I never finished my “Best Book Ever” showdown, and I’ve mostly stopped giving book updates too. But when the whim of creative effort actually strikes my lethargic pregnant body, why not ride it out?
In 2022, I read 47 books. As I reflected on my catalog, I noticed a pattern. I would put books on hold at the library, and read them as they came. These were, of course, books I was interested in, but not really interested in. Not the most intriguing on my list, just the most available. To rectify this, I’m putting stout limits on my online library book catalog, and instead purchased hard copies of my top 10.
Does that seem financially daunting? With the help of ThriftBooks, it’s not. Refusing to purchase from Amazon if at all possible, I figured there surely must be a competitor in the book resale market. While I’ll still throw money to my local bookshops, that’d be quite a hefty annual bill and often my niche reads prove unavailable. ThriftBooks is easy to navigate with a wide catalog and excellent rewards system. For a fraction of the cost, I’m now ready to read the books I really want to read in 2023.
But I digress. Out of my 47 books, I’ll share my favorites.
Favorite Books of 2022
“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara
Ooof, what a book. When authors write tomes 1,000 pages long, you always wonder before reading, Was this truly necessary? And for the good ones, yes, always yes.
A Little Life kept me hinged. A tale of four friends making their way through post-adolescence and the rest of life in New York City, their stories handle some heavy topics (suicide, abuse, violence) but also capture the sweet moments (love, friendship, success). I’ll leave you with a favorite excerpt, and urge you to take the plunge if you’re so willing.
“He took pleasure in his friendships, and it didn’t hurt anyone, so who cared if it was codependent or not? And anyway, how was friendship any more codependent than a relationship? Why was it admirable when you were twenty-seven but creepy when you were thirty-seven? Why was friendship as a good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
“Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus
Obviously I’ll do a double take at any book with an inclination towards chemistry, but this one delivered far beyond a slight association. Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant scientist attempting to build a career as a researcher in the early 1960s. The boys club is happy to have her as pretty piece of décor, but none to pleased when it becomes clear her mission is to achieve more than be a wallflower in the room.
Lessons in Chemistry is often funny (if you have a darker sense of humor) and infuriating. One of those that makes me think “I hope it wasn’t this bad.” knowing full well, it probably was.
“The Devil in the Dark Water” by Stuart Turton
I love a murder mystery where I have no idea what’s going on. First introduced to Turton with the popular, 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, the twists and turns in his work left me with the rare experience of an unpredictable ending. His second work doesn’t seem to have received as much hype, but Devil in the Dark Water deserves it every ounce as much praise.
Following the transit of a Dutch trade ship from Indonesia to Amsterdam, you’re told the secondary purpose of the voyage is to take a murderous traitor home for trial. And oh, by the way, a demon seems to be on the lose murdering more. As you work alongside the novel’s cast to find clues and deduce if the murders occurred by man or devil’s hand, you’ll wind up somewhere you don’t expect.
“Vladamir” by Julia May Jonas
While the characters may be the foils to those in Lolita, Vladamir‘s plot and prose ultimately provide you with a similar ride. You’re disgusted, entranced, sympathetic and yet just…cringe. Instead of a middle aged man fawning over a young child, you have a senior female obsessing over her younger male colleague who is anything but helpless. Do you root for the empowered older woman to seduce her prey with wits instead of beauty, turning the tables on our cultural norms? You want to, and yet….you just can’t quite align yourself with her.
Certainly not for everyone, I enjoyed Vladamir‘s ponderings.
Honorable Mention goes to Emily Henry, especially Book Lovers. Feel good rom-coms just a tad too close to Harlequin paperbacks, I’m always happy to have read them if not particularly moved. I also enjoyed, Oh Beautiful World Where Are You bu Sally Rooney, The Lightness by Emily Temple and The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell, but not enough to expound on them. I read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami whose works I normally love, but found this one to be lackluster. So it goes after you read the author’s opus.