This is my top 5 list of 2022, in random order, because how can you rate quality, right?
Gathering Moss, by Robin Wal Kimmerer
A book about moss, can that be exciting? Yes! Since reading this book, walking in a forest or wherever else you can find mosses I’m more focused to look for them, check them out, and marvel at the complicated ecosystem that’s created by these tiny “plants.” Well-written, very interesting, filled with fun facts, personal observations, and, of course, an urgent warning that we should stop messing up our planet.
That message can also be found in:
The Brilliant Abyss, by Helen Scales
This one is even more packed with all kinds of nerdy info about the almost alien lifeforms in the deep seas. It is fascinating to read about what lives down there, and what’s been living there millions – and even billions – of years longer than the already strange creatures that crawl on the surface of this planet. And inevitably in a book about nature/biology/life on earth these days, almost half of this book is about how we are endangering all that beautiful life….
More creatures, this time the smaller ones, can be found in:
Crawly Creatures, by Hans Mulder, Jan de Hond and Eric Jorink
Crawly Creatures is a companion book to the exhibition in the Rijksmuseum, Onderkruipsels. (I’ve read the Dutch original, but we have the English translation in our store!) The expo and the book tell the story of our changing views of “god’s lesser creatures,” the insects, snakes, worms and such, that first had negative, even evil, connotations, but later were seen as proof of god’s magnificence, as beautiful, and, with the help of new instruments and ideas, were partly at the basis of the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment. With beautiful illustrations, the essays in this (rather oversized) book tell fascinating stories about insects, religion, colonialism and scientific history, and of course about the history of art as well.
Papyrus, by Irene Vallejo, is something completely different, but also very interesting, and beautifully written.
This one I also read in Dutch, but the English translation just came out. The Dutch subtitle is a little vaguer than the English one: “The History of the World in Books” vs. “The Invention of Books in the Ancient World,” so I was a bit surprised that halfway through this book, 250 pages in, we were still with Alexander the Great…
But the story of the invention of writing, and especially of books (in their earliest forms), is more complicated than I thought and more world-changing than I could imagine. The cultural implications of the invention of the written word were felt throughout the ancient civilizations, and hopefully books will be able to keep that power.
I’ll close off this list with a fiction title, because although this list seems to imply that I don’t, I do read fiction as well.
Martin Michael Driessen is, I believe, one of the best unknown writers in the Netherlands. Even winning prizes didn’t make him more well known. But just go and read Rivers, a collection of three novellas, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. This guy is a real storyteller!