This year’s reading was marked by quantity, sheer bulk. I read 28 books in 2022, my most ever for a year (up 9 from two years ago). Actually, as I looked back on the list of books I read this year, I couldn’t believe it. Literally. Perhaps because of the high number of books I read, I looked at my list and thought I might’ve made a mistake. Seeing a book I read in, say, March it seemed so long ago that I thought I must’ve read that book last year. So, in terms of reading, 2022 sure seems like it was a looong year. I was also a good year, though.
I re-read a couple of books and I reviewed 9 in total with three I am saving for the new year. Many I presented on my Words With Wellsy segment of Koop Kooper’s Cocktail Nation radio show podcast. Koop has graciously asked me to return to recommend books on his show and I’m thrilled to say I’ll be back in 2023. If I’m honest, book reviews don’t get a lot of love here at Vintage Leisure but one seemed to attract a lot of notice. The champ of the Book Talk articles this year was my piece on Jim Brown’s autobiography, Out of Bounds.
I was fascinated by James Maguire’s biography on Ed Sullivan and what he had to say about Ed’s impact on American culture and I devoured Jean Stein’s book about Edie Sedgwick. Little Edie is by some margin the queen of my website. It continues to amaze me how often she is read about here and how devoted are her legions of fans. I struggled a bit in the spring, a rough patch that was marked by disappointment. Basically ever since I read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in high school, I have been interested in reading other books by him. Finally, some 30 years later, I found Dharma Bums at a garage sale and anticipated reading it in April, when the land really started to open up, as Jack would say. What a disappointment. I shouldn’t have been too surprised, though. It is a well-known fact that this book is steeped in Kerouac’s fascination with mysticism but I was hoping I would latch with it as I had On the Road. I almost gave up on this book. When I was done, though I considered my copy somewhat rare, I tried to sell it; not for money but to give it to someone who might appreciate it. I had no takers in this consumer age in which people don’t go without and who have already purchased everything they want. The local book store lady even turned me down. I just donated it to the thrift store in town hoping someone would be thrilled to stumble on it as often happens to me in second-hand stores.
Then I re-read a favourite from the past, Thomas Frank’s academic study of the advertising of the 1960s, The Culture of Cool. While the things that thrilled me the first time around were still evident, I forgot that the last third is very dry and textbook-like. This book with its connections to Mad Men, though, was an obvious one to talk about on the Cocktail Nation. Then there was Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake. This book I enjoyed but I still am not sold on Chandler’s novels. And I couldn’t get the filmed version and the changes that were made out of my head as I read. I was happy to revisit Bill Zehme’s Sinatra book, The Way You Wear Your Hat, right around the Sinatra time of year for me and this was another obvious choice for Koop Kooper’s show. Then I filled in some space with a goofy, vintage dime-store novel called Hot Rod by one Henry Gregor Felsen. Written for young kids about young kids, it was a neat artifact and I did learn that the author was a prolific one and that this book is his most popular and has a bit of a following in vintage circles.
The summer brought me the “big book” I like to read during the warm, languorous months. This time is was a bit a flyer for me. Life is Keith Richards’ memoir and I though that reading it would coincide well with the piece I was writing about the Rolling Stones’ 60th anniversary. I learned much from Keef’s book and I was surprised at how he came across; not the rock casualty he is usually painted as. Then it was Dark of the Sun by Wilbur Smith, a book I was happy to find at a garage sale in a big, ol’ barn out in the sticks. Guy had scores of old war and military novels. This book I read mostly because of my enjoyment of the film was a real page-turner.
August once again found me communing with Quentin Tarantino and his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as I read the deluxe edition of his first novel. And then, coming up on Elvis Week in August, I decided what the heck, I’ll read another Elvis book on my shelf, one maybe I don’t intend to keep; I can read it and then clear some space. Elvis in the Morning was not great but it did inspire me to buy, read, keep and review every Elvis book I can find and to present my findings in a new series, King Reader. Speaking of clearing space, I then took down my large hardcover copy of Janet Leigh’s first novel, House of Destiny. Not good, this book. I was happy to have the empty spot on my shelves.
My friend, author Gary Rabuzzi, let me read his new story Who’s Got the Action? This was an exciting tale and Gary has many more works I can highly recommend. Search for him on Instagram and Facebook. I then read an excellent book on the music of the Beatles which I reviewed as a companion to my article on the band. Then it was old home week in my reading world. I re-read – consecutively – Andy’s memoir, Moon River and Me, the real Eliot Ness’s 1957 tale of The Untouchables and Dashiell Hammett’s final novel, The Thin Man. My Andy review is already out there; look for the other two in the new year.
While the shelf-clearing went well this year – finally reading books I’ve owned for awhile and don’t intend to keep – I also freed myself from the need to finish every book I start. For 12 days in March I struggled through a book I thought I would enjoy. Deep Blue: Stories of Shipwreck, Sunken Treasure and Survival is as the title suggests. The first story of diving on a wreck was utterly fascinating. The next couple were mind-numbing. I was wrong on this one and pulled the plug. I also finished a book I’ve been reading in segments over the last three years, Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters. Here’s a book that chronologically charts the career of one of my favourite artists using only interviews Tom has given throughout the years. Fascinating to hear from Waits in his own words and to see how his thoughts change and evolve over the years. Another highlight for me were the three cowboy paperbacks I read. Two of them by Louis L’Amour confirmed for me that I dearly love his books and he may in fact be one of my favourite authors, one who has never let me down. The book I enjoyed reading most this year? I may give the slight edge to Dark of the Sun over the book I read just before it, Life.
So, book lovers, tune in next year for more discussions of books with vintage connections and hit “Follow” on my home page to never miss a post. Tune in to Cocktail Nation to hear me dish on these books, as well. “This is Gary Wells from SoulRideblog.com and I’m encouraging you…to pick up a book”.
My rating out of 5 represents my overall experience with the book
Elvis – The #1 Hits: The Secret History of the Classics — Patrick Humphries 📚📚📚
Impresario: The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan — James Maguire 📚📚📚📚
A Round-Up of Cowboy Humor — edited by Ted Stone 📚
Out of Bounds — by Jim Brown and Steve Delsohn 📚📚📚
Raisin in the Sun — Lorraine Hansberry 📚📚📚📚
Apache Wells — Robert Streelman 📚📚
Edie: American Girl — Jean Stein edited with George Plimpton 📚📚📚📚
The Case of the Baited Hook — Erle Stanley Gardner 📚📚📚📚
The Dharma Bums — Jack Kerouac 📚📚
The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism — Thomas Frank 📚📚📚
The Lady in the Lake — Raymond Chandler 📚📚📚📚
The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin’ — Bill Zehme 📚📚📚📚
Hot Rod — Henry Gregor Felsen 📚📚
Life — Keith Richards 📚📚📚📚
The Dark of the Sun — Wilbur Smith 📚📚📚📚
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Deluxe Edition — Quentin Tarantino 📚📚📚📚📚
Elvis in the Morning — William F. Buckley 📚📚
House of Destiny — Janet Leigh 📚
Kiowa Trail — Louis L’Amour 📚📚📚📚
Who’s Got the Action? — Eddie Rabuzzi 📚📚📚📚
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road — Willie Nelson 📚📚📚
A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles — Mark Hertsgaard 📚📚📚📚
Moon River and Me: A Memoir — Andy Williams 📚📚📚
The Untouchables — Eliot Ness with Oscar Fraley 📚📚📚
The Thin Man — Dashiell Hammett 📚📚📚
A Christmas Carol — Charles Dickens 📚📚📚📚📚
The Tall Stranger — Louis L’Amour 📚📚📚📚
Wow! That’s impressive. You’ve read a good amount of books. Thanks for introducing and rating them. I’m planning to read more during next year, so I’ll surely look into some of the ones you mentioned here 🙏
It’s hard. There’s so many things I want to do! I’d like to make more time to sit and read at home, that’s for sure. Thanks for your comment.
Me too. Sometimes reading feels time consuming also, even though it really isn’t 😅 Thanks for the reply!