Books I read in 2022

BookWyrm says I’ve read about 6,500 pages this year (which probably includes a bunch of appendices and end notes that I didn’t actually read, but I’ll still take it). I feel like a very slow reader compared to some of my more literary friends, so making it through 20 books (including a couple of novellas and essay collections) feels like an accomplishment. Especially considering all of the other books I’ve started and set aside, or skimmed with the intention of returning to, or am still chipping away at when the mood hits, of which there are probably at least another dozen. I’m a very inconsistent reader, is what I’m getting at.

Which means the books I actually finish tend to be ones I’m genuinely enjoying—and that makes ranking into a pretty arbitrary task. So instead, just assume that if the description seems like something you’d be interested in, it’s probably worth the time investment. Keeping in mind my reading tastes can tend towards the dry and semi-academic.

I still need to do a better job of diversifying my reading. Of the 19 authors below, nine are women or people of colour, which means more than half are neither of those. Something to work on in the new year (and most of the books on my immediate to-read list will help with that, at least).

Books I actually finished this year:

Being PeaceThich Nhat HanhA guide to Buddhist thought, rooted in empathy and kindness.
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil SandsKate BeatonAn unflinching graphic novel documenting Beaton’s time working in the oil sands—darker and heavier than I was expecting from Beaton, but the subject matter merits it.
In Praise of PathsTorbjørn EkelundMore a memoir than the book on walking that I was expecting, but still fairly enjoyable.
The Ministry for the FutureKim Stanley RobinsonFor a writer who’s often put at the forefront of optimistic sci-fi, Robinson’s near-future look at how humanity might navigate climate change still feels mighty bleak. I guess we’re at the point where “making it through will be incredibly difficult but not completely impossible” counts as optimism.
Moon of the Crusted SnowWaubgeshig RiceOne of two authors I had a chance to interview at Wordfest. Apocalyptic fiction from an Indigenous perspective, with the resilience and practicality that comes from having survived other cultural apocalypses already.
My View of the WorldErwin SchrödingerViews on the nature of self, connectedness, and reality. Yes, the cat in a box guy. No, that isn’t in this book.
New Dark AgeJames BridleHow our technology and culture are undermining our ability to understand the world, and what we can potentially do about it.
SSOTBMELionel Snell/Ramsey DukesThe most esoteric book on this list, but a very thought-provoking one on four systems for navigating the world: magic, science, religion, and art.
Strength to LoveMartin Luther King JrAdapted from King’s sermons, so more overtly Christian than most of what I read, but it seemed overdue to try to get a better sense of his actual thinking vs the sanitized hand-me-down version in popular culture.
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of HumanityDavid Graeber, David WengrowA massive book that aims to redefine how we view human pre-history, in the hopes that will change how we can imagine the future.
The Great God PanArthur MachenOne of the earliest “weird fiction” novellas. Still full of eerie atmosphere, but its ideas have been borrowed so many times that it’s tricky to see it with fresh eyes.
The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western WorldIain McGilchristAnother of those “reframing human history and experience” books, this time through the lens of the brain’s two hemispheres, in a much more nuanced manner than the usual pop-sci “left vs right brain” way. McGilchrist is impressively well-read in (Western) history, art, and philosophy, to an extent that the book suffers a bit from his thoroughness, but it’s argument is a profound one.
The Midnight BargainCL PolkThe other Wordfest selection, a fun, fast-paced fantasy romance with a vividly imagined world and a clever central metaphor.
The Taiga SyndromeCristina Rivera GarzaA poetic, dream-like detective story with an excellent sense of nature and place. Quick but cryptic, and nearly a year after reading it I remember the mood more than any of the particulars.
The Three Body ProblemCixin LiuLiu has a skill for explaining interesting concepts, but so far I’ve found his storytelling a bit stiff, which made the cynicism of Three Body Problem harder to take. I’m glad to have read it, but not sure I’ll follow up with the sequels.
There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness : And Other Thoughts on Physics, Philosophy and the WorldCarlo RovelliSome wonderful moments, and a fantastic title, but these short essays on a range of topics don’t quite have the impact of Rovelli’s more focused works—which are some of the most approachable and thoughtful explanations of quantum physics that I’ve ever read.
Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty, and TimeGaia VinceAnother way of contextualizing human history, this time by looking at four key technologies—fire, language, beauty, and time. Optimistic and thought-provoking, and the only book I’ve read that encourages humanity to act more like a slime mold.
Ways of BeingJames BridleAn attempt to find a more generous definition of “intelligence”, one that goes beyond “the thing that humans do” to encompass the perception and cognition of the natural (“more-than-human”) world. I think Bridle and I have been reading a lot of the same authors lately, as a lot of the anecdotes felt quite familiar. Still, I appreciated their interpretations, even if I didn’t always agree with them.
Web of MeaningJeremy LentThematic echoes with Bridle’s Ways of Being and McGilchrist’s Master and His Emissary, in that all three want to rebalance the analytical, fragmented, computational mentality of modern Western thought with other, more holistic ways of knowing. Lent provides a quick gloss of a lot of philosophies, not always convincingly, but it’d make for a good jumping-off point for a lot of further reading.
When Things Fall ApartPema ChodronApplying Buddhist teaching to develop resilience and compassion. An excellent companion to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace, with slightly more focus on personal well-being. Not sugar-coating the nature of reality (the title is when, not if), but making acceptance a little easier.

Summer film roundup

Collecting some Letterboxd reviews from the past few months, some more obscure, some very much not so. I haven’t been watching as many films the past few months, but between the start of the Calgary International Film Festival and the looming winter, that’s bound to change—expect more of these roundups in the months to come.

The Northman

This is a strange thing to say about a bleak Viking revenge saga packed with bloodshed and laced with hallucinatory visions, but as much as I enjoyed the experience of The Northman, it’s missing the darkness of The VVitch and The Lighthouse. Maybe it’s in the relationship of their central characters to their worlds—Eggers’ first two films are about average people on the fringes of their societies, butting up against and succumbing to forces beyond their understanding. This is a hero’s journey, the toughest man alive receiving DMs from the fates themselves assuring him of his central role in a high drama of kings and conquerors. In some ways, it feels closer in tone to old Conan comics than to either of Eggers’ other films.

As an action spectacle, it’s impressive and enjoyable, and I’m glad the larger scale hasn’t diminished Eggers’ commitment to his historical worlds. I saw another review say what distinguishes his films is that they 100% believe in the mythology of their times, so you are seeing the world from within their reality—their histories are alien worlds, to some extent, and that really does seem to be the case. And I appreciate the seriousness of it, the acknowledgement that you can go big without having to bake in quippiness and meta-jokes. It’s a great action movie, one that holds on to a lot of what makes Eggers so unique—but not enough pair with his best.

The Velvet Underground

I adore the energy Jonathan Richman brings to his segments.

Haynes certainly does what he sets out to do, elevating his favourite band while also bringing them down to earth by spending so much time establishing their context. The pre-Velvets parts were maybe my favourite, the rest being a well-worn story and way too heavy on Warhol, who may be what made the Velvets’ career possible but isn’t what made them interesting.

What a band, though.

The Matrix Resurrections

In the first movie, “what is the Matrix” was a question about the nature of reality. In Resurrections, it kicks off a branding discussion. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie that so explicitly didn’t want to be made, that isn’t just aware that it is superfluous but that seems to want you to feel guilty for even being curious about it. Neo and Trinity are back because either Warner Media or the engagement algorithm that secretly drives the world have demanded it, and while the postscript grudgingly thanks the algorithm for the characters’ new life—and the opportunity to clarify a few ideas and shake up a few binaries—it never gets past the sense that this revisiting this story is more traumatic than cathartic for its creators.


Not trying to open up the genre debate because ultimately it’s just a label that doesn’t mean much, but this didn’t feel like a horror film to me. In that I didn’t feel the goal of the film was to scare me; it has more the feel of a pulp “men’s adventures” magazine, a tale designed to thrill more than to frighten. If Peele hadn’t already directed two horror films, I wonder if this would still be discussed in those terms.

Anyway, Nope doesn’t hold together as well as Get Out (that’s a high bar). It balances its theme and storytelling much better than Us, though, and the creature design is marvelous. Kaluuya is great in a mostly low-key and stoic role, “Antlers Holst” is a fantastic name, and all my criticisms are better suited to nitpicking over beers than essays on Letterboxd.


Who even makes movies like this? Yuasa is one of the most unpredictable filmmakers working today, except inasmuch as everything he makes is worth watching. Which very much includes this 14th century Japanese mystical rock opera. Yes it’s a bit chaotic and inconsistent from the storytelling side of things, with uneven pacing and what feel like some fairly significant dropped threads.

But it more than makes up for it by force of imagination. The production value on the musical numbers is incredible, the animation is gorgeous throughout (even with a few jarring shifts in technique), and most importantly, it never once plays it safe.

How do you do this, The Night is Short Walk On Girl, Lu Over the Wall, Devilman Crybaby and more in a five-year span? It boggles the mind.

Three Thousand Years of Longing

So much of this film is so good. I’m a sucker for movies about storytelling and well-used narration and colourful world-building and genre-based tragic love stories, and apparently Miller is, too, because when he’s indulging in that side of things this film is so wonderfully alive.

The scale of those early stories is so ambitious that the more restrained back half can’t help but suffer in comparison—but it doesn’t help that it feels so rushed. Why raise a topic like bigotry and xenophobia, say, if you’re only going to give it one brief conversation and a cartoonishly simple resolution? There wasn’t enough room for the sweep of humanity that the script tries to engage with.

None of that changes the appeal of the first half, though. It reminds me a bit of The Brothers Bloom, although the content couldn’t be much more different, but that love for the very nature of storytelling, the embrace of bright colours, the playfulness and love of language will appeal to the same people.

Worth noting: it’s a very different film than the trailer had me expecting. Less chaotic, more constrained, very much not an adventure film. Hopefully that doesn’t hurt its reception.

Dozens of Norths

Somewhere between Seuss and Bosch—a journey through imagined landscapes full of people trapped in loops, stuck in traps, or engaged in endless work. Absurdist allegory that seems borderline nihilistic, although I’d be lying if I said I had a solid interpretation of it overall. Some of the metaphors were clear, but others sailed by me; the rough-hewn illustrations and the fantastic score and sound design were enough to pull me back in whenever I started to drift. The lack of dialogue in favour of title cards helps contextualize some of the more obtuse imagery while still keeping things wide open to poetic interpretation.

Certainly an imaginative film—if it’s even fair to call it a film, it doesn’t seem especially interested in cinematic language, pulling more from illustration and mixed media to create its mood. Animation doesn’t have to be filmmaking, after all, it is its own medium with the flexibility to pull from so many other visual traditions. But I guess that’s a whole other can of worms.

The Empty Man

An ambitious jumble of ideas and influences, some well thought out and others pretty half-baked, but executed with a whole lot of skill regardless. The (very) cold open and the scenes with Root are by far the most engaging; the procedural is a bit rote even with all the weirdness around it. Some of the images, though, especially the sequence at Elsewhere, flames tentacling into the night sky… I can see how this has attracted a cult.

Folks seem to be calling out the creepypasta elements like they’re inherently a bad thing, but I’d happily read the whole Pontifex Society wiki if it were posted somewhere. Candyman + Crowley + Creepypasta + Cults makes for an interesting blend.

The Timekeepers of Eternity

Certainly an interesting project. It’s a snappy edit, finding a solid Outer Limits episode in a much-reviled miniseries, and the unusual technique heightens the film’s themes, adding some interesting depth. Where I stumble is in whether it is its own film or something closer to a fan edit, or whether that matters.

If you go by sheer labour, then it isn’t hard to argue for it as a standalone artwork. If you go by originality of the narrative, it’s an edit. Is it transformative? Does it matter? The fact it prompts those questions is enough to make me glad I watched it.

Regardless, it’s easily the best film version of the Langoliers out there right now, so there’s that.