My Best of 2022 list: Books

Well, it’s that time of year when popular magazines and other media outlets compile Best of 2022 Lists of movies, books, albums, TV series, and so on.

To be sure, most of these lists are totally arbitrary and purely subjective.

Despite the shortcomings of doing so, I thought I would compile my own Top 10 Best of 2022 List of books, movies, TV series, events, etc. Keep in mind that this is my list. Please feel free to disagree with me or, better yet, suggest some choices of your own.

Let’s begin this segment with Books.

#1 Books

Quite frankly, I am a voracious reader of both fiction and nonfiction works. Each year I tell myself to keep a running list of the books I have read — but to no avail. Luckily, being a bit of a hoarder, most of the books I have read over the past twelve months are piled up in various locations in my home.

Let’s begin with Nonfiction.

New York Times columnist Maggie Haberman’s Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and The Breaking of America is a masterful book that traces the rise of former President Donald J Trump from his time as a NYC real estate hustler to his tumultuous time in the US Oval Office. Unlike many of the other tell all books about Trump that have been published by former disgruntled insiders, this is a serious work by a serious journalist who had unlimited access to Trump before and during his time as president.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand Trump and his ascent to the White House.

Honourable Mentions include: Steve Brusatte’s The Rise and Reign of Mammals, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow, Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour by Ricki Lee Jones, and The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer by Dean Jobb.

Now, to Fiction.

I must admit that when I purchased State of Terror by Canadian crime writer Louise Penny and former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton in the Fall of 2021, I put it aside for fear that I would be disappointed. When I picked it up towards the end of 2022, I was pleasantly surprised with this fast-paced, taut geopolitical thriller.

Drawing on Clinton’s knowledge and experience as an international player and Penny’s skills as a crime writer, the novel is a page-turner that reveals a nefarious international plot to overthrow an American government that has been out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts for four years under a Trumpian style president.

Halting the plot falls to Ellen Adams, the former proprietor of an international media empire, who has been improbably appointed U.S. Secretary of State by Douglas Williams, the condescending president whose candidacy she had opposed. Readers will no doubt notice a resemblance between Adams and Clinton.

It’s all good fun for readers and the ending leaves the door open for a sequel.

Honourable mentions go to Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris, The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles.

In my next segment, I will identify the Movies I enjoyed most in 2022.

Robert Harris’s Act of Oblivion is historical fiction at its best

British novelist Robert Harris, author of Fatherland, Enigma, Pompeii and others, is back with another masterful work of historical fiction in Act of Oblivion (2022).

Set in the aftermath of England’s bitter Civil War (1642-1651) between Parliamentarians (Roundheads) and Royalists (Cavaliers) over the manner of England’s governance and issues of religious freedom and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1860, the novel revolves around attempts to hunt down and punish the “regicides” who were responsible for the execution of King Charles I in 1649.

While the Act of Oblivion — full title “An Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion” — was a general pardon for everyone who had committed crimes during the Civil War, it called for the apprehension and execution of the fifty-nine people named in the act as those who ordered the execution of Charles I.

This is where Harris the storyteller takes over.

Calling his work an imaginative re-creation of a true story, Harris tells the story of a fictitious manhunter named Richard Nayler who pursues two regicides, Edward Whalley and William Goffe, who have fled to New England to escape persecution. While Nayler is fictitious, Whalley and Goffe are real characters.

Two Puritans who fought alongside Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War, Whalley and Goffe remain unfazed in their belief that the execution of Charles I was justified, and that the restoration of Charles II will be short-lived.

As wanted men, the two have to go underground finding refuge in the homes of sympathetic colonists and New England governors and clergymen. They also spend a great deal of time living rough in the wilderness.

To be sure, the two regicides are intolerable hardcore Puritans who believed that only the elect would go to heaven, that their aggressively righteous ends justified their often-ruthless means, and that the world would end in 1666. If this sounds familiar, Whalley and Goffe bear a striking resemblance to the insufferable members of the American Evangelical Christian Right who have garnered so much undue influence in American politics in recent decades with their talk of authoritarian theocracy and the Rapture.

Readers are torn between siding with the two resourceful regicides and their dogged pursuer. But unfortunately, they know the novel is not going to end well for any of the characters. Add to this a bit of a surprise ending, and readers should come away feeling satisfied.

Harris has assembled a highly readable novel with enough twists and turns to keep readers turning the pages. Highly recommended.

Act of Oblivion is now available at all leading bookstores.

The Sweet Delilah Swim Club delights

“The faster we swim, the more we win!”

This is the mantra that has brought the five former members of a college swim team together annually for a weekend in August at the Sweet Delilah cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to re-connect and share the changes that have happened in their lives over the past year.

As we meet and get to know the five women, it becomes obvious that about the only thing they now have in common is their past swimming glory. Sheree (Marcia Tratt), the team captain, and the organizer of the group who attempts to keep the group in line; Dinah (Barbara Fulton), the impeccably dressed career-driven lawyer; the vain much married Lexie (Cara Hunter), who has tried to hold back the hands of time with plastic surgery; Jeri (Karen Wood), the “Nun gone bad,” who shows up with a big surprise; and the wisecracking Vernadette (Mary Pitt), whom we learn has led a not-so-happy life since college.

The play zooms in on four of their weekends and spans a period of thirty-three years. With each passing year, the friends come to rely on each other for advice and support about men, sex, marriage, parenting, divorce, and aging, sometimes with success, other times not so much.

Directed by Sheila McCarthy, The Sweet Delilah Swim Club is a hilarious and touching bitter-sweet comedy about the power of friendship. The cast is superb, but special mention needs to be made of Mary Pitt’s performance, who as Vernadette, gets to deliver some of the best one-liners in the play.

“Men always promise they’ll die for you, then they don’t,” she says at one point when the group is discussing relationships.

The Sweet Delilah Swim Club continues at the Huron Country Playhouse South Huron Stage until September 4.

Reviewed by Rick Young, The Beat Magazine.

It’s been awhile…

Well, it’s been awhile since I posted anything.

This two and a half year pandemic has left me restless, and often at a loss for words. I avoided writing about the perils of living under a life-threatening pandemic and it curtailed my social and cultural life to a point that I really didn’t have much to write about.

I watched a lot of Netflix. Some of it very good, some of it very bad.

I followed the public health regulations – masking and social distancing, etc. And I’m happy to say I have managed to dodge the little bugger so far (Knock on wood!).

In the last month, I have attended a couple of concerts and enjoyed some live theatre at the Grand and Stratford Festival.

To say that I am looking forward to a relatively “normal” summer would be an understatement.

What about you?

April 18, 2022.

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream recommended

I just finished reading Dean Jobb’s The Case of The Murderous Dr. Cream, a true crime story written in the narrative non-fiction style of Erik Larson (The Devil in The White City).

Once believed to have been Jack the Ripper, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream (who for awhile resided and practiced medicine in London, Ontario) was a calculating Victorian Era serial killer who left behind bodies in three countries before being hung in London, England on November 15, 1892.

Author Dean Jobb has written a very readable book that takes readers into the slums of London, England and Chicago, and the growing town of London, Ontario.

Readers are left wondering how Cream got away with his crimes as long as he did.

Highly recommended.👍👍👍👍