My Favorite 20 Books of 2022: 4 That were Above and Beyond Amazing
It’s been a good year for books.
I love reading…I do it every night as I’m falling asleep and if I can, a bit in the afternoon. When I first moved to Belize, I read books. You remember the kind – the books made out of paper. It was Spring 2007, and Amazon hadn’t released its first e-reader until the end of 2007. For $399. I was firmly against it. Positive that I needed the feel…the weight, and the smell of a real book.
But after a few years – when I found myself reading “Mens Books” hand-me-downs from neighbors – stuff like Tom Clancy and history books about the Bataan Death March (which is, I’ll admit, a very interesting topic) – I capitulated and bought a Kindle Fire. And now I’ll never go back.
I am on the Kindle Fire 8 (no need for the newest and fanciest), and while it is not good for reading outside in the sun, I never read outside in the sun, so that is not an issue. I can’t even sit in the sun anymore. It is fantastic for reading newspapers and magazines too – two things that we don’t have in Belize.
I also buy 95% of my books on Kindle’s Daily Deals – for $2.99 or less. It’s not always the hot new Oprah-approved book – but it might be one of her last year’s picks. There is plenty of good stuff.
Reading as you fall asleep, in the dark, with the backlighting set on extra-low, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Well…at least for me.
I consider myself an avid reader but I’m pretty sure I will never read as many books as I did in 2020. (I also set a new record in afternoon napping that year too) When the world is in turmoil…I retreat into books. Almost always novels…
You can read: I’m Rebecca and I read 92 books in 2020. Here are my 24 Favorites
Hopefully, we will never have a year like that again…but I DO hope I can get up to 92 again…perhaps in my golden years.
As 2022 comes to a close, GoodReads just alerted me that I am on my 63rd book of the year. And I’ve completed some GREAT ones.
I’ll start with my top 4. Four books that I loved so much – that I will be thinking about for a while…and they are all pretty different. LOVE THESE BOOKS.
The Best of My Best
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (2022)
LOVE. I’ve seen this book on lists around the internet and…I was waiting for it to go on sale. Friendship and video games seemed to be the theme. I could wait. But I’m so glad I decided to pay full price – I LOVED this book. Sure the backdrop is video games and maybe gaming. But it’s so much more…a love store (friendship love) of two soul mates, Sadie and Sam, who are exceptionally smart and sensitive and bond over gaming – and the chapters flip back and forth between the two. It’s surprising and beautiful and so incredibly smart.
If you have any fondness for 80s video games – the adventure kind, NOT the blood and guns kind – games like Zelda or Super Mario Brothers, that’s just a bonus.
The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (2019)
Rescued at sea from a sinking luxury ocean liner, infants Jamie and Marian Graves are shipped to Missoula, Montana, to be raised by a troubled, alcoholic uncle. It’s 1914. Marian grows up obsessed with flying…even getting into a tumultuous relationship with a rich bootlegger to fund her flying ambitions. Ambitions include being the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in her bi-plane.
And then weave in a modern-day young movie star who wants to play Marian in a movie…
It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Seriously!
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (2022)
This is the first book I’ve ever pre-ordered because I LOVE all her books. Love. The kind of books you are mad you’ve read because now you can’t read it again for the first time.
Dystopian but not sooo depressing…jumping around centuries…from the early 1910s in British Columbia to moon colonies in 2400, piecing together a puzzle…her writing is incredible…so incredibly smart and beautiful. If you haven’t read her books, I’m jealous. They are THAT goood.
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (2013)
Free on Kindle Unlimited
A spy book…a Mens’s Book…it’s both of those things and I LOVED IT. I think it’s brilliant. It’s incredibly long and I was SO thankful for that. I never wanted it to end. Espionage, travel, murder…I won’t even try to sum it up. I just loved it.
AND I love that this author is pretty mysterious himself. He was a journalist and a screenwriter (writing a bunch of stuff like Dead Calm and Mad Max) and then released this book in 2013. His next book “Year of the Locust” was supposed to come out in 2016…and it just keeps getting bumped. Now supposedly coming in March 2023. I can’t wait!
And the Rest of the Best
This is a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (2013)
I love Ann Patchett – her books Commonwealth and Bel Canto and State of Wonder and Dutch House are all 5-stars for me. Must reads.
This one is a memoir – that includes many articles she wrote for magazines and publications – from the New York Times and the Atlantic to 17 Magazine. It’s about her first disaster of a marriage but it’s about friendships over the years – with a nun from her grammar school to her grandmother to her beloved dog. It’s about writing and opening a bookstore (what a dream!) – and has sentences and entire sections that I wrote down to remember.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (2022)
I only remember a handful of books that we were assigned in high school English. Mostly because I was so petrified a teacher might call on me for my interpretation of a book – I wasn’t able to keep one thought in my head. But I love David Copperfield – the story of an orphan from birth to adulthood and the many many many characters he meet along the way. Remember Peggotty and Uriah Heap?
Anyway…bring the story to 90s Appalachia, and Demon Copperfield navigates a life of a very grim foster care system, trailer parks and the opioid epidemic, high school bullies, and child labor. I couldn’t put this book down – I was so worried about young “Demon” and all the obstacles in his way…
The Last Resort: A Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach by Sarah Stodola (2022)
This one is on sale for $2.99 today.
If you live on Ambergris Caye – or love beach resort towns – I think you will find this non-fiction book SOOO interesting. I did. It starts with the first beach town – in Southern Italy for the ancient Romans (and I NEED to get to this place – it sounds fascinating). But for the Romans it was a spot of debauchery, and now much of it has fallen into the sea. That sets the stage…
She then highlights Long Branch, NJ, and Rockaway, NY (both fascinating for this NJ/NY native) – and then Waikiki and Bali…all sorts of case studies that highlight what each place did right, what spots have done wrong – and the often very dark realities.
Precarious situations like Nicaragua and Senegal, Paradise Lost to Overdevelopment – Ibiza, Cancun and Tulum and then one model I hope Ambergris Caye embraces – St. Kitts and…lots more.
The author identifies the lifecycle stages of the beach resort town as: Exploration Stage (small # of visitors come for natural beauty), Involvement Stage (when locals begin to offer services/accommodations to travelers), Development Stage (local involvement and control of development decreases rapidly as larger, more elaborate facilities go up), Consolidation Stage (tourism is the major driver in economy – “you’ll hear repeat visitors reminiscing about how much better the place used to be”), Stagnation (peak numbers reached, environment, social and economic problems become evident, location no longer “in fashion”) and then Decline.
And then the problem that they are all battling…climate change. Some chapters are a bit less great but overall, I found this FASCINATING. I think what I learned…is that the endless march of “capitalism” doesn’t care about a specific location…it can always move to the next. A “beach town” needs active management.
Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie (2020)
Post WWII Japan, this book is about a young girl born to the only child of a very old-school, aristocratic Japanese couple and a Black American serviceman. I fell pretty hard for this main character and for the historical backdrop…one of those books that takes you to a time/place that you know very little about…but get totally enveloped in.
On a Night of A Thousand Stars by Andrea Yarayura Clark (2022)
Another great story with such a fascinating historical backdrop. This time a family’s history and Argentina’s “Dirty War”. Yes, I spent a bit of time reading about it outside the book because…I had no idea. 1973-1984 – a terrible right-wing dictatorship in Argentina, state-sponsored terrorism, thousands of artists, students, professors, and journalists disappeared.
But away from the history, it’s just a really good read.
Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (2021)
Flora and her husband are happily married. In love. And one morning, the morning of her daughter’s high school graduation, she finds her husband’s wedding ring hidden in the garage—the same ring he claimed to have lost years ago…
A great read that all takes place with a theater background…they met in college theater, and their best friend from that time, Margot, is now a TV star. That setting makes it even more interesting to me…
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams (2021)
Eva lives in Brooklyn; she writes quirky erotica (though wishes she wrote more “legit” stuff) and has legions of fans. She runs into her first love at a book event – the one who disappeared on her decades ago – and things re-ignite…slowly. This is way more than a romance book…
The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois (2021)
This is the longest book I’ve read in a while – over 1000 pages. And it alllmmost made it into the Top of the Top. The only reason that it didn’t might be that I read it in April…and I’ve read so many fantastic books this year.
I’m usually ready to read anything Oprah recommends – she has picked some AMAZING books over the years. But the title and the cover for this one put me off. It looked…too serious. Boring. It IS long. But it’s well worth it. Gripping. A multi-generational saga of slavery and modern life in the south. An amazing epic. I can’t even try to describe it. But the kind of book where…when it finishes…you still think about the characters.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (2022)
A mother passes away and leaves her children the clues to her “real life’s story” and some Caribbean Black Cake in the freezer to eat together once they learn it all. The story of race and history, secrets and betrayal, from Jamaica (though the island isn’t exactly named) to London to California. It’s a quick read – chapters switch between generations – but it’s really great.
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Crosby (2021)
Free on Kindle Unlimited
A black, veteran tough-guy father and a trailer-living, ex-con alcoholic white father band together to avenge the murder of their gay sons. This is really a revenge story and involves guns and motorcycle gangs. Not my usual thing. But the fathers gain such insights into their son’s lives…it’s both violent and beautiful. I was surprised by how much I loved it.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore (2020)
It’s a police thriller, sorta….but it’s more the story of two sisters in the Kensington area of Philadelphia who went in very different directions. One, a struggling single mother and policewoman, and one, an opioid addict on the streets. It’s intriguing and gripping but also a very sad look at what is going on across America. Fantastic book.
Sankofa by Chibundo Onuzo (2021)
The story of a British woman in her 40s – her only child is grown, she is newly separated from her husband, her mom, her only known parent, just passed away – and she is delving into her past. Looking through her mom’s things, she finds photos from her mother’s student days and a relationship with a student from West Africa…
Who is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews (2021)
A thriller of sorts…a young literary assistant with a crappy apartment in Queens, NY blows up her career…and ends up going to be the assistant to a recluse author living deep in the woods of New England. You kinda dislike the main characters, but in a very fun, satisfying way…this book surprised me. I found it unpredictable the whole way thru…and it kept me really hanging on.
And then totally different…
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner (2020)
Free with Kindle Unlimited
All the words I’m going to use to describe this book sounds lame. Sweet, charming, lovely. Blah. But I loved all the characters that come together to form a Jane Austen Society in Jane’s home village of … England to try to raise money to open her childhood home as a museum.
Very “Guernsey Potato Peel Society”-esque. I 5-star enjoyed this book.
And the only reason I write this each year, is to get your recommendations. Please please please let me know the best of the best you read in 2022! Or anytime.
I am always looking for a great book.