My books of the year: 2022


There's a bit of a theme here, with the first four books looking at our relationship with the natural world and how we need to treat it with more respect. Merlin Sheldrake's Entangled Lives is a fascinating delve into the crucial importance of fungal networks to trees, soil and therefore to all life on Earth. In Regenesis and Sixty Harvests Left, two timely and important books, George Monbiot and Philip Lymbery respectively look at the ways in which animal agriculture is destroying the planet, and how the future of food needs to adapt.This is also important to Henry Mance in How to Love Animals and Protect our Planet, where he also looks at the cognitive dissonance of our relationships with animals and how we're trained by society to accept and ignore cruelty to animals reared for food.


On other subjects: I loved Katherine Rundell's brilliant exploration of the life of poet John Dunne, Super-Infinite - especially her close commentaries on the poetry. Like many others I'm fascinated by the doomed Franklin expedition, lost in an attempt to navigate the North-West Passage in the 1840s. Ice Ghosts, Paul Watson's compelling and wide-ranging account, takes us from preparations for the voyage and last communications from its crew to the many searches that followed, emphasising the importance of Inuit accounts and records, and bringing us up to date with modern technology and the eventual finding of the lost ships, Erebus and Terror. 


Patrick Gale's Mother's Boy is based on the life of Cornish poet Charles Causley, focusing on his childhood, adolescence and naval experience, his viewpoint alternating with that of his devoted mother, Laura. A poignant, absorbing read in which Gale draws on the poetry to explore Causley's inner life and sexuality. Alison MacLeod's Tenderness  is a tour de force, moving from D H Lawrence's death in Italy, back to his stay in a Sussex artistic community and forward to the Lady Chatterley trial, while another thread portrays Jackie Kennedy in the months leading up to her husband's election, and her interest in Lawrence. Colson Whitehead is another writer who always compels: The Nickel Boys depicts the harshness of life in a reform school in 1960s Florida, with Jim Crow laws still in effect. It sounds bleak but somehow isn't, thanks to the dignity and idealism of teenage main character Elwood. Finally, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a long, absorbing read at 770 pages. Centred on an art theft with dramatic repercussions throughout the life of narrator Theo, it's part coming-of-age story, part thriller, and wonderfully written throughout.