The past year was a different year for me–I went back to work full time, in house with a ministry partner. My kids are growing older and require different skills from me as a parent. We planted a successful garden this summer. In the midst of our ever-changing days and seasons, I was able to read 74 books in 2022.
As I reflect on my reading habits one feature stands out–unlike any other year, I mood read my way through the entire year. I didn’t really read with intention beyond reading stories that drew me in. I am giving full credit to starting a full-time, in house job this year. The first year in any job is mentally stimulating and emotionally taxing and at the end of the day all I wanted to do is slip into a good story, often as an escape.
That being said, I read several moving and substantive books and some fluffy reads surprised me by being quite serious. Here are the nine books I absolutely loved in 2022.
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
A backlist read you can likely find at your local library or used bookshop, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margotby Marianne Cronin (Bookshop | Amazon) opens with young Lenni making a visit to the hospital chaplain, “People say when you die, it’s because God is calling you back to him, so I thought I’d get the introduction over and done with ahead of time.” What unfolded was a delightful story about what it means to live and die and build a life. And yes, the hospital chaplain is a central character and yes, his theology is good.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzales
Following the story of Olga, a wedding planner for the wealthy in Manhattan and her brother Pedro, who represents their gentrifying Latinx part of Brooklyn in congress, Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzales (Bookshop | Amazon) lived up to all the hype. Haunted by a mother that left them to work for liberation for Puerto Rico, Olga and Pedro must wrestle with who they are and who they want to become. I loved this book and recommend it to almost any kind of reader.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
I listened to the first chapter and immediately found my husband and said “I think you need to read this…I think it could change our lives.” That is not a promise nor a label I place on a book lightly. Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor (Bookshop | Amazon) has been recommended by all sorts of people, but the person who’s recommendation moved it up my list of books to get to was one of the professors in my Spiritual Directors program who’s a former Jesuit priest and decades long practitioner of Zen meditation. He said “it’s the best modern book I’ve read on breath work.”
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
If you enjoy your historical fiction with a healthy dose of badass female protagonist and romance and a secondary plot to say…sharp shooting Nazis through the head, then I highly recommend The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn (Bookshop | Amazon). Similar in vibes to one of my favorite books of 2019, The Huntress by Kate Quinn (Bookshop | Amazon) the pacing and action on this one kept me turning pages.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
This was far and away my favorite book of 2022. Based on the remarkable true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred Lexington, Horse by Geraldine Brooks (Bookshop | Amazon) is a novel of art and science, love and obsession, and our unfinished reckoning with racism. I haven’t raved nearly enough about this book because months later I still don’t have the words. This was my first book by Brooks but it was so well done, I will be exploring her backlist in 2023.
The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland
I came cautiously to The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland (Bookshop | Amazon), which follows Ailsa’s attempt to rebuild her life after a heart transplant and the years of fragility and unknown leading up to it. The book was well done, tasteful and well researched and it resonated with so much of our own experience as a family with the external pressure to feel grateful and lucky after experiencing what is traumatic and hard.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Ok so hear me out…its a murder mystery series where the detectives are octogenarians in a nursing home in the UK. Picture your feistiest and most interesting church retirees solving crimes and cleverly fooling mob bosses while also worrying about their joints and their spouses ailing cognitive abilities. Delightful, witty and engaging, I adored The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Bookshop | Amazon), read the rest of the available books in the series and hopes there are many more to come.
Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson
I threw this book in my Waterstones cart on a whim when ordering a different book from the UK and holy moly I am so glad I did. The first in a trilogy this witchy book is everything I want in a spooky read–strong feminist vibes, a fast paced plot and a complicated villain. Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson (Bookshop | Amazon) explores queer themes with some much earnest integrity I seriously cannot rave enough. It’s basically the queer response to JK Rowling’s TERF nonsense for adult Harry Potter fans who still want magic but without supporting a transphobic author.
The Backwater Sermons by Jay Humle
I fell into a poetry rut in 2022. I don’t know what happened. I sort of got stuck in the same poets I’ve always loved and then I slowly stopped reading poetry. And then I tracked down this volume. The Backwater Sermons by Jay Hulme (Bookshop | Amazon), most famously known for the poem Jesus at the Gay Bar, reminded me that my spirit needs the way poetry’s sparseness reveals the truth and mystery of being human. And for clergy, Hulme’s introduction and story to how this collection came to be is absolutely worth the price of admission and more. It left me in tears of awe and so much messy hope for the church and God’s people and what we can do together.