Top 5 Books of 2022

The SRD Editor List of Favorite Books Read in 2022

As an avid reader, I’ve been on Goodreads for years. I love being able to track what books I read and share with others the ones I feel most strongly about. In 2022, I began listening to audiobooks that I borrow from my local library on the Libby by Overdrive app. I love it! I have a commute. I have to cook dinner. I can’t always be sitting with my nose in a book, but I can (almost) always be listening to a  book while doing something else. I’m hooked! 

So in 2022, I borrowed 68 audiobooks from my library. Although Goodreads shows I read 88 books, it counted some story or essay collections separately (Sherlock Holmes and Karl Marx, in particular). Plus, I also read a couple physical books that made their way into Goodreads. So I probably read about 75-ish total. 

Don’t ask me to pick a single favorite! I might blow a circuit trying to figure it out. 

But I have narrowed it down to a *few* of my top recommendations. 

After I finished these audiobooks last year, I posted about them to my personal Facebook circle. So below, you’ll find that original, casual review. But, as a bonus, because I professionally write book reviews as well, I’ve included a bit more of a comprehensive review in this blog. I also tag the books I read to keep track of genres, so I’ve included those below as well. 

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

These book reviews may contain some details that could affect your reading of the book. I’ve tried not to give away too much, however. 

Oh! And connect with me on Goodreads! I love to add to my “Want to Read” list when I see my connections recommend a book! 

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By: Celeste Ng
This started as a slow burn for me. Probably wasn’t really until the end of Chapter 2 before I was interested but I was hooked by the end of Chapter 10. I kind of always wanted to be Mia, but I was probably actually Izzy. But at least I never burned the house down. 🔥😁
This story is especially pertinent now, in the wake of over turning Roe v. Wade. 

 It’s about mothering, motherhood, and who “qualifies” as a mother — which, mothering was central to my Master’s thesis, btw. If this book has been published when i was writing my thesis, i would have used it. It has so much to say.

It’s set in the 90s, just a couple years ahead of my own life and social development.

I remember pretty much everything mentioned but i remember it as a child. Reading about the events as an adult is different. Strikingly, painfully different now that i know what happened after 2001. The world can never be the way it was in the 90s. You can never go home again.
Especially after you’ve burned it to the ground. 🔥 Great job, Izzy. Well done.

Extended Review...

“Motherhood” is composed of many decisions, daily, and it presents in many different ways. This story gave an interesting analysis of different types of mothers, what “mothering” can look like, and what makes a truly excellent mother. There’s a contrast between the suburban, idyllic mother, who embodies many of the stereotypes sold on TV as ideal mothering, a birth-mother who gives up her daughter for adoption due to temporary struggles and the adoptive mother who doesn’t want to give the daughter back when the birth-mother asks for her, and a surrogate mother who, during pregnancy, realized she did not want to give up the chance to be a mother and who steals the baby from the couple she is surrogating for. All of these women are flawed; all of these women define themselves as mothers, although their priorities and approaches are vastly different. 

The definition and portrayals of mothers changed vastly in the 1990s, the time period for the story, and the book faces those challenges with grit and heart. In a decade when women were fighting to institute a more fair and truly family-friendly approach to motherhood, women seemed to also be fighting each other over who was entitled to those motherhood rights. Which is unfortunate, and perhaps the women of today’s generation can examine if, and how, gendered treatment of one another has changed. From “mean girls” to “mean moms,” how is today’s generation approaching the community of sorority differently? I’m not sure the book answers these questions, but to pose them for examination is one of the first challenges, and the story certainly makes a display of the importance of these ponderings. 

Tagged: women’s lit, 21st century lit, mom lit, movie

Readers should be aware of sensitive content including sexual activity in teenagers, destruction of property, and discussions of abortion. 

By: Anthony Bourdain
Read by the author

Everyone should read this book. Everyone. If you’ve ever worked at a restaraunt, known someone who works in a kitchen, eaten at a restauraunt, or plan to eat at a restaurant. EVERYONE.

Foul-mouthed. Fast-paced. Full of life.

Sure he talks a bit about his life. But what he regails in elegant prose and sharp-tongued truth is kitchen life. Who you’ll meet in a kitchen. How you’ll grow. And the grit it really takes to run a great restaurant.

Now, this book is old. Pre-food network glory days. But it’s destined to be a classic of nonfiction prose. One for the ages.

RIP. 💔

Extended Review...

As someone who worked in kitchens (fast food and delis) as a teenager, I felt a deep connection and identification with Bourdain’s content. And as a frequent reader of memoir, I found this to be a unique description more about the actions and lessons learned in his life than the events of it, which was not only refreshing but insightful and helpful thanks to his practical advice and world-wise perspective. 

Tagged: memoir, funny, 21st century lit, science

Readers should be aware of sensitive content including adult language and drug use. 

By: Jojo Moyes

5 glowing stars.

Excellent. A place I’ve never been before (Depression-era Kentucky), full of characters with unique voices, and a story I’ve never heard before. One in which gritty librarians are the heroes. Full of #girlpower. Honestly, I’m not sure if it gets better than this.

There’s a lot of debate in writer communities about prologues. Are they good? Bad? Necessary? Annoying?

To offer a little *spoiler*: I think the prologue in this book is crucial. 

You couldn’t cut it. It’d be an entirely different story. That’s all I’ll say about that. 🤐

I’ll be checking out more from this author. ❤️

Extended Review...

There’s always something I appreciate when reading about characters who are dirt poor. I mean, stuffing holes in the cracks in the wall to keep out the cold, no shoes in frozen ground, bathes once a year in a hot bath, seasons broth with tree bark, live off the land, dirt poor. It feels more real somehow, more urgent, than reading about characters whose lives are full of diamonds and satins and warm fires in gilded fireplaces. Maybe it just makes me appreciate living in moderate comfort in modern times, but it feels more approachable. 

In particular, I love to read about the lives of “everyday” or common women in the past. Even if they are fictitious. The lives of the rich and famous, the lives of aristocrats and social figures is nice and all — queens are certainly fabulous — but there’s something simultaneously sweet and raw in reading about peasant women whose lives didn’t have a huge impact but whose stories are larger than life. 

So maybe that’s why I loved this book so much. Because I love when I get to connect with women from the past and see all the ways in which their lives might be similar to my own. 

Tagged: historical lit, women’s lit, romance

Readers may need to be made aware of sensitive content including adult language, death/murder, and physical abuse of women/children.

By: James Clear

I could give this 10 stars. Remarkable. Genuinely a book that I think everyone could benefit from. Clear breaks down some of the most useful and successful concepts in cognitive behavioral therapy into practical, applicable advice. Want to implement a good habit? There’s a trick for that. Want to break or replace a bad habit? There’s advice for that. Not too technical or full of jargon. An approachable self-help manual to improve any area of your life. I cannot recommend this book enough. I may actually buy a physical copy for myself and everyone i know. ❤️

Extended Review...

As someone who has read extensively into psychology topics, I love the idea of behavior modification through proven/easy-to-implement techniques. In particular, I love how simple Clear makes this. He doesn’t say it will be easy, but he does help readers make it as easy as possible. 

Some of these concepts I was familiar with and have used before, such as “habit stacking,” which is when you build on one habit by attaching another to it. For example, if you have a medication you need to take every morning, you attach it to something that’s part of your existing routine, like brushing your teeth. Brush your teeth. Take the medicine. Stack one habit on another to make your routine easier and optimize your habit building. 

Clear focuses on behaviors, and although he touches a bit on the “cognitive” part of cognitive behavioral therapy, he keeps the focus on the manageable actions. I think that’s best for most people. Some people need a deeper dive into their thoughts and changing their thought patterns to have better control over their behaviors, but most people mainly need the awareness of the behavior in the first place in order to initiate change. 

Clear makes the topic easy and guilt-free. It’s a solutions-first approach rather than heavy on analytical techniques or digging into the “why,” and that’s why I think it’s so successful and approachable for so many people. 

Tagged: self-help, psychology

There is no sensitive content readers should be aware of. 

By Chuck Palahniuk

Alrighty then. Picture this if you will: A 13 year old girl with the personality of Tyler Durden has died of a marijuana overdose and gone to hell. 🔥 She becomes the weirdo freak character in a twisted version of the Breakfast Club and together, she and a group of fellow misfits relive a rendition of Dante’s Inferno, where she works a call center reminiscent of the Sorry to Bother You movie, then squares off against the most evil characters in world history to live the most wacky and triumphant afterlife imaginable. 😈

This might be my favorite book I’ve listened to this year. Wild. Self-righteous. Zany. Completely unhinged. Disgusting. Hilarious. Sharp and sardonic. I don’t know how else to describe Palahniuk.

If you’ve never read any Palahniuk before, this isn’t the worst place to start. But just know, you may think you’re losing your mind, and you may also love every damned minute of it.

Extended Review...

Chuck Palahniuk has become synonymous with weird, building a legacy on his twisted tales that take the reader places they’ve likely never been before. And although male writers often err when writing female characters, Palahniuk has found a way to channel the sarcasm, biting critiques, and attitude of outraged angst so typical in his characters into a perfectly believable teenage girl. 

One of the elements that contributes to Palahniuk’s success in his craft is his ability to handle unreliable narrators. Here, the narrator either is insecure and embarrassed, lying to give a better impression while knowing she’s unreliable. Or, she starts off in denial of her situation, and it is only after she faces the unique and tragic circumstances that got her to hell can she be relied upon (either by the reader or other characters). I’ll let you be the judge. 

However, once she empowers herself with the truth, her redemption/revenge arc is an extraordinary adventure.

Tagged: 21st century lit, adventure, women’s lit, fantasy, funny, horror

Readers should be warned about sensitive content including adult language, self-harm and suicide, drug use, and sexual activity among teenagers.  

Honorable Mention

The Book Eaters
By Sunyi Dean

Tagged: adventure, women’s lit, 21st century lit, Mom lit, LGBTQ, horror, sci-fi

4.5 stars. In a world where some people consume and grow from literature and some people consume and grow from others’ minds, how does a mother protect and care for children who are seen as monsters and who can quickly become monsters? 📚

I loved this. Every minute of it. The prose is gripping and the plot takes several unexpected twists. Including how Lgbtqia+ this book is (it’s the first book I’ve read this year with a character who self-identifies as ace.)🏳️‍🌈

Part Handmaid’s Tale, part Frankenstein, mixed into a new nightmare. 🧟‍♀️

The ending isn’t what i expected either. And i liked that. It *doesnt* tie up with a nice bow, and what could be more true-to-life?

The audiobook ended with a lovely conversation between the author and the audiobook narrator, which was so interesting and different. As a publishing professional, i love that kind of industry insider content. 😊 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Tagged: women’s lit, 21st century lit, LGBTQ, romance, funny, movie

If you’ve heard anything about this book, I think it will come as no surprise that I found it extraordinary. What a romance! I cried real tears. Simply heart wrenching and inspiring with an excellent twist at the end. 🙌

I know Evelyn is blonde, but I kept picturing her as Katherine Hepburn or Lauren Bacall. Maybe with a dash of Marilyn Monroe mixed in. Elegant and lovely. Sharp witted. Classy and poised like golden Hollywood always presented itself. A true icon. 👗👠

I can’t say i “liked” Evelyn. But i really loved her. And i won’t say that Celia was perfect, but she was damn sure close. And Harry! Who wouldn’t love Harry? ❤️

I loved the alternating between past and present timelines, with the occassional insert from the gossip columns so we could see how things looked from the outside.

I was on the wait list for this book. Twice. For a total of 5 months. And i devoured it in 2 days. It was well worth the wait and impossible to put down.

Netflix is making a movie, and I see people online concerned that Netflix will “sterilize” the story and focus on only Evelyn’s seven husbands and not her wife. I agree. I really, really hope they don’t do that. 😬

Run, don’t walk, to check this out for yourself.

The Last House on Needless Street
By Catriona Ward

Tagged: 21st century lit, LGBTQ, psychology, horror

It should be no surprise that a thriller with a blurb from Stephen King on the cover is very good. And this book is.

Although i want horror and spooky all month, what i *didnt* want was serial killers torturing victims, and I was a bit afraid when this story seemed to be heading in that direction. But it took a powerful and well-executed turn, and i think this will stick with me for a long time. 🐱

What really stuck with me is the idea that “monsters” very rarely look like what we expect them to. The weird guy you pass on the street? probably not a monster. But beware the nice looking, the people who seem to have no cracks in their outer presentation.

If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like inside the mind of someone with disassociative identity disorder (aka, multiple personalities) i’d bet this book will give you a pretty clear picture. DID is pretty well always prompted by severe childhood trauma, so be forewarned that’s something that comes with the territory in this story. 💔

By Jack Cheng

Tagged: kid lit, adventure, mom lit, psychology, 21st century lit, funny, sci-fi
This funny, heartwarming adventure was an outstanding audiobook that my son and I enjoyed together. Almost-12-year-old Alex wants to launch his home built rocket into space and ends up launching himself into his own future. Alex is making a series of recordings for the aliens he thinks his rocket will encounter – a golden iPod to update alien life and build on what is contained in the golden record.
Charming. Smart. Thought-provoking. I loved it.
My 9 year old son’s review: “Stunning. It got really deep. The author did a really good job on this one. Five and a half stars.”

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer 
By Fredrik Backman

Tagged: 21st century lit, short story, psychology

It’s only an hour-long audiobook, and I bawled beginning at about minute 4 and continued throughout.

A man with Alzheimers recalls and recounts the precious moments of his life with his son, the ghost of his wife, and his grandson, Noah-Noah, whose name he likes twice as much as anyone else’s so he always says it twice (🥺😢😭 ).

It’s beautifully written and performed. It’ll hit home hard.

I do not recommend listening to it at work, where people can walk in your office and you have to explain that you’re fine but just listening to a sad book. Lol.

But i do recommend listening to it. ❤️

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