Did you finish the 2022 Reading Challenge? With a book for every week, here are all 52 books I read this year for my 2022 Reading Challenge.
On my birthday, I realized the year would be over in less than three weeks and I hadn’t finished my 2022 Reading Challenge. I still had three books to go!
How embarrassing would that have been to have failed my own reading challenge?!
Admittedly, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I didn’t finish. I always tell people that the Booklist Queen Reading Challenge is more about the journey than the destination. There’s no prize for finishing all 52 categories. The reading challenge is just a means to focus your reading efforts to increase your reading and read more diversely.
But, still, I would never live it down if I didn’t finish. I picked the categories, for goodness sake.
If you’re curious, here are all 52 books I read this year. Some were excellent, some were terrible, but all satisfied a reading challenge category.
Now I’m off to start planning my books for the 2023 Reading Challenge!
1. By an Author You Love
Force of Nature
In the Australian Outback, when five women set out on a hike for a corporate retreat but only four return, Federal Police Investigator Aaron Falk is drawn into the case. The missing woman was to be a key witness against the company, giving her coworkers plenty of motive to want her dead.
After reading The Dry, I knew I had to pick up the second Aaron Falk mystery. Although the mystery itself was good, showcasing how quickly a team can fall apart when things go wrong, there was no reason this book needed to be a sequel. Falk himself added almost nothing to the plot and could have been easily removed.
2. Goodreads Winner in 2021
With one foot in both worlds, biracial teen Daunis Fontaine has never fully fit in with the wealthy white residents of her hometown or with the members of the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis’s eye gets caught by her brother’s new hockey teammate, who isn’t whom he seems. When Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, she gets pulled into a drug investigation that could tear her community apart.
I went into Firekeeper’s Daughter without knowing much about the premise, so the shocking twist about a quarter of the way in really caught me off-guard. Suddenly, I went from being lukewarm about the book to enthralled by the story, though Boulley went a little over-the-top with the ending. This fast-paced young adult thriller had the perfect blend of love story and action while still showcasing the issues facing Native communities.
3. Book Becoming Movie in 2022
Pieces of Her
How well do we really know our mothers? Andrea thought she knew everything about her mother – who lived a quiet life in their small beachside town. Until a trip to the mall erupts in violence and shatters everything Andrea thought she knew. Before she was Laura, her mother was someone else, and, on the run, Andrea must piece together the clues of her mother’s past.
Pieces of Her starts with a bang, immediately grabbing your attention with a stunning opening scene. Andy made an interesting heroine, her constant internal monologue made her realistic, but also drags the pace down. However, I thought the mystery was entertaining and left me pondering what I would do in Andy’s situation.
4. Book with a Twist
The Couple Next Door
When their babysitter bails at the last minute, new parents Anne and Marco Conti decide they can still attend a dinner party at their next-door neighbor’s house. Despite checking on baby Cora every half hour, when they return home, she is gone. Suspicion immediately falls on the panicked couple because they are both hiding secrets. A must-read psychological thriller, The Couple Next Door instantly pulled me in and didn’t let me go. I thought the tension and timing of the revelations worked well, and I loved all the twists despite the fact that I guessed the ending.
5. Speculative Fiction
Sea of Tranquility
Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel (author of Station Eleven) returns with her third novel, a story about parallel worlds and alternate possibilities. In 1912, a young man hears a violin playing in the Canadian woods, an event that a videographer captures in the present day. Two hundred years later, a famous writer includes a similar haunting scene in one of her books. Decades later, Gaspery-Jacques Roberts is hired to investigate this anomaly in time, one that has the potential to disrupt the universe’s timeline.
At under 300 pages with a large font and small size, Sea of Tranquility is an extremely short read. Mandel brilliantly writes literary science fiction, and Sea of Tranquility has a gorgeous lyrical presence to it. The story is simple and unrushed, laying out each scenario and then tying it all together as Gaspery-Jacques’ time-traveling contemplates the nature of destiny and fate.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Knopf Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
6. With a Bird on the Cover
Grieving from the recent death of her nonverbal autistic son, Olivia retreats to a Nantucket beach to take stock of her life. On Nantucket, stay-at-home mom Beth is rocked to discover her husband’s infidelity. As Beth tries to find herself again, she begins to write a story about a boy with autism, a boy who seems a lot like Olivia’s son. A sweet, albeit sappy story, Love Anthony does an excellent job portraying autism from lots of different angles yet doesn’t exactly wow with its character development.
7. About a Difficult Choice
The Love of My Life
When Emma falls seriously ill, her husband Leo begins to research her life for her obituary. The more he digs into his wife’s past, the more he realizes everything she told him about herself is a lie, including her name. Now Emma must convince Leo that he really does know her, but first she must tell him about the other love of her life.
Despite all the buzz around Rosie Walsh’s latest novel (including a Good Morning America book club selection), I was disappointed with The Love of My Life. Don’t get me wrong. Emma’s story is extremely poignant and memorable. However, the first half of the novel constantly hinted at the “big secret,” which was more of an annoyance than a hook. Although this slow-burn domestic drama picked up in the middle, the ending slowed back down, making the pacing seem all off.
8. Published in 2012
Throne of Glass
Sarah J. Maas
After spending a year of hard labor for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is taken before the Crown Prince. He wants Celaena to be his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she’ll be granted her freedom after four years of service. As Celaena trains with the gruff Captain of the Guard and catches the eye of the Crown Prince, she must use all her strength to fight off her competitors and all her wits to discover who is murdering contestants.
I was completely hooked by this fantasy bestseller with its fun premise and a deliciously stereotypical love triangle. The addition of a magic element partway through was a little rough transition, but Mass set up enough hints and political intrigue to fill out a full series of books. My biggest complaint was that Celaena was crazy confident all around but was surprisingly girlish and giggly at the same time. Although Throne of Glass was a YA novel, my understanding is that as the series advances, the stories venture more into adult fantasy territory.
9. With a Name in the Title
Tatiana de Rosnay
A decision made in an instant can change the course of so many lives. Just before Sarah and her family are arrested by the Germans in Paris in 1942, Sarah locks her little brother in a cupboard, assuming she will be back soon. Now 60 years later, as journalist Julia Jarmond investigates the past, she learns volumes not only about that fatal day in history but also about herself.
When I mentioned I was reading Sarah’s Key, I got a million messages that it was the best and most heartbreaking book ever. Suffice it to say that my expectations were sky high, and, unfortunately, were not fully met. Don’t get me wrong, the premise of Sarah’s Key is beyond sad, but not in a sob your heart out way. Admittedly, I already knew the tragic plot event before I read it. Otherwise, the rest of this World War II novel was interesting and taught me new aspects of the war, but I wasn’t nearly as gripped as I expected to be. You win some, you lose some.
Publication Date: September 2006
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10. By a Local Author
Nowhere for Very Long
Rejecting the capitalistic path of others, Brianna Madia always sought to take the road less traveled. So she bought a beat-up orange van named Bertha and set out to travel the deserts of the American West with two dogs and her husband. Madia’s journey – from married to single and from lost to found – is about more than #vanlife or minimalism or dogs; it’s a memoir that explores both the outer world and her inner self.
I absolutely loved Madia’s memoir. Even Madia will admit that she is a highly flawed person, which makes her a fascinating subject for a memoir. I loved how she dived into her own motivations, parsing out why she made the choices she did, which helps connect her story to life at large. Her discussion about gatekeeping in the van life community and the ridiculous rules we force upon ourselves (and others) to truly “belong” to any community was extremely thought-provoking.
If you know Madia’s story, she does frankly talk about the controversy surrounding her dog being hit by a car, though not enough that would satisfy her critics. I had never heard of Madia before this book, so I didn’t feel betrayed by her mistakes. Instead, I was caught up in her unique voice in describing the beauty of the Utah deserts.
11. Discussion-Worthy Book Club Book
Estranged siblings Byron and Benny are brought back together by their mother’s death. For their inheritance, they find a traditional Caribbean black cake and a voice recording from their mother. Eleanor’s message tells the turbulent story of her life, one full of secrets and a long-lost child that will leave the siblings questioning everything they thought they knew.
Black Cake is destined to be on all the Best of lists in 2022; it is that good. Wilkerson does an excellent job bringing to life the complicated family dynamics underlaid with the powerful story of Eleanor’s life. A great choice for a book club, Black Cake touches on a lot of hot issues that would make for a lively discussion.
12. 2021 Bestseller
State of Terror
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
Years of American withdrawal from the world stage have left a power vacuum that its enemies have been more than happy to fill. After a series of terrorist attacks, novice Secretary of State Ellen Adams, under the administration of her rival, must unravel a deadly global conspiracy.
Taking a page from her husband’s book, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton teamed up with acclaimed mystery novelist Louise Penny in a gripping political thriller that showed up Bill’s collaboration with James Patterson in every way. With believable characters and plenty of political machinations, State of Terror perfectly blends Clinton’s unique political insight into a Tom Clancy-esque plot that was a joy to read.
Publication Date: 12 October 2021
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13. Genre You Don’t Usually Read
Team of Rivals
Doris Kearns Goodwin
In her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin takes a deeper look at Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, focusing on his political skills and maneuvering during his political career. Goodwin focuses on Lincoln’s cabinet, composed of his fiercest competitors whom he used his supreme skill to help them work together. A solid biography, Goodwin’s massive tome is well-worth a read. If you are into audiobooks, be sure to get the full unabridged audiobook version because the abridged version doesn’t convey the story nearly as well.
14. Shakespearean Play
After three witches prophesy that he will be King of Scotland, Macbeth, a respected general, sets out to seek the foretold power. At the urging of his wife, Macbeth kills King Duncan and becomes King. Yet when others begin to question him, Macbeth commits more and more murders, turning into a tyrant and leading to a civil war.
I think I was in high school the last time I read Macbeth. I found the play a captivating story about power (cue the 2023 Reading Challenge prompt!). One thing that really impressed me was how many famous books got their titles from Macbeth. I mean, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and The Sound and the Fury are titles from the exact same paragraph.
15. With a Two Word Title
S. A. Cosby
When a gay couple is murdered, their ex-con fathers band together to deal out retribution. Both Ike and Buddy Lee struggled to accept their gay sons, straining their relationships. Now the two, one Black and one white, must confront their prejudices about their children and each other as they deal out bloody revenge in Cosby’s latest thriller.
Just so you know, Razorblade Tears is rather violent, comparable to the Jack Reacher novels. Even though it’s not my usual genre, I still loved it. Cosby does an excellent job merging weighty themes into a high-action plot. And high action it is, with a very high body count, lots of languages, and two ex-cons coming to grips with their failures as fathers.
16. About a Muslim Protagonist
Ayesha At Last
Ayesha at Last is a Muslim Pride and Prejudice retelling set in modern-day Canada, that is more inspired by Pride and Prejudice instead of being an exact retelling. A devout Muslim girl, Ayesha has given up her dreams of being a poet to become a teacher with a dependable salary. Although her cousin Hafsa is meeting potential suitors for an arranged marriage, Ayesha would rather find love on her own terms. When she meets the handsome but conservative Khalid, she is caught off guard by his sharp wit and his judgmental attitude.
I thought Ayesha at Last worked great as a love story, as you instantly fall in love with both strong Ayseha and gentle Khalid. Although I didn’t like that some of the side characters were stereotypically one-dimensional, I thought Jalaluddin did an excellent job portraying what it is like being both modern and conservative, reminding you that observant doesn’t equal backwards or oppressed.
17. Set in the 1980s
I Must Betray You
Although communist countries are falling all over Europe, in 1989, Romania is still ruled by the cruel dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Blackmailed by the secret police, seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu is forced to become an informer, walking the edge between deceiving the Securitate while still protecting his family. I Must Betray You is exactly what you want from young adult historical fiction. Sepetys showcases the everyday teenage life in a unique setting with a narrative that is as compelling as it is informative.
18. Asian American & Pacific Islander Author
In Tokyo Ever After, Princess Izumi learned that her absent father is the Crown Prince of Japan. As she settles into her life as a princess, Izumi is thrilled when her parents get engaged. However, the Imperial council is refusing to approve of the marriage. Izumi must become the perfect princess to win the Imperial council’s favor while dealing with her own romantic troubles.
Although I adored Tokyo Ever After, a Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians mash-up, I thought the sequel was cute but unremarkable. I know some fans will swoon over Izumi’s new love triangle, but I was disappointed in the lack of character development and the retread drama from the first book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Flatiron Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
19. Bottom of Your To-Read List
A Fine Balance
In 1975, the Indian government declares a state of emergency that forces a widow to take in a student boarder and two tailors fleeing caste violence and seeking work. In a deep examination of human nature, Mistry presents a character-driven story that completely draws you in while explaining the larger political landscape that affects them on an individual basis. Bleak, yet beautiful, Mistry’s epic novel explores the fine balance between hope and despair.
I’ve put off A Fine Balance for almost a decade, intimidated by its length. What a mistake. The tale is such an enveloping enjoyable read that you almost wish it was longer. Don’t get me wrong, the tale is far from joyful – a depressing dive into endemic poverty, caste violence, and racism. Yet, the power of the writing is simply awe-inspiring.
20. Literary Fiction
What’s Mine and Yours
In Piedmont, North Carolina, Jade and Lacey May are mothers who just want the best in life for their children. After an altercation ends in a shooting, Jade’s son Gee grows up without a father. Meanwhile, when Lacey May’s husband goes to prison, she must do whatever it takes to provide for her three daughters. When a county initiative to bring kids from the west side of town into a predominantly white school on the east side, Jade and Lacey May find themselves at odds leading to choices that will last decades for their children, Gee and Nicole.
What’s Mine and Yours is extremely literary, playing with structure in unfortunate ways. The disjointed narrative jumps all over the place, from Jade and Lacey May’s backstory to Gee and Nicole in high school and finally Nicole as an adult. You get a chapter told from almost every character’s perspective, even the inconsequential side characters. The disjointed storytelling meant the narrative was always meandering and so the story didn’t keep my attention for long.
21. Recommended on Instagram
The Unsinkable Greta James
Jennifer E. Smith
After the unexpected death of her mother, singer Greta James has a mental breakdown on stage and the viral footage threatens to ruin her career. Adrift in her career, Greta agrees to go with her father on the Alaska cruise he had booked for his fortieth wedding anniversary. When she meets a charming historian, Greta finds herself set on a path of healing.
I thought my friend had recommended this on Instagram (she hadn’t) so I’m pretty sure I picked this book from Book of the Month because of its memorable cover. Which was about the best thing about the book. I found the story to be extremely cliche: the love story lacked chemistry and the father-daughter struggle lacked depth. There was a really tender moment at the end of the book at Greta’s concert, but I would only recommend The Unsinkable Greta James to readers who like sappy contemporary fiction.
22. LBGTQ+ Book
After his hit tv show ends and his boyfriend dies, once famous sitcom star Patrick lives a life of seclusion in Palm Springs. When his sister-in-law dies and his brother goes to rehab, Patrick agrees to watch his niece and nephew for the summer. All at once, Gay Uncle Patrick, lovingly referred to as GUP, learns the weight of parenting children, even if just temporarily, and finds the power to move past his own grief. A heartwarming family comedy, The Guncle conveys an incredibly sweet message with extremely irreverent humor, which will not be to everyone’s taste (and wasn’t always to mine, hence the 3.5 stars instead of 4).
23. A Book Everyone is Talking About
Carrie Soto is Back
Taylor Jenkins Reid
When Carrie Soto retired from tennis six years ago, she was the best player the world had ever seen, shattering every record imaginable. Now a hotshot new tennis star is threatening to break Carrie’s legacy. At 37, Carrie attempts to come back for one more epic season to defend her title, even if defying all the odds means she has to train with a man from her past.
If you’ve read Malibu Rising, Carrie Soto is that tennis player, but you don’t need to read Malibu Rising to enjoy the book. I love that Reid gives crossovers hinting at her other books in such a way that it’s fun for fans, but doesn’t preclude you from reading the book independently.
I absolutely loved Carrie Soto is Back. I started it half an hour before my bedtime and literally did not put it down until I had finished it. Taylor Jenkins Reid shines with her brilliant writing and complex characters. You do, however, need to at least enjoy tennis, because much of the suspense comes from the actual tennis matches.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Ballantine Books through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
24. Pulitzer Prize Winner
To explain why she is the “most famous hermaphrodite in history,” Cal Stephanides dives into his Greek-American family’s history. Immigrating from a tiny village in Greece to Prohibition-era Detroit and eventually the shores of Michigan, three generations of the Stephanides family are swept into the pull of history while hiding a shameful family secret – a genetic trait that turns Calliope into Cal.
I must admit, I struggled with Middlesex. Eugenides narrates the entire story through Cal, sometimes speaking as if he witnessed his grandparents’ lives, which I found odd. At times, the generational story was fascinating but I feel like the book was trying too hard, making it overly verbose and symbolic. I can see why some people would love this Pulitzer Prize winner, but I did not.
25. With a Blue Cover
The Art of Racing in the rain
Narrated through the eyes of a philosopher dog unlike any other, The Art of Racing in the Rain tells of Enzo and his beloved master Denny, a race car driver, as Denny navigates love, marriage, fatherhood, life, and death. At first, I found this dog-narrated story sappy and overrated, but then halfway through a custody battle ensued that completely hooked me and left me emotionally wrecked, but in a good way.
26. Author Who Shares Your Initials
Sitcom writer Georgie McCool knows her marriage is struggling, but she can’t pass up the chance to pitch the pilot show she’s been dreaming about for years, even if it means missing Christmas. While he’s away, she finds that calling Neal on the landline results in her talking to a younger version of her husband in the days just before he proposed. With the time-traveling communication messing with her head, Georgie recalls her courtship with Neal and ponders what to do about her marriage.
I only picked Landline up because Rainbow Rowell and I share initials (and I did not want to read Rick Riordan). I was absolutely hooked by this contemporary fiction about a struggling marriage. I liked that there weren’t any major infidelities or issues between Georgie and Neal. It was just life getting in the way and a failure to communicate. Landline was just the blend of love story and reality of marriage that will speak to anyone who has been married for over ten years.
27. Epic Adventure
Journalist Cecily Wong has given up everything to join famous mountaineer Charles McVeigh on his record-breaking climb of Mt. Manaslu, the eighth-highest peak in the world. When a climber dies in a freak accident, Cecily worries the expedition might have to turn back. Then a second climber dies, and Cecily wonders if, instead of blaming the deaths on altitude sickness, she’s trapped high in the mountains with a killer.
You can tell that McCulloch has actually summited Mt. Manaslu because her descriptions of high altitude climbing felt intensely real. I loved that Cecily was a relatable beginning climber caught up in an adventure that pushed her to her limits. The mystery itself was overly complicated and a bit disappointing, but I still think this is a fun read for anyone looking for an adventure.
28. A Guilty Pleasure Read
It seems like a chance of a lifetime when Lux McCallister and her boyfriend Nico are hired to sail two women to a remote Pacific island. Yet, when they arrive, another boat is already anchored there, piloted by a golden couple. The party of six gets along great until another stranger arrives and the perfect vacation turns deadly.
Reckless Girls is the perfect guilty pleasure beach read. It has all the markers – exotic setting, gorgeous people, complicated relationships, and over-the-top plot twists. You know it’s not realistic, but you get sucked in anyways because it’s escapist reading at its finest.
29. An Audiobook
Brave, Not Perfect
Inspired by her TED Talk, Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, empowers women to be brave enough to embrace imperfection. From a young age, girls are conditioned to be nice – to be kind, considerate, and to not offend. Yet, what works well in elementary doesn’t translate into real-life creating women who feel like they are never good enough. I felt so called out reading Brave, Not Perfect because Saujani perfectly describes me and my insecurities in ways I had never really thought about. For readers like me who are in her target audience, Brave, Not Perfect is inspiring and relatable, though a little lacking in practical day-to-day advice.
30. Catchy Title
Lessons in Chemistry
Elizabeth Zott has always defied stereotyping, especially as the only woman chemist at the Hastings Research Institute in the 1960s. After falling in love with another chemist who sees her for who she is, life throws her a curveball. Now as a single mom, she unexpectedly finds herself the host of a tv cooking show. When Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking charms her audience, the women who watch her begin to question the status quo in their own lives, making Elizabeth a target of those who find the change unwelcome.
At first, I ignored the popular buzz around Lessons in Chemistry, thinking it would be your stereotypical historical romance. To my surprise, I found the book has a love story but isn’t a romance. Instead, Garmus presents an engrossing progressive historical fiction read with heartfelt depth and a searing look at sex discrimination in the past (and today).
31. About Nature
For generations, Rich Gunderson’s family has logged the redwood forest on California’s coast and he jumps at the chance to buy a virgin Redwood grove for logging. After a streak of miscarriages, his wife Colleen begins to wonder if there’s something in the water. As Colleen investigates the environmental impacts of logging, her search for answers might tear her marriage, and the town, apart.
Damnation Spring is a long slow build that dragged at times with prose overloaded technical logging language. I will admit, I was annoyed that one major plot point was so briefly mentioned that I completely missed it and had to go back to double-check that it was even there. (It was given two sentences in a rather confusing scene).
The conflict between the logging industry and conservationists made for a great premise, and you really feel for Rich and Colleen. Although I thought it was a pretty solid story, the narrative was so slow that you really have to push through a lot of “meh” to get to the decent ending.
32. Two Books by the Same Author
A Deadly Education
At Scholomance, a cutthroat school of magic, students are expected to graduate or die. The main rule: don’t ever walk the hallways alone for monsters lurk everywhere. A standoffish loner, El doesn’t have the advantages of the bigger cliches, but she does have a powerful magic that tends toward destruction. When she befriends the popular hero of the school, El must balance her survival with the survival of the other students in one of the best dark magic books out there.
My husband told me I had to try the “Dirty Harry Potter” series he was reading, and I quickly fell in love with Novik’s fantasy series. With top-notch world-building and a great premise, A Deadly Education blends the perfect mix of teenage angst and romance to make it a perfect YA series to read.
33. Two Books by the Same Author
The Last Graduate
El and Orion have reached their senior year at the Scholomance, a deadly school of magic intent on killing its students. El is determined that she had her friends will survive graduation day and its lethal ceremony, but the school has other plans. Will she need to succumb to her destiny of destruction or can she find a way to unite all the different factions and rescue everyone? A solid sequel to A Deadly Education, I must say I can’t wait until The Golden Enclaves comes out this fall.
34. YA Fantasy
The Ruins of Gorlan
With their dark cloaks and shadowy ways, the Rangers have always terrified Will. Some say they practice magic that makes them invisible. When Will is chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice, he finds they are the protectors of the kingdom, and the kingdom desperately needs protecting. For the exiled Morgorath is amassing forces to retake the kingdom in this fun series of fantasy novels for younger young adults.
My 11-year-old son is obsessed with the Ranger’s Apprentice series, so he was ecstatic when I asked to borrow the first book from him. The series kicks off with The Ruins of Gorlan, a very short read that was really fun despite being full of predictably common tropes. Aimed at a younger audience, The Ruins of Gorlan makes for an excellent entry into the series. Because it’s very short, you can test and see if your kid will like it. And if they end up loving it, there are about 30 more books they can read and enjoy.
35. Purchased at a Bookstore
Hell of a Book
Jason Mott’s contemporary novel showcases two parallel storylines. In the first, an unnamed Black author sets out on a publicity tour of his latest book. During the tour, he keeps encountering the Kid, a possibly imaginary child. Along with this story, Mott interweaves the tale of Soot, a young Black boy with extremely dark skin facing injustices in the rural South. As the plot converges, Hell of a Book looks at the costs of racism in America.
Hell of a Book is a unique book that falls between literary fiction and satire. The author who serves as the protagonist is full of frenetic energy and an unreliable memory and would fit in perfectly with the madcap characters of Catch-22. Mott’s creative narrative keeps you unbalanced, a conversation-provoking study of what it means to be Black in America. All I can say is that Hell of a Book is a work of art you must experience for yourself.
36. Family Drama
It All Comes Down to This
Therese Anne Fowler
Marti Geller has always stated that, after she dies, the family summer cottage will be sold and divided between her three daughters. Beck, a freelance journalist in a loveless marriage, is counting on the inheritance to give her time to write a novel and change her marriage. Recently divorced cardiologist Clare is struggling to fix her complicated love life and Sophie is an Instagram influencer whose empire is sitting on a house of cards. With the death of their mother and the debate over the cottage, the three sisters must come to terms with their own lives.
I love a good family drama, but It All Comes Down to This just didn’t connect with me. I wasn’t interested in any of the sisters’ storylines and the drama felt stale. Even worse, the romantic relationships were a mess, yet then everything tied into too neat of a bow. The whole book felt pointless, and I would suggest passing on this one.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
37. Classic You’ve Avoided
James Joyce pushed 1920s literature to new levels with this classic book. With a story loosely based on The Odyssey, Ulysses captures a single day of ordinary Dubliners in 1904, using experimental technique, lyricism, and vulgarity to make it a ground-breaking work.
Ulysses is the kind of book that I think only English majors read. Surprisingly, the stream-of-consciousness writing worked in some of the earlier segments but then got overwhelmingly hard to read. Although Ulysses is often cited as the best classic ever written, I will definitely be removing it from my list of 100 classics to read in your lifetime. Read it if you want, but I don’t think it’s for everyone … or even most people.
38. Set in Africa
Circling the Sun
Growing up a tomboy on her father’s Kenyan estate, Beryl Markham has always shunned the traditional limitations placed on women. Blazing a trail as both a renowned horse trainer and a female pilot, she was the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America. Circling the Sun details the tempestuous life of a fierce woman, from her wild childhood to her series of failed relationships as she struggles against society’s conventions.
I have mixed feelings about McLain’s historical novel based on the life of Beryl Markham. I loved the first half detailing 1920s Kenya and Beryl’s unconventional childhood. The painful transition as Beryl grew older and the world tried to tame her would make a great book club discussion. However, the entire second half of the book was entirely about a series of doomed love affairs, with a little horse racing mixed in. And just so you know, expect to hear more about horses than airplanes, since flying doesn’t enter the story until the last fifteen pages or so.
39. Recommended by a Librarian
Five-year-old Jack has lived his whole life in Room. It’s his whole world where he lives with his Ma all day long. At night, Ma shuts him up in the wardrobe for protection when Old Nick visits. What Jack doesn’t realize is that his mother doesn’t view Room as home, but as a prison where she is being held captive. Narrated from Jack’s perspective, Room hauntingly narrates unimaginable horrors witnessed through the innocence of a child.
Reading Room, I was still struck by the power of narration through the eyes of a child. The story is split into three parts: the captivity, the escape, and the transition into the world. While the horrors of the premise are unimaginable, the story doesn’t dwell on them, else it would be extremely difficult to read. Instead, Donoghue’s core message is about the transition, watching your entire world come apart, quite literally and learning to live in the aftermath.
40. By a British Author
Just Haven’t Met You Yet
On a trip to the Channel Islands to write about her parents’ epic romance, Laura accidentally switches suitcases with a stranger and falls for its unseen owner based on the items in his case. With the help of a surly cab driver, she tries to find the mysterious owner while researching her parents’ epic love story and comes to realize that real life isn’t nearly as perfect as she imagined.
A cute romantic comedy, Just Haven’t Met You Yet endears with a quirky protagonist stumbling through love in an idyllic setting. The novel hits the right tone with Laura’s epiphany that a great story doesn’t make a great love, yet I didn’t connect with the story, feeling the plot was over-the-top. Also, I would not recommend the audiobook as the narrator mumbled through all of the cab driver’s lines, making the story extremely hard to follow.
41. Reread a Favorite
Girl, Wash Your Face
When I first read Girl, Wash Your Face back in 2018, I absolutely loved it. Hollis’s motivational book describes lies women tell themselves in a down-to-earth relatable way. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. For the 2022 Reading Challenge, I needed to reread a favorite book, so I was curious to see if my opinion would change, especially given all I know about Hollis’s life since.
Honestly, I still enjoyed the book the second time through even though I am very aware of its flaws. I would never call Girl, Wash Your Face a must-read for all women, but I think it’s a good book for women who just need to be reminded that they can take control of their happiness. Hollis’s brand of motivation will speak to some women and will completely turn off others, but I think that’s true of almost any motivational speaker.
42. Under 300 Pages
A group of daily swimmers is thrown for a loop when a crack appears in the swimming pool they frequent. Among them is Alice, who is slowly losing herself to dementia. With her daily routine broken, Alice feels thrust into chaos as her childhood memories of being in a Japanese internment camp surface, and her daughter struggles to help her.
First off, I don’t think you can actually call The Swimmers a novel because it is so extremely short. I guess you would categorize Otsuka’s novella as experimental fiction. The story is mostly told in an odd second-person format that takes some getting used to. I was set to give it a disappointing two stars, but Otsuka’s descriptions of Alice’s entrance into a memory care facility really struck home for me, especially when I realized that Alice is the author’s mother.
43. Spooky Read
The Book of Cold Cases
Simone St. James
In 1977, two men were murdered with the same gun but the prime suspect, the eccentric Beth Greer, was acquitted at trial. Searching for a story for her true-crime blog, Shea Collins decides to interview Beth, in a mansion that may be haunted. The deeper Shea dives into the truth, the more she worries she is being manipulated by a cold-blooded murderer.
The Book of Cold Cases gripped me at the start with its perfect blend of ghost story and cold case mystery. After the big halfway reveal, the combination fractured and the story lost all of its tension. Instead of keeping up the edgy suspense, the second half of the story just explained the truth of the cold case (with no hint of the supernatural) and then jumped into an overly ghost-filled finale. Although its five-star beginning turned into a three-star end, I still think that The Book of Cold Cases is worth a read for anyone who wants an enjoyably spooky read.
44. Nonfiction Bestseller
Hidden Valley Road
Shortly after World War II, Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American Dream, raising their twelve children in Colorado Springs. Until one after another, six of their ten sons were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The tale of an American family of utmost importance to proving a genetic component to schizophrenia, Hidden Valley Road was one of the top nonfiction books of 2020.
Knowing this was an Oprah book club pick, I was excited to pick up Kolker’s bestseller. Although the story is told well, it’s extremely depressing: a litany of horror stories detailing mental breaks, violence, and sexual abuse, especially of the two younger sisters. The science was interesting but also extremely depressing since it is still so little understood. All in all, Hidden Valley Road was just too traumatic for me to enjoy.
45. A Book About Life
After showing the power of introverts in Quiet, Susan Cain uses the same mix of science and storytelling to explore what bittersweet feelings of sorrow and longing can teach us about creativity, compassionate leadership, and love. Cain shows that bittersweetness isn’t just a fleeting emotion but a powerful way of being that can lead to transcendence.
I have to confess, although I appreciated bittersweet things from time to time, it’s far from my go-to mood. Admittedly, bittersweetness is a really tough topic to discuss because it relies so much on feelings. To me, the book came off as boring, overly self-indulgent, and forgettable.
46. Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
Having taken time off from her job as a detective, Elin Warner agrees to attend a celebration of her estranged brother’s engagement. At a minimalist Swiss five-star hotel that used to be a sanatorium, Elin immediately feels on edge. When her brother’s fiancée disappears and a girl is murdered, all the guests begin to panic after a storm shuts off access to the remote hotel. Now, Elin must use all her skills to find out what is going on.
I know some reviewers are called this Reese Witherspoon book club pick overhyped, but I was completely captivated by this thriller. I absolutely adored the setting and would love to see it come to life someday in a film adaptation. I can see Elin being a hard-to-love narrator since her PTSD keeps her on edge and slightly apart, but she made a great unreliable narrator. Admittedly, the motive for the murders was a bit convoluted, but all I can say is that I thought it was the perfect quick winter thriller to sink into on a snowy weekend. I can’t wait until the sequel, The Retreat, comes out this summer.
47. Makes You Laugh
Is This Anything?
Ever since the start of his career as a stand-up comedian, Jerry Seinfeld has saved all his material and ideas on big yellow legal pads. Scouring through all his old material, Seinfeld has picked out the best of the best, letting you see the evolution of his craft through the decades.
Is This Anything? is literally just random jokes scribbled on notepads. Although Seinfeld writes a few short introductory paragraphs at the start of each decade, there are no segues between jokes, just raw material strung together. Some of the jokes are hilarious. Some of the material makes you cringe. If you do decide to pick this one up, I recommend listening to the audiobook since Seinfeld narrates it himself.
48. Historical Novel
Peach Blossom Spring
Peach Blossom Spring is a family saga that follows 70 years of the Dao family. After a life as a refugee, first fleeing from the Japanese Army and then relocating during the Civil War, Renshu Dao and his mother Meilin eventually end up in Taiwan. When Renshu attends graduate school in America, he reinvents himself as Henry and refuses to talk about his childhood or heritage to his American wife or daughter.
Loosely based on the life of Melissa Fu’s father, Peach Blossom Spring does an excellent job guiding you through modern Chinese history. Although the story was interesting, the telling left something to be desired. The writing style was stiff and the characters are emotionally distant; you are told what happens to them but never able to truly experience what they are feeling.
49. A 2022 New Release
The Paris Apartment
Looking for a fresh start, Jess moves into her half-brother’s Paris apartment only to find him missing. The longer Ben stays gone, the more Jess begins to question his living situation. Jess can tell the neighbors know more than they are telling, making each one a viable suspect.
I adored Foley’s bestseller, The Guest List, so I was very excited to see what she had in store for her latest thriller. Similar to The Guest List, the narrative switches viewpoints between Jess and each of the neighbors. Although the revealed twist halfway through was unexpectedly clever, all of the characters were extremely unlikable and the entire plot was too over-the-top for me to really enjoy this thriller.
50. Inspiring Memoir
When Breath Becomes Air
At only 36 years old, Dr. Kalanithi was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Suddenly, he found himself thrust from the role of a neurosurgeon to that of a dying patient. Coming face-to-face with his mortality, Kalanithi decided to write his memoir and wrestle with the question: “What makes life worth living in the face of dying?” Easily one of the best memoirs of recent years, When Breath Becomes Air is a look at the heartbreaking decisions Kalanithi faced as he contemplated a life without a future.
51. Cozy Mystery
Although she struggles to interact with people, her love of order and cleanliness makes Molly Gray an excellent maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. When Molly discovers a wealthy guest dead in his hotel bed, the police peg her as the prime suspect due to her unusual behaviors. With the help of her friends, Molly must investigate the murder to prove her innocence in this locked-room mystery.
Chosen as the GMA book club pick for January, The Maid is an adorable cozy mystery. You’ll instantly fall in love with Molly as the neurodivergent protagonist, with her keen observations and lovable personality. If you are in the mood for a cute book, The Maid delivers: the twists and turns are intriguing but not shocking and everyone gets their happily ever after.
52. You Own But Haven’t Read
The Girl with the Louding Voice
This debut novel from Abi Daré highlights the coming-of-age story of a Nigerian woman. All Adunni wants to do is get an education so that she can craft her own future. When her father sells her as the third wife to a local man, Adduni runs away to the city, only to become an unpaid domestic servant to a wealthy family. Yet, Adunni finds that no matter her circumstances, she can still speak out for herself and all the other girls just like her.
I’d been putting off reading The Girl with the Louding Voice for two years because I knew it would be depressing. It is hard to read about Adunni’s traumatic experiences and to realize the second-class status that women hold even today. Yet Daré ends her inspiring novel on a hopeful note, highlighting Adunni’s indomitable spirit and reminding you that you need to use your voice for change.
Did you finish the 2022 Reading Challenge? What were your favorite books you read?
Thank you for your list and reviews. It was interesting to see your choices. I have one book left for the 2022 challenge! Looking forward to 2023 challenge.
Kathleen ZAFFORE says
I so appreciate your curation. And love the challenge — it has me reading “all over the place.” And that is rich and satisfying. Thanks! So many starred books this year but my favorites to encourage others to read: Nonfiction: The Soul of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery (of Good Good Pig) – a naturalist’s love story with aquarium octopuses. Compelling. Fiction: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. It is narrated by Maud, an 82 year old whose memory is failing. Her friend is “missing” — there is a mystery, a death, a compelling story from WWII forward. It is quirky, told from Maud’s first person, confused but certain. And it is compassionate. Truly a wonderful look at how dementia might feel from the inside and how best to respond from the outside. It is light hearted. And uplifting. I listened to audio book — very well read and greatly enhanced the story. Thanks again, and happy reading for 2023!
Anne Green says
Looking forward to the 2023 Challenge! Some creativity will be required I think in terms of interpreting the categories!