With thanks to one of my fave book bloggers and reviewers (and Rebeccas), Bookish Beck, for the inspiration … I present to you my year in books (or novels, really–I do love an escape!), in a nutshell.

Note that this reading summary doesn’t include the books I read as a beta reader or as a member of a fantastic writers group I joined this year–a 2022 highlight–or books I read for a class. Then there are also the craft books and collections of poetry and stories that I dip in out of and don’t always log. Do I sound like I’m making excuses? The thing is, I never feel like I read as much as I want to, but I try.

Longest book read this year: Chimes of a Lost Cathedral by Janet Fitch at 752 pages. Was it worth all those many pages set during the Russian Revolution? Mostly yes, worth all 22 CDs of the audiobook listened to on the way to and from my kids’ school. Second longest, if you’re taking notes: The Nix by Nathan Hill at 640 pages. Another (very different) historical novel, that one was one of the funniest books I read this year. (Want a book that will undoubtedly make you cry? Try the gorgeous Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.)

Most popular book read this year (735,545 reads on Goodreads): An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Did it live up to the hype? Pretty much, even if the ending was tied up with a bow a little too neatly for my tastes.

Best first line: “God was dead: to begin with.” From Winter by Ali Smith. This is a play on the famous first line of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: “Marley was dead: to begin with.”

The best first line also leads into the best opening paragraph, imho:

God was dead: to begin with.
    And romance was dead. Chivalry was dead.
Poetry, the novel, painting, they were all dead, and
art was dead. Theatre and cinema were both dead.
Literature was dead. The book was dead.
Modernism, postmodernism, realism and
surrealism were all dead. Jazz was dead, pop music,
disco, rap, classical music, dead. Culture was dead.
Decency, society, family values were dead. The past
was dead. History was dead. The welfare state was
dead. Politics was dead. Democracy was dead.
Communism, fascism, neoliberalism, capitalism, all
dead, and marxism, dead, feminism, also dead.
Political correctness, dead. Racism was dead.
Religion was dead. Thought was dead. Hope was
dead. Truth and fiction were both dead. The media
was dead. The internet was dead, Twitter,
instagram, facebook, google, dead.

Have I gotten around to the other novels in this seasonal quartet? Not yet.

Most challenging book read this year (but not as challenging as it would have been if I’d not read it as an audiobook): Matrix by Lauren Groff. Worth it? Definitely. Also it was the first novel I read of hers. What should I try of hers next?

Most Rust Belt-y (and that’s a very good thing): Hungry Town by Jason Kapcala. Read my interview with the author here. Have you every made a play list for something you were writing? Check out the author’s take on literary play lists here.

Book I’m most glad I read despite the literary community’s love of hating the author: Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen. Another doorstopper (at 592 pages), this is the first book in a projected trilogy. Do I plan to read the next couple? Maybe, but the more than a little depressing personal lives of the characters make me a little reticent to re-enter their world.

(And now you see why the Franzen also wins for worst cover!)

And last and the opposite of least … my favorite book of 2022 (drumroll, por favor): Book of Extraordinary Tragedies by Joe Meno. If you’re on Twitter, you know I can’t shut up about this book. Really, it’s wonderful and, the author says, his most autobiographical novel yet. This book–that ticks all my boxes for a story that sings–also wins for a favorite passage that will stick with me well into the new year:

[The MC says] I put on my headphones, pull up my hood, and go through my CDs, looking for the right composition.
     Be it a riot, Mozart. Having your throat cut, Beethoven.
Be it the beginning or end of the universe, Bach. Getting
your nose broke, Wagner. Having your head stomped,
Mahler. A knife in the back, Bartók. Death by drowning,
Haydn. Blunt-force trauma, Grieg. Slow poisoning, Puc-
cini. Blown to pieces by cannon fire? Brahms. A car acci-
dent with multiple fatalities? Stravinsky. Strangled to death
by someone you know and love. Stauss. Overdose? Liszt.
Suffocation? Handel. Internal bleeding? Ravel. But what symphony do you play while riding your wobbly bike across the southside?

And that’s a wrap! Want to see more of my year in books, find me at Goodreads.

Please share your top reads for 2022 in the comments. I’d love to hear about what you’ve been reading–or writing.

Want more Rust Belt writing, book reviews, author interviews, writing advice, essays, guest posts, and more? Follow me here. Thanks! 

And a very happy, book-filled New Year to all!

*free header image courtesy of Pexels

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15 thoughts on “2022 Reading Superlatives: top book picks and passages

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed the superlatives format. I always find it a fun way to look back at a reading year. The Nix was amazing! Matrix and Crossroads are both books I expected to love, but ended up DNFing. Maybe I’ll try them again another time. So far I’ve loved Groff’s short stories more than her novels, but I recommend The Monsters of Templeton and Fates and Furies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved the Nix–such fun, well-researched, really everything I like. Listened to the audiobook, which helps with the doorstoppers (for me anyway). I’m reticent to recommend Matrix and Crossroads widely (though I guess I have)–both had quite the strong religious strain. There again, I listened to them as audiobooks, so a different experience. I heard the format (no quotations, right?) of Matrix was a little confounding. I will try Groff’s short stories first I think. Thanks for the recs, for your fun superlatives post–your whole blog is one of my absolute favorites–and for being here!


  2. Great suggestions, Rebecca! I’m going to check out Ali Smith’s Winter (I read one of the other “seasons,” I think spring?) and also Joe Meno. I have a book by Meno, which I need to pull off my shelves and read! 2023 will be, for me (I hope) a better year of reading. I’m doing a lot more rereading, but I’m also interested in being introduced to new writers — which you post here does so nicely … so, many thanks! Wishing you & your family a very Happy New Year! Wishing you a productive new writing & reading & editing year as well! Deb 🎉🎆😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d never even heard of Joe Meno (who is based in Chicago) before, and, this is funny, now every time I gush over his novel on Twitter, a profile named Joe Meno, but with no profile pic and maybe 7 followers, likes my tweet. Wouldn’t the real Joe Meno have more than 7 followers? Anyway, I loved his book–so much music in it. Ali Smith’s Winter was also great, and I need to read more from her. Reading is my escape, and in 2023 it would be so easy for me to read instead of query agents, but that time has come. So, I’m not going to be overly hard on myself if I don’t read a ton in the new year.

      I’m happy I was able to intro you to a few new-to-you authors–and so thankful that we can discuss like this. My 2022 was better because of friends like you!

      A very Happy New Year to you and yours (especially your sweet pup!). And all the best for your literary year–I feel like 2023 is going to be a great one for you!


  3. A nice twist to the usual reading roundup (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Curious as to why matrix was your most challenging read.

    I still need to get out my December reading round up… too much to dooooo! 😛 Happy New Year Rebecca!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lani! This was a fun one to do. I can’t brag about how many books I read, so I had to get creative. Matrix was wonderful, but probably the most “literary” book of the bunch: very elevated language, in part, owing to the medieval setting and also some churchy language that was foreign even to me (and I’m Catholic); and in parts more of a character study than a plot-propelled novel. I listened to the audiobook, a different experience, so it moved for me. But I understand that some readers of the print book got bogged down in the choice the author made not to use quotations for dialogue. It was my first time reading Groff and I will definitely try her again!

      I loved your gratitude post. Love that you end the year on a celebratory, positive note. I really get so much out of the blogging community and draw inspiration from other bloggers, especially you! Happy 2023, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahhh, yes, that makes sense. I was thinking that I need to read more challenging material this year… Hmmm, maybe one of the classics. I used to enjoy dense reads and now … well, I guess I’ve gotten lazy 😉

        Thanks again, Rebecca. You’re the best, hugs and kisses from this side of the globe!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I would definitely have to do audiobooks in order to read those over 400-page books! They wouldn’t fit on my treadmill and I couldn’t sit that still to read them. 🤣🤣🤣 I always enjoy seeing what you’re reading and why you enjoyed the books. I just finished Ruthless River Love & Survival By Raft On The Amazon’s Relentless Madre De Dios by Holly Fitzgerald. While it is a true story, so much of it seemed unreal, but it was a book I didn’t want to put down! The closing paragraph is beautiful: “My life, like the Madre, is a running river: widening, moving forward, always changing. It is sometimes calm, sometimes raging, and often joyously rippling. I am ever curious about what lies around the bend.” Happy New Year to you and yours. I’m working on my TBR list this month too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean about those big, doorstopper books! They might break your treadmill if you dropped them. I’m much more patient for that kind of length when I’m listening to an audiobook. Your latest read sounds fascinating; I have a friend who is writing a memoir and it sounds perfect for her work. Maybe for me, too. But one of my guilty pleasures is recommending books to friends–it’s so fun when you come across one you think would fit her like a glove! Here’s hoping you find all the best-fitting books and ideas and activities and everything else this new year, Shelley. Happy, happy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes…I didn’t even think about the book dropping, yikes, I better triple-check the holder on my treadmill if I grab one of the extra thick books to read. I’ll find out this week, we have a storm coming on Tues/Wed.
        I need to figure out how to listen to audiobooks. Sadly, I don’t know how to do it or what tools to use. I’m lucky that I figured out the Kindle that I haven’t used in quite awhile. I love holding a book and seeing my progress by the moving bookmark. 😉
        I hope your friend enjoys the book and you too if you read it.
        In January, I add so many books to my TBR list. The winter months make it easier to want some down time to relax and curl up with a book to keep my mind off the cold and snow.
        Thank you for your well wishes for the new year, same to you, dear!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just a quick note that most of my audiobooks are gigantic boxes of CDs from the library. My car is old so it still has a CD player, thank goodness! My phone is also old, or I would probably use Libby more often–a free, audiobook app I can get through the library. But I certainly know what you mean about the joy of a real book with paper pages and easy-to-see progress!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ah, that makes sense. I still have a CD player somewhere – I need to look for it. I have a CD player in the car too. If I didn’t have such a short commute to work from one room to the other in our house, if I rent the books from the library I could listen while I work!!
        I did enjoy sitting and reading yesterday, I finished another book and started another one. I’m off to the treadmill to keep reading.
        All the reading you do is an inspiration to me!!

        Liked by 1 person

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