The Rest of the Books I Finished Last Year


✍️ 🕑 Late 2022 book reviewspoliticsgraphic novelsoilCanadaAlbertaTurkey & 3 More Tags

For whatever reason (probably my long dormant desire to be an academic), I’ve decided to write lil reviews of stuff I’ve read and stick them on my blog.

And so now, as promised, I give you, dear reader, my impressions of a diverse set of books I read later 2022. Yippee!

The five books under discussion cover geographies from Sweden, to Alberta, to Harlem, and topics from street portrait photography, to international geopolitics, to insanity. Perhaps one of them will pique your interest.

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Kate Beaton has long since “made it.” Her history-inspired webcomic, Hark, a Vagrant! went viral on nascent web2.0 platforms, leading to Beaton’s success as an author. Little did I know, back around 2008 when I first encountered her work, that she drew them in her spare time while working in the Alberta Oil Sands to try to pay off student loan debt.

Book Information
Title Ducks
Author Kate Beaton
Genre Memoir / Graphic Novel
Year 2022
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Ducks is impressive and unflinching. Beaton portrays the refineries as a strange and lonely, male-dominated workplace, where disenfranchised and isolated men have slipped out of step with “ordinary civilization.” Though catcalls are frequent, Beaton is sympathetic, wondering whether neighbors, family friends, her own father find themselves joining in on this behavior under different circumstances. Her portrayal of sexual assault is really, really moving.

Her artwork is beautiful, and her humor is wry. And she managed to put everything together into a rare and beautiful volume.

Thankfully for us, Beaton did make it – this book was (bizarrely enough) on Obama’s list of books of the year.

Down Below

Book Information
Title Down Below
Author Leonora Carrington
Genre Memoir
Year 1972
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A lousy cellphone snap of one of many of Lenora Carrington's works that captivated me in an art museum in Mexico City back in 2018.
A lousy cellphone snap of one of many of Lenora Carrington's works that captivated me in an art museum in Mexico City back in 2018.

British-born surrealist artist and writer Lenora Carrington suffered a mental breakdown in Europe near to the start of World War II, and was put in asylum. She escaped while being transferred to a sanitorium in South Africa, and spent most of career living in Mexico City.

I first encountered her paintings when I visited Mexico City in 2018, and I was interested in reading some of her work. Well, it only took me four years to get around to it.

Down Below is Carrington’s memoir about her mental breakdown and forced stay in an asylum in Spain.

It is arresting and weird, compellingly written and yet somehow also easy to dismiss – because it is also the ramblings of someone who broke from psychological normality. The book is framed as a journey to the depths of human consciousness and expanses of the cosmos and back, and it is that, but it is also the story of a woman jumping around an asylum room pretending to be different wild beasts.

There are ways in which I can relate to the sensations and feelings she described; I can imagine feeling feverish, outside my body, pushed around by tragedies in the world. And I can imagine that “treatment” would be devastating.

Of the books in this post, this is probably the one I would be least likely to recommend to someone. It is wild, it is arresting, it is weird, but also quite insular.

It’s also short, though, so it did not overstay its welcome.


Karin Tidbeck’s short novel Amatka was a favorite read of mine a few years ago. I had long been aware of Jagganath, her first English language volume, a short story collection, translated by the author herself from Swedish into English. For some reason, it took me until I was sitting on an airplane, looking for something to read on my Kindle to crack this one open. It needn’t have taken so long.

Book Information
Title Jagannath
Author Karin Tidbeck
Genre Fiction / short stories (fantasy, weird)
Year 2012
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All of the stories in this volume share some common themes. There’s a sense of the uncanny. The world is not quite the one you or I inhabit (unless you live in a village in northern Sweden and your family is part-Vitra.) The protagonists all have a sense of emptiness, of longing, of something that they want that they might not even comprehend. Something that might bring liberation, or destruction. There might be some chills at the end.

The tales accomplish all these things with economy too. They’re a length where you can quite easily finish one on your morning bus commute, which gives the reader a lovely feeling of accomplishment. Especially when the stories themselves are good.

Not all of them landed 100% with me, but this volume is absolutely an enjoyable one, recommended for anyone into “the New Weird” or anything of that ilk.


I’ve long since admitted to anyone who will listen that I’m a massive fan of Jeff Vandermeer.

Bliss is a novella, released in a limited run, depicting three somewhat estranged bandmates as they go on a trip to their country’s “evil twin,” a place with linguistic and cultural barriers just different enough to put our protagonists off balance at the start.

Book Information
Title Bliss
Author Jeff Vandermeer
Genre Fiction (weird)
Year 2022
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The “evil twin” is also recovering from a recent civil war, and the band is on their way to play for an unsavory character, who is busy manipulating them in ways they fail to realize.

The book shares a number of similarities with other works from Vandermeer: a point of view shifting between three protagonists, a sense of dread as it becomes increasingly clear that things are going horribly wrong, a long denounment in which different character’s responses to the climax are clarified.

It has a great atmosphere, and lovely turns of phrase, and a great sense of humor. But, it is not a flawless work. It does feel slight compared to some recent, more widely published volumes, and I did find it difficult to fully suspend disbelief at times.

Turkey Under Erdogan

Turkish President (and former Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is arguably the second-most important political figure in the republic’s history, second only to its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Book Information
Title Turkey Under Erdoğan
Author Dimitar Bechev
Genre Nonfiction / Politics
Year 2022
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His tenure in office has coincided with many shifts in foreign and domestic policies, and he has demonstrated impressive agility in navigating a variety of crises while remaining in power.

My own personal history in the Turkish Republic has always been tied to popular movements and political machinations. I first came to the country during the Gezi Park Protests, as a student in Ankara. I returned a year later as Erdoğan triumphed over Ekmeleddin in the 2014 presidential election. Finally, living in Turkey for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Throughout my time in the United States, I have done my best to encourage average Americans with a casual interest in Turkish politics to think about President Erdoğan in a nuanced way.

For this reason, I’m glad that Bechev’s book provides a thorough and nuanced overview.

Bechev charts the rise of Erdoğan and the AKP, and shifts from being a “model country” in the eyes of the United States, to today’s more assertive foreign policy stances. He is critical of many things, but also does a good job of highlighting positives when they exist, contextualizing actions, and including perspectives from Erdoğan’s base.

If you want to read a long, well-researched book on Turkey’s current leader, this would be an excellent place to start.

On Photographing People and Communities

Book Information
Title On Photographing People and Communities
Author Dawoud Bey
Genre photography
Year 2019
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Last, but very much not least, is Dawoud Bey’s entry in the Aperture’s Photography Workshop Series. The idea of the series is to provide a masterclass with a photographer in book form, combining an overview of (an aspect of) the photographer’s work with their own writing about their processes, inspiration, and advice.

Dawoud Bey’s volume is simply phenomenal in my opinion. Bey is a great writer, as well as a great photographer, and he provides good advice for people looking to hone their craft, while also shedding light on his inspirations and thought processes.

The photographs included in this book are also really wonderful examples of portraiture and street portraiture, and some of the projects, particularly the photographs commemorating the Birmingham Church Bombing have deep emotional resonance.

Thanks for reading!

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