It’s been over six months since my last book reviews, so it’s high time I share what I’ve been reading. Strangely enough, for the first time since I was in high school, I’ve been reading more fiction than nonfiction. I’m not quite sure what the reason is, but I’ve enjoyed picking books from best seller lists and finding new authors with new stories.
A little later I’ll share my favorite fiction and non-fiction books of last year. But first, here are the books I read in the final quarter of 2022.
We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza
This is the story of best friends Riley and Jen, who are both impacted when a black teenager is shot by the police in their hometown of Philadelphia. On opposite sides of the racial divide, they are challenged to protect and defend the people they love…including each other.
I appreciated how this story provides a view from both sides of this all-too-common occurrence. The reader, whether black or white, is able to see things from the other’s perspective. The collaborative work between Pride and Piazza is very evident and works well.
However, it is easy to carefully curate the perfect story about racial prejudice in America when you’re writing fiction and can make the whole thing up. At times, the story felt unrealistic in it’s perfection and I could almost feel the author’s political motivations. Much of the content in this book can be found in other non-fiction books about race in America. Is it nicer couched in a novel? I don’t know. I think I prefer the direct, to-the-point approach, personally.
The Butcher and the Wren by Alaina Urquhart
The best thing about this book is the cover.
“The Most Dangerous Game” re-makes are overdone, in my opinion. There was a twist, and even though I didn’t know what it would be exactly, I knew it was coming which took most of its shock value away.
Eh…Not my favorite.
Food Politics by Marion Nestle
Though it’s pretty old at this point, Food Politics is still a wealth of historical information about how our food system came to be what it is today. There are new developments that the book doesn’t cover, but I was fascinated by the history of the food pyramid and the legislation surrounding labeling and other such topics which might bore the normal reader, but was absolutely delightful for a food-obsessed, politics-loving, fitness enthusiast like me.
Billy Summers by Stephen King
I am quickly becoming one of Stephen King’s Constant Readers, and I liked Billy Summers. It’s not exactly what King is known for [in other words, it’s not a horror, slasher, dark, or demonic novel], and it is shorter than everything else I had read of his [up to this point in time]. There is a life of crime, a damsel in distress, questionable moral reasoning, and of course death…I mean, it’s King after all. But still good.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
As is my habit, I insisted on reading the book before I watched the movie. It was actually Brett who first told me about the movie because he had seen buzz about it on social media and said I would probably like it because I’m a feminist and passionate about the subject matter. And, of course, I was interested, but it had to be book first. [Always book first, am I right?]
As it turns out, I didn’t really care for the movie at all, but the book was really good. I think sometimes this subject matter [which I don’t want to ruin for anyone who might be going in blind] is overdone and trivialized, but this book felt big and powerful and, honestly, the book was a really good on its own—without the shock value and controversy. The use of flashback is at its most effective in this book.
The only negative thing I have to say is that I actually really disliked the protagonist. I mean, I feel for her and everything she went through, but she’s self-obsessed, totally vain￼, and quite frankly obnoxious. [And I obviously know that she’s fictional.] Maybe that was the point? But everyone has a choice about who they want to become—in spite of their past. [Well, except fictional characters, I guess.]
And a note about the movie—some people were upset that it was “graphic.” The book is also graphic. But, seriously, maybe graphic is what we need to finally MAKE IT STOP. As a girl who’s dealt with my fair share of sexual abuse and harassment, I don’t think it can possibly be graphic enough.
We are the Brennans by Tracey Lange
I love books about family secrets. Family secrets make such great stories, and since every family has its secrets, they are so relatable. I felt that this plot line was a teensy bit obvious, but that didn’t make me enjoy it any less.
Also, I listened to the audiobook and the narrator, Barrie Kreinik, was excellent.
The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter
The Comfort Crisis is basically a call to step outside your comfort zone, embrace physically demanding experiences, seek out mental challenges, and find new health and vitality as a result. I LOVED IT. Of course, I’m a bit of a physical fitness fanatic, so the idea of scaling mountains in sub-zero temperatures and carrying huge stones along the bottom of the ocean is quite exciting to me already, but the insight that Easter shares about how easy our lives have become here in the western world is so timely.
“We are living progressively sheltered, sterile, temperature-controlled, overfed, underchallenged, safety-netted lives.”Michael Easter, The Comfort Crisis
I mean, think about this: our entire lives now are temperature controlled. We go from heated house to heated car to heated workplace. We are total wimps when it gets too cold. But cold is actually good for us [to an extent obviously, but a greater extent that we feel comfortable with]. This is just one of many excellent points that Easter makes about how discomfort would actually improve our lives.
“But a radical new body of evidence shows that people are at their best—physically harder, mentally tougher, and spiritually sounder—after experiencing the same discomforts our early ancestors were exposed to every day. Scientists are finding that certain discomforts protect us from physical and psychological problems like obesity, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, and even more fundamental issues like feeling a lack of meaning and purpose.”Michael Easter, The Comfort Crisis
I highly recommend this book, and I recommend the physical book over the audiobook.
Fairy Tale by Stephen King
This might be my favorite Stephen King so far. It is at least tied with The Shining and 11/22/63. But either way, it’s really good. For being such a long book, I read it in a surprisingly short time [though I had borrowed it from the library and I had to read it in two weeks before it was due back, so I didn’t have much choice]. I must say, it was definitely worth the hype and the ridiculously long wait to borrow it.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
This is my first Liane Moriarty novel and I loved it. It’s the story of a tennis family whose secrets and dysfunctions are constantly being uncovered, and yet, there is a constant theme of love and hope. I found it incredibly relatable and also touching.
I already have Moriarty’s other bestsellers— Nine Perfect Strangers and Big Little Lies—on my list to read in the future.
In 2022, I read 62 books: 24 fiction and 38 nonfiction.
I read some great fiction, like Stephen King’s 11/22/63, Katie Atkinson’s Life After Life, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, BUT my favorite fiction book of the year was definitely Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
Ready Player One is everything I want a fiction story to be—an exciting, easy-to-read, can’t-put-it-down, non-stop adventure with great characters you can root for and an imaginative world you can escape into [though the futuristic setting isn’t really all that far from reality].
As for nonfiction, it’s much harder to choose a favorite since they are all very different. I could probably organize them by sub-genre and pick a favorite of each, but I’ll spare you.
I loved Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Ben Rosario and Matt Fitzgerald’s Run Like a Pro [HIGHLY recommend for runners], and Hunter Clarke-Fields’ Raising Good Humans. But my two favorite nonfiction books of the year were The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger and The Happiness Hypothesis by my favorite author, Jonathan Haidt, with The Happiness Hypothesis winning in the end, mostly because of my love of psychology.
Overall, 2022 was a great year of books. What are your favorites from last year?
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