Year in review: My favourite books of 2022

Good god, mid-December! How did this happen? Who’s responsible?

One saving grace of the end of the year is lists! I love lists of people’s favourite movies and music and books and such. For the second year in a row, I was invited to take part in the New Zealand Listener magazine’s Best Books issue, picking a handful of books to go in the big ol’ pile of recommendations they publish.

The Best Books of 2022 issue of Nov. 27 came and went while I was running around in America and getting Covid and such, but if you’re in New Zealand you might still be able to find it in scattered newsstands and libraries, and it’s always worth a read.

For posterity’s sake, here’s the books I sent in as my own picks for the year’s best reading!

FICTION: Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel – The first great COVID-19 novel as well as an unforgettable meditation on life, time and fate. 

Devil House, John Darnielle – A novel that starts as an investigation into occult murders that becomes something deeper and stranger. The movie Zodiac meets Lovecraft. 

Heat 2 – Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner – A written sequel and prequel to a 30-year old crime epic movie shouldn’t work, but this does, exceedingly well. A cracking thriller. 

NONFICTION: Grand, Noelle McCarthy – This comic and pained Irish kiwi’s memoir about battling alcoholism, family demons and moving to the other side of the world feels just right in a time when so many of us are mourning the changes and loss in the last few years. 

The Nineties, Chuck Klosterman – A snarky, critical examination of a decade that you can both agree with and argue about. I’ve actually warmed to this more than my initially ambivalent review may have made it seem, and it’s truly peak Klosterman, witty and amusingly scattered.

Buster Keaton – A Filmmaker’s Life, James Curtis – The greatest of silent film stars gets the epic biography he richly deserves. Thorough, revelatory and a fascinating look at cinema from a century ago.

Plus! Bonus book! A bit too late for me to include on that list is a book I’ve written a review of for this week’s Listener magazine (Dec. 17-23 2022), maritime archaeologist Mensun Bound’s book The Ship Beneath The Ice. It’s the fascinating account of his discovery earlier this year of the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance deep beneath the Antarctic ice a century after the doomed South Pole expedition. It’s a darn good read and if you’re lucky enough to be in NZ, you can still find the issue my review is in at all the usual places.

Author: nik dirga

I'm an American journalist who has lived in New Zealand for more than a decade now.

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