We are, indeed, readers . . . and we love to keep lists, organize the data, and tell you about the good stuff, the okay stuff, and the bad stuff. 

First, the stats:

Number of Books Read5440
Number of Female Authors27 27 
Number of Authors of Color2212
Number of LGBTQ+ Authors42
Number of YA/Middle School Books31
Number of Abandoned Books10-15 3-5
Number of Fiction Books3031
Number of Nonfiction Books24 9
Number of Audiobooks3029


You Oughta Know! 
Let’s share our TOP READS OF 2022 (which includes books published in different years, as well as published this year). Quick or even non-quick bits of excited book talk may follow each title.

Lara: I am going with a Top 5 for this year. These truly were the standouts for me and making a list of 10 just feels forced.

  1. Hell of a Book by Jason Mott – I read this in February and declared it, at that time, as my favorite book of the year. As we near the end of December, it still holds the coveted number one spot. It should be required reading. 
  1. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – The chick-lit cover does this smart book a major disservice. Women and men should read about the fictional Elizabeth Zott, a chemist coming up in the sixties when women were expected to keep a home, their hair coiffed, and their mouths shut. Zott is smart, funny, and secure in herself. Add a daughter named Mad (that’s her legal name) and a dog named 6:30, and a strong cast of supporting characters and I couldn’t put this clever debut down.  
  1. These Precious Days by Ann Patchett – I will never not read a book by Ann Patchett. This collection of essays which highlight relationships and mortality are especially salient as we navigate a post-Covid (are we really past it?) world. 
  1. Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin (Illustrator) – Another take on the pandemic and its effects on a Black American family consumed by the news of it all. One long sentence buttressed by stunning illustrations is to be slowly read and savored. It serves as a heartbreaking and hopeful time-capsule of a challenging era in our world’s history. 
  1. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan – Just as the first book I read this year made my list of Top Reads, so did the last. Keegan’s SHORT (116 spare pages) about an Irish coal merchant who, when delivering coal to a local convent, discovers atrocities under Irish Catholic church leadership. Based on real events, this is a tightly told story of a brave act of kindness.  


  1. The Sentence by Louise Erdrich – This was my favorite read of the year. We reviewed it here. I think I called it THE novel of our time. Messy, beautiful, true, self-conscious, still damn intellectual – it’s a pandemic book, a book about Covid and George Floyd and marriage and children and criminal injustice and Native American life in the urban midwest. A great book. 
  1. These Precious Days by Ann Patchett – Well, I might’ve given both you and Ann a hard time in our review, but this essay collection remains topnotch. Patchett is reliably solid. 
  1. Tears of Amber by  Sofia Segovia – Did you read the Mexican novel Murmur of Bees? It was full of beautiful, lush language with hints of magical realism and prose that seems poetic and unique to Spanish-language authors. So, she wrote this book too . . . and it’s set in Germany and Prussia leading up to WWII and through the war. Nothing to do with Mexico, where Segovia lives and writes . . . Did it work? It did!
  1. The Every by Dave Eggers – Our megalomaniacal impulse to document ourselves publicly and our impulse to keep track of steps/scores/workouts is combined to portray a culture in which transparency is assumed to be the global solution to injustice and crime and waste. People recycle when they’re publicly shamed. People don’t cheat when their Alexa overhears. Pets are outlawed (animal cruelty). Travel becomes virtual to eliminate the carbon footprint. Brilliant, I tell you! Brilliant!
  1. Tender Is The Flesh by ​​Agustina Bazterrica – Since animals are infected and exterminated in this dystopian world, “regulated” cannibalism is the new diet. This is written in that beautiful way that South American writers often write. So it’s beautiful and disgusting. 
  1. To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara – I’m blown away that this didn’t appear on more BEST BOOKS lists. My books are not in order on this list, but I think this was my second fave. This is a literary WONDER of epic, epic, epic scope and breadth and IMAGINATION. It’s as much about America as maybe Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. It’s three different narratives, linked (possibly) by America? By definitions of paradise? By a sense of identity? BUT the amazing thing to me is that I was so into each of the three that I felt mild despair when she ended each. It’s highly original. 
  1. When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton – Um, I loved this book. It’s an older novel (2006), and I don’t really know what drew me to this. Oh, I do. Traumatic brain injury. It’s there. And it’s very important to the story, but this is an even bigger novel. It’s about the tenacity of family? It’s a quiet novel and not for the plot-lovin’ crowd: thoroughly a character-driven novel with beautiful writing. I actually laughed, but that’s probably me. And I felt like crying.
  1. Booth by Karen Jay Fowler – This book seemed to get a lot of not-good press. The book was called out for being too long, too mundane, and centered on the family of a lousy guy (John Wilkes Booth, who killed Abraham Lincoln). And yet . . . And yet . . . And yet . . . I loved it. I was really impressed by Fowler’s sensitivity, her scope, her interweaving of fact and fiction, her humanizing–not of the killer–but of everyone else. 
  1. Surrender by Bono – A caveat: the prose is VERY Bono, not for everyone. He is who I expected him to be. Bono is a good human being, a good man. Not an ego-maniac or cocky or anything that haters like to claim. His self-absorption is there, but–can artiste-types just be a little honest here?–a preoccupation with one’s own “deep” thoughts often sits close to the center of an artistic drive. Bono is seriously an artist. He seeps out his artistry . . . Part of me thinks he shouldn’t have written it . . . You know how JK Rowling talks too much? Maybe she should just let Harry Potter do its work? [Maybe I should do that too on my teeny-tiny scale?] Well, I did think that a bit. Maybe Bono should just let the music do its magic . . . But I adored the book. 
  1. CHEATING TACTIC: ​​Chuck Klosterman’s The Nineties, Ling Ma’s ​​Bliss Montage, and Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne. Klosterman wrote a smart book of essays on my special decade. Ling Ma wrote a collection of weird, strong stories. And Du Mez wrote a fascinating history of contemporary evangelicalism. These are three great books, worthy of attention.  

You Can’t Always Get What You Want . . . 
Sometimes, there’s sorrow. Though one might’ve gotten excited by a new book, one might’ve experienced disappointment. Identify TWO disappointments.

Lara: I am going to have to go with the much beloved Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – GASP!  Why? You ask. . . I didn’t realize how young Jane was, how old Rochester was, how miserably Jane was treated, and how often they used the word “ejaculate” in the 1800s to describe a verbal outburst. This was very jarring as I listened to the audio version on my daily walks. 

The second one would have to be Trust by Hernan Diaz. Super confusing structure/set up. Midway through the book, I had to go online and super-sleuth what was going on. Add to that too much talk about the financial industry and I was B O R E D . But it ended up on a lot of people’s lists, so what do I know?

JenniferLiberation Day by George Saunders! Big, big, BIG disappointment. It pains me to write this. And yet I will! I suspect that George Saunders’ literary greatness is such that it far, far, far exceeds anything lousy I might say. I think he’s a genius. I try to read all of his books. He’s kinda brilliant. Nonetheless, this book: Over-the-top experimentation, which reduces meaning to meaningless, language to sound, Art to artlessness, experimentation to bastardization. Yes, I will read the next book. But humans were meant for better things. So disappointing that I’m only listing one book. 

Haven’t Got Time for the Pain
We probably missed joy too. What books did you just not get around to reading that you had hoped to read?

Jennifer: A lot. 

The Magic Kingdom by Russell Banks
The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
The Last Chairlift by John Irving
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan 

Lara: Of course! There always are the ones that got away… Here are a few I couldn’t seem to get to: 

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Girls with Bright Futures by Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman
Horse  by Geraldine Brooks 
How Not to Drown In a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz
I Wish My Mom was Dead by Jennette McCurdy
In Love by Amy Bloom
Lost & Found by Kathryn Schulz
Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson
Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong 
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

You Are So Beautiful To Me
While we’d agree that you can’t judge a book by its cover, it’s likely that we picked up a few based on that. Were there books you were drawn to based on the cover?

Lara: Quite a few, actually. Here are covers I loved:

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner – A great memoir by the lead singer of Japanese Breakfast about losing her mom and living up to her expectations. 

The Measure by Nikki Erlick – Engaging dystopian tale about a world where everyone wakes up one morning to a box at their front door that holds a single string. The length of the string correlates to how much life you have left. 

Eat a Peach by David Chang – The founder of the Momofuku Food Empire. This chef memoir is a great look at achieving the literal heights of greatness within your field, while living with depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. 

The One Hundred Years of Lenny and Margo by Marianne Cronin – Lenni is 17 and has a limited time left to live. Margot is 83 with a limited time left to live. Their 100 years of combined living inspires them to create 100 visual stories of their lives. 

Jennifer: No book descriptions, since I went a tad crazy on Top Ten. Ann Patchett’s collection has a beautiful cover. Tender Is The Flesh is creepy-good. I bought Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian and Shelter In Place by David Leavitt for their covers. 

Baby, What A Big Surprise
What book(s) surprised you the most this year?

Jennifer: Hanya Yanagihara’s book. The next thing I have to say is possibly touchy, though I don’t intend for it to be. It’s uber-gay, in that there are three story lines with what might easily be labeled gay fiction–but, true to ME, we’re talking Gay Literary Fiction. Yanagihara (seems, in interviews, to be rather dispassionate–which is antithetical to how she writes) throws me a bit. Like, she might even be living as a hetero (though she’s mysterious), so why is this her narrative preference? Not even women. I’m just fascinated by her writerly choices. But she ultimately does express the universality of humanity.

Lara: I have to give it to all of the Jasons! Jason Mott’s National Book Award Winner, Hell of a Book blew me away. I laughed, I cried, I gasped. I did it all. It’s a moving must-read that goes in so many important directions.  I don’t want to give anything away, I just want everyone to read it. Jasons Reynolds and Griffin also surprised me with the graphic novel, Ain’t Burned All the Bright

I Can’t Make You Love Me 
What books ALMOST made the list, but didn’t for some reason?

Lara: Let me start by saying that I liked these books and they gave me a lot to think about, but they either aren’t staying with me or the standouts for me this year just stood out more. 

  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. I loved the focus on long-lasting friendship. I didn’t love how much video game stuff there was. 
  • Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. The story’s frightening look at the dangers of white nationalism was very well written. After several years of an administration that echoed these sentiments, I just needed a break. 
  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. A great story that really captured the pandemic. I loved the characters, but the ghost element was too much for me. 

Each of these have made a lot of lists, gotten a lot of buzz, and just because they didn’t rock my world doesn’t mean they aren’t the perfect book for another reader. 

Jennifer: Maybe Francesca Marciano’s Animal Spirit: Stories and Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter. I like those Italian women. 

Go Your Own Way
Were there books you just quit, shamelessly or shamefully?

Jennifer:  So much shame. I think I fail on the writer-front, the reader-front, the smart people-front. I tried and quit THREE TIMES Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. I also quit The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles–only because I wasn’t in the mood. I may go back to it.

Lara: You need to drop the shame… except for the fact that you must go back to The Lincoln Highway. Via Audio. I couldn’t get into Linda Wilson’s The Seed Keeper and I really wanted to. I also bailed on Namwali Serpell’s The Furrows. It was for a book club and I didn’t give myself enough time. At all. So, the plan to still read it, some day. I also dropped Chloe Cooper Jones’ Easy Beauty and Edward J. Delaney’s The Acrobat. There could be more. That’s all I remember. 

Save the Last Dance for Me

Are there other books that didn’t make these lists that you feel deserve a mention?

Jennifer: I guess I might add that I pretty much agree with you on Trust; I thought The Whitewashing of Christianity by Jerome Gay was pretty powerhouse; Tyler Merritt’s I Take My Coffee Black: Reflections on Tupac, Musical Theater, Faith, and Being Black in America was a real pleasure; I liked Trick by Domenico Starnone, who happens to be Elena Ferrante’s husband–and they write with a similar interiority and complexity; David Sedaris’s Happy-Go-Lucky is reliably good, maybe a bit more sober-minded than his younger days–when we could all afford to be Happy-Go-Lucky. That’s it. 

Lara: I think it’s worth readers checking out these other great books: Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka was a super engaging novel of literary suspense that got a lot of buzz for how it flipped the script and had the women involved in the serial killer’s life serve as the primary storytellers. The Guncle by Steven Rowley – Could have been super schmaltzy and trite, but deftly handles grief with humor and grace. Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy – The follow up to McConaghy’s BRILLIANT Migrations is a compelling drama focused on two sisters working with a team to reintegrate wolves into the Scottish Highlands, much to the dismay of local farmers. Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe – This narrative  non-fiction book is about the family largely deemed responsible for our county’s opioid epidemic. It’s a comprehensive look at what greed and ego will drive some to do–even if it means the demise of others (many, many others). The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman delightfully pits octogenarians against and in partnership with local police to solve some recent murders. A British narrator makes for a lovely ear-reading experience. Finally, A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson, is a perfect small-town character driven story that will keep you turning the page as you seek to find out where 16-year-old Rose ran off to and the shocking secret 80-year old Elizabeth has been hiding for years. 

Girls on Film 
Favorite movies? TV? Other dips into the Arts?

Lara: I am the only person who hated Everything Everywhere All at Once. But I did love The Banshees of Inisherin. I am also rewatching Downton Abbey (swoon) with my guy. We also checked out a local puppeteering troup that put on an R-rated version of Die Hard, and it was amazing. Like Avenue Q goes Die Hard. We will check out the future shows.

Jennifer: Well, you know me. LOTS OF TV. Surely, the ends of Ozark and Better Call Saul were masterpieces. The Handmaid’s Tale and Succession continue to do me in. My husband and I had a serious era of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and, um, BRILLIANCE. I saw some great plays, notably Wicked on Broadway. I also saw an R-rated puppet show (of Jurassic Park). I attended no concerts and saw no movies in a theater!

I’m So Excited! 
What books not yet published are you’re excited about?

Jennifer: It’s a tad embarrassing. I’m excited about Spare by Prince Harry. 

Lara: There are a few on my radar. But I don’t do a lot of advance research….

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
Gone Like Yesterday by Janelle M. Williams 
Big Swiss by Jen Beagin 

Next Up!

We will be back in January to discuss Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, a retelling of Dickens’ David Copperfield, set in modern-day Appalachia.