I was well down on the past couple of years (308 in 2020 and 210 in 2021), but more than 90 was still a decent tally of books read this year. More than half were travel, 15% fiction, 15% history, and the remainder a mix of essays, politics, mountaineering, and music books. These are the ones that stayed with me the most…
To The Ends of the Earth by John V. H. Dippel
A fascinating and comprehensive account of the lengths of suffering that men (always men) went to to discover the polar regions. So many disastrous expeditions and lives lost through a combination of poor planning and hubris. I’ve read a lot of books on polar exploration and this is among the best.
The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor – the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown
Highly topical given the death of the Queen this year. This is a thorough account of the lives of the royal family, filled with well sourced / high quality gossip, plus insights into this strange institution. A compelling and hard to put down read.
Touching The World : A Blind Woman Two Wheels 25,000 Miles by Cathy Birchall and Bernard Smith
The quite incredible story of a blind woman motorbiking (as a passenger) the world, and having plenty of memorable experiences along the way. Beautifully written and quite moving at times, this is an inspiration as to what is possible with good planning, courage, and perseverance.
Stories of the Southern Sea by Lawrence Winkler
Probably the best travel book on the Pacific that I’ve read, a notch above Paul Theroux’s much better known The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific. It is written in a highly lyrical, almost poetic, fashion, and filled with both interesting historical fact, and highly entertaining stories of this vast area.
Khumbu : Gateway to Mount Everest, Pathways to Kinship by Peter Laurenson
The perfect coffee table book, filled with phenomenal photography and well written, and highly personal, accounts of Peter’s multiple trips over the decades to this fascinating part of Nepal. It is both useful as a practical guide to the region, and as an account on how the region, it’s people, and the author, have changed over the years.
The Border : A Journey Around Russia : through North Korea, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway and the Northwest Passage by Erika Fatland
An exemplar of travel writing, an epic journey around the many countries that border the world’s largest country. It is compelling on both the countries visited, on Russia, and their varied relationships. The young, female Norwegian author provides a different perspective, and the book is filled with her memorable experiences. I also read her latest book, High: A Journey Across the Himalayas Through Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Nepal and China, which was also very enjoyable but I found The Border more insightful and topical given the conflict in Ukraine.
Down South : In Search of the Great Southern Road by Bruce Ansley
Apparently initially called the Middle Island, what is now known as the South Island has a distinctive character in New Zealand’s history. This brilliantly written book provides entertaining and insightful context into how each of the regions of the South Island have developed over the decades.
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier
Fascinating account of how Instagram grew to be the anti-Facebook, while owned by Facebook, and the weird dynamic between the two organisations. Mark Zuckerberg treated it much like a competitor, despite owning it. Also shows how little both social media platforms really knew about how people were using their services, and how accidental everything seemed in retrospect.
Solo: Backcountry Adventuring in Aotearoa New Zealand by Hazel Phillips
An engrossing book, talking about the authors adventures (and frequent near misses!) in New Zealand’s back country, interspersed with stories of those who had less luck, often dying in grim circumstances. It also offers a relatively rare perspective on how woman hiking, particularly solo, are perceived and treated, much less well than they should be.