Since everyone I know seems to be sharing their favorite reads of the year, I decided to share mine as well. I read nearly 50 books in 2022, so deciding on my absolute favorites wasn’t easy. In the end, I boiled it down to five fiction titles and three non-fiction titles. Here they are, in descending order.
5. The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubry by Serena Burdick. This book wasn’t even on my radar in January. Then I read the description in the fall issue of Historical Novels Reviews and was all over it. I was also lucky enough to hear Serena talk at an Unlikely Story in Plainville, MA. The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey is a tale about discovering your voice and reclaiming your identity. It’s also about agency and power. You’ll ground your teeth in frustration at how powerless women were at the turn of the century.
4. Joan by Katherine J. Chen. Another book that I hadn’t heard of until this fall. Sydney Young of #HFChitChat recommended it. If you read my review, you’ll know that I had my doubts about this book, which tells the story of St. Joan of Arc, minus the holy voices. Chen’s Joan of Arc is a fierce warrior whose strength was hewn through years of poverty and abuse. She doesn’t consider herself a warrior from God, but rather a loyal soldier of France. Interestingly, while Chen removes the references to the holy visions, the book is not sacrilegious. She scatters just enough hints to make you believe that Joan was guided by a holy hand, even if she didn’t realize it.
3. Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. I had grown disenchanted with Kate Quinn after reading The Rose Code, but decided to give her another chance. Thank goodness I did. This book reignited my love for her books and reestablishes Quinn as one of the best historical fiction writers out there. This book is a fictionalized account of Mila Pavlichenko, a real life Russian sniper who is credited with 302 known German kills. I was blown away by Quinn’s technical and historical research and by how effortlessly Quinn weaves it into the story. One of Quinn’s strength’s is creating strong, tough, fierce women without stripping them of their femininity. Her version of Pavlichenko is simultaneously a loving mother and ruthless soldier.
2. By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley. I didn’t know a thing about the woman who designed Jackie Bouvier’s wedding dress, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure I really cared. However, Renee Ryan strongly recommended this book as a Step Into the Story Book of the Month, so I read it. Here’s what I learned:
- Ann Lowe was a strong woman ahead of her time. Had she been born white, her name would be discussed in the same breath as Dior and Chanel. Instead, she seldom received credit for her work;
- Books like By Her Own Design are why the Own Voices movement is so important. The entire book simmers with a restrained sense of anger that only someone who has actually experienced racism could pull off;
- Piper Huguley really needs to write more historical fiction.
1. The Measure by Nikki Erlick. One afternoon, I was sitting in the Barnes & Noble cafe when a friend – who happened to be the store’s buyer – came by to tell me I had to read The Measure. Since I trust my friend’s recommendations, I bought a copy. Yowza. In The Measure, every person over the age of 21 receives a box containing a length of string. The length corresponds with the length of your life. What would you do if you knew how long you had to live? Would knowing you were going to live a long life change your behavior? What about if you knew the person you loved might die soon? The Measure starts with those questions, then evolves into a book about relationships, politics, race and ethics. Hands down, it was my favorite book of the year.
I consumed a lot of nonfiction titles too. I say consumed because many were audiobooks my husband and I enjoyed while driving to northern Vermont twice a month. Three of these titles stand out as my favorites.
3. Madam by Debby Applegate. I stared this book at Barnes & Noble for almost five months before finally buying it. It’s the story of Polly Adler, a New York madam whose relationships with politicians, movie stars, athletes and gangsters made her a local celebrity. So much so, they made a movie out of her life, A House is Not A Home starring Shelly Winters. Needless to say Polly’s life was a lot seedier and a lot more violent than the movie version. The book was a really fun snapshot into the wild 1920s.
2. Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks. Brooks’s Atlantic column How to Build a Life is a regular read for me. I love his advice on how to find balance and happiness in your world. Strength to Strength focuses on finding happiness after age 50. I was surprised to realize that on average, major scientific discoveries and achievements are by people under the age 50. That’s because in our youth, we are sharper, more driven and have more energy. While you certainly can have achievements after age 50, the key to happiness is to recognize that you are slowing down, and shape your life accordingly. It’s a good read for anyone reaching their more mature years.
1. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. In 1936, a team of rowers from the University of Washington stunned the world by winning the national championship and the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics. In doing so, they changed the world of rowing forever. How did they do it? By becoming a true team. Their story, which was also a PBS documentary, is told through the eyes of three people: legendary boat designer George Pocock, coach Al Ulbrickson and rower George Rantz, whose financial and personal struggles are emblematic of many Despression-era families. This is a book about finding purpose, about teamwork, and reaching beyond yourself. I listened to this on audio, and I literally cheered at the end. It was my favorite nonfiction title of the year.
Give your thoughts: What was your favorite book of the year? Share below!