Ushering in 2023 with a look back at 2022.
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 Libro.fm 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 2022 — Jackie & 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:
- Yonder* — Jabari Asim
- I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home* — Jami Attenberg
- Antoinette’s Sister — Diana Giovinazzo
- French Braid* — Ann Tyler
- Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations for How to Become American* — Wajahat Ali
- The School for Good Mothers* — Jessamine Chan
- Our American Friend — Anna Pitoniak
- Thank You, Mr. Nixon* — Gish Jen
- The Vanishing Half — Brit Bennett
- The Water Dancer — Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Remains of the Day — Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Giant, O’Brien — Hilary Mantel
- Wide Sargasso Sea — Jean Rhys
- Their Eyes Were Watching God — Zora Neale Hurston
- Every Day Is Mother’s Day — Hilary Mantel
- Metropolis — B.A. Shapiro
- The Unquiet Dead — Stacie Murphy
- Play It As It Lays — Joan Didion
- The Great War in America — Garrett Peck
- The Hive+ — Melissa Scholes Young
- The Muralist+ — B.A. Shapiro
- A Deadly Fortune+ — Stacie Murphy
- Real Bad Things — Kelly J. Ford
- The Art Forger+ — B.A. Shapiro
- Brother, I’m Dying — Edwidge Danticat
- Black Buck+ — Mateo Askaripour
- The Stone Diaries — Carol Shields
- The Liars’ Club — Mary Karr
- I’m a Stranger Here Myself+ — Bill Bryson
- Notes from a Small Island+ — Bill Bryson
- Neither Here Nor There+ — Bill Bryson
- The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven+ — Nathaniel Ian Miller
- The Marriage Portrait* — Maggie O’Farrell
- Jackie & Me* (for interview) — Louis Bayard
- A Visit from the Goon Squad+ — Jennifer Egan
- Avalon* — Nell Zink
- Doxology+ — Nell Zink
- Mislaid+ — Nell Zink
- The Secret Lives of Church Ladies+ — Deesha Philyaw
- Admit This to No One — Leslie Pietrzyk
- My Brilliant Friend — Elena Ferrante
- Mercury Pictures Presents* — Anthony Marra
- My Monticello+ — Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
- The Fifth Act: America’s End in Afghanistan* — Elliot Ackerman
- Places and Names+ — Elliot Ackerman
- Fen, Bog & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis* — Annie Proulx
- After You’d Gone+ — Maggie O’Farrell
- Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships* — Nina Totenberg
- The Hero of This Book* — Elizabeth McCracken
- Platypus Matters: The Extraordinary Story of Australian Mammals* — Jack Ashby
- The Pale Blue Eye — Louis Bayard
- The Big Fix: 7 Practical Steps to Save Our Planet* — Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis
- The Gene+ — Siddhartha Mukherjee
- Thistlefoot+ — GennaRose Nethercott
- Rachel to the Rescue — Elinor Lipman
- Playing Under the Piano — Hugh Bonneville
- Lady Justice+ — Dahlia Lithwick
- Furious Hours+ — Casey Cep
- The Marsh Queen — Virginia Hartman
- Everything’s Fine — Cecilia Rabess
- No One Left to Come Looking For You — Sam Lipsyte
- The Company of Strangers — Jen Michalski
* = Reviewed for the Independent
+ = Audiobook
Jennifer Bort Yacovissi is president of the Independent.