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03 Jan 2023
The best books I read in 2022

I read a lot of books in 2022, and a high percentage of them were truly excellent! What a great year for reading!

Books related to trauma and abuse

  • Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott - This gutted me. A Baba Yaga inspired fantasy novel about 3G pogrom survivors.
  • Before All The World by Moriel Rothman-Zecher - This too. A brutal pogrom/diaspora book, the language is stunning, the stories are stark.
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow - Made me cry. And I loved it so much that I read it twice in one year! If you have old pain, siblings, and a baby, it might clench hard in your chest and throat too. A tiny bit reminiscent of The Power and maybe Wicked, but much better
  • Night by Elie Wiesel - yeah this was a correct holocaust book
  • In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado - Memoir of domestic abuse. The image of the abuser just shouting poison into the narrator, ooft.
  • Carrie by Stephen King - Reread, for the first time since I was an adolescent. It holds up.
  • What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing From Complex Trauma by Stephanie Woo
  • A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee - the gentleness that hides horrors, conveyed with great delicacy
  • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah - (hey Mollie, this is another entrails-hanging-from-chandeliers one!)

Other books that related to Judaism

  • The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar
  • Shmutz by Felicia Berliner - ending was unsatisfying, but there was a lot of yiddish filth I got a huge kick out of along the way
  • People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn - Non-fiction, lots of truth.
  • More Stories From My Father’s Court by Isaac Bashevis Singer - there’s something just soothing about this sort of old-fashioned Jewish storytelling for me
  • My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen - Romance with a cooking competition and a secretly Jewish love interest
  • People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy edited by Rachel Swirsky & Sean Wallace - I particularly loved Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel by Peter S. Beagle

Other books that related to colonialism (obvs this overlaps with trauma)

  • Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez - Puerto Rican / Nuyorican history, colonialism, complicity. The different ways we try to fight the system, from inside and out, hurt each other while fighting just fights and help each other while abetting harmful systems, try to repair and survive and thrive. Lots of fairly heavy-handed symbolism and a rushed ending, but overall I really liked the ethical nuance explored. What’s selfish, earning money but also helping family or neighbors? Ditching kids to fight for freedom? Getting fame and being able to help some, but at the cost of secrets and compromises?
  • Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li - Heist novel where Chinese American grad students steal back stolen Chinese art from western museums
  • Babel by R.F. Kuang - Academic fantasy, linguistics and colonialism
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (reread)

Other scifi/fantasy

  • The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik - Last book in the Scholomance trilogy, so good I wish I was a slower reader so I could’ve spent more time in this world
  • Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki - trans violinist, teacher who needs to trade souls to the devil to save her own, space alien mom love interest selling donuts, older women queer love story
  • The Dark is Rising (series) by Susan Cooper - Reread from my youth, which really held up. The only Christmassy books I can tolerate.
  • KL Noir: Magic edited by Deric Ee
  • Someone in Time: Tales of Time Crossed Romance edited by Jonathan Strahan - Lots of good stories, but my fav was The Difference Between Love and Time by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente - Post-climate-disaster but in a kinda happy way?

Other romance

  • A Lady For A Duke by Alexis Hall - regency romance with trans protagonist, absolutely beautifully written
  • The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley - autistic love interest (romance novels with autistic characters have a special place in my heart)
  • The Warlord’s Wife by Sandra Lake - the love interest initially falls in love with being a good dad to the protagonist’s daughter from her first lover
  • The Switch by Beth O’Leary - protagonist swaps lives with her grandmother, super cute
  • Paris Daillencourt Is About To Crumble by Alexis Hall - m/m baking show romance, but the actually great heart of the story is the way the protagonist has anxiety that gets diagnosed during the book, plus there’s a delightful female dom roommate side character

Other fiction

  • Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn - Older female retired professional assassins, reunion tour / last job story
  • The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante - maternal ambivalence
  • The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey - husband leaves her for her clone that he built and trained to be more docile &c
  • All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad - what struck me here was that the mother, after her abusive first marriage, managed to really find a bunch of caring gentle guys and allow herself to be loved. It’s an astonishing story of recovery from trauma, under the hood. Also yay Jewish.
  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus - reminds me just the tiniest bit of Last Samurai, largely in that there’s an intelligent troubled angry single mother
  • Would I Lie To You? by Aliya Ali-Afzal - Harrowing. It gets across the awful stress and terror of lying and hiding and desperation very effectively, which made it a very uncomfortable read. Plus racism, and the difficulties of motherhood.
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - lots of twists and missing knowledge and queerness and betrayal
  • X by Davey Davis - hottest book ever
  • Boy Parts by Eliza Clark - what really struck me was how hard the protagonist worked at trying to be seen as as dangerous as she was
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (reread)

Other non-fiction

  • I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
  • Fuzz by Mary Roach - all Mary Roach is sublime
  • The Scout Mindset by Julia Galef
  • Lying For Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of Our World by Dan Davies

Short stories available online

Honorable Mentions

  • Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean - Honestly can’t tell if this was a great book, or just resonated with some intense personal memories for me - perhaps if you’ve ever lost touch with someone you loved as a child, it’ll hit you hard too
  • An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen - Romance novel between a baal t’shuvah and a frum guy and his family, confronting hypocrisy with a lot of love
  • Toyols R Us by Terence Toh
  • When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo - Trini magical realism love story!
  • Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon - Romance, fine, but what I really liked was how the protagonist is depressed but coping okay and there’s totally background humdrum Judaism
  • The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews - Romance. Excellent horsewoman protagonist, Indian tailor love interest makes her riding habits
  • Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai - Romance with heist hijinks (apparently this year I was into heist-movie-ish novels)
  • Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell - Queer psi romance
  • Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin - Game developers, growing up. All characters bad at opening up to each other. I liked it more than I usually like vibes-based fiction.
  • The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan - too many loose threads, unsatisfying ending, but along the way it was intense and painful and good
  • The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb - Race and music and violin theft and family and getting out while both honoring and discarding the past
  • The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum - On the edge of being too vibesy for me, but with some Talmud so I overall liked it
  • Honor by Thrity Umrigar - Indian American journalist goes back to India, investigates honor killing. I didn’t like the protagonist’s love story, but a lot else was fairly striking
  • Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel - Indian street kid grows up, learns to take care of herself instead of relying resentfully on unreliable caretaking from others
  • The Last Flight by Julie Clark - a woman escapes her abusive husband, another woman tries to escape the trap of drug dealer life
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers - Most of her stuff is way too slow and vibes-driven for me, but this was a soothing guide for enjoying things as they’re ending
  • The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher - Too long and dull at times, marvelously cozy and comforting at others. Very character-driven. The plot was about small, domestic issues. A war novel, but fundamentally it was about how to live in small ways while the world goes on.
  • A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys - Jewish scifi! Reminds me a bit of the Species Imperative books, with some of the more modern gender-focused and cozy vibes-based touches, and a bit of old Heinlein creative family building

Total number of books read in 2022: 219