The 10 Best Books I Read in 2022

Woman reading on a chair

I'm sipping a cup of Novel Tea as I write this. These little sachets of rich English breakfast blend were a gift from a writing friend. What sets these particular tea bags apart from the average Brit brew are the literary quotes attached to each one. During each 5-minute seep, I read whatever pithy phrase just happens to be hanging from the end and smile because I love bookish sayings almost as much as I love books.


Today's quotation? 

"Never judge a book by its movie." ~JW Eagan

I quite agree, Mr. Eagan. What's more, because I didn't watch very many movies this year, I was able to plow through dozens of good books. Some simple calculations helped me determine just how many.

According to my trusty reading journal, I started 109 titles (44 nonfiction/memoir and 65 fiction), pulled the plug on 15 that I didn't care for, and brought 9 uncompleted titles with me into the new year for a total of 85 completed books in 2022. 

As I was going through the final edits and audio recordings of my book Holy Hygge these past twelve months, I also read, re-read, and listened to it about 8 billion times, give or take a few. But don't worry, I only counted it once in my journal. 

Here's a look at the ten I enjoyed most.

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The 10 Best Books I Read in 2022 #booklife #readinglife #topbooks #booklist

Best of fiction


5. The Thursday Murder Club 

by Richard Osman

I've never been a fan of mysteries or murder or murder mysteries. I tend to avoid all three if I can help it. But when this book was slotted for October by my monthly book club, I reluctantly cracked it open and hoped for the best. Turns out, the murder was only a bit part of the story and was not described in menacing detail. The book was mostly about a group of octogenarians who band together in their retirement village to solve a murder case that continues to stump the local police. It was a tale of hijinx, not horror.  


4. Plot Twist

by Bethany Turner

When Olivia Roth makes a pact with an anonymous stranger on February 4, 2003, agreeing to meet him at a coffee shop in ten years with a finished movie script in hand, she has no idea how her life will turn upside down. But every subsequent February 4th finds her in a plot twist that upends her life and her love.

I whipped through this one last September. Like most Rom-coms, it was somewhat predictable. But with a witty, contemporary plot and 90s pop culture references, it made for the kind of light reading that the start of a new school year demands. 
 

3. Once Upon a Wardrobe

by Patti Callahan

Seeking to bolster the spirits of her ailing younger brother, seventeen-year-old Margaret Devonshire sets out to uncover the back story of Narnia from Oxford English professor C.S. Lewis. Over time, she forms a special bond with the best-selling author and in the process finds hope, not just for her brother, but also for herself. 


2. Lovely War

by Julie Berry

The worlds of a classically trained British pianist, a grunt soldier in the allied army, a Harlem-born American, and a Belgian evacuee collide in this sweeping WWII drama. Interspersed throughout their narrative is the courtroom trial of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, charged with adultery. Little does her stricken husband Hephaestus know it is for the sake of the four humans that she must pretend not to love him. 

It took me a while to get into this one as I'm not too fond or knowledgeable of Greek mythology. But, I'm glad I stuck with it. 


1. Sunflower Sisters

by Martha Hall Kelly

Based on true accounts of the Woolsey family of New York, this is the story of a few very different women--an abolitionist from a highly respected socialite family, a young slave girl, and her spoiled southern owner--caught up in the perils of the Civil War. On the brink of a national collapse, these three will each take different paths to do what they think is best for themselves and their country. 

What I loved most about this story was that it wasn't tidy because war never is--several loose ends were left undone and much-loved characters died. Since I just happened to be reading it while my boys and I were studying the Civil War, I was able to appreciate certain historical details about the plot that I otherwise may have passed over with little thought or care. 


Best of Non-fiction


5. Find Your People

by Jennie Allen

Although I really enjoyed reading about the communal living practices of other countries and cultures that the author sprinkled throughout the pages, nothing about the book or its theme of friendship was all that groundbreaking. That said, it hit all the right notes and left me feeling so appreciative of the friendships I have formed in the past few years of living in my transplant city. Moreover, it encouraged me toward vulnerability in order to make deeper, more meaningful connections with others. It's a timely book for our post-pandemic culture. 


4. Locally Laid

by Lucie B. Amundsen

Pay no attention to the cheeky title of this one written by a local writer turned mid-ag, chicken farmer in my own town. While this memoir is jam-packed with information about sustainable farm practices and the mismanagement of farming due to government regulations and corporate lobbyists--topics I'd usually never find even remotely interesting--it was actually a rather entertaining read filled with honesty, grit, and a whole lot of humor. It opened my eyes to things like the societal cost of buying organic (Yes, organic produce is sprayed with fewer pesticides. But I now understand that "organic" is definitely more of a mixed bag when it comes to other important things like slave/child labor, local economy, and overall health benefits), the struggles of local businesses in a big business world, and the power of small-town pluck.  

This was another book club selection that I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own but which I appreciate having read. When discussing the book as a club, we all agreed that much of our delight in the story came from seeing the names of people we know and places we've been to listed in the book. (You'll remember, it's from a local-to-us author.) But, we wondered if it would garner the same kind of reception from readers in other parts of the state or country. 

Please note: This one includes some explicit language and a few sexual innuendos. 


3. Soundtracks

by Jon Acuff

Overthinkers tend to develop unhealthy thought patterns about themselves and their work. These contemplations eventually become a continuous loop of negativity in their head, crippling their efforts toward growth...or so says comedic writer, Jon Acuff. 

Like, Find Your People, this book was not earth-shattering. But it was an entertaining look at the pitfalls of negative self-talk and a welcome reminder to turn off my personal criticisms. 


2. Educated

by Tara Westover

I went into this one with some trepidation knowing it has received very mixed reviews from the homeschooling community. Some have touted it as proof that a child doesn't need the "system" to learn. Others have said it's a blight on the community at large as it has encouraged criticisms from outsiders who assume all homeschool parents abuse their children.

That said, I'm very glad I finally read it. It's well-written, introspective, and unapologetically raw. Ironically, I personally know a few homeschoolers who would fall under the "off-the-grid, raise a rebellious fist against anyone who has chosen a more-modern lifestyle, patriarchal" stereotype, and yet, I know they represent the exception of homeschoolers and not the rule. 

Please note: This one includes some language and depictions of the physical and mental abuse of children.


1. The Residence

by Kate Anderson Brower

No one has a more intimate look into the lives of America's first families quite like the resident workers of the White House. Hired from word-of-mouth recommendations, these faithful few serve the country by serving its leader regardless of whether they agree with his politics, like him personally, or voted for him during the last election. This book peels back the walls of the most famous home to give readers a glimpse at the day-to-day workings of the house. I especially enjoyed learning about how the workers handle the transition from one administration to another and how they manage presidential deaths and/or scandals. 


We're only a week into the new year and I've finished a book that will no doubt land in one of the top spots of the 2023 list. Then again, 51 weeks' worth of books are still waiting to be discovered. I probably shouldn't be tossing around words like "best" just yet. Stay tuned. Until then, be sure to join me for my What We're Reading lists to get the play-by-play each month. 

What were the best books you read in 2022? 


13 comments:

  1. I read Educated a couple of years ago because I wanted to be able to speak to those who criticize homeschooling, based on this book, if it ever came up. I don't think it is a fair assessment for those who see this as a blight to the homeschooling community nor do I think it's proof that a child doesn't need the system to learn. It's one person's story and I'm thankful it was written as a "here's my story, here's my experience" as opposed to "here's what I went through and this is how it is for all homeschool families so something needs to change." I was also going into it cautiously because of the hype/reviews. It was very well written and I can still remember parts of it well. It kinda stayed with me for a while.
    One of my favorite fictions from last year was When Christmas Comes by Andrew Klavan. (Mystery) And I'm reading the next one in the series now A Strange Habit of Mind. The best non-fiction this year was Tactics by Greg Koukl.
    Also, I'm on the chapter on Rest in Holy Hygge. This is a very timely book for me where I am more accepting of my homemaker role and have been feeling led to make hospitality a priority. Lots of book darts being used. ;) Thank you, I appreciate that you point to Jesus, that you include Scripture, and keep it practical. I'm grateful for this perspective on home and hospitality.

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    1. It sounds like we had similar views of Educated. It's sad that others can't see it as one person's lived experience. I've not heard of the other books you've mentioned. I'll have to look them up. Thanks for sharing your encouraging words about Holy Hygge.

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  2. I have only read one of these, Once Upon a Wardrobe. I loved it too. Becoming Mrs. Lewis was an awkward read for me so I was pleasantly surprised by this one! It looks like I have more to add to my list!

    Deanna

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    1. I felt the same way about Becoming Mrs. Lewis. It actually made me feel slightly uncomfortable and painted Lewis in a bad light.

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    2. I had the exact response to “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” and was also hesitant to read her other title. Looks like I should add it to my “to read” list after all!

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    3. Cathryn, Once Upon a Wardrobe is very clean and enjoyable. It's hard to believe that the books were written by the same person.

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    4. Yes! I also did NOT enjoy becoming Mrs. Lewis (as a wife and mother, I was surprised by and didn’t agree with a lot of Joy’s choices), although I loved Once Upon a Wardrobe (which I had read first). I also listened to your book, Holy Hygge, and it was one of my favorite nonfiction books of the year.

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    5. I'm glad you enjoyed Holy Hygge. Thank you for that encouragement.

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  3. I read The Residence based on your posting this year. I loved it! Couldn't put it down. So intriguing! Makes my desire to really see inside the White House much more real!

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  4. Unless you wrote a disclaimer, are these fiction books okay for teens/high schoolers? I have read Once Upon a Wardrobe and I would definitely say "yes!" on that one! Thanks!

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    1. Lovely War is a YA, but I honestly would not give it to a teen. It's more for 18+, I don't remember Plot Twist having anything questionable in it. I think it was put out by a Christian publisher, if memory serves.

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