Books I Read in 2022

I’m a slow reader and I go through phases when I’m too frazzled to focus on a book. This year I started out with the goal of reading a couple books a month, and I didn’t quite make it. But I want to be a good literary citizen. As a writer of books, I want to support authors who share my passion for words and make a life of it. Reading them, I learn from their example, find inspiration, and improve my craft. So, to support these authors and show my gratitude for their work, here is the list of books I read in 2022.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. In this epic tale of the early history of Haiti, a slave girl grows up on a sugar plantation to become the mother of her master’s children, and by middle age makes it to freedom in French New Orleans.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. This Portland author writes a prescient, suspenseful story about solidarity among troubled women in a fictional post-Roe fight for women’s civil rights and reproductive freedom, set in rural Oregon. 

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan. A cavalcade of characters reckons with the futuristic concept of social media without limits as people put all their memories online in a public, searchable database, and cope with the outcomes.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. A shared love of food heals the broken relationship between a stylish but demanding Korean mother and her rebellious daughter. Set in the present where I live, in Eugene, Oregon.

Eva Luna by Isabel Allende. Magical realism, eccentric characters, and class struggle are set against the politics and history of a South American nation in stories told by a young woman. 

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. An intimate portrait of life in a Native American family in the 1950s as they fight against racism and try to stop the U.S. Congress from invalidating the treaties that give protected status to their homeland reservations.

Kindred by Octavia Butler. A gripping thriller told from the point-of-view of an adventurous black woman who time travels back and forth between a pre-Civil War slave plantation in the South and her home in 1970s Los Angeles. 

Normal People by Sally Rooney. Set in the present time, a circle of friends evolve from high school to college to early career as they cope with gender, disillusion, and anxiety.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. A romance about domestic abuse written by a hugely successful author. I had to understand why she is so popular and now I get it. A compelling plot, ripe sex, and admirable women.

Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet. The author is an accomplished eco-provocateur. After I read this story of middle-class suburban family life in the Arizona desert, I had to ponder that title. She makes a point. 

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. In this story of personal failure and family fatigue, I found the most illuminating saga of chronic depression that I’ve ever read. A well-written reminder that our worst times can also be very funny.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith. An elitist culture clash between two erudite black families tied to the same liberal arts college in Boston. Politically astute, the matriarchs are fabulous, the husbands are flawed, and the kids are too clever. 

The Year of the Horses: A Memoir by Courtney Maum. A new mother is exhausted by  self-doubt until she pushes herself to take polo lessons and lives through death by horse. Brave and personal. 

Getting Lost by Annie Ernaux. Living in Paris, a famous author in her 50s has an affair with a married Russian diplomat and keeps a journal describing their sex life and her fear of being old. True story, actual journal. 

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen. A simple satire, sly, and funny, about snakes, rich old people, and contemporary politics in Florida.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. The true story of a mixed-race boy growing up in apartheid South Africa where it was against the law for races to mix. With even-handed humor and ironic insight, he explains the mechanics of colonization.

The Big Balloon (A Love Story) by Rick Berlin. A queer Boston music legend gives a rambling tour of his memories with sentimental wit, poignant reflection, and unflinching vulgarity. When I was 22, he invited me to a matinee and took me to see Pink Flamingos. Changed my life. 

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