Favorite Books of 2022

In 2022, I managed to read more books than I did in 2021. Most of the books from the latter half of the year were read in the wee hours of the morning when I was feeding my newborn daughter and/or trying fruitlessly to get her to sleep. Therefore, I don’t remember many of the details of those books. But I do remember enough to make a list of 10 favorites (in no particular order)! First, two notes:

1. I read these books in 2022. Not all of them were published in 2022.

2. This post is also a public service announcement and reminder that your local library is your friend. You can save tons of money and space in your house. All of these books were checked out from the library. Thank you, library, for fueling my reading habit and saving my budget.

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton. I mainly got this one for my son because it has tons of pictures of all the strange people walking the streets of New York City. He spent hours looking at it and still asks about it, even though we read it back in January. The book is pretty light on text, but the anecdotes and quotes were fascinating and sometimes sad or hilarious.

Sandy Hook by Elizabeth Williamson. This book was more about Alex Jones and the conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandy Hook massacre than the massacre itself, the perpetrator, or the victims. Some of these people put so much faith in conspiracy theories that they attacked and harassed the families of the victims, which is unconscionable.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’m not a fan of Hillary, but I love this author’s writing, which was why I checked out the book. This is a fictionalized version of her life in which she did not marry Bill, and it’s so full of realistic detail that it seems like a true biography. I wonder if Hillary read this book and if so, what she thought about the author’s depiction of her and her life.

Everything Below the Waist by Jennifer Block. This nonfiction book was about all the ways that many doctors and hospitals lie to women and perpetuate outdated and harmful medical practices and often push unnecessary procedures that cause more harm than good. I appreciated the focus on fertility awareness methods of family planning as an alternative to hormonal birth control.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson. One of those rare books that was so strongly emotional it made me cry. This one explored alternate realities: A woman lives another life in her dreams, and this version gradually becomes more and more real than her waking life.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. Set in Australia, this novel used some cultural references I didn’t understand, which was fine because the issues it discusses are universal. A man slaps another man’s child at a barbeque, and many questions follow. Was it because the kid is a spoiled brat? Was it because the man lost his patience and doesn’t understand children? Reading about the implications of one occurrence on an array of friends and family members was enlightening.

Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. I’ve been trying to read more horror that’s not written by Stephen King. Most horror novels I read aren’t particularly scary, but this one was. Maybe that’s because I was reading it in the dark at 3 a.m., but it probably would have creeped me out anyway. A woman’s significant other is presumed dead but is actually involved in hunting zombie-like creatures called Thistle Men.

Secondhand by Adam Minter. Ever wondered what happens to all the stuff you leave at Goodwill? This book will tell you. It will also to inspire you to downsize and purchase fewer new things when possible, especially clothing and electronics. The book revealed the good news that there is a lot more environmentally friendly recycling going on than the news media will lead you to believe. However, we still live in an extremely materialistic society.

Moth by Melody Razak. This was a fictional portrayal of the partition that happened in India in 1947 and the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. The writing style and characters were superb, and the book gave me a window into cultures and countries I don’t often think about. I’m interested to read more about this period of history now.

Fairy Tale by Stephen King. I was bracing myself for this novel to be a disappointment because I haven’t liked Stephen King’s newer stuff as much as the older and because the man somehow manages to inject his political views into every book he writes. He still did that in this book, but it was easy to overlook because Fairy Tale was great. It made me want to dig up some of the old Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales for my kids.

Thursday Three #62

Haven’t done one of these in a long time! These are random things I’ve been thinking about.

  1. When one lives in a small house, one constantly has to assess space and items within that space. Thus, this leads to the need for a post-Christmas toy, clothes, and unnecessary item purge. I have found that getting rid of items is oddly freeing. An uncluttered space equals an uncluttered mind, I suppose.
  2. The “f-word” has been appearing in more and more songs lately, and it seems totally unnecessary. I can understand using it in a pissed-off metal song, but in pop songs about having a good time (Bebe Rexha/David Guetta’s “Blue (I’m Good)”)* or dumping one’s boyfriend (Gayle’s “abcdefu”)? Nah, not needed. The radio edit versions are completely fine and get the point across.
  3. Lowercase “god” is being increasingly used in novels, even when referring to the one God of Christianity. One book I read even had capitalized “Goddess” while lowercasing “god,” which especially annoyed me, but a lot about that book annoyed me. Who knows, maybe it’s the author’s choice, but because it’s so widespread now, I’m wondering if it’s not some group of evil editors in New York City.**

*You know you’re getting old when they start writing songs that sample other songs that were popular in your childhood.

**Probably the same ones who manage to insert an insult of Trump into every single fiction book published in the past couple years. I think by now we all know that the man is insane.

Favorite 10 Books I Read in 2021

Reading became my number one hobby over writing after my son was born. Don’t get me wrong, I always liked to read, but when a diaper change is needed or a screaming fit commences, it’s a lot harder to get ripped away from your own created world than from a world of someone else’s creation. So I read 102 books in 2021. When I looked back at the list, I didn’t even recall reading some of them. Weird how that works. Anyway, here are my 10 favorites (in no particular order). Warning: This post may contain spoilers.

  1. Subdivision – J. Robert Lennon: I must admit, this novel was bizarre. The main character, an unnamed woman, somehow winds up in a mysterious neighborhood that gets stranger and stranger, sort of like Alice in Wonderland. It was so much fun to see what kind of odd stuff would happen next, and I never did figure out definitively what happened at the end. That could have been frustrating to some readers, but I was happy about it because it meant that my interpretation couldn’t be wrong. This book was so good, I’d read it again, and I almost never read books twice.
  2. Ohio – Stephen Markley: If you like character-driven novels that discuss contemporary issues, this book is for you. It’s about an Ohio town that was devastated by the Great Recession and the opioid epidemic. It also has a really cool twist at the end. What I enjoyed most about it was how relatable the situations and characters were. It actually read like a nonfiction account of how horrible the country has gotten. The characters were also around my age, so I understood all the cultural references.
  3. Blitzed – Norman Ohler: This was about how the Nazis were high on various drugs during World War II and how the time before the war began the proliferation of these drugs in Germany. A big part of the book was how Hitler’s personal doctor continually dosed him with strange combinations of drugs and “vitamins” that kept him a raving lunatic until the end. I have read a ton of books about the Third Reich, and I thought I’d heard it all, but I never really knew much about the drug abuse aspect.
  4. Long Black Veil – Jennifer Finney Boylan: This book was so dark, and the language was so beautiful. It was also impossible to put down. I suppose I’d categorize it as a literary thriller. Six friends end up in a ruined jail because they’re college students and therefore risk takers. What happens there changes their lives forever. The book did have a transgender character (maybe because the author is transgender), but I didn’t feel that I was being lectured to or judged (or given a political sermon) when I read the book. That subject matter was handled with tact, which I appreciated.
  5. The Scribe of Siena – Melodie Winawer: This novel had a lot of really cool elements: the Black Plague, time travel, and Italy. The main character travels back in time to the Middle Ages and falls in love. She also becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that involves the plague. The only downside was that the love story aspect was a little too mushy for me, as I’m not really a romance fan, but everything else about the book was so compelling that I greatly enjoyed the story.
  6. The Escape Room – Megan Goldin: I literally could not put this book down. I actually finished it in the car (and I never read in the car). It was a fast-paced thriller in which four coworkers in a highly competitive workplace are lured into an elevator and are trapped there until they can figure out how to escape. I had so much fun reading this book. You will find yourself rooting so hard for the main character.
  7. The Road to Jonestown – Jeff Guinn: An interesting take on Jim Jones and his cult. If you ever wondered how all those people could have committed suicide just because some crazy man told them to, read this book to get the whole backstory of how it happened. The psychological manipulation behind it all was fascinating. Anybody could become the victim of a cult given the right set of circumstances. It’s scary.
  8. A Year of Biblical Womanhood – Rachel Held Evans: As an experiment, the author decided to take the Bible literally for an entire year and become a real-life “Proverbs 31 woman.” This book is a memoir of the crazy antics and lessons learned that resulted from that challenge. Highly enjoyable because of the author’s honesty and writing style. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live as women did in biblical times, but I can see how it would be character building.
  9. The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano – Donna Freitas: This one was a feminist screed, which I don’t usually care for, but the premise and structure were unique. The book explores the different lives the main character would have had if she had made different choices, mostly regarding the decision to have children and divorce her husband. I think the point of it was that as a woman, you can do whatever you want, but you lose out on a lot depending on the path you choose.
  10. The Hearts of Men – Nickolas Butler: The only reason I even looked at this book was because my son decided to rip it off the library shelf and hurl it down the aisle. I’m glad he did because this book was great. It’s a coming-of-age story built around the Boy Scouts and featured one of the most honorable characters I have read about in a long time. It also spanned multiple generations and discussed how morality and honor changed (and didn’t change) with each generation.