I didn’t finish quite as many books (for grown ups) this year as I did in 2021. In part, because I read fewer graphic novels, in part because 2022 was more exhausting somehow. Still, I did finish quite a few books, few of them published this year, but all of them worth reading. Here’s the short list:
Kindred, Octavia Butler
A fantastic book I’m glad I got around to reading before it turned into a series. Butler imagines what someone would actually do if they could time travel, and how your parallel realities would conflict with each other. While other books present a glamorized idea about time travel and being able to either directly interfere with or passively observe the past on the traveler’s terms. Butler imagines it as something totally out of your control, and when you get there, you are an active, obligate participant in the present. I loved this and Butler’s trick of making this whole world and story make sense without having to explain entirely how or why these things happen to Dana, just like many other parts of her life, and the lives of Black women in America throughout history.
Buy Kindred from bookshop.org or your local book store.
Tomboyland, Melissa Faliveno
This set of personal essays from the point of view of a non-binary person who grew up in southwestern Wisconsin. It begins with an essay set in the driftless area city of Mount Horeb, just up the highway from Barneveld which was mercilessly destroyed by a tornado in June, 1984 when they were a child. This sets the tone and mood for the book’s remainder: A deep examination of gender, sexuality, and how to find pleasure and fulfillment when powerful external forces try their hardest to stop you.
Buy Tomboyland from bookshop.org or your local book store.
In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado
The first book I read in 2022 ended up being one that stuck with me through the rest of the year. This memoir is unlike any I’ve ever read. The structure is inventive, pushing the bounds of what we should expect from a “chapter,” or even paragraph, of a book. It’s also one of a small catalog of books that tell stories of domestic violence in queer relationships. It’s bold and risky to tell her story this way, breaking the mold of the memoir and it more than pays off for Machado.
Buy In the Dream House on bookshop.org or your local book store.
The Heads of the Colored People, Nafissa Thompson-Spires
I recently finished this book and wrote about it on this blog. I won’t repeat myself here, but I still highly recommend it among the best books I read last year.
Buy The Heads of the Colored People on bookshop.org or your local book store.
Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
What to say about this book. Lotto, short for Lancelot, and lives a life of fame and artistic utopia alongside his wife Mathilde. He worked to get to where he was but lived his life knowing he was a genius, believing it, and making terrible choices blinded by his own hubris. While reviewers managed to spill hundreds more words without spoiling the story, I’m not sure I can. Unlike other long, complicated novels I’ve read (Infinite Jest, for example), Fates and Furies manages make it worth the commitment of time, emotion, and effort required to read through it.
Buy Fates and Furies on bookshop.org or your local book store.
H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
Another book I was late to the game on, this was also another captivating memoir. We never learn how her father died, but we learn a great deal about the depths Macdonald landed to train a Goshawk while she grieved the loss of her father. Her fixation on training her Gos was contrasted with the rest of her life seeming to fall apart as we are all wont to do in times of intense grief. This contrasted with the history of hawking, especially T.H. White’s account, we get a glimpse of how similarly temperamental hawks are to raise as deaths are to grieve. For what it’s worth, I also learned I would not have the patience or bravery required to share my home with any raptor, let alone a Goshawk.
H is for Hawk or your local book store.
I started 2023 with Emily St. John Mandel’s Glass Hotel and am rapidly approaching the finish as I write this. So far, I’m optimistic it makes this year’s list come December. Hopefully Goodreads will also make it easier for me to remember what I started and finished, too.