This is not a top 10 book list
A list of superlatives, readerly reflections and bookish intentions.
At the time of writing this post, I have read 78 books in 2022. If I wrap up two current my reads, by Dec. 31, I’ll round out the year with 80 books. I like that number a lot.
It was a rich reading year. If I had to encapsulate the themes of my reading life in eight titles, here’s what they’d be: “Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan, “The Winners” by Fredrik Backman, “In Good Time” Jen Pollock Michel, “The It Girl” by Ruth Ware, “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, “Unapologetic” by Francis Spufford, “The Great Sex Rescue” by Sheila Wray Gregoire, Joanna Sawatsky, and Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach.
I’m not a fan of writing top 10 lists. They feels too weighty and generalized. So instead, below are a series of made up superlatives highlighting different reads I enjoyed.
A fun announcement… In 2023, I’m launching a new series called Novel Women where I share about the lives of readers. If you’re interested in being featured in this series, please complete this questionnaire!
A book I want to talk with everyone about: Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford
A book I didn’t love but I think about often: The Matrix by Lauren Groff
A book that shaped my daily life: Domestic Monastery by Ronald Rolheiser
A book that made me happy: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
The right book(s) at the right time(s): This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson and Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown.
A book I’m likely to reread: Wise Counsel by John Newton
A book I’d like folks to read: True Biz by Sara Novic
A book that satisfied me: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
A book that wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be, but still good: A Brief Theology of Periods by Rachel Jones.
Two notable mentions… My Lisa Jewell Summer ended up becoming my Lisa Jewell Year and boy, were those fun reads. Second, I found the third installment of the Thursday Murder Club—“The Bullet that Missed”— absolutely delightful.
General observations on my 2022 Reading
Audio is working really well in this season of life. I’ve not consistently listened to fiction audiobooks in years, so it’s been fun to delve into this medium again. I’m especially enjoying exploring when a book is enhanced by the audio format vs. reading in paper or Kindle. This NYT OpEd is a good exploration of that topic.
There is a lot value of to the slow but steady approach. I think I started “Wise Counsel” by John Newton in early 2017, and this year I finished it. “Wise Counsel” is John Newton’s letters to his mentee over the course of several years. The epistolatory nature of this book made it a perfect book to read slowly. And though I wouldn’t recommend taking five years to read it, the letters were written over 20+ years and I think reading it over a substantial chunk of time heightened some of the tension and themes of the book.
I did not set any goals for my reading. I followed my whims and interests and moods and it worked. My reading skews plebeian with this approach, but I have no issue with that if I’m finding delight in said reading.
I wanted to read more history, chunkier classics, and heftier theology. But I find the spaces I have to read (mental, time, etc.) not particularly friendly to those sorts of books. Thus, they sadly remained unread.
I like to read alongside folks. I’m not generally a fan of the conventional book club, but it was a joy to read several books alongside others or discuss them with others. I read Jane Eyre with 20+ people at church over the summer. Two college friends and I have a text thread where we talk about the thrillers and mysteries we’re reading. Another friend got me hooked on Lisa Jewell and I would talk to her about my recent Jewell read. A neighbor came over to chat about books over tea while my kids napped. All little pockets of joy in my daily life.
When I’m struggling to read, it might be time change the format. I learned this a few years ago, and it proved true again this year. For various reasons, I had a hard time reading on my Kindle or print for a while, so I switched audio and it re-energized my reading life.
My reading ebbs and flows with life, and that’s not a problem to fix. Some months I was reading 2-3 books a week. Other months, I read two books in the whole month. I felt frustrated by that, then realized that I was making a problem where there wasn’t one.
I like a visual system to track my reading. I used Everyday Reading’s book poster this year, and while I didn’t keep up with coloring it, I loved recording my reading there.
Bookish Wants for 2023
Based on this year’s reading and what I learned, here’s what I think I want for my 2023 life.
I want to keep up low-key bookish conversations and look for opportunities to expand them. They’re so much fun and gave me so much life.
I want to tackle challenging books with a slow but steady approach. My life has yielded rich fruit from making room for books that I want to read, but are hard to read in my current reading routines (random 5 minute increments while my kids are playing, before bed, audiobooks on walks, etc.). So, I’m spending some time thinking about how I can tackle a history book (like “The Splendid and the Vile”) and a challenging classic (possibly “The Brothers Karamazov”) with a slow but steady approach this year.
I want to read “Glittering Images” by Susan Howatch. It’s been on my Kindle for ages, and I started it several years ago but it was a “good book, wrong time” thing so I never finished. I’d forgotten about it, but it’s surfaced recently and I think I want to try reading it again.
I want to keep embracing audio.
I want to keep delight the primary aim of my reading life, and I want to invite you to do the same. To borrow the words of Alan Jacobs: “Read what gives you delight, and do so without shame, whether it be Stephen King or the King James Version of the Bible.”
Jessica Hooten Wilson has a series on her YouTube channel going through The Brothers Karamazov! It helped me tremendously in getting more out of it (I listened on audio, which I loved).
I also second "This Beautiful Truth" and "Domestic Monastery" - they blessed me this year, too.
How about a Bothers Karamazov read-along? It’s been on my TBR for years!