A Christmas Wrapping Up of My Year in Reading

The Waitresses new-wave band, pictured in the early 1980s. (Photo by George DuBose.)
 
It’s Christmas Day, and time for my annual holiday verse with a literary twist. This year I’m rewriting The Waitresses’ 1981 song “Christmas Wrapping” to mention many of the novels I read in 2022.
 
First, a lyrics video of the Chris Butler-composed song:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARq6uYSsUq0
 
Now, my version:
 
“Bah humbug” doesn’t feel near
I read Scrooge’s tale long before this year
Started 2022 with Herman Wouk
“War and Remembrance” by “The Caine Mutiny” bloke
Lengthy, epic, heartbreaking novel
Good to finally see the Nazis grovel
Then “Up the Down Staircase” by Kaufman, Bel
That book’s high school – like war – is hell
Next “A Gentleman in Moscow,” stuck in hotel
Under house arrest, not in prison cell
Amor Towles’ Russia-set story is riveting
But to other novels I now will be pivoting
“Apples Never Fall” by Liane Moriarty
Who writes with brilliant authority
Followed by the latest from Jack Reacher’s sphere
A page-turner I received for Christmas last year.
 
After finishing Lee Child’s “Better Off Dead”
Diana Gabaldon’s ninth “Outlander” book I read
What a saga with Jamie and Claire
The very best in time-travel fare
On to the “Tinkers” novel by Paul Harding
His dying protagonist, soon departing
Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” came next
Why I waited so long to read it…I’m perplexed
Same for “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone
About Michelangelo, not Sylvester Stallone
Then to “The Stone Diaries” I swerve
Carol Shields wrote it, not Stone, Irv
Matt Haig’s “The Midnight Library” brings thoughts of life
Many alternate timelines come with strife
Then John Grisham, not one of fiction’s rookies
“A Time for Mercy” from those Christmas cookies!
 
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
We read a lot of books this year
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
We read a lot of books this year
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
We read a lot of books this year
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
We read a lot of books this year.
 
“Breathing Lessons” inhaled soon enough
Nicely quirky, like most Anne Tyler stuff
“The Overstory” – epic! – by Richard Powers
With astonishing trees, and so-so flowers
“The General in His Labyrinth” didn’t require
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” to read, entire
After Gabriel Garcia Marquez…Joy Fielding
Her “Lost” has suspense she’s expert at wielding
The landscape turned to Jane Smiley’s “A Thousand Acres”
An intense family drama, albeit lacking Quakers
Switching genres, “The Calculating Stars”
About female astronauts steering more than cars
By Mary Robinette Kowal, years after Zane Grey
Wrote “Boulder Dam” about harnessed river spray
Followed by Melville’s “Mardi,” a sea saga longer
Than Santa’s risky sleigh ride – make your roofs stronger!
 
On to “Brothers Keepers,” let’s not tarry
Donald Westlake’s setting: a monastery
Louis Auchincloss’ “The Lady of Situations”
An interesting take on a woman’s ambitions
“The Sympathizer” and “The Committed” are connected
The first won a Pulitzer; Viet Thanh Nguyen was selected
Then “The Glass Kingdom” by Lawrence Osborne
Excellent but disturbing, I’m obliged to warn
Same with “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr
Crime fiction par excellence, or excellence par
Includes real figures like Teddy Roosevelt
The killer no teddy bear; left more than a welt
Now 16th-century-immersed in Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”
Her tour de force about a man who’s “on the ball”
His name’s Thomas Cromwell and he really existed
But just like Santa his phone number’s unlisted.
 
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
We read a lot of books this year
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
We read a lot of books this year
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
We read a lot of books this year
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
We read a lot of books this year.
 
The fictional works you most enjoyed in 2022?
 
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
 
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece – which is light but not light — is here.

76 thoughts on “A Christmas Wrapping Up of My Year in Reading

  1. Pingback: MISPLACED DREAMS – Annika Perry

  2. Good grief!
    I’m dizzy from your reading list.
    Nonetheless, thank you for mentioning Joy. “Lost” is fab.
    I just went through my collection of Joy’s books.
    OMG!!! There is one I didn’t read! I bought it when I stared a film, put it aside and forgot about it.
    It’s now # 3 in my pile. “Mad River Road”!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Dave, a marvelous poem and a fabulous selection of reads during 2022. I enjoyed my re-reads of Great Expectations, Catch 22, A Christmas Carol, and A Modest Proposal this year. I also enjoyed The Midnight Library, The Second Mrs. Astor, and Message Found in a Bottle and The Oblong Box by Poe. I have The Handmaid’s Tale (Michael’s setwork) and The Grapes of Wrath lined up for the first quarter of 2023. Happy New Year, Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. At the heart of my 2022 reading activities (and thanks to the enthusiasm of Dave and other readers on site for the Falen translation):

    I read Alexander Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin” (Falen translation) and again (Nabokov translation)and again (Hofstadter translation)and again (Elkin translation) and again, partially, dipping in and out (Johnston translation) and again, partially dipping in and out (Arndt translation). All while reading Nabokov’s copious notes on the novel poem.

    What I learned: translation is a thorny nettlesome thicket of a topic– the aesthetic and stylistic decisions of the translator being crucial and so far as I can tell, not always understood, even by the translators themselves. If for example, a translator wishes to convey the ordinariness to a native reader in the original language of what to a foreign reader might be an exotic fruit, for example, he might substitute a fruit familiar to his assumed readership for the exotic fruit that is literally the fruit in the original. But then the translator has taken a kind of liberty– he has decided that the fruit in original context, being ordinary, should read as ordinary to the reader of the translation.

    Does the author of the original make puns? Often? Can these be conveyed from the original language to the translation? Can the translation preserve the original meter and rhyme scheme of the original? Should it? Is the original author truly humorous, or does he make attempts at humor that are often clumsy, and even occasionally mean-spirited? Can this be accurately conveyed by the translator?

    Having read, I estimate, nearly as many literary works in translation as in English, I might have focused on these questions (and quite a few more at least) earlier in my reading life. But then again, I seldom read more than one translation– I think my first foray was Stendhal’s “The Charterhouse of Parma”, which I’ve read in two translations.

    Lately I have been breaking my uncomprehending head on the adamantine versifications of Osip Mandelstam. I have sought alternate translations on the interwebs, but I can’t say much beyond the bewilderment I experienced when I made side-by-side comparisons, of, say, ‘The Ode On Slate’ and the fact that I don’t think I ‘get it’ by reading either. Like a cat walking across the tops of books on a shelf. I’m feeling something as I traverse, but the depth of the contents remains unknown to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY!

      I’m impressed with the effort you put into reading/analyzing/understanding “Eugene Onegin.” But I “get” your enthusiasm given how superb that poem/novel is. (I read it in 2021, too early for my 2022 poem.)

      And a GREAT discussion of how difficult and thorny translating literature can be.

      Love your cat metaphor!

      Like

  5. Dave so many books to read yet I am stuck at home for the third day in a row with freezing temperature, i did not even want to step out. Until yesterday it was a sheet of ice outside.
    Perhaps by tomorrow I`ll be able to go out
    I am still on Grisham`s latest, first 70 some pages I was kind of bored, ( perhaps it is me being stuck at home) now it is picking up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another entertaining and poetic way to list your reads this year. I don’t tally mine anymore, so the latest is always best. 🙂 You recently mentioned returning to author’s we haven’t read in awhile, and I selected John Steinbeck. His “The Winter of Our Discontent” has to be hands down one of the best novels of all time. It’s complexity, multidimensional characters, universal themes, and location make it so. The setting in New England, a place far from the Salinas Valley. I can’t be more enthusiastic. Just don’t read ANYTHING about it and be surprised. Happy New Year, Dave!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Mary Jo! 🙂 Fortunately, for the sake of that end-year poem of mine, I keep a list of what I read. 🙂

      So glad that you loved “The Winter of Our Discontent”! I agree that it’s an excellent novel — and, yes, very different than many of Steinbeck’s other books. His last completed novel, I think — the subsequent “Travels With Charley” was of course (mostly) nonfiction — so “Winter” was a terrific late-career effort.

      Happy New Year to you, too!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. This is the first year that the radio didn’t play “Christmas Wrapping” when my husband and I were out looking at lights on Christmas Eve.

    The novel standout for 2022 for me was The Marriage of Anna Maye Potts by DeWitt Henry. The short story collection was A Crispy Chicken Sandwich by R. D. Graddis. I read four outstanding poetry collections: A Specialist at the Recycled Heart by Frank Prem, Rooted and Winged by Luanne Castle, River Ghosts by Merril Smith, and House Bird by Robert Fillman.

    Oop. I think I was supposed to stick to novels.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Dave – you have the most amazing wit and poetic acumen! In the next couple of days between Christmas & New years, I want to review all the books that I read, the prime one being War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy, but there are others that added so much to my enjoyment. I completed “The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. The message was profound, insightful and hopeful even as it dealt with loss. From your song, I have added “The Stone Diaries” by Carol Shields.

    A great way to celebrate Christmas:

    “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
    We read a lot of books this year
    Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
    We read a lot of books this year”

    2023 – here was come!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much, Rebecca! 🙂 I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the books you read in 2022, including Tolstoy’s and Didion’s, if those thoughts end up in one or some of your great blog posts and/or podcasts! As for “The Stone Diaries,” a depressingly compelling novel.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can understand your frustration with Nicholas and Natasha – I felt the same way. They do grow up, especially when they experience hardships associated with the loss and sadness that comes from war. What was most interesting to me was the Epilogues and discussions on history, freewill etc. For example Chapter 10 of the Epilogue starts out with:

        “Thus our sensation of free will and necessity gradually contracts or expands according to the greater or lesser degree of association with the external world, the greater or lesser degree of remoteness in time, and the greater or lesser degree of dependence on the causes through which we examine the phenomenon of human life.”

        I confess that I will need to reread the Epilogue because Leo Tolstoy gives us much to consider and challenges our belief systems and our personal values by which we conduct our actions. Do we have free will? Do we have choice? Interesting questions.

        Robbie and Dave – thank you for all the great conversations that we have had in 2022!! More coming in 2023

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses is a classic fav, Dave.😉

    I didn’t read that many books this year but biographies I thought were highly readable and interesting as truthful are those by Molly Shannon and Mel Brooks.

    I saw a clip of a Tom Hanks soon to be released film A Man Called Otto and it’s got to be partly based on Fredrick Backman’s “A Man Called Ove.” An excellent book I read in 2020,part of many during this time as I had alot of time on my hands. I plan to finally read “Anxious People ” in 2023.

    Wondering why author wanted name change and did not want to give up complete creative license.

    A happy holiday season and new year to you and your blog readers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Michele! “Christmas Wrapping” is definitely a holiday favorite. 🙂

      I also enjoyed the “A Man Called Ove” novel a LOT. I hope the slightly different-named movie does justice to it.

      Happy Holidays to you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

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