Discover more from R.F. Kuang
my 2022 in books
weird, hellish, nonsense reads
2022 was a weird reading year for me. It was one of my rebuild years–coming off the chaos of the Babel launch and completing Yellowface revisions, I’ve also been quietly assembling the pieces of my next fantasy novel (more on that…later). And since I’m allergic to doing the same thing twice, and since I get easily bored, I need every project to pose a fresh set of technical challenges–and that means a lot of mucking around different voices, genres, and tropes, adding to my repertoire and following my nose to discover what I’d like to play around in next.
(I have lectured before about a related reading technique I call vocal training; I can publish those notes as a Substack essay sometime if that would be of interest. The long and short of it is that in order to write Babel I had to read a lot of Dickens.)
Here’s a list of books that made me pause and marvel at their craft, lingered in my mind for weeks after I’d finished, and/or had some impact on my work for better or worse. A lot of them are re-reads. A lot of them are part of binge cycles (hi Neil, John, Cormac). I think they’re all worth your time:
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
The Prestige, Christopher Priest
Plus the Christopher Nolan film, which is criminally underrated.
The Untouchable, John Banville
The Gate of Angels, Penelope Fitzgerald
Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
Oh for the day my editors will let me be as deranged as Vlad was when he wrote this.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Other Plays, Martin McDonagh
She and Her Cat, Makoto Shinkai and Naruki Nagakawa
Before I read this, the main characters did not have an accompanying cat. Now they have a cat.
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson
Intimacies, Katie Kitamura
Outline, Rachel Cusk
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Still one of my favorite novels of all time. As a child I would print out excerpts from this book and staple them to my wall. My parents weren’t thrilled about the stapling.
Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
I hated this as a child; I love it now, but maybe because I now appreciate that it is just a really detailed guidebook to all of London’s tube stops.
Sandman, Neil Gaiman (I’m not finished - I’m on Vol VII. No spoilers!)
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The Passenger, Cormac McCarthy
Either/Or, Elif Batuman
If you looked at all of that and thought Jesus, I have no idea what this new book will read like–great! Me neither. But I think the only territory worth spending time in now is the uncharted. Here’s a list of things I’m thinking about:
Physical, spiritual, self-inflicted hells
Prodigies and rivalries
Failures of rational decision-making
Now back to writing. Hoping your new year is full of adventure and good books,