Reflections on a Year of Reading

Ushering in 2023 with a look back at 2022.

Reflections on a Year of Reading

Most avid readers are good about keeping a list of the books they read each year. Some go so far as to write a small description and assessment of each one. God bless them, I say. My year-end routine consists of a predictably last-minute search through my slapdash journal notes, bookshelves, published reviews, and library to recreate the record of what I’ve read in the preceding 12 months.

In this year now past, I ended up listening to many more audiobooks than normal, the result of a new 1.5-hour round-trip commute between my house and my mother’s apartment, as her need for assistance increased. I find that I can bear Capital Beltway and I-95 traffic as long as there’s something as captivating as My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson or The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw to listen to.

Though not as much of my reading focused on reviewing, I was especially lucky in 2022 for the opportunity to review books by some of my all-time favorite authors, including Anthony Marra’s Mercury Pictures Presents, Elliot Ackerman’s The Fifth Act: America’s End in Afghanistan, and Elizabeth McCracken’s The Hero of This Book. I also had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Louis Bayard about his latest book — and one of my favorites for 2022Jackie & Me.

(Just for fun, knowing that the screen adaptation of Lou’s The Pale Blue Eye was on its way to theaters and then Netflix for the holidays, I re-read the book so I’d be ready to do a compare/contrast.)

I admit to still feeling conflicted about Maggie O’Farrell’s The Marriage Portrait. DC book influencer Tayla Burney and I exchanged thoughts on our various takes on its ending, but a quick glance through the many glowing reviews on LitHub’s Book Marks reveals my qualms are in the minority.

One of the highlights of any year is the reading I do to prep for interviews at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which typically means reading an author’s most recent book as well as their previous works. In 2022, I had the honor to interview Stacie Murphy about her second-in-a-series, The Unquiet Dead — I’m certainly hoping the third will be available soon — and B.A. Shapiro for her latest, Metropolis. I also got to introduce Nathaniel Ian Miller, and thus listened to his debut, The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven.

And speaking of GBF: When I temporarily moved in with my mother last spring, one book I found in her collection was Elinor Lipman’s Rachel to the Rescue, which tickled me because it was the book Elinor said she was working on when I interviewed her at the 2019 festival.

Another book I found in Mom’s apartment was Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, which is how it came to be my entry on the Independent’s “The Book I’m FINALLY Going to Read This Summer” list. I half-read and half-listened to it, but my takeaway is that I don’t appreciate books that end with a punchline.

I probably did more reading and listening for my own enjoyment in 2022 than normal, and I pulled heavily from my TBR stack, including Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half — which I consumed in two back-to-back reading sessions — and a ton of the volumes curated for me by the gruff-but-heart-of-gold folks at Capitol Hill Books in their mid-pandemic delivery of my Mystery Book Box. Some new titles I read just for myself included Leslie Pietrzyk’s Admit This to No One, Melissa Scholes Young’s The Hive, and Kelly J. Ford’s Real Bad Things.

I also read Hugh Bonneville’s memoir Playing Under the Piano after engaging in a brief but delightful Twitter exchange with him and Lou Bayard in advance of their appearance together at Politics and Prose, where I snagged signed copies of both of their books.

There were a number of books I started and never finished, often because I was on deadline to read something else, but not always. There are also a few I hadn’t finished by the time the ball dropped on 2022 — among them And There Was Light by Jon Meacham and If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery — so they’ll be logged on my 2023 reading list (which, if my resolution sticks, I’ll be maintaining all year long).

The Books I Read (or Listened to) in 2022:

  1. Yonder* — Jabari Asim
  2. I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home* — Jami Attenberg
  3. Antoinette’s Sister — Diana Giovinazzo
  4. French Braid* — Ann Tyler
  5. Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations for How to Become American* — Wajahat Ali
  6. The School for Good Mothers* — Jessamine Chan
  7. Our American Friend — Anna Pitoniak
  8. Thank You, Mr. Nixon* — Gish Jen
  9. The Vanishing Half — Brit Bennett
  10. The Water Dancer — Ta-Nehisi Coates
  11. The Remains of the Day — Kazuo Ishiguro
  12. The Giant, O’Brien — Hilary Mantel
  13. Wide Sargasso Sea — Jean Rhys
  14. Their Eyes Were Watching God — Zora Neale Hurston
  15. Every Day Is Mother’s Day — Hilary Mantel
  16. Metropolis — B.A. Shapiro
  17. The Unquiet Dead — Stacie Murphy
  18. Play It As It Lays — Joan Didion
  19. The Great War in America — Garrett Peck
  20. The Hive+ — Melissa Scholes Young
  21. The Muralist+ — B.A. Shapiro
  22. A Deadly Fortune+ — Stacie Murphy
  23. Real Bad Things — Kelly J. Ford
  24. The Art Forger+ — B.A. Shapiro
  25. Brother, I’m Dying — Edwidge Danticat
  26. Black Buck+ — Mateo Askaripour
  27. The Stone Diaries — Carol Shields
  28. The Liars’ Club — Mary Karr
  29. I’m a Stranger Here Myself+ — Bill Bryson
  30. Notes from a Small Island+ — Bill Bryson
  31. Neither Here Nor There+ — Bill Bryson
  32. The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven+ — Nathaniel Ian Miller
  33. The Marriage Portrait* — Maggie O’Farrell
  34. Jackie & Me* (for interview) — Louis Bayard
  35. A Visit from the Goon Squad+ — Jennifer Egan
  36. Avalon* — Nell Zink
  37. Doxology+ — Nell Zink
  38. Mislaid+ — Nell Zink
  39. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies+ — Deesha Philyaw
  40. Admit This to No One — Leslie Pietrzyk
  41. My Brilliant Friend — Elena Ferrante
  42. Mercury Pictures Presents* — Anthony Marra
  43. My Monticello+ — Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
  44. The Fifth Act: America’s End in Afghanistan* — Elliot Ackerman
  45. Places and Names+ — Elliot Ackerman
  46. Fen, Bog & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis* — Annie Proulx
  47. After You’d Gone+ — Maggie O’Farrell
  48. Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships* — Nina Totenberg
  49. The Hero of This Book* — Elizabeth McCracken
  50. Platypus Matters: The Extraordinary Story of Australian Mammals* — Jack Ashby
  51. The Pale Blue Eye — Louis Bayard
  52. The Big Fix: 7 Practical Steps to Save Our Planet* — Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis
  53. The Gene+ — Siddhartha Mukherjee
  54. Thistlefoot+ — GennaRose Nethercott
  55. Rachel to the Rescue — Elinor Lipman
  56. Playing Under the Piano — Hugh Bonneville
  57. Lady Justice+ — Dahlia Lithwick
  58. Furious Hours+ — Casey Cep
  59. The Marsh Queen — Virginia Hartman
  60. Everything’s Fine — Cecilia Rabess
  61. No One Left to Come Looking For You — Sam Lipsyte
  62. The Company of Strangers — Jen Michalski

* = Reviewed for the Independent
+ = Audiobook

Jennifer Bort Yacovissi is president of the Independent.

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