Here are the books that still resonate months after reading, everything from historical fiction to memoirs to light fiction and Christian living, and why.
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Wow, it turned out to be a good reading year.
I had my doubts in the beginning because I was feeling just ho-hum about many of the books I read and not many titles had a star on my list.
I keep a simple running list of the books I read each year in the basic notes app on my phone. I've tried other systems including Goodreads and special journals, but it's the basic note that I keep most consistent with.
In addition to the title, author, and date finished I also add any short notes (especially if I abandoned it and why) and whether it was an audio book. Then if I loved it, it gets a star.
I don't think about anything other than how much I liked it after reading to give it a star or not. I figure at the end of the year I can go back and evaluate if it really deserves the star or not based on these kind of questions I ask myself:
- Can I still remember what it's about?
- Do I still think about the content?
- Will it stand the test of time?
- Is it something I'd want to read again?
Here's the surprising thing:
For the past five years when I've gone back to find all the starred books from that year's list there have been exactly thirteen.
I kid you not - the same number of starred books no matter how many total books I read (anywhere from 50 to 100).
So I was a tiny bit freaked out when I added up this year's starred books (which I hadn't felt were many) and it was...yep, 13.
It's weird. I don't know what to do with it, just thought I'd share that the number isn't really planned on my part!
For 2022 I read 101 books. I didn't have a specific goal this year and I was kind of surprised to see it inching towards 100 in December, so I did kind of up my reading by always having a book or audio book nearby to see if I could get to 100.
I've found just thinking about it and prioritizing reading over TV or social media scrolling results in more books read (which surprises no one, ever).
Looking for tips on how to read more books even when you don't have a lot of "book reading time?" (That illusive thing, lol.) Then check out this best book list where I share the five things that helped me go from zero books read in 2015 to 90-100 a year the last few years. It can be done!
Alright, lets get to this year's list of...thirteen (in order that I read them through the year).
Best 13 Books Read in 2022
Mythos, Stephen Fry. This took Brian and I a couple months to listen to while driving - it's definitely long, though broken up into the individual stories. Some of the myths are familiar and some were new to me, but hearing them through the lens of Stephen Fry made them so clever and funny. He has asides that help you understand when there's a backstory and he reads the audiobook in such a way that you find yourself chuckling at some of the absurd situations - of course.
The Midwife’s Revolt, Jodi Daynard. This is my type of historical fiction - a lot of history with a fictional main character weaved in. The fictional midwife is friends and neighbors with Abigail Adams during the beginning of the Revolutionary War and I enjoyed reading this and remembering the biography I had read on Abigail a few years ago. This author did such a good job - I really felt the fear, hunger, heat, cold, and confusion of the times. That's the mark of a good historical fiction book for me.
How (Not) to Read the Bible, Dan Kimball. The subtitle is Making Sense of the Anti-Women, Anti-Science, Pro-Violence, Pro-Slavery and Other Crazy-Sounding Parts of Scripture which describes this book and why I think is an important book for Christians to read (and non-Christians who are curious). This answers many questions that I've had, and I was so surprised to learn how the Bible is made fun of online - I just didn't know that was a thing to this extent.
The author helpfully lists "rules" for reading the Bible that we should always follow:
- Never read a Bible verse alone, without context.
- The Bible is a library with many genres that go beyond surface readings (there's poetry, history, literature, etc). For example, the history books show what was happening at the time - not necessarily what God approved of. Often they illustrate what it's like without God.
- Study the Bible and research to understand it as a whole, not only the Old Testament or New Testament or just the stories.
- The Bible was not written TO us, but only FOR us. It was written to the people at the time - who obviously were very different from us.
I bought this for our daughter and for my sister's teens and I'd highly recommend it for anyone you know of that age, since they will be exposed to the memes and sites online making fun of the Bible and they should be armed with knowledge.
The Rose Code, Kate Quinn. I've read other code-breaking books on WWII, even specifically about Bletchley Park, and wasn't sure another one would hold my attention, but this author brings enough drama and good characters into this that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I especially liked the friendship of the three women and how it developed among people who would've never even met pre-war. I wished some of the sad things didn't happen (and I'm not sure I believe one storyline could've happened), but overall it was a book I kept wanting to get back to and will think about for awhile.
Unoffendable, Brant Hansen. This book is so perfect for our currently divisive time in history, that I was surprised to learn that the book was written in 2015. It saddened me, actually, that in seven years, things have gotten worse in this offended-by-everything-cancel-culture world, not better. Especially with Christians.
Basically, the author reminds us that as flawed people, we always think we're right - we can't be trusted and don't always know other's motivations (or even our own!). However, God knows, so let go and leave it to Him. I wrote these in my reading journal:
- "It's not that I think potentially offensive behavior is right or good - not even close. It's just that it's not about me. I'm not going to be threatened or scandalized by someone else's immoral behavior."
- What if Christians were known as the people you couldn't offend?
- What if we led with love and not anger, like Christ did?
When Life Gives You Pears, Jeannie Gaffigan. It's not surprising that this book ended up on my best of the year list - it was SO good. Brian and I listened to this together and have nothing by admiration for how Jeannie and her husband, Jim, dealt with the tumor that was found in her brain and successfully operated on - even with a few (terrifying) hiccups along the way. It's family affirming, funny (really…), and will give you goosebumps to see how God orchestrated things to get her the help she needed. Highly recommended.
Happiness for Beginners, Katherine center. This was a novel that surprised me - I thought I would enjoy the premise and the fish-out-of-water theme which is a favorite of mine (city girl signs up for a rugged outdoor experience). And I did - but it became about so much more, really exploring some depths of life experience enough that we could see and understand the characters growth through the story beyond just a romance. I've read good things about this author and this was my first book of hers - and it won't be my last. I appreciate the believable settings and dialog, the subtle romance (closed door), and the real emotions and life that her characters deal with.
Finding Me, Viola Davis. This memoir is read by Ms. Davis and the story of her youth is harrowing - to say the least. I don't think I'll ever look at rats the same way again. And I have so much compassion for the kids in school who may be hard to be around because of hygiene, language, and roughness. Just a whole lot of new things to think about. Hearing about her determination to make it in theater and movies was interesting, but it was the stories of her growing up that will stick with me for a long time.
The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family, Ron & Clint Howard. This is a fun look at Ron and Clint Howard's childhood acting and how their parents grounded them and steered them. It's refreshing to hear how principled their parents were - they managed them, but only took 5% - all the rest went into a fund that they accessed when they turned 18. You also get a lot of behind the scenes look at Ron's movies like American Graffiti, and later shows like Happy Days and how he always wanted to direct and so found ways on all his acting gigs to learn and network. Which kind of worked out for him, lol.
The Matrimonial Advertisement, Mimi Mathews. I just discovered this author this year who is good writer of historical romance stories that make you want to keep reading. This book is set in the Victorian era and really hooks you in right away with the heroine answering a sort of mail-order bride advertisement. There is a mystery about why she is doing it - she's afraid of someone - and why he is advertising. He's a war hero with scars and so there's that angle, too. Best of all, the story focus is about them and their friends and lives - not about some outside "evil" or mystery. This is a "closed door" romance and just a fun read when you want something light with a happily ever after ending.
Taste, Stanley Tucci. Oh gosh, I only just realized that this never made it into a Good Things List after reading it last fall. Well, I'm rectifying that now! This is a book by someone I'd never really thought about. I haven't watched his cooking/traveling shows and only know him from some of his larger movie roles. But what a book! You think you like food until you hear/read Stanley Tucci talk about growing up in an Italian-American family (his school lunches of leftovers sounded amazing). It's a whole other level. And then hearing about his first wife's battle with cancer and then his own after he remarried and had more kids. Ironically (or not?), his cancer was of the mouth and he wasn't able to eat for months. Those descriptions will stay with me for sure. There are recipes, too, but honestly most are not things I would make. It's the stories and the way he tells them that made this a best book.
Lucky Man, Michael J Fox. I couldn't believe I had never read this 2002 memoir before, as I had always wanted to. It was as good as I had hoped it would be with details about his growing up that helps understand some of his success later and about his TV and movie career, as well as of course his Parkinson's diagnosis at 29. Some revelations that stuck with me:
- His middle name doesn't start with a J, he just though it sounded good.
- He worked steadily his first three years and yet was hungry much of the time from lack of food.
- He was on Family Ties at the same time as he was shooting Back to The Future which resulted in 2-3 hours sleep a night for months - and so he doesn't really remember much of the shooting of the movie which happened at night!
I really enjoyed his positive outlook on life, both before and after his diagnosis and all he has accomplished. Highly recommended if you're like me and haven't read it yet. (I also read his most current book from 2020, which was also good but was more about his foundation and what's it's accomplished.)
The Bodyguard, Katherine Center. Well, two of her books made it onto the best of list, so you know she's now a favorite! I waited months for this newest book from the library and I can see why it's so popular - I was immediately drawn to the main character, abrasive as she was in the beginning. It's like a reverse Kevin Costner-Whitney Huston Bodyguard, where the female is the tough bodyguard sent to protect a famous actor from potentially threatening fans. Some scenes just made my jaw drop (how could her ex say those things in front of her coworkers??), and the fish-out-of-water part of her learning to live in disguise on a farm was a favorite. There's romantic tension, but it's not open door and there is of course my required happy ending, lol.
So that's the top 13 books I read in 2022.
As a reminder, you can always get the reviews of every book I read in the monthly Good Things Lists, along with a few other things I'm doing and loving.
Did any of these books make your best of lists? Do you have any books you loved I should add to my reading list?
WANT MORE BEST BOOK SUGGESTIONS?
- Best Books of 2021 - A Baker's Dozen
- Best Books of 2020
- 13 Best Books of 2019
- 13 Best Books Read in 2018
- The 13 Best Books I Read in 2017
- Best Books Read in 2016