A year – Reviewing – 2022

I love end of the year book reviews. I love to read and listen to the podcasts, blogs, social media posts which detail what others have read this year, so that I can make my own list for next year.

At the end of 2021, a friend posted hand drawn shelf with his favorite books of the year, and I thought “brilliant! art and reading, I’ll do that this year.” So in January I began with great zeal, and I took time to draw the titles, coloring them as they are in real life. In February, I took time, and in March, I quickly scribbled the titles and I’m not sure I even colored them in. As the school year devolves in March a few teacher friends and I jokingly call the end of the school year MarchAprilMay(one word) – one long, non-stop, ever changing and surprising month – before Summer break. This year, that was the end of my ability to stay focused on the goal of literally drawing out my books. However, I didn’t give up completely. Another friend showed me her use of Goodreads to track titles she’s read and while I’d used Goodreads mainly as a way to review books and read reviews, I’d not really tracked my own beyond putting them on my virtual shelves. So I began to track there – making goals too lofty for my ability to actually keep track of things.

Fast forward, because I really can’t remember much of what happened to my reading life beyond May of this year, except that it was intermittent and not nearly as well-rounded as it has been in prior years, and that’s ok – I still read, and I’m sure I’ll pick up books this year and start a chapter and quickly realize that “I’ve read this already – I just forgot to put it on any of my shelves – drawn, virtual, physical” – and maybe I’ll reread it, and maybe I’ll add it to a shelf.

As for the end of the year review – as implied in the title, I have decided to join the masses regardless of my ability to meet goals or present them in planned ways, and I shall recommend 5 books that I have loved – this year and others – and will include my Goodreads review and link.

Without Further ado (and in not particularly rated order)

#1 Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for our Neighbors, Strangers, & Enemies by Catherine McNiel

McNiel writes straight to the heart of the matter with this book. Her direct identification of the common ways we try to translate away the call to love neighbors, strangers, and enemies is done with sharp, unapologetic prose that gracefully call us each to a more biblical and full approach to love which honors ALL HUMANS as loved by God and receiving of the same grace. Reminding us that “God’s invitation and command – is for us to be a blessing.” Beyond identifying who and how we can love, Mcniel provides “Brave steps” consisting of manageable practices and reflective questions at the end of each section that help to ease us into this risky business of love.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58390136-fearing-bravely

#2 Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

This beautiful memoir breaks your heart and has you hoping and praying for the author as she writes her own life story as though it were a novel for all of us to devour. I loved every moment of this and would recommend it to just about anyone.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54814676-crying-in-h-mart

# 3 Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

A fictionalized memoir. I continuously second guessed whether the experiences in this man’s life could be true. Nayeri writes of his childhood from the perspective of a child with the humor of an adult who has persevered. It is amazing the resilience of people, and that resilience is probably what draws us over and over again to memoir writing and reading. We need to know that people struggle and strive, and are basically good, even when there is evil and even when there is unimaginable boundaries drawn around a person’s life.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45916267-everything-sad-is-untrue

I recently found out a podcast I sometimes listen to has interviewed the author, and I’m headed there this week – so If you’re interested in joining me in that endeavor, it’s here: https://podbay.fm/p/withywindle/e/1650638164

# 4 Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

This is a gorgeous book. There is something wonderful about teaching a book for the first time while simultaneously reading it for the first time. The discovery process is just wonderful, and it’s so much fun to have teenage students in a book club alongside myself asking the book questions and looking for patterns and answers. The story within this text is a spiritual, emotional, and physical coming of age that questions perspective and purpose and life. I just loved it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14362.Bless_Me_Ultima

# 5 I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys has consistently published books that once I pick up, I cannot put down. This story tells the dramatic tale of people living under tyrannical rule in Romania. To me, it just highlights over and over how easy it is to ignore, or not be aware of, the suffering of people who are living contemporaries. The struggles these people faced, the wars that were waged, happened within my lifetime, and I did not know of them. I have read dystopian and science fiction stories which I read as warnings of what might become of us if we follow the paths where industrialization, capitalism, and trust in broken systems lead, but I didn’t know that those stories were based on the real life; that they mimicked real governments and countries and peoples. These were not just warnings. I Must Betray You goes beyond historical fiction and relates the real human struggle of choosing the rightest wrong when all decisions seem to have more wrong that right. What is the best in a worse case scenario?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56970272-i-must-betray-you

These, and so many more, were great reads this year, and ones that I would recommend to a myriad of ages and stages of peoples.

What would you recommend I add to my list this upcoming year? Send me some comments. 🙂

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