My 10 Favorite Reads of 2022 📚
I know, I know... everyone's doing 'em.
It was a good reading year for me, and I can’t always say that.
I can always say I love reading and that it’s my favorite hobby, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always made the time I’ve wanted for pleasure reading. In recent years, I’ve either been plagued with stacks of books I have to read for my classes, or my brain feels short-circuited and unable to finish certain books I just know I’d love. It’s not that I wouldn’t read at all; each year I’d get in a good 20-30 books on average. But it wasn’t the reading life I wanted to cultivate.
This year was different. I just finished my 50th book, and with my 2022 goal of 52 (one per week, on average), I think I’ll cross my goal line just fine. It’s not an astounding number, but it was enough of a challenge to dare me to read steadily. This year, in what felt like the first time in years, I did.
What made this year different? I think there were two main reasons:
1. I actually made a reading goal. I’ve long pooh-poohed the idea, even at the height of its trendiness, because it felt like turning my favorite relaxing activity into a competitive challenge. I want to just read what I want when I want, I’d think. But the thing is… that’s not actually what I wanted. I wanted to read more. I wanted to increase my concentration. I wanted to finally read some books that had been on my TBR list for literal years. So, I went with a goal that we describe to our students at our school that sat in my ‘challenge zone’ — not too easy (‘comfort zone’) and not too hard (‘panic zone’).
2. I spent much, much, much less time on social media. You already know that I left Instagram this year. I left Facebook over six years ago. I mostly check Twitter on my desktop and I don’t have the app on my phone at all. Even though my IG use had gone way down the past few years, it weirdly still hung over me and asked for occasional attention, at least enough to short-circuit my brain and its ability to concentrate. Making a definitive effort to flat-out no longer use the app meant reading went back to being my default time-filler. Lines, grocery shopping, daily walks, and even workouts all became time I spent reading (thanks to audiobooks).
I won’t try to summarize or review all 50+ books I read this year because that would be really boring for you. If you’re curious, most (but not all, because they’re not all available) are linked here. A few were re-reads, but they were read in their entirety (as opposed to skims, which I also did for certain class books that aren’t listed).
But I would like to share my top ten favorites of the year, which I know is not a novel idea because it seems like everyone is doing these sorts of lists right now. Alas, I am not original in this department, and I’m okay with that.
Here are my favorite books (not that were published this year — I don’t care one whit about that, mind you) that I read in 2022.
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10. The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles
In the spirit of this particular book, I’ll count down this list from ten to one (if you know, you know). Spanning ten days and told from multiple POVs, this is a coming-of-age, Odyssey-inspired tale set in the '50s about a young man leaving a juvenile work farm and heading to a new life in California with his younger brother. Except they go in the other direction. And adventures ensue.
I absolutely did not see the ending of this book coming, but it left me satisfied and thinking for days after I read it.
9. The War on the West, by Douglas Murray
I wasn't sure what I'd think about this one, but I was intrigued (this year, more than any other in recent memory, I've made more of an effort to learn from people I may disagree with). But I found Murray making more sense than I initially imagined. Why does our current Western culture hate itself so much? Are our sins the worst that have ever been committed in history? I didn't agree with everything proposed in this book, but it gave me an awful lot to think about, and I'm very glad I read it. It made a solid argument for preserving civilization, both by upholding our traditions and by making changes for the better.
8. Laurus, by Eugene Vodolazkin
Set in 15th-century Russia and written like a sweeping 19th-century classic, this book was actually written just a few years ago. In a time of plague, an orphaned boy turned local healer goes on a quest to forgive himself after failing to heal the woman he loved.
This journey takes him through snow-crusted Russia and into Europe and eventually down to Jerusalem, and takes turns I never saw coming. A beautiful, well-told story about faith, healing, the medieval worldview, and love in the truest Thomistic definition: to will the good of the other.
7. Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel
I loved Station Eleven but was more ‘meh’ about Mandel’s other books, yet this one sucked me right in and didn’t let me go. Telling stories from both the past and future, characters’ lives from different times and places ultimately dovetail beautifully in a satisfying redemptive arc. This one’s about — yep, a plague. But with hope!
6. Strange New World, by Carl Trueman
Trueman’s recent The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self was beyond mind-blowing, but it was also a bit …hard to read. Maybe not hard, but heady. Strange New World is Trueman’s answer to many peoples’ requests to write something about the same topic but with more accessibility, and I’m very glad he did. This book is so very needed. How did our culture arrive at the state it’s in, rife with fighting identity politics, and how do we address it? First, we need to look at the history that brought us here. A succinct book that covers a lot of topics and important historic figures, Trueman’s ongoing work today is so important.
5. The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius
A short book written in the sixth century, Boethius was an unfairly imprisoned politician awaiting his inevitable death by torture when he penned this. Even though he was a Christian, Boethius philosophizes about the real meaning and purpose of life, as well as how to die well, not strictly with Christian precepts but with the tenets of Greek philosophy.
Ultimately he arrives that our life's purpose is our soul's knowledge of God, and we as readers recognize all truth as God's truth. This short treatise inspired more thinkers than you might imagine, making this one of the more important books you've barely heard of. A must-read.
4. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
File this under “the book I started a million times and had every desire to finish, it just never happened until now.” Absolutely no shame in that game, I say! I knew I'd love this book and I was right. Kyle was chomping at the bit for me to finally finish so we could talk about it because it's just an absolute, absolute, absolute delight. Of course it is. Amor Towles is a master storyteller, and Count Rostov is your favorite uncle. I'm actually glad this book took me so long to read — I appreciate it immensely and goes on my short list of all-time favorites. Worth every bit of the hype.
3. Love What Lasts, by Joshua Gibbs
It’s a bit unfair to include this book on this list because I’m not quite sure when it will release to the public. He sent me an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of this forthcoming book, and as someone who receives a lot of ARCs, I was shocked at how fervently I devoured this book in its entirety. I read it cover to cover in a few weeks’ time. I read portions of it out loud to
my victims the family over dinner. Essentially, Gibbs gives words to everything I’ve been thinking about for years but haven’t quite known how to articulate. Even the title — love what lasts — perfectly encapsulates my foundational desire for my children and thus my motivation for parenting the way I do. I hope to have him on the podcast in 2023. I think you’ll absolutely love this new book.
2. Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry
I first read this modern Berry classic when I was too young to appreciate it, and even though I’d re-read (skimmed is more like it) portions over the years, this year I finally re-read it from start to finish. Actually, I listened to it, and that was the right move, I think, because through his cadence and accent the narrator beautifully depicts life in Port William. I cried my way through the ending just like I did with Jayber Crow. If you need a reminder that your small life matters, imbibe some of the wisdom of Mrs. Coulter and you’ll find the reminders you need.
1. The Abolition of Man, by CS Lewis
Getting the gold medal in my reading list this year is another re-read that I just didn’t appreciate the first time I read it. Largely thought of as Lewis’ best work and his most challenging, this short but poignant book is actually a collection of three talks he gave about halfway through World War II.
It’s one of his few nonfiction works that doesn’t touch on religion at all, but his persuasive arguments make it clear why we all desperately need it. If you’ve wondered why the current culture is the way it is, read this book. Read it annually, I say (it’s short enough). We are a world of men without chests, and we can’t just let that fact lie there in hopes that things will get better.
Speaking of re-reading, I do have a few books I read again every January, and I think The Abolition of Man will now make that short list (along with Atomic Habits and Domestic Monastery). I’ll end 2022 with a cozy murder mystery or two, and then start the new year with some nonfiction words of wisdom.
In 2023 I’m adjusting my reading goal (yep, I’m convinced it’s good for me to have one) to a certain type of reading over merely quantity. It’ll include categories, such as:
A Classic I’ve Been Meaning to Read for at Least 20 Years
A Book Over 150K Words
A Book Written and Set in the Southern Hemisphere
A Historic Nonfiction Narrative
A Book I’ll Probably Disagree With
…I’ll share my full list with subscribers in early 2023! For now, I’m looking forward to some cozy reading over the Christmas and New Year holidays, which is just about the best time all year to read. Time seems to have very little meaning during that week between December 25 and January 1, and entire days can be spent in pajamas curled under a blanket, judgment-free. I’m here for it.
I’ve got this Friday’s 5 Quick Things underway, and early next week I’m giving paying subscribers an annual gift I like to share for our final week leading up to Christmas. I’m then taking a short internet break for a few weeks, popping back on briefly before New Year’s Eve to share some annual reflection questions. I hope you, too, have some whitespace planned in your upcoming calendar!
I’ll see you all Friday. In the meantime, have a great week! And read a few pages in the checkout line. …Your body and soul will thank you.
Ora et Labora,
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