Best books of 2022
You know me: I love stories.
I love finding a tangy story between the pages of a book. I've been sharing my best books of the year since 2001.
I seem to be absorbing more nonfiction than fiction in the past few years thanks to audio nonfiction. It's much harder for me to listen to a novel. I want to rectify that in 2023, though, because I really do love fiction!
Here are my best books in 2022:
Finding Me, Viola Davis (B): Such an inspiring and talented woman who climbed out of deep poverty and disadvantage to become a rock star actor and producer.
“My biggest discovery was that you can literally re-create your life. You can redefine it. You don’t have to live in the past. I found that not only did I have fight in me, I had love.”― Viola Davis, Finding Me
Truth's Table: Black Women's Musings on Life, Love, and Liberation, Christina Edmondson, Ekemini Uwan, and Michelle Higgins (B): beautiful stories and essays about race, culture, gender, Black women's spirituality, and experience, shared by hosts of Truth's Table podcast.
Just Work: How to Root Out Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying to Build a Kick-Ass Culture of Inclusion, Kim Malone Scott: excellent examination of how to fix workplace culture
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, Nikole Hannah-Jones (B): the powerful and traumatic story of America's beginnings, which most of us were never taught.
“White Americans desire to be free of a past they do not want to remember, while Black Americans remain bound to a past they can never forget.” ― Nikole Hannah-Jones, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-first Century, Fiona Hill: Dr. Hill shares her own origins story from growing up in a Northern England mill town and compares the governments and cultures of the UK, US, and Russia. Excellent!
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement. Jodi Cantor, Megan Twohey (J): I read this after watching the excellent movie. Outstanding and compelling...and why we still need independent journalism.
Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner (K): Zauner reflects on grief, loss, food, growing up Korean in America, and music (she's the voice of "Japanese Breakfast").
Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All, Martha S. Jones (B): We've recently seen Black women save us again and again. This is not a recent phenomenon, as this book outlines.
Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk, Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe (Upper Skagit and Nooksack): Reclaiming an Indigenous woman's heritage in the Pacific Northwest.
Mastering Diabetes: The Revolutionary Method to Reverse Insulin Resistance Permanently in Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2, Prediabetes, and Gestational Diabetes, Cyrus Khambatta, R. Barbaro (D): After being diagnosed as prediabetic in April, I read this book and it changed everything about how I eat...whole food, plant based, no to low oil. Going plant based has changed my life and health.
White Women: Everything You Already Know about Your Own Racism and How to Do Better, Regina Jackson, Saira Rao (B, I): Jackson and Rao facilitate dinner conservations with white women and share what they see repeatedly in this book.
“There’s a saying in Germany. If there’s a Nazi at the table and ten other people sitting there talking to him, you got a table with eleven Nazis.” ― Regina Jackson, White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better
Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal, Mark Bittman: an outstanding history of food and the big business that surrounds it.
Black American Refugee: Escaping the Narcissism of the American Dream, Tiffanie Drayton (B): The author realized, eventually, that the U.S. could never meet her dreams of freedom.
One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, Brian Doyle: Doyle's loss was huge for Oregonians and readers everywhere. A final collection of his work.
Going There, Katie Couric: Interesting perspectives on women in journalism.
Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman's Fight to End Ableism, Elsa Sjunneson (D): I was tempted to write "eye-opening" but caught myself. Excellent perspectives on ableism and disability. You'll never look at "The Miracle Worker" in the same way again.
“Why is it the business of the nondisabled to determine what it means to be blind, or the business of the hearing to determine what it means to be deaf? Why are people who don't use wheelchairs policing the visual of a wheelchair user?” ― Elsa Sjunneson, Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman's Fight to End Ableism
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations, Mira Jacob (I): Jacob turns her conversations with her biracial son into a graphic book of beautiful, painful reflections about race.
Fits and Starts: Living with Epilepsy, Franziska Thomas (D): Thomas shares what it's like to live with the uncertainty of epilepsy, how she copes, and blessings she's found.
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Ian Cron: I'm a little bit obsessed with the Enneagram, and Cron has good insights. Can you guess which number I am?
The Lightmaker's Manifesto: How to Work for Change Without Losing Your Joy, Karen Walrond (B): Such an important manifesto about how to find and retain joy in activism.
Obviously: Stories from My Timeline, Akilah Hughes (B): Funny, poignant, and painful reflections on being a Black millennial woman in the United States.
The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree: How I Fought to Save Myself, My Sister, and Thousands of Girls Worldwide, Nice Leng'ete (B): A Masai woman who escaped female genital mutilation and led others to make the same choice.
Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman, Abby Stein (J, Q): How does a Hasidic person raised as a man grapple with self-discovery as a woman and their own faith?
Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School, Kendra James (B): James went to a bougy private boarding school in New England and eventually worked for that school, before realizing it was all bullshit.
Conversations with People Who Hate Me, Dylon Marron (Q): Marron decided to start a podcast interviewing his trolls. He shares how that played out.
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, Jennifer Finley Boylan (Q): I read two trans memoirs this year, and although good, this was the weaker one. There's a lot of academic name dropping and I felt sad for him and his wife in a sexless marriage.
Confessions of an Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae (B): I found this after watching Rae's show "Insecure."
Mama Bear: One Black Mother's Fight for Her Child's Life and Her Own, Shirley Smith (B): About the youngest preemie to ever survive and the daughter of NBA champion J.R. Smith.
Playing with Myself, Randy Rainbow (Q): Gotta love Randy Rainbow and his hilarious, creative videos about politics and culture. Yes, his name is really Randy Rainbow!
We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power, Rachel Rodgers (B): 2022 was my year to be coached by amazing Black women. I had a super-powerful business coach named Liz J. Simpson, and Rodgers reminded me a lot of her when I read this book.
Know My Name, Chanel Miller (C): You probably know Brock Turner's name. Miller was the woman he attacked. She tells her story.
Me, Elton John (Q): Frothy tell-all about John's life. Loved it.
“Stevie Wonder turned up one day and took out a snowmobile, insisting on driving it himself. To pre-empt your question: no, I have no idea how Stevie Wonder successfully piloted a snowmobile through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado without killing himself, or indeed anyone else, in the process, but he did.” ― Elton John, Me
The Last Black Unicorn, Tiffany Haddish (B): Hilarious and sad, and also problematic. I actively despised one of the chapters in this book, but overall it was interesting.
Here We Go Again: My Life in Television, Betty White: After White passed, I wanted to hear her voice again.
The Rose Code, Kate Quinn: The rarely told story of the women codebreakers at Bletchley Circle. Loved this book and have bought it for others. Last year's Best Books list included another of Quinn's novels, The Alice Network! Love her storytelling.
“If he doesn’t love me in a boiler suit, he’s not worth dressing up for in the first place.” ― Kate Quinn, The Rose Code
Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo (B): Twelve interwoven stories of Black British women...sometimes a little hard to keep track of the characters, but unforgettable stories.
Matrix, Lauren Groff: One of Barack Obama's favorite books of 2021, Matrix wasn't on my radar screen until I came across it in a bookstore in Cambridge, UK. As soon as I saw the protagonist's name was Marie and she was an abbess in the Middle Ages, I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint!
“What women can do when given a task! Their abilities seem limitless.” ― Lauren Groff, Matrix
Passage West, Rishi Reddi (I): Tells the undertold story of Indian sharecroppers on the west coast before World War I. Excellent book.
Embers on the Wind, Lisa W. Rosenberg (B, J): With a similar style to Girl, Woman, Other above, Embers focuses on a house on the Underground Railroad and stories of enslaved people who died in a fire there. Ghosts and intrigue. The story will stick with me for a long time.
Shutter, Ramona Emerson (Dine): A forensic photographer in New Mexico sees ghosts, which does not serve her well. Wonderful depiction of Dine (Navajo) culture.
The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich (Chippewa): Based on her grandfather's life, Erdrich tells the story of a night watchman who fights against a bill in congress that attempts to terminate Native people's rights to their land and livelihoods...along with a young native woman trying to find her missing sister.
Convenience Store Woman, Murata Sayaka (Jp): An unmarried woman flouts cultural expectations and works as a part-time convenience store worker.
“People who are considered normal enjoy putting those who aren't on trial, you know.” ― Sayaka Murata, コンビニ人間 [Konbini ningen]
The Italian Prisoner, Elisa Speranza: Written by a friend, The Italian Prisoner tells the fascinating and little-known story of Italian prisoners of war, who meet and mingle with the Italian community in New Orleans during WWII.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See (C): A beautiful story about foot binding and women's friendship in China.
The Henna Artist, Alka Joshi (I): A woman escaping an abusive marriage finds herself in Jaipur (where I have visited!), making a career for herself as a henna artist for wealthy women.
The Lost Apothecary, Sarah Penner: a woman escaping an adulterous husband finds herself chasing a historical story in London about a woman who helps others poison their abusive husbands.
Lakewood, Megan Giddings (B): Henrietta Lacks meets the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in modern times. Disturbing and mysterious.
Breasts and Eggs, Kawakami Mieko (J): Intimate, intertwined stories about women on the fringes of society, grappling with Japan's expectations for womanly perfection.
“My monolithic expectation of what a woman’s body was supposed to look like had no bearing on what actually happened to my body. The two things were wholly unrelated. I never became the woman I imagined. And what was I expecting?” ― Mieko Kawakami, Breasts and Eggs
The Dressmaker, Kate Alcott: Historical fiction about a dressmaker who survives the Titanic. Sent me to do my research about the real-life characters in the book.
Women Talking, Miriam Toews: I saw a trailer for a movie about this book...based on the true story of a secluded group of Mennonites whose women were drugged and attacked by the community's men...while they were sleeping. The book was a little lacking, but I plan to see the movie.
The Last Grand Duchess: A Novel of Olga Romanov, Imperial Russia, and Revolution, Bryn Turnbull: Historical fiction about the Romanovs. My mother-in-law's family escaped the Russian revolution, so I was driven to learn more about this story.
Key: B: Black, C: Chinese, Ch: Chippewa, D: Disabled, I: Indian, J: Jewish, Jp: Japanese, K: Korean, Q: LBGTQIA+, T: Tibetan
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