I read so many good books this year! (Last year!?) So many! I decided at the end of 2021 that I wanted to slow down in general – read slower, read less, read deeper – spend less time doing things that felt compulsive or unhelpful, reach deep into projects that challenged my skills, actually memorize songs on the piano instead of playing the same ones (mediocrely) over and over.

For my reading, I picked something of a theme; I decided to put most of my focus on reading classics I had never read before but had always wanted to. Some of them, like Anna Karenina, I had been too intimidated to read; others, like East of Eden, I had wanted to read for a long time but just had never gotten around to; some, like To Kill a Mockingbird, I read last as a juvenile delinquent and wanted to revisit as an adult.

I churned through some easy dummies like Child 44 on airplanes and vacations (where I take books that I don’t mind accidentally or purposefully leaving behind), and spent many hours laying in bed listening to the full Harry Potter series once more because it distracted me from some of my first trimester nausea. Not all reading needs to be hard or deep.

I also got through a good number of non-fiction works about subjects I’ve been into lately, particularly geopolitics. Part of slowing down and reading or listening carefully was taking denser works like Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and pausing, re-listening, and really thinking about what he got right and what he didn’t. I also tried hard to think carefully about the biases and motives of the authors; what did Laura Kipnis hope to prove by Unwanted Advances, and which parts of the story were getting left out? Which books satisfied my own biases in such a way that made me less likely to think carefully about them? It’s impossible to reach through our own blind spots completely, but I think it’s worth trying.

All in all, I did pretty well at sticking to my theme and I am SO glad I did! Unsurprisingly, the classics are the classics for a reason, and while there are always more, I got through a good chunk of books I have always wanted to read. It’s hard to overstate how much I love a book that makes me feel. I love crying and feeling my heart break a little just as much as I love laughing out loud and coming to a surprising new insight. I spent some time after East of Eden wondering why there were certain morality books that I liked and why I found others so off-putting (general quality of writing and not feeling hit over the head with a sermon were two possible answers, but I still need to think about it more).

So without further ado! My 2022 Book List, roughly in order of reading but starting with my top 10 (not ordered by most to least favorite):

  1. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy – An excellent look into how and why people fuck up their lives, as well as funny knock on the upper class’s tendency to think they know what’s best for everyone. Compelling story and characters – I love Anna’s strengths and flaws.
  2. Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart – Tragic, beautifully written exploration of alcoholics and how they impact the people around them, plus a unique (to me) insight into post-industrial Scotland circa 1980s.
  3. Middlemarch, George Elliott – A very funny, touching epic of a changing town full of people making themselves and each other miserable. Has it all – coming of age, secrets, greed, modernity vs. tradition, you name it.
  4. Child of God, Cormac McCarthy – Fucking hilarious, incredibly violent, deeply disturbing, gorgeous writing, and maybe the best example of McCarthy’s ability to capture the absurd in humanity (I wish the Cohen Brothers had directed this film!!)
  5. East of Eden, John Steinbeck – Really beautiful landscape depiction, pithy assessments of changing centuries, a smart exploration into the wide spectrum of good and evil in people without feeling preachy or making foregone conclusions about who the bad guys always are.
  6. The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald – Sad. Sad sad sad, for everyone in the story. Surprisingly beautiful imagery in many places, plus excellent foreshadowing, scene-setting, and other literary techniques (which surprised me – I actually had never read it and didn’t know much about what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of writing).
  7. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton – A very, very funny but sad story about one man’s reluctant attempts to break out of old money NYC’s stiff social expectations. I laughed out loud in several parts.
  8. The End of the World is Just the Beginning, Peter Zeihan – This book was one of those books that changed the way I see the world. Such a thorough, well-researched exploration of how our modern economies and and societies work and why so much of that is on its way out the door.
  9. Pastoralia, George Saunders – Like all of George Saunders’ works, this book is almost claustrophobically sad, sharply funny, unique, and extremely strange. I loved each of the short stories individually, but I wish the tone had varied a little more from piece to piece.
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – I did read this a long time ago, but I liked it so much better as an adult. A really beautiful and sad book, and unexpectedly funny. I like Lee’s writing and will need to read her sequel.
  11. The Cow in the Parking Lot, Leonard Scheff
  12. The Hunt for the Red October
  13. Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy
  14. Meditations, Marcus Aurelius 
  15. Silas Marner, George Elliott
  16. Live not by Lies, Rod Dreher
  17. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner 
  18. Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman Capote
  19. Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
  20. The Brass Verdict, Michael Connelly
  21. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
  22. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
  23. Robinson Crusoe 
  24. Third Girl, Agatha Christie
  25. This Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover (awful) 
  26. Verity, Colleen Hoover (awful)
  27. Stuart Little, E.B. white
  28. The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells
  29. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen 
  30. The Witches, Roald Dahl 
  31. Come as You Are, Emily Nagoski (great content, but didn’t like the narrator)
  32. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë 
  33. Harry Potter 1
  34. Harry Potter 2
  35. Harry Potter 3
  36. Harry Potter 4
  37. Harry Potter 5
  38. Harry Potter 6
  39. Harry Potter 7
  40. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  41. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  42. The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov
  43. The Spiral Staircase, Ethel White
  44. Unwanted Advances, Laura Kipnis
  45. Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman
  46. Why Gender Matters, Leonard Sax
  47. Far From the Maddening Crowd, Thomas Hardy 
  48. The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel P. Huntington
  49. Child 44, TR Smith 

Book I didn’t finish:

  1. At Home in Mitford – Way too cheesy
  2. Neuromancer – I made it a good 20% into this book and still could not figure out what the fuck was going on and gave up
  3. The Mysterious Island, Jules Verne – Lost interest
  4. Empire Falls, Richard Russo – Russo’s writing is filled with so many extraneous details and the inconsistent omniscient narrator’s pithy little observations drove me nuts
  5. Colleen Hoover’s two books, Verity and It Ends with Us – I did finish these, but I really wish I hadn’t. Hoover has sold so many books and has such much hype around her that I figured I had to give them a fair shake, but they honestly read like the fever dreams of a 13-year-old whose parents’ divorce really did a number on her.

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