My Favorite Books of 2022
(and cheers to another year of reading in 2023!)
In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom
I should say up front that I read a lot of memoirs around the subject of death and grief, so when I recommend one you can bet it’s top notch. This one tells the story of the author’s journey with her husband to Switzerland to seek a legal assisted suicide following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It’s sweet, funny, and devastating all at once — my favorite kind of read.
What We Wish Were True: Reflections on Nurturing Life and Facing Death by Tallu Quinn
A memoir of the founder of the Nashville Food Project, a nonprofit that strives to feed the hungry, who tragically died of brain cancer mere months after the publishing of this courageous book. In it, she documents what it’s like to grapple with a terminal diagnosis in her 40s and make peace with it while preparing her family and her community for her departure from the world. For anyone who has ever contemplated if death is the worst thing or what they would want their own death to be like, the book is a gift of insight and contemplation.
Although it took a little while for me to get into, I wanted to go back and highlight passages when I finished Nina LaCour’s first novel for adults. I wanted to rewind to find my way back into the characters’ lives. The writing here is gorgeous. The intertwined backstories feel so vivid and real. I wanted nothing more than for Sara and Emily to get a happy ending.
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
This dystopian science fiction novel was a slow burn but it’s worth sticking with. It’s a series of interwoven stories set, for the most part, in the time following a mysterious plague born from an ancient virus. Survivors are left to pick up the pieces and create a new world while grieving so many loved ones. They all do so in various ways, some of them seemingly strange and the result is a collection that takes the reader to different places within the human psyche and within the universe. One bereaved husband and father, for instance, becomes a surrogate father to a pig that has learned human speech. Another woman and her granddaughter journey into space, seeking a place to outrun ghosts and find a new home other than Earth.
As a children’s librarian, I try to read a lot of the middle grade literature and picture books released each year. There are always many that are incredible, but here are just a few of my favorites from 2022.
Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller
Middle school is that terrible purgatory between trying to be a kind person and trying to belong (with other kids who are often mean-spirited and narrow-minded). Mallory’s sticky predicament in this novel is the perfect example: she is drawn to the new girl, Jennifer Chan even as she realizes her “mean girl” pals would find Jennifer strange. This turned out to be a heavier, more intense read than one might expect from a middle-grade fiction book. A thought-provoking story about peer pressure, bullying, loneliness, grief, and more.
Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi
I happen to be a huge fan of Octavia Butler and I love seeing a kids’ biography about her! The mix of biography and poetry, the use of quotes and photos from Butler’s life, and the strong writing are a winner, even if you have never heard of Octavia E. Butler!
Attack of the Black Rectangles by A. S. King
A.S. King is one of my favorite children’s and YA authors. What I love about her is that she deals with timely issues while also creating characters on both sides who are three-dimensional and human. This book — a story about a group of kids willing to speak up and fight back over censored classroom books — was both infuriating and inspiring in equal parts. It’s a must-read for anyone who has ever come up against injustice.
This charming, quiet little picture book made me nostalgic for the simple adventures in our own backyards we find as children.