I’m now well into the habit of updating my reading progress on Goodreads because as I read virtually everything on my Kindle, it does it automatically. In December 2022 Goodreads told me that I had read only 21 books which is quite a lot fewer than in 2021. I thought a couple of books took a long time to get through as they seemed much longer but on a Kindle you don’t get as much of a feel for volume or mass as you do on paper books.
Of these, only one was a paper book: David Gibson’s The Street Photographer’s Manual, a book I saw and browsed before buying at the Leica Store in Sydney when considering a new lens for my SL2 that should be less obtrusive on the street. The remainder all look to be e-books that I read on my Kindle. Once again it looks like I stuck with authors that I enjoyed reading, so I read five books by Alex Gerlis, four by Andrew Turpin, three by Ben Macintyre and two each from Arnaldur Indriõason and Mick Herron. The other noticeable trend in my reading is that nearly all of it seems to be about espionage, the Second World War and murder mysteries.
The exceptions were obviously that photography book mentioned above and Tomasz Jedrowski’s beautiful gay romance Swimming In The Dark about youth in a repressive regime. Like all the other books I read in 2022, I rated this 4/5 on Goodreads, but I’d like to have added a half star as I really enjoyed this book and found so much that I could relate to, emotionally.
I started the year off with another book by Peter May: The Critic. I enjoyed this read and was intending to read more of his books, but I was distracted by a new-ish Steve Parker book in the ‘Detective Ray Paterson’ series His Mother’s Bones and I could not resist it. I think the Kindle store may have recommended Andrew Turpin’s The Last Nazi. This was his first novel in the ‘Joe Johnson’ series and I ended up reading three more from it: The Old Bridge, Bandit Country and Stalin’s Final Sting.
I was side-tracked briefly by my book-club’s monthly pick: Arnaldur Indriõason’s Jar City, a rather brutally graphic murder mystery set in Reykjavik. It is also the third in the author’s ‘Inspector Erlendur’ series. I liked it so went on to the fourth book in that series Silence of the Grave. I will probably read more of his books.
Before I finished the ‘Joe Johnson’ series, I must have been recommended Alex Gerlis as an author on the Kindle store as I soon departed well and truly down the ‘Richard Prince’ series of books at full speed. First there was Prince of Spies and I soon followed with Sea of Spies, Ring of Spies and End of Spies, all of which were set in the Second World War. After that I also made a start on his ‘The Wolf Pack Spies’ series with Agent in Berlin. Some of these fictional novels overlapped with two of the the three Ben Macintyre non-fiction books that I read: Agent Zigzag: A true Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal and Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies. Both are amazing but true stories and they’re very well told as is his The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, which was recommended by a close friend. All of these books by both of these authors had me on the edge of my seat throughout.
Karin Slaughter is another author I like (a lot), so I just had to read Pieces of Her before watching the series on Netflix. I did enjoy both, but the series has some major differences from the book. Only one book by KS this year.
Finally, once again on the recommendation of a friend I started the ‘Slough House’ series of books by Mick Herron. I had watched the first series on Apple TV+ (courtesy of a new iPhone purchase), but thoroughly enjoyed the first book Slow Horses, then devoured Dead Lions and I’ve just started Real Tigers. Le Carré’s George Smiley has long been a hero of mine along with Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson and Ronnie Craven and Darius Jedburgh from Edge of Darkness (the TV series, not the film), but I now think I’ll have to add at least Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb and possibly River Cartwright from the fantastic ‘Slough House’ series. There is no doubt that I’ll finish this series of books.
That’s all from me for 2022. Happy reading in 2023!
My 2022 highlights:
Remedial work on both balconies and re-cladding on some external panels at home continued and is now mostly completed. Hopefully I’ll regain access to the balconies soon. Then, I’ll replace the carpet that regularly flooded in the spare bedroom and buy a new sofa bed for guests. All up this has only taken twice as long as building the Golden Gate Bridge.
With air fares remaining ridiculous, I stayed here in Oz and spent more money on Leica camera gear. My first trip away (by car) was to Lorne via Albury in March. While down there I also visited Port Campbell with Gary and friends (Judith & Stephen) to see the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, the Bay of Islands and the Californian Redwood plantation in the Great Otway National Park. Judith is another keen photographer, so we had a great time together as there was so much to see and capture. Gary and I also had what was to be our last meal with my former partner Kenneth at Coda Lorne. Sadly, Kenneth was to take his life soon after this in April. As an artist, he really was a victim of the pandemic as so many doors closed for him.
Various visits to my dentist continued when home again for two crowns and an implant. Ugh.
On a happier note, our swim group was socially more active with regular Friday afternoon drinks and several nights out for trivia and bingo at various venues. We also had a great time at Howard’s 70th in October.
I made a brief visit to Canberra mid-year to attend a small wake with some close friends of Kenneth (Mary, Karen & Bruce) and to see Catherine Rogers’ brilliant photographic survey at ANU Drill Hall Gallery. I also caught up with Paulie and Ness a couple of times. Catherine has generously and patiently provided me with a great deal of advice regarding fine art photography printing and I’m finally getting the hang of it, thanks to actually following her advice.
My year as a Hawthorn FC member was full of more losses than wins, but I did enjoy a couple of trips to Wollongong in September to see and photograph the ITT and Men’s Elite Road Race in the UCI Road World Championships. (You can view many photos in previous posts.)
I rounded out the year with another trip down to Lorne, not just to swim in the really cold southern waters, but to help Gary clean out Kenneth’s car. That was pretty hard emotionally. On return to Sydney I was able to safely send Kenneth’s laptop to Tommi in Switzerland, as he wished, and that was a relief.
I subscribed again to the Australian Chamber Orchestra for 2023, having enjoyed the 2022 season. I must be well into my third decade of subscribing now, having started in Canberra many years ago.
Greg and I managed to catch up a couple of times with my cousins Philip & Ros and Helen & Terry at the Patonga Boathouse.
Other than all of that, my mad obsession with listening to podcasts continued and I may do a short post reviewing my annual listening soon. I also continued reading each day (on my Kindle) and that will be the subject another post coming soon. Hopefully I can find some affordable overseas air fares to jazz up 2023!
Recently, Goodreads told me that I’d read 31 books in the last year. So I decided to check that for double counting as if anyone had asked me I suppose I would have said, “I don’t know, 12-15?”. I read most books these days on my Kindle and sometimes I purchase multiple editions by one author, e.g. Steve Parker’s ‘The Complete Paterson & Clocks Box Set (1-5)’. Goodreads registers all five books when completed, but sometimes I purchase another single edition or two before finding the cheaper box set. My audit confirmed that I had completed the reading for 32 books. I reckon I have Kindle to thank for all that reading because pre-Kindle me used to buy heaps of paper books and start many of them, but rarely finish any in recent years.
What follows is my quick review of what I read in 2021. That Goodreads link above gives you a quick summary if you don’t want to TL;DR edition …
I’ll use two codes: eB for ebook and pB for paper book.
First, a confession of sorts: two books were not actual ‘reads’ Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways (pB, 4/5) and Bruce Weber’s Bear Pond (pB, 5/5). Both are beautiful books, but I would not classify them as reads. I recorded them as ‘read’ this year as I’ve looked through TAoLS many times over the last decade trying to find various quotes or inspiration and I just felt that I should record it as complete on Goodreads. Similarly, I’ve looked at all the beautiful photos in Bear Pond quite a lot. It is a First Edition, published in 1990 to benefit the AIDS Resource Centre in NYC. I literally lusted after this book for many years before purchasing a pre-loved edition online. It is one of my most cherished possessions.
The other 30 books were actual reads and all but one were read on my Kindle. I guess I should start with the the only other book that I rated 5/5: Holden Sheppard’s Invisible Boys (eB). I actually wrote a review for this book on Goodreads, so I won’t repeat all that here. I guess it was the one book I could really identify with and it made me feel something.
Only three of the remaining books were non-fiction. Of these, I think Mark Johnston’s An Australian Band of Brothers: Don Company, Second 43rd Battalion, 9th Division (eB) was my favourite. I would’ve given it 4.5/5 if possible. I loved Stephen E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers and the mini-series from about 20 years ago. Mark Johnston’s Australian history compares very well and is just as horrific. It is very well researched and even after working at the Australian War Memorial for many years, I was amazed at what these men and their families endured during and after the Second World War. Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: love and terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin (eB, 4/5) is a frightening story of the coming war in the years immediately before 1939 in Berlin itself. I’m obsessed with Berlin and have read a few historical and many spy novels as well as histories of this fantastic city, so I really enjoyed this book and at times you almost cannot believe what you are reading. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Secret Organisation that Changed the Course of the Second World War by Giles Milton (eB, 4/5) is another wonderful history, but I think it tries to put too many extraordinary stories into one volume and some deserved more details.
We are now down to 26 books, but for these there are only six authors. We should probably start with one of my favourite authors of all time, John le Carré. His second last book was Agent Running in the Field (eB, 4/5). I think I’ve read all the books he published before this one, but I’m yet to buy his last book Silverview. ARitF isn’t his best book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as he was a truly gifted story-teller. le Carré also points you to the genre(s?) of fiction stories that I enjoy most: espionage/mystery/thrillers.
Like le Carré, I’ve read multiple books by each of the remaining five authors. In 2021 I only read the one novel by Karin Slaughter: The Silent Wife (eB, 4/5), but this is #10 in the ‘Will Trent’ series and I’ve read all of the others. Similarly, this year I read #5 & #6 in Gregg Hurwitz‘s ‘Orphan X’ series: Into the Fire and Prodigal Son (both eB and 4/5). I do love getting to know characters like le Carré’s George Smiley, Slaughter’s Will Trent and Hurwitz’s Orphan X. I was also a huge fan of Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson back in the day. See also Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole and Camilla Läckberg’s Patrik Hedström, but now we are way off the 2021 track.
A new author for me in 2021 was Steve Parker of ‘Paterson & Clocks‘ fame. I read #1-5 in the box set and then #6: Child Behind the Wall as soon as I saw it because I really like his use of the English language, particularly the many laugh-out-loud sayings of Detective Clocks. All were eB and 4/5.
Mark Dawson is another author who has given me some new favourite heroes: John Milton and Beatrix Rose. I was surprised to learn that this year I read #16-20 in the ‘John Milton’ series (yes, I’m addicted) and #1-3 in the Beatrix Rose series. Once again, all were eB and 4/5. I’ll eagerly read more when they’re available. I also read and enjoyed Mark Dawson’s The Vault, a stand alone espionage novel, early in 2021 (eB, 4/5).
I read seven books by the final author, Peter May. The first six were the ‘China Thrillers’ #1-6 featuring Beijing Detective Li Yan and his partner and lover, the US forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell (all eB, 4/5). These were good, but I think I enjoyed his ‘The Lewis Trilogy’ more some years ago. In early December I finished reading Peter May’s Extraordinary People (pB, 4/5), a book that I purchased some years ago. It is the first of his ‘Enzo [Macleod] Files’ and I’m already committed to continuing with that series.
That’s all for 2021. I hope I can live up to this standard in 2022!