“Never trust anyone who hasn’t brought a book with them,” – Lemony Snicket
Reading seems to be a topic of conversation at the end of the year. I’ve seen a lot of fancy collages with book covers and articles about the “best books of the year.” Many of the same titles appear on everyone’s list. Other books are new to me. And my biggest problem is that my TBR list is growing exponentially.
I set my Goodreads goal for 40 books in 2023, but I’d like to hit 50 titles by this time next year. And because I have so many unread books, I’ve made myself a promise that half of the books I read next year will be from my current stacks.
As for 2022, I read 33 books—19 nonfiction (lots of memoirs) and 14 fiction. Here are some of my favorites.
The Tobacco Wives, by Adele Myers – I love history and reading, so it makes sense that one of my go-to genres is historical fiction. There is rarely a novel in this category that I don’t enjoy. I also love diving into a book with strong female characters set in a time period that I’ve never explored. This is that kind of book. Set in North Carolina, Maddie Sykes is a young seamstress tasked with sewing exquisite dresses and ballgowns for the wives of cigarette company executives. Maddie must make an important decision when she accidentally learns about the health risks of smoking and the cover-up to keep people–particularly women–in the dark. She can either keep her head down, stay quiet, and do her job, share what she knows, or take a stand against corporate greed, risk her livelihood, and more. In addition to this book being a five-star read for me, the author has a fascinating background that she brings to the story. She is a public relations professional who grew up in this part of the country. Her focus on how cigarettes were marketed to women by trusted doctors and false advertising plays a huge role in how this all shakes out. The author’s note was just as enjoyable to read as the book, so don’t skip it.
The Violin Conspiracy, by Brendan Slocumb – Hands down, this was my favorite fiction book for 2022. When people asked me what they should read next, I pressed this title into their hands. The main character, Ray, is a violinist with his most prized possession stolen from him—a $10 million Stradivarius—the night before the world’s largest classical music competition. There are several suspects and few witnesses to the crime. Did someone in his family steal it for the money? Did a rival family take it because they think it rightfully belongs to them?
I’m not going to tell you. 🙂 But, if you are looking for a well-written mystery with a side order of family drama, this is an excellent book.
Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson – Last year, I wanted to read a book from the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community. The hot book was “The Other Black Girl,” but I DNF’d it (did not finish) after reading about 2/3 of the book. Instead, I kept looking until I found this wonderful novel. Two estranged siblings come home upon the death of their mother and find she left them an eight-hour recording retelling her life story and a traditional black cake in the freezer. Her children are instructed to listen to the tapes together and share the black cake before they go their separate ways. What unfolds is an amazing story full of friendship, family, betrayals, secrets, and, yes, murder.
You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism, by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar – If you watch the late-night talk shows, you know Amber Ruffin. She is one of the writers on Late Night with Seth Myers. And I think she is hilarious and brilliant. She first caught my attention during the pandemic with her Easter Quarantine Parade video and her “Amber Says What” segments. Amber and her sister Lacey tell incredibly absurd, shocking, and sadly true stories about their everyday experiences with racism. Please do me and yourself a favor, and buy this title as an audiobook. The sisters have a wonderful banter and bond that adds so much to your reading experience. And if you like this book, there is also a sequel.
Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives by Mary Laura Philpott – I loved this author’s first book, “I Miss You When I Blink,” so I knew this would be excellent. I feel a close connection with this author because she shares my sense of humor, level of parental anxiety, and positive outlook on life. We are both middle age and have two college-age children. We are both trying our best to support them and guide them without interfering in their lives which is a thin line to walk sometimes. Her musings about motherhood and marriage validate my choices while also looking optimistically at the future. The other thing I liked about this memoir was the format she used. It isn’t often that a memoir is written in personal essay form – almost like a blog post. Each chapter tells a different story, and they don’t necessarily connect to each other or follow a timeline. But she weaves together a relatable series of moments that any woman of a certain age (or man, for that matter) would be unable to put down.
Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, by Katy Tur – I’m a bit of a political junkie and a Democrat. (If you are a fan of the former president, feel free to skip this book review). For the rest of you, Katy Tur gives the most riveting account of her time covering the Trump campaign in 2016. She documents his inconsistencies, outright lies and attempts to charm and intimidate her. Her stories are true to the title of her book, unbelievable.
What are some of your favorite books from last year? I’m sure my TBR has room for an