For me it is difficult to put books into any kind of systematic order; instead I feel like these are the ten (categories of) books that stood out the most to me in 2022. Let me know if you read any of these and what you thought about them.
Best in Faith:
Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri Nouwen
Answers these five basic questions:
Who am I?
Where have I been and where am I going?
Who is God for me?
Where do I belong?
How can I be of service?
Best in Self-Help (and also the one I read THREE TIMES):
Co-Dependent No More: Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melodie Beattie
This book. Man. I listened to it on audio book and was stunned. Flabbergasted. Totally speechless. I listened again. I ordered my own print copy. I promptly read and highlighted significant portions of the text. I have a plan to re-read this book annually.
If you are a recovering people-pleaser, find yourself lost and angry because you compulsively lose yourself in order to help others, or just need a coach on establishing and holding boundaries– let me know and I’ll buy you your own copy.
Best Beach Read:
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Admittedly, fluffy fiction isn’t my usual go-go for reading but I did attempt to add a little more light reading into my year. I have read a few other TJR’s books and honestly I really just found the simplicity of this one delightful. I also read books by Colleen Hoover, Emma Straub, Kristen Hannah, Jennifer Weiner and honestly, when I held One True Loves up against these I just liked it better. A close second in the light beachy reads was probably Emily Giffin’s Meant to Be (a riff on the JFK, Jr. and Carolyn Kennedy story).
Best in Out of My Comfort Zone Genre:
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley
I don’t usually like suspenseful, mysterious, or dark reads, but this one was just the right amount of intrigue that it kept my attention down to the last page. I hadn’t read Foley’s other wildly popular, The Guest List, so this was my first exposure to her writing.
I truly couldn’t put it down and was thankful my library had the LARGE PRINT EDITON because there were many nights I read into the dimly lit, dark hours of 9:00–9:30, event 10:00 it was so good. This book encouraged me to be a little more curious and spontaneous with my fiction choices. Sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised.
Best Author I Loved the Most:
If 2021 was the Year of Wendell Berry, then 2022 has been my Year of Ann Patchett!
I read three of her books this year and just couldn’t get enough.
Commonwealth was outstanding as was The Dutch House (narrated by THE Tom Hanks!). I just can’t seem to get enough of her characters and the deeply intricate, complex, and dare-I-say, obscure plot lines and quirky characters. She is truly just near the top of my list of literary fiction authors.
I scored a copy of her most recent memoir/book of essays at Goodwill in Clarksville for $1! These Precious Days was just next level storytelling and truth and beauty. It’s one of the first (and maybe only) author accounts of pandemic life that I’ve read.
As a huge bonus, just before we left Fort Campbell, I visited her bookstore Parnassus Books in Nashville with a friend from high school. It was pretty cool!
Best Personal Finance:
This category was a tie. I simply adored both for different reasons.
The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko
This has huge Ph.D. vibes. Very scholarly and data driven; totally hit on my big, spreadsheet-budget-nerd energy. However, TMND was also rife with excellent research on behavior and habits that cause people to be successful. I loved it and hope to re-read it regularly.
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin
This was also really, really good. Very practical and inspiring in another way. Helps to break down the rationale behind how we trade our time for money and our money for our time. Definitely leans more toward the Financial Independence, Retire Early movement and not all of that do I agree with from a life satisfaction level, but overall, this book was filled with a positive, hopeful message.
Best Fiction That Resonated So Much with My Heart:
Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner
I am certain that this book was a timing thing for me. I read it early in the year, February to be exact and this was around the same time as the one year anniversary of losing my dad. Oh man, did this book get me. It is the story of a daughter losing her mother to illness and it just hit so hard. The story of a culture. Of food. Of the tricky parts of growing up and growing into yourself. In knowing you’ve disappointed your parents but also how they love you so much. Of saying goodbye. Of how inextricably we are all connected in life and in death. Highly, highly recommend.
Best Memoir/Audiobook/New Favorite Celebrity Uncle-Figure:
Taste by Stanley Tucci
I’m getting hungry and happy just thinking about this book. So I have always kind of just thought Stanely Tucci was super charming. I liked him in Julia and Julia and in The Devil Wears Prada. But this book made me just fall in LOVE with him as an actor, as a husband and father, as a person who values home life, his roots, his memories of growing up around food.
I listened to this on audiobook and ST reading it just brought it to life on a thousand levels. I now follow him on Instagram and feel like I know him like a family member. Seriously such a great book full of reminders to really savor and taste the life we have been given.
Best Book that Connected Me to Someone In Real Life:
I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet by Shauna Niequiest
I’m an OG Shauna fan. I have read (and purchased–not just checked out at the library!) every single book she has written. We are about the same age and therefore so much of what she writes really does resonate with me in many of my own life seasons. IGIHLTY is her story of being a beginner again in New York City. It’s about family, writing, life, grace for yourself, and so much more. I truly love her vulnerability and transparency. I will say as much as I loved this book, it wasn’t actually my favorite of hers. (Felt a touch truncated and instagrammy-post-short-choppy essays, but overall still great!)
The *real* treat of this book was texting my longtime friend and fellow bibliophile, Athena to see if she wanted to meet me in Nashville to hear Shauna talk about her book on Annie F. Down’s “That Sounds Fun” live podcast recording. She did and we made it happen and it was a great night! (Happened to fall on my Dad’s birthday so it was a nice distraction!)
Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri
It really is hard to put my finger on what specifically made this my favorite book of 2022.
I loved the juxtaposition of the sad and the sweet. I loved the way Nayeri tells his story with humor and deference. It was easy to connect to his outsider/otherness persona despite our lives being different in every way. I loved the theme of resilience and how just showing up and being yourself is about the best gift you can give to the world.
Let me know in the comments what some of your top reads for 2023 were. I’m always looking to add to my TBR pile.
And– while I adored our initial zest and effort, what was the book I DID NOT LOVE THE MOST, you ask?
Well, it was The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostovesky!
My friend, Allison, and I had this *brilliant* idea to pick a tough classic to read together and meet up to discuss it. We were both PCSing in May from Fort Campbell and our idea was that it would be a common text to stay in touch about. LOLZ.
We ditched that after about three months. I think Allison did finish the book this summer, but I had to bail. Just couldn’t ever get into it and life is too short and there are too many other good books to waste precious reading time struggling through the longest of long run on sentences about the origins of evil and their match with faith and freedom.
The best thing that came out of this is that we met at Thai Bowl for lunch monthly before we both moved. We can contain multitudes, friends.