The only thing I enjoy reading more than books themselves are all of the “Best of” book lists that come out this time of year (and college course catalogs and syllabi, which is neither here nor there, but I do highly recommend). So here is my humble contribution to the proliferation of superlatives out there. As always, a note that these were my favorite and noteworthy books from those I read in 2022, not necessarily published this year. And – again, as always – please comment with yours!
FICTION – I had two favorites this year, and it’s my list, so I don’t have to choose. I read CIRCE (Madeline Miller) in an adorable house nestled in the NC mountains with a fire in the fireplace, cozy sweaters, and hot cocoa and the only problem was it was so good I often forgot where I was. TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW (Gabrielle Zevin) had the most original premise and characters I’ve encountered in quite a while. Honorable mentions: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid), Honor (Thrity Umrigor), Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brooks), Mercy Street (Jennifer Haigh).
NONFICTION – I found A MOST BEAUTIFUL THING: THE TRUE STORY OF AMERICA’S FIRST ALL-BLACK HIGH SCHOOL ROWING TEAM (Arshay Cooper) in the bookstore at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, AL, which is not only one of the best bookstores but a store of the best books. I also highly recommend the documentary which continues its heart-breaking/heart-lifting story. Honorable mentions: The Movement Made Us: A Father, A Son, and the Legacy of a Freedom Ride (David J. Dennis, Jr. in collaboration with David J. Dennis, Sr.); By the Grace of the Game: The Holocaust, a Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream (Dan Grunfeld) – thank you, Jeffrey R Alexander; Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (Lori Gottlieb).
BEST MOTIVATION FOR STARTING A NEW JOURNAL – WRITE FOR YOUR LIFE (Anna Quindlen), both of which (the book and a journal) you can find in an independent bookstore near you.
MOST IMPORTANT PARENTING READ – This wasn’t the snappiest of reads, not something you pick up for a poignant turn of phrase, but these two Harvard professors know what they’re writing about in BEHIND THEIR SCREENS: WHAT TEENS ARE FACING (AND ADULTS ARE MISSING) (Emily Weinstein and Carrie James), and we need to know, too.
FAN FICTION – THE CHOICE: A NOVEL OF LOVE, FAITH, AND THE TALMUD (Maggie Anton). I mean, it continues the story of the (renamed) main characters of THE CHOSEN (yes, Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, that one) and it’s Maggie Anton (yes, Rashi’s Daughters’ Maggie Anton, that one). So ignore the cheesy cover and the unnecessarily subtitled title, and enjoy!
BOOK/TV PAIRING – I didn’t plan it this way, but reading VANDERBILT: THE RISE AND FALL OF AN AMERICAN DYNASTY (Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe) and then later watching the first season of HBO’s “The Gilded Age” was like chocolate and raspberry – a perfect combo!
NOVELLAS – Two to share here, too, but they’re novellas so, you know, they’re short. AND EVERY MORNING THE WAY HOME GETS LONGER AND LONGER (Fredrik Backman) – thank you, Ruth Sherman; and ELEVATION (Stephen King) – thank you, Irene Gilbert.
And since the book I’m reading right now is quite good, and I may finish it before New Year’s, but don’t want to save writing this list for Shabbat… LEADING CONTENDER TO BE INCLUDED IN MY 2023 LIST – TRUST (Hernan Diaz).
Happy reading, y’all!