I more than doubled my highest annual book count this year which baffles me. My New Year’s resolution was to read at least five minutes a day. For the most part, I’ve stuck to it and developed a lot of good reading routines. Starting this blog certainly helped keep me motivated as well, however, 175+ books is not something I’m aspiring to achieve again. I used to take ages to finish a book I really enjoy. I’ve done that with a few books this year (three of which made it onto this list), but not quite like I used to. Of course, my reading has also become faster in general doing so daily. Still, I miss taking my time.
Initially, I wanted this to be a Top 10 list but was struggling with the placements the longer the list went on. With anything I call a favorite, they fluctuate. I’m confident in my Top 5 picks (even while my top two picks are super close), so I decided it would be simpler to keep it… well… simple.
#5 – When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner
You know those books where the actual plot fades to memory but the essence stays? That’s how this book has stuck with me. There are certain scenes I remember, naturally, but with three POVs and an intricate/action packed setting, there are a lot of details I could stand to be reminded of. What I know for sure is that I was ugly sobbing at one point and tearing up throughout much of the rest.
I read a lot of WWII fiction and I put this among some of my favorites of all time. The three characters’ storylines flowed marvelously and the plot was rich, raw, and touching. I feel like the Pacific side of WWII is often overlooked compared to what was going on in Europe. Both were horrifying in their own right. However, if you’re looking for a more war-centered and action-packed book in this genre (and focused on the women of war), this is an excellent choice.
#4 – The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
This is a more recent read so it’s fresh in my mind, though I don’t think another book would take its place if I’d happened to read it earlier in the year. The thing about this one is, while very character driven which is the kind of book I tend to prefer, it’s not a style of writing I usually love. It worked for me in this one and I ate up every word (despite how glaringly overzealous the prose are).
The mental health aspect of the book is what I clung on to the most as well as the way it pondered childhood and how this comparatively brief time in our lives follows us forever. As this book illustrates, it sticks with some more than others — especially if they feel they were robbed of it. I was surprised to see the average Goodreads rating at a neutral number, but I can see why someone might put it down. Stephen is extremely flawed and not in a good way. I mention in my review that I actually like the movie better (more likable characters, a better flowing narrative, etc.) so I’m not sure how much that has influenced my opinion.
#3 – The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
I could gush for hours about this book’s aesthetic alone. Starting in the late 1800s, the story follows the life of Esme from childhood to adulthood. She more or less grows up in a scriptorium as the first Oxford English Dictionary is being compiled. It’s extremely character driven and takes place as a unique time (at least at the start). Words are another focus, capturing the wonderment of learning their meanings that I think nearly everyone forgets from when they’re young.
I read this earlier in the year so the details are a bit murky. Even at the time, I don’t think I could have put why exactly this book spoke to me (aside from the love of words). I particularly enjoyed the first part of the book. The middle lost me a bit but I was very much invested again by the end. A unique historical fiction read for sure.
#2 – The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani
I absolutely adored this book and depending on the day could also be considered my favorite 2022 read and release. It’s a story of lineage going back and forth between modern times and the WWII era. Sometimes the multiple time period format can be choppy but I didn’t find this to be the case. Adriana Trigiani’s writing is marvelous and she captures so much feeling in her characters.
Something that I appreciated most about this book was getting to read about characters who share my religion in a relatable way. Without going too deeply into it, I’ll just say the characters were humanistic existing in a human society just going about their lives. Certain beliefs were at the heart of it, and yet, this wasn’t at all a religious book nor was religion a major part of the plot. It felt real and non-combative, simply matter of fact. I see so many unsavory representations and accusatory narratives that this was a breath of fresh air. This is a book I’ll always carry within me for this reason. Of course, the actual story was wonderful, too!
#1 – Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu
This was easily the most captivating read of the year for me. Spanning three generations, this is the story of an immigrant family escaping war and trying to make better (and peaceful) lives for themselves. What made it even better was that it was told in a linear timeline.
I’ve always loved Chinese history and learning about the culture, and yet, I didn’t know much about this part of the world during World War II. More than a story of escaping war and hardships, it’s about family and connection. This becomes even more striking nearing the later generation. I’m shocked that more people aren’t talking about it. A must read!
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it (or of them if you’ve read more than one)? I’d also love to know what your Top 5 2022 reads are! Feel free to leave a comment with your picks.
Happy New Year!