Five star book report 2022

Published January 6, 2023

An illustration reading ‘I heart reading’ along with a cup of steaming tea, an open book, and a pencil pot filled with pens and pencils

I read a lot last year, in all sorts of formats. Along with the poetry and comics that I was trying out for the first time, there were the regularly scheduled books, audiobooks, reference books, shorts and a great mix of genres through them all. I’ve noticed a few more physical books creeping into my life, mostly as gifts but occasionally because that just is the best format for reading something in. Digital is still my go-to though, if only because having a book on hand to dip into at any given moment is a big driver behind how I’ve managed to read so much.

It’s become a tradition again for me to pick out my ten favourite reads from the previous twelve months - these are listed in the order I read them, rather than any top ten with a number one favourite. I don’t think I could pick!

Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves

I absolutely devoured this, it was wonderful. It’s effectively twelve short stories or essays, one for each month of the year, and each focusing on a different character that lives or interacts somehow with Victoria Park. The glory of each story is how they are their own thing, of course, but also manage to link to the others, with characters popping up or being mentioned throughout even if they are not the focus of this particular month.

Six Weeks to Zero Waste by Kate Arnell

This book has really fired my brain up in terms of reducing waste. It’s a great guide to the concept of zero waste, with hundreds of good tips and a journey to follow if you want to do it that way. It’s got no judgement and lots of encouragement - every little change you make can make a difference so you don’t have to suddenly be zero waste and living a poorer life for it. I was surprised how much of this I already do but there’s still plenty I can look at it in my own life to improve upon. Really recommend giving this a read.

Everybody Died, So I Got a Dog by Emily Dean

This book is incredibly honest and detailed, a look at how grief can affect you in many different ways and some ways to try and deal with it. Emily doesn’t seem to have had a traditional upbringing which makes it kind of hard to relate to, but most can relate to imposter syndrome and feeling out of sorts in your own skin. Great book, well written, tragic tale but somehow uplifting at the same time.

Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke

What a wonderful book this is. I listened to the audiobook read by the man himself and it’s just a warm, joyous affair, filled with knowledge and love and honesty and fun. Dick dispenses his advice in a way that is completely relaxed and without judgement, whilst still telling us what he thinks is right and wrong. I particularly enjoyed the timeline of events that have happened during his lifetime so far, and his rating them with a school style A-F. It’s amazing the things he’s seen and experienced, and no wonder that he has such wisdom now.

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

The most important thing to say about this memoir is that it’s so well written, you not only want to hear more about Simu’s early life, you also go with him to dip back into the history of his parents as well. It’s not often that this kind of early autobiography grabs me like this one did, but it’s important and very moving. And then Simu’s story after that is also great - being stuck in a dead-end job, working his way through many, many acting jobs, and then, of course, landing that big gig at Marvel.

Moving by Jenny Eclair

Loved this! So good it totally sucked you in. I was a bit annoyed when we first switched from Edwina’s point of view (memories from a sprawling house whilst showing round an estate agent) to Fern’s - who is this person and why does it matter? But gradually you get those hints and links and it all starts to add up. And then one more major switch to fill in all the gaps before heading towards a satisfying, if not quite happy, ending. So well written, engaging, and sad but with a hopeful lilt towards the end. Great stuff.

Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley

I love Lucy Worsley’s informative but relaxed style and so was interested to listen to the audiobook of this, her biography of the most infamous of female detective writers. It was great - absolutely fascinating, well researched, a balanced view that was favourable towards the author but with plenty of caveats along the way. It made me want to read Christie’s works, of which I have only enjoyed a few. Really well done and well read.

No Cunning Plan by Tony Robinson

I love, love, love Tony Robinson and didn’t realise he’d written an autobiography, so when I saw that he read the audiobook version, I dived right in. There’s so much I didn’t know - he’s had such a varied career, so much on the stage, so much TV, packing so much in before Time Team! And all of it is told with rhythm and style and grace and honesty and wisdom and a self-depracating nature that is the reason he’s a national treasure. He’s not perfect, but who is? Even the political chapters were told so well I loved it all.

And Away… by Bob Mortimer

I loved how it was structured, jumping back and forth in time between Bob discovering his heart problem and then the recovery from open heart surgery, to working through the details of his early life, his time as a solicitor, and meeting Jim Moir and becoming Vic and Bob. It’s really good and actually, as someone who has suffered with shyness before, I really related to his stories on that and felt like it was a good book to help raise awareness of how difficult it can be, and help some people be seen. Top work.

Anything is Possible by Gareth Southgate

It’s a book aimed at young people to help inspire and guide them, and give them some tips and tools to start goal-setting and really making progress in their lives & careers. But this advice works for anyone, and is dispensed in a really clear and concise way, with solid examples from Gareth’s own life experience to illustrate the points. Very good, I particularly enjoyed the short and long term goal setting section.

I’ve noticed that for the last couple of years most of the books that have ended up in my top ten are non-fiction or autobiographies. I do read a lot of fiction, and enjoy it enormously, but I guess it’s the real stories and the factual info that stays with me for longer so that by the time we get to the end of the year, non-fiction takes the crown! Let’s see if 2023 has anything different in store.

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