Every year, I devote a big part of my time—when I’m not reading comments or writing on Daily Kos, and when I’m not talking to campaigns—to reading. I love reading, watching movies, enjoying music, cooking. Whatever it is, I like to find ways to live life to the fullest I possibly can, then think back over the year about the great finds I have had in order to share them with others.
At the end of past years I’ve put together top 10 lists of my favorite books, music, and movies to share with the Daily Kos community. Due to later releases for Academy season, some movies have missed my year-end rundown. That happened last year when Cyrano missed my list, and a few films I’m very eager to see will not be near me before the end of the year, especially The Whale and Babylon. I’m going to hold off on movies until after I can see Avatar: The Way of Water, which I have high hopes for based on early reviews and the past work of James Cameron. This diary, however, is about something that takes much more time to enjoy: Books. Once you encounter a great book, you get to share not only the book itself with someone else but the way you interpret the story. With that introduction, I’m going to introduce 10 of my favorite books of the year presented in no particular order. I will give special notice on one book I found so exceptional that it’s my Book of the Year.
1. I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette McCurdy
Funny, sad, telling, and really well written. From the success of iCarly to the heartbreak of having family members control absolutely element of your life, McCurdy shies away from nothing as she details what it was like becoming a child actor at age 6.
2. If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English: A Novel, Noor Naga
A romance novel of sorts set in a time period of revolution. There are a lot of questions asked here in a debut novel that really works right from the beginning. This is a read that will go by faster than you think, and the shift in the narrative gives you a feeling commitment to the characters. The writer offers you a way to understand the character that makes you appreciate the environment of the story, and it is in this rich world that you can really find something unique.
3. The Kaiju Preservation Society, John Scalzi
I know. Everywhere you go when you ask about best books of the year, you are going to find a lot of listings for high-brow drama, great nonfiction, and thoughtful treatises on important philosophical matters. I’m going to be honest and tell you I read far more science fiction, fantasy, comedy, and apocalyptic tales. All of these formats do not receive the credit they deserve in the literary world, in my opinion, when an author does them true justice like John Scalzi, it deserves to be recognized. Scalzi’s Kaiju Preservation Society is a tale that works on every single level. It’s exciting, fun, good dialogue and the way in which the story unfolds grabs you and holds you until the very end.
Tons of romance novels that are not Colleen Hoover.
Okay, I’m going to get back to my main list here after a short interlude. If you’re busy waiting for the next Colleen Hoover novel, please, could you try another author? Pick up the best seller’s list at any moment and you will find tons of Hoover, the queen of trauma porn. Someone has a horrible traumatic past? Well they must be the love interest of the future! I’ll try to list at least a few good stories with great love interests that do not have to be Hoover, how about that?
4. The Candy House, Jennifer Egan
Imagine a period where all of your unconscious can be saved into a mandala cube. Imagine this cube stores your thoughts, and the follow-through is fantastic. This book is one that has come off of and onto my top 10 list as I debated where I would put it, but I think if you want to look back at 2022 for books that offered unique thought, The Candy House is a great sequel. Some readers may find the storytelling method confusing, but in the end it is quite rewarding.
5. The Dead Romantics, Ashley Poston
Ditch the Hoover. Instead, try this book that should be a standard to judge other romance novels this year. The Dead Romantics has a setup to appease almost every reader: Is it a horror story? A romance novel? A combination? Maybe some light comedy mixed in? This book has so many well-threaded ideas that it has the feel of being fun while you read it. This is originality, and readers will be well rewarded. If you like the idea of a ghost story, or a love story, then you have everything you need.
6. Scenes from My Life: A Memoir, Michael K. Williams
I’m a pretty huge Kansas City football fan. When Michael K. Williams passed away due to a drug overdose, we played in Baltimore that weekend. The Ravens walked onto the field to the sound of Williams’ whistle taken from HBO’s The Wire, where his character Omar held a special place in the heart of the fans, and eventually the city where the show was set. How difficult would it be to complete a memoir after the passing of a man due to his overdose? This is a book that deserves to be read. It details a long, complex story, the details of a life that deserve to be heard, and an understanding that every life has something special about it. The foreword alone is worth this book, but the story it tells is about defying expectations and how adversity is something that is not as simple as some would lead us to believe.
7. Faith, Hope, and Carnage, Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan
If you followed the punk scene in the ‘90s, you were familiar with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. From his work on the soundtrack of The X-Files to contributions to what, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest movie soundtrack compilations of all time for Wim Wender’s Until The End Of The World (German, long-form, now finally available on Criterion BluRay), his music has always left me wanting more. The book Faith, Hope, and Carnage is a truly dark tale about recovery and loss as Cave discusses the personal impact of death on his family and how the tragic death of his son Aurthur in 2015 impacted him and his worldview. This is an excellent read and will leave you thinking long afterward.
8. In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial, Mona Chollet
Witches and witch stories have been around since the inception of our nation. What have these stories done to define the way we think about women in general, and how have witch stories been rooted in the way we think and control the narrative about women? Mona Chollet unpacks all of it in this excellent read.
9. The Revolutionary Samuel Adams, Stacy Schiff
If you adored the musical Hamilton, wait until you get a chance to read Stacy Schiff’s excellent work on Samuel Adams. When most people think about Adams today, the beer bearing his name may be the first thing that comes to mind. But Schiff’s work goes through the revolutionary calls of Adams: his calls to end slavery, adopt universal education, and provide for new opportunities in a new nation. If you love historical reads that you know scream “adaptation forthcoming,” grab a copy.
And here it is, my book you should make every effort to read:
10. The Year We Learned to Fly, Jacqueline Woodson
When people talk about their hatred of new books, I always find myself thinking of this one, a beautifully written and illustrated story aimed at 5 to 8 year olds. You read my words correctly: This is a book aimed squarely at children and young parents, but the excitement this book can generate is fantastic. This book talks about the muted feelings children feel, the colors being held muted in a room and vibrant outside. This book offers such a great way to talk to young children about difficult topics. If the point of any book is to start a conversation, isn’t beginning that conversation with our own children a great place for that to happen?
What were your best books of 2022?