A Book A Week Keeps the Brain Sharp – 2022 Books in Review

It was my first 1-star read of the year and deserves its place at the bottom of my list.

Past year in books recaps:

2022 wasn’t a perfect year by any means, but it sure was an improvement from years prior. A lot of positive changes were made which led to a better quality of life for me. For once, I’m excited to see what the new year will bring!

In 2022, I had a goal to read 52 books—basically one book a week—and exceeded that by quite a few. My grand total for the year was 67 books, which is also 21 more books than I read in 2021! Kind of wild to think about. In terms of ratings, I averaged a 3.63 rating on the books I read. A slight decrease from 2021. Finally, I read the most pages out of any year yet, ending with a grand total of 18,947 pages. That’s a whole lot.

Here’s a breakdown of my ratings:

All in all, quite a productive year was had.

Like last year, I don’t aim to try to “rank” books so more as I would like to sort some of my reads by category. So, let’s get started!

Best Fiction Book of 2022

I didn’t have to think hard about this. I almost wanted to call it a tie, but I think I’m going to pick Jade City by Fonda Lee. This book has everything I really like in a novel in general, let alone a fantasy one. It’s been the first book I recommend to people when I talk to them and the series I can’t stop thinking about. I actually finished Jade War, the sequel, on the first day of 2023… now, I hope I get to read Jade Legacy sometime this year, because I really can’t get enough of the series. If you like stories about gangsters, very morally-grey characters, and plots so tense you’ll think you swallowed a live bomb, this is probably the book for you.

I don’t often trust/like books that are prominent in reader spaces, I’ve learned, but my love for this one is pretty in-line with everyone else. And the book deserves it—seriously.

Worst Book of 2022

This one is… really a toss-up. I read one book because I knew it would be bad, but I don’t think I want to count that because I knew, yaknow? I went into it knowing I wouldn’t enjoy it.

…So, instead, the worst book I read of 2022 was Liber Khthonia by Jeff Cullen.

Books on paganism are already a hard sell for me. I’m a Pagan but not… not in the way a lot of people on social media tend to be. A lot of people on Witchtok are fairly different, for example. As a result, when it comes to books about paganism and spirituality, I tend to read more historical.

But, as a Hellenic Polytheist, the quality of more modern books about the topic and about my deities is… variable. And unfortunately, this book was one of the worst ones. It is inaccurate from a factual standpoint about spirituality, pagan spaces, and the goddess Hekate Herself. The author also makes some incredibly outlandish claims, like saying modern day butchers who don’t purify themselves spiritually after every animal they handle will turn into soulless animal torturers. Just all around a pretty shitty, disappointing book. It was my first 1-star read of the year and deserves its place at the bottom of my list.

Most Disappointing Fiction Book of 2022

I really wanted to talk about this book, but I couldn’t decide if it was the most disappointing… But then I split the list in two. So, most disappointing fiction book goes to Iron Widow by Iron Jay Zhao.

I’ll admit it, I fell victim to the hype when this book was first being talked about online. On the surface, it sounded like this book was prepared to deliver a lot of things I was dying to see in books. Polyamory? Check. Fucked up women who get to stay fucked up? Check. Interesting worldbuilding? Sure.

I need to learn to not listen to the hype.

This book had a lot of decent ideas and then executed them all with the grace of an elephant balancing on a beach ball. It’s so clumsy about all of them that it is actively anger-inducing and, worst of all, incredibly frustrating. It’s one of the only books whose rating got lower the more I thought about it.

This book tripped on its entry into the world and when I hear people raving about it I swear I’m going insane. Did we somehow end up with different copies of the book? Somehow, no. I don’t understand it.

Most Disappointing Non-Fiction Book of 2022

The biggest reason why I split “Most Disappointing” into two this year is because of this book. I also would put non-fiction under heavy quotation marks in this case. Most disappointing non-fiction book I read goes to Strix Craft by Oracle Hekataios. First of all, the author name should have been warning enough for me. Second off, this book gets so many basic principles of Greek magic and Hellenic Polytheism so incredibly wrong. Incorrect recounts of mythology. A very strange, constant focus on sex and genitalia. There’s plenty of older books about Hellenic Polytheism and not as much more modern takes, so I was really hoping to get some use out of this book and just… didn’t. It’s not Greek magic, it’s a new age Wiccan mess with a “Greek magic” mask. Pissed me right off.

Book That Most Surprised Me

The honor for this category goes to Orphic Hymns: A New Translation for the Occult Practitioner by Patrick Dunn. Partially because I was surprised by how much I liked his translation work. Mostly, however, the surprise came with each hymn featuring the original Greek on the page beside it, which was super cool to see the first time I opened the book. It also includes miscellaneous sections, including one on how to use the hymns and ideas for using them. All in all, an absolute delight and completely worth the money spent to get it in hardcover. I really enjoyed my time with it and often think of reading it again.

Favorite Cover

I’m not often one for judging books by their covers, but I continue including this category for fun. I was kind of torn, but I think I’ve decided on The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I loved everything about this book, the cover included. It’s just fucking cool and the contrast means this cover really catches your attention. It’s also incredibly pretty in paperback. I want to get a copy to own some time.

Best Nonfiction Book

I didn’t read a ton of non-fiction this year, but I really enjoyed Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? and Other Questions About Dead Bodies by Caitlin Doughty. It’s an honest and humorous look at death and the many questions people tend to have about it, as answered by a mortician. I found this while at the library and the title immediately captured my attention. Well-worth the read. And it’s pretty short, too.

Best Indie Book of 2022

I’m adding a section this year because, like I said last year, I want to shout out as many books as possible. That and indie books don’t get a whole lot of love in general. So, for this category I’m choosing Everlong by R. Raeta.

I wasn’t fully sold in the first couple of chapters, but the book made a major turnaround and won me over. This was a very interesting take on vampires and on romance and was a fast, very enjoyable read. If you’re choosing an indie author to support in 2023, perhaps consider this one!

Book Plans for 2023

Much like last year, I want to try to one-up myself and read 60 books. I think that’s achievable so long as I keep on the same pace as I did last year. So far I have finished two books: Jade War by Fonda Lee and Better Than New by Charley Descoteaux. A touch behind, but I also have been prioritizing writing these first two weeks, so I’m sure I’ll pick up the pace soon.

Here’s the next few books that are on my list to be read or are currently being read:

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
  • The Eye of the World, Book 1 in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
  • The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickerson
  • If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Well, that’s my book ramble for 2022. What about you? What were some books you read last year? Anything you hope to read this year?

Standards Within the Publishing Industry – Why I Will Never Go Trad

Every success story hides an army of failures behind it, though, and that’s the more troubling heart of it all.

For most authors, the ultimate dream is to be recognized by one of the Big Five (now Big Four) publishing houses and to see your name on the cover of a book in a book store. It’s exhilarating to think about, isn’t it? But then, as you get older, this dream loses its sheen somewhat. You see the kinds of books that get released. You learn the real goings-on of the industry. Year by year, this ever-shifting knowledge gnaws at you. It depresses you.

Personally, I grew up hearing the supposedly-motivational speeches. J. K. Rowling and her series that molded a generation. Stephen King and his horror novel empire. Every success story hides an army of failures behind it, though, and that’s the more troubling heart of it all.

I think the first real chip in my writing dreams happened in my youth. In my state, a teenage writer got famous for being published at 16. At least, I think that’s how old she was. All I mostly remember is my mother calling me to watch an interview with her on the news while I got ready for school. And I’ll admit, seeing a woman just a couple of years older than me, doing the thing I already dreamed of doing, was incredibly exciting. If she could do it, surely I could, right?

In our mutual excitement, my mother bought me a copy of her book and I rushed to read it. Afterwards, she would write a review in my stead on the Amazon page.

Unfortunately for all of us, that book was… quite a miss.

I still admired that author after the fact. A tiny part of me still does to this day. To be published young is not something many achieve… but this is a topic for another time, I think.

Over the years, there have been more blows to my faith in traditional publishing. I think anyone who has spent a lot of time in online writing spaces can understand why. From recent phenomenons such as #PublishingPaidMe to the long-winded publishing timelines that have been a staple of going traditional, the lack of diversity at every single level of publishing… it’s all one big headache. And as I’ve grown older and been able to see more of this dream for what it is… the less I’ve wanted it.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be published. At this point, I have two whole publications under my belt! Clearly, it’s still a dream I’m pursuing. However, aside from the above, there are plenty of other reasons why I won’t pursue traditional publishing.

I’m a bit of a control freak, for starters. I like having the final say on the things I produce. The title of my work, how the cover comes out… when I write books, I have a specific vision in mind for them, and it’s frustrating knowing that if I went traditional, I would have to budge plenty on my vision. That’s acceptable for plenty of people–otherwise there wouldn’t be a publishing industry to speak of–but not for me.

Another reason is the sheer difficulty in being accepted in the first place. Most major publishing houses won’t take unagented manuscripts, which means you first need to cross the hurdle of acquiring an agent. There’s plenty of agents to choose from, and that means you have plenty of chances to be taken advantage of. But say you pick a good agent, and you get lucky and they decide to take you on. Now you have to have them take your work–probably after having altered to their wants–and shop around with it. And maybe you get lucky here, too, and end up with a good opportunity. That’s great for you! However, it’s not the reality. All too often, though, it becomes an eternal slog after eternal slog. That’s just not for me.

If this wasn’t enough, there’s been… interesting trends in publishing lately, both in the books and in the general writing meta. For example, the growing push for authors to market themselves online in unusual means (like Xiran Jay Zhao, who experienced astronomical popularity and are now an unwilling example in promotional discussions.) Or how TikTok has brought to life controversies such as Lightlark. The self-censorship from TikTok has even bled into real-world book summaries such as:

[Redacted] is a dark retelling of Peter and Wendy. If you like your enemies to lovers romance with hot, ruthless, morally gray love interests, you’ll enjoy [redacted]. You can expect hate kissing, fighting, bickering, and ‘touch her and I’ll unalive you’ vibes.

Summary of a book published February 2022

This is not meant to be a post of doom and gloom, however. For plenty of people, traditional publishing has been just what they needed. Some even got lucky enough to make a living from it! However, there’s plenty of reasons why it isn’t for me.

But what about you? Is going traditional something you’ll ever consider doing?