged with finding out what happens next and if I don’t the world will, literally, implode.”


I was the asked for some recommendations to add to his list for this, and there I got stuck. My

challenge this year is to finish things I’ve already started, so I looked around for ‘to read’ lists that I had already made for myself, and I searched my kindle for things left unfished. And then, as you do, I started reading, and looking the books up to remind myself why I’d noted them down, and getting side-tracked by articles about Madam Bovary (Gustav Flaubert) – which is back on my ‘to read’ list, because although I did read it at university I don’t remember finishing it. I remember it as being full of words, a bit too rich with description, dense and layered. I also remembered reading about an author having to defend his love of the novel, the anecdote going something along the lines of, when asked how he could have enjoyed it so much, he answered ‘you don’t have this body’, meaning that there is no one reason why certain styles of writing and stories should move some people and not others: the pleasure of reading is physical, and our bodies are different. I’m sure I’m remembering most of that wrong, but the part about the bodies has stayed with me. Twenty years after reading it for the first time, now in a grown up’s body, I wonder how I will feel about Madam Bovary? I won’t be revisiting any of the Harry Potter novels, though. My body is still my own, and there is so much left to read.


Also on the list of books I’m hoping to read this year are:


These Wilds beyond our fences, Bayo Akomolafe


The Mushroom at the end of the world, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing


Of Walking in Ice, Werner Herzog


Wind, Sand and Stars, Antoine de Saint-Exupery


The Rabbits, Sophie Overett


On my birthday wish list is:


Nonstop Metropolis – a New York City Atlas, Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro


On the list of books that I have which I recommend and could lend towards a 52-book challenge are:


Barkskins, Annie Proulx


Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, Barbara Kingsolver


The Grass Harp, Truman Capote


The Strangler Vine, M.J Carter


The Children’s Book, AS Byatt


Letters of Note – any of the compilations by Shaun Usher




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