I always hesitate to write these yearly wrap-ups before the year actually ends. What if the book I’m reading right now (Fellowship Point) deserves a spot on this list? (And it just might — it is so good!) I suppose I could put it on next year’s list if it stands the test of time? Alas — that will be a moral dilemma for next year. But today I am sharing fourteen books that I adored in 2022, in no particular order. The list is eclectic, but there’s an underlying theme that bubbled up for me as I wrote this post. I’ll tell you what it is in my closing paragraphs, but I hope you’ll look for it as you read through my list and re-experience my year of reading with me.
A Ghost in the Throat might be my very favorite book from the year. Sipping my own dark sustenance of ink has become a favorite quote of mine and I’ve been contemplating it as a first tattoo. This is about a young Irish mother who becomes obsessed with an 18th century Irish Poet. This is a female text, the novel reminds us throughout — and it contemplates how women’s work gets erased day after day, century after century. I originally borrowed this book through Libby but loved it so much that I ordered a copy for my shelf. A reread is a must!
Life After Life was so unexpected. I remember reading this in the deep of winter, curling up with toast and tea, and simply devouring this story. This book is a series of overlapping realities in which Ursula Todd lives her life again and again until her true destiny finally reveals itself. This book is mostly set during WWII, which is my favorite time period. I’m still looking forward to its sequel, A God In Ruins.
Emily St. John Mandel is a must-read author for me. She is whip-smart and her writing is sharp and careful. Sea of Tranquility is tied into her earlier work in beautiful and clever ways, but it’s not necessary to have read anything else by her to enjoy this one. It spans centuries: from settlers in British Columbia in 1912 to the time traveling moon colonies of the 2400s. I was most struck by her character Olive, an author on pandemics in the 2200s. She’s a young mother who still — in the 2200s — gets questions about who’s watching her children while she’s on tour for her books. It felt as though this were semi-autobiographical for Mandel! This book also made Barack Obama’s list of favorite books this year, so it’s fun to share something with him.
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is probably my favorite Louise Erdrich of the year (and I read 9 by her in 2022!!) The book opened with a bombshell revelation and then took us back to Father Damien’s origin story, which was incredible. This book was beautifully written and full of sensual descriptions. I highly recommend it even if you haven’t read any of the books in the Love Medicine series.
The Weight of Ink sat unread on my shelves for years and I was delighted when I finally cracked it open this year. I ended up writing two pages in my book journal about this one! In the early 2000s, Helen is a nearly-retired academic and is called in to examine a cache of documents found in the closet of a house about to be renovated. They turn out to be documents written by Ester, a scribe in the mid-1600s. Helen realizes that this discovery of documents by a female scribe could be the publication she needs before being forced to retire and she races to uncover as much of Ester’s life as possible. Perfect for fans of People of the Book.
I was lucky enough to discover Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies thanks to this year’s Booker long list. It’s the story of Lia, a woman dying of cancer. It’s a lyrical, beautiful, and boldly told story of a life. Throughout the story, we hear from the cancer itself, a little something that has been lurking in her body for a long time. As time goes on, its voice gets louder and louder. It was so powerful.
I read Beloved for the first time this year and my goodness — it was good. This is Sethe’s story. She’s being haunted by her daughter who died in the most tragic way after Sethe managed to find a way for her family to free themselves from slavery. I am still thinking about how Morrison crafted this story, the way she shared this family’s experiences in layers. I loved how she would drop a little line, or clue, and make me think I missed something. But then she’d pick it back up a couple of chapters later and it all made sense. I’m planning to read a lot more Toni Morrison in 2023 if anyone cares to join me!
Fresh Water For Flowers was another unexpected win for me and was full of some of my favorite details. Violette lives in the French countryside and is a caretaker of a cemetery. Her home is magical and she is surrounded by flowers, vegetable gardens, and an unlikely coterie of friends. There is an underlying mystery that haunts Violette and we follow her slow path to free herself from the pain and sadness that lingers from her unanswered questions. I’m planning to reread this one in April or May to spur my gardening motivation for the year!
I discovered Lucy Barton in 2022 and read all four of Elizabeth Strout’s Amgash novels. Lucy is such a kindred spirit to me and I love her voice and observations. I read them all out of order and that was just fine. They all allude to each other, but I don’t think it’s necessary to know the backstories to understand Lucy’s narrative. I hope that Strout isn’t finished with Lucy and that we hear more from her in the future.
I also discovered Rosamunde Pilcher in 2022! I read three of her novels (Coming Home, The Shell Seekers, and September) and attempted a fourth (Winter Solstice) that was derailed by my awful mood this month. My two favorites have been Coming Home and The Shell Seekers. Both have settings in Cornwall, which I clearly need to visit, and both follow the lives of interesting and thoughtful women. Pilcher’s novels have been the essence of coziness for me – they always inspire me to put on my apron, bake something, and to tidy up my own home. They make me want to put on a sturdy pair of boots and to charge through the woods and take in the nature around me. I don’t actually do that last part, but I want to. Pilcher has quite a bibliography and I’m looking forward to more in 2023! Anyone interested in more readalongs?
Okay — did you catch my underlying theme for the year? These are all books about the lives of women doing their best to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. They’re about real life (well, except for time traveling and the moon colonies in Sea of Tranquility, but that could be real life one day) and embracing what’s important: family, friends, and the world around us.
I have to say — I loved writing this post and reliving my year of reading. December has been a difficult reading month for me and I’m only just beginning to feel inspired to pick up anything. That happens from time to time and I know my enthusiasm will eventually return in spades, so it’s been delightful to be reminded how wonderful and enriching it is to live a life full of books. Here’s to finding the perfect ones in 2023!