Monday, January 2, 2023

Melody's 2022 Reading

Let's jump in: in 2022, I read 55 books.

This was seven more than my goal, and more books read in a year since 2013! I prioritized reading this year--turns out, I don't have a lot of hobbies, but I know I love to read--so it feels good to see it pay off.

How did I do it?

  • A couple were Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels; those are quick reads.
  • I could do nothing but listen to audiobooks when I had (and recovered from) covid.
  • I participated in an online book club, which inspired a daily-ish habit of 30 minutes of physical book time to transition from work life (I work from home most days) to home life.
  • Not a new trick, but still a reading life-saver: e-books on my phone. Why choose the infinite scroll when you have a wealth of free reading available through your local library's e-book library? I keep my wishlist updated with all my want-to-reads, so whenever I finish a book, I just tap through to see what's available for me to check out next. See how much of this year was e-book? Whoa.
Something else interesting about this graph: I read much more non-fiction than fiction. I was aiming for equal balance (2021 was still in fiction's favor), but you'll notice that extra brown chunk of non-fiction reading is what made up much of the difference. That's the book club!

My average star rating on Goodreads was 4.2 (out of 5). For reference, four stars on Goodreads means I "really liked" the book. Three stars means I "liked" it, but five stars means I "loved" it. I also shelved seven books before finishing them; I'm becoming more picky/discerning because that's 2-3 times as many as usual.

So what did I read this year?

Fiction

Almost half of what I read was fantasy, and most of this was by burning through the Ascendance series, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I had read the first book a long time ago, and I returned to the series through audiobook (a rarity for me) while I had/recovered from covid.

Also this year, I accepted that cozy mysteries are part of my reading DNA (Boxcar Children, anyone?) and explored a few more. They're a great "chaser" when you've finished a particularly long and/or heady book. My favorites right now are The Noodle Shop Mysteries, by Vivien Chen.

I'm going to change things up and start with the best fiction of my year.

Fiction Gold: No contest, hands down, this was Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (author of The Martian). Speed-of-light fast with glittering originality, I'm not sure whether I'm more impressed by this book specifically or the fact that Weir has written TWO masterpieces. This science of this book is a joy to explore, the premise is bizarre yet perfectly believable, and it takes absolute hold of your heartstrings. You will not regret the time you spend with this book.

Fiction Silver: You may remember a special shout-out in my 2020 review for Dave Eggers' The Circle. Well, the sequel has earned its place on my list: The Every is every bit as observant and connected as its predecessor...but more so in every way (and it's better paced). Eggers has created a horrifying world for his character to rebel against, a world that bears concerning similarities to our own. You won't be able to put it down...or stop thinking about it once you reach the final page.


Fiction Bronze
: Speaking of the Ascendance series, The Runaway King, by Jennifer Nielsen, is a top 3! Nielsen is a pro at the unreliable narrator game, and you only love her--and narrator Jaron--all the more for it. If you're looking for straightforward YA, which is to say, just swashbuckling adventure and good friendships, you're in the right place.

Non-Fiction

I read a lot of good non-fiction this year. There are SO MANY books I want to find a way to mention and recommend to you, so get ready for a literary learning whirlwind. To spare you a bit, I'm going to only award an overall Gold this year. You can assume that pictured books win their respective categories.

Gold Non-Fiction: I've tried to avoid the John Green bandwagon, but The Anthropocene Reviewed fully deserves its place at the top. I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob. The sunset chapter is why you read this book, but it requires the journey of the chapters before it to appreciate the sunsets fully.


Recent History

I'm not sure if this is true for every generation, but the half-century before my birth (with some overlap of my early childhood) is a blank spot on my otherwise decently-filled mental timeline. Too new to be taught as history and common knowledge to those older than me...it's a problem. It's been an ongoing process to remedy this, but here's how I did so this year:
  • Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, by Kristin Kobes Du Mez (1945 and onward) (I've reviewed this book on Goodreads.)
  • The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, by Jeff Guinn (1955-1978)
  • The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America, by James T. Patterson (1965)
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson  (1988 and onward, with flashbacks)
  • No Future without Forgiveness, a memoir of how South Africa moved forward, by Desmond Tutu (1994-1996, with flashbacks)

A New Way to Think About... 

I'm not sure what to call the following bucket of books, but the effect they had on me was similar: a revolutionized approach to something common, often in small but impactful ways, and often applied to my life beyond the original topic. They are all fun reads that I recommend!

If you're looking for a new way to think about ______, read _____.
  • Design | Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, by Ingrid Fetell Lee.
  • Events | The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, by Priya Parker.
  • Innovation | Big Little Breakthroughs: How Small, Everyday Innovations Drive Oversized Results, by Josh Linker. (I've reviewed this book on Goodreads.)
  • Surroundings | The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, by Annie Murphy Paul

Humans Are Fascinating

I read some great books this year about our hearts, minds, and bodies.
  • Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, by Brene Brown. A reference book for understanding emotions.
  • I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, by Ed Yong. I still hate biology, but Yong made this niche topic fun and fascinating!
  • Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain, by David Eagleman. It's a useless subtitle; prepare to be wowed by how the brain works and the creative ways we're making it work for us (especially when it comes to addressing visual and hearing impairments).
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck. You've heard of fixed vs. growth mindsets--this is the research that started it all.
  • The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why, by Richard E. Nisbett. If your curiosity was whetted by my cultural differences post last year, this is the way to learn more (though it is a bit dry).

State of the Church

And finally, a few books about the Church...how we got to where we are and what we're doing here.
  • Nonverts: The Making of Ex-Christian America, by Stephen Bullivant. The best exploration I've read so far of the deconstruction headline.
  • The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth, by Beth Allison Barr.
  • Unity through Repentance: The Journey to Wittenberg 2017, by Thomas and Amy Cogdell. (I've reviewed this book on Goodreads.)
That's all! Thanks for reading, if you got this far. You can see all the books I read in 2022 (with some stats) and keep up with my 2023 progress on Goodreads.

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