Not only did I write a book this year, but I read a lot of great books as well. I have been in a book club now since 1998 and still keep in touch with both groups in New York. I’m lucky to have found a local group to meet with monthly to discuss books and enjoy dining out for lunch.
This year I read more books on my own than I have in the past and found myself drawn to my favorite genre: Historical Fiction. A smattering of self-help books and life after death books keep presenting themselves in my newsfeeds and I will at times dive into those as well.
I enjoyed all these books on my list and as an amazon affiliate, I could earn rewards with qualifying purchases. Of course these are my opinions so if you’re looking for a good read, keep reading.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
This was my favorite book of the year. Taking place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, 70 year old Tova has a job washing the floors of the aquarium at night. She develops a relationship with
Marcellus, a giant pacific octopus with an attitude. In fact, Marcellus has narrative pages throughout the book as he discovers the truth about how Tova’s 18 year old son disappeared many years ago and persistently makes an effort to share his knowledge with her. The themes of loss, grief and aging are beautifully intertwined in a book I found hard to put down. Highly recommend.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
I love when I read a book with some historical truth to it. This story takes place in 1936 in the Appalachian hills of Kentucky. Cussy Carter is a 19-year -old woman who joins the Pack Horse Library Project and becomes a librarian who rides her trusted mule over the mountains and rivers to deliver books and magazines to poor people living in the hills.
Cussy is kind and strives to help others including the hungry children in a school despite the fact that she is ostracized for her Blue skin. Apparently this was a real thing – the blue people of Kentucky. Her poorly arranged marriage and prejudices against her drive her to seek medical help for her condition. Such an interesting book with a strong female character.
Honor by Thrity Umrigar
This story of forbidden love takes place in India. The cultural differences are brought to light as Smita, an American journalist who moved from India as a teenager, returns to cover the trial of Meena. When Meena, a Hindu, marries Abdul, a Muslim, her brother’s actions against them cause the death of Abdul.
In a culture where honor, family and religion are more influential than love or success this book is emotionally heart wrenching yet filled with a sense of hope. Worth the read especially if you like to learn about different places and cultures.
Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
If you enjoy Downton Abbey, this is a fun read for you. Clara Kelly comes over from Ireland in the 1800s to stay with family, but is mistakenly identified as the lady’s maid for Mrs. Carnegie of Pittsburgh. She doesn’t correct anyone and fudges her way into the position, developing a trusted relationship with not only the lady of the house, but with Andrew Carnegie, the founder of Carnegie Steel, one of the richest Americans and a philanthropist.
He gave away $60 million to fund a system of 1,689 public libraries across the country. Another fun historical fiction of Irish immigrants in 19th century America.
West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
I loved this story based on a true event when two giraffes arrived from Africa by ship in NYC during the hurricane of 1938. A fictional character Woodrow Wilson Nickel finds himself jobless and orphaned having just arrived in New York from the Texas Dust Bowl. He falls for the giraffes and volunteers to drive the darlings across the country to the San Diego Zoo.
Having driven myself from New York to San Diego (where I lived for 8 years and had the annual zoo pass) this journey was fun to tag along with. Of course the trip was different from mine as circus trains weren’t trying to steal my giraffes and the crazy poverty of the depression was long over on my trip, but I really enjoyed this story of adventure and coming-of-age.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
All of Kristin Hannah’s books are remarkable and this one is no exception. Taking place in the Dust Bowl of Texas during the depression, the main character Elsa makes an impulsive decision which leaves her disowned from her family and taken in by her husband’s family. After the husband leaves, she takes her kids for the golden promise of California opportunities only to find out, it’s really not golden at all.
Who knew people in California were so prejudice against the Okies – people from the dust bowl areas looking for a better life. Isn’t that a theme throughout all of time? Kristin Hannah makes us care about Elsa and we want her to make it through all the twist and turns of life. Courage, perseverance and survival abound in this hard to put down novel.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Elizabeth Zott is a chemist at a lab in 1960s California. As a woman during that time, her work at the lab is dismissed unless presented by a male colleague. When she is fired for being unmarried and pregnant, she is forced to find another career.
She lands a spot on a cooking show integrating her knowledge of chemistry and science to her recipes as well as encouraging her viewers to do great things with their lives. As a woman it sometimes is hard to believe that times were so different for women not so long ago.
Wish you were here by Jodi Picoult
The Galapagos Islands are on my bucket list and that is the setting for this story that takes place in 2020. When the COVID pandemic hits New York City, Diana O’Toole leaves her boyfriend the surgeon home and takes the nonrefundable trip to the Galapagos Islands.
She finds herself stranded without wifi in the home of a native family. As she learns more about herself we read more about the consequences of the pandemic for so many. Jodi keeps the book interesting with twists and turns and I did appreciate learning more about the setting of a place I hope to visit one day.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Definitely best to listen to this book as an audiobook so you can here Matthew tell his story. A wild childhood in the south, adventures in Australia and Africa as well as his rise to fame and falling in love are best told by him with his southern drawl and lessons of life.
His book is both inspiring and spiritual in its own way. I love his voice so it was a great book to listen to while taking my daily walks.
Lost Girls – An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
The Gilgo beach murders on Long Island, New York are still unsolved despite years of investigations by the Suffolk County Police department. This non-fiction book describes the lives of the 5 young women who are believed to have been murdered by a serial killer. They each had advertised as escorts on Craigs list and were young, petite framed women from dysfunctional families.
The second half of the book goes into the inept police investigation by a department who dismissed these deaths as unimportant or maybe even deserved. As a victim of a lame police investigation into my own husband’s homicide, I found this book involving the same department heads who ended up in prison due to corruption unable to put down. Hopefully for the sake of these women’s families, the culprits will one day be found out and justly prosecuted. For more information on this topic there is a Netflix movie based on this book and a well-done podcast called UNRAVELED
No Simple Highway by Kristin Divers Markey
I can’t write a best book list from 2022 without listing my own self-published memoir, Here is one of the 61 five star reviews on Amazon: ““No Simple Highway” is a heart wrenching story of the homicide of a loving husband and father. Kristen Divers Markey does such an amazing job telling her story of the tragedy that changed her life and her boys life forever. Through persistence Kristen eventually finds peace and closure for her family. She shows us all how it is possible to heal and move forward giving hope that it is possible to have happiness and even love again after such a tragic loss.” Elizabeth H
What a year for books! I’ve started to keep a list on my notepad on my phone with one or two sentences about the books I read. Sometimes that “Rolodex” of facts in my brain gets full so it’s a hint to keep track of all these great reads.
What did you love reading this year? Please share – I’m always looking for the next best read.