quick lit – next page, please {2022 best fiction}

“[Read fiction] to make the unknown known, to make the other familiar….to make magic with words.”

– Professor Jerome Playfair, BABEL

Below are the best works of fiction and five-star reads of 2022. I have been looking at it to see if there are any connective themes: what made me excited about reading each of them? What kind of books are they? If you see any let me know. 

MY OXFORD YEAR by Julia Whelan

I LOVED this book so much.  This was a reread and I fell even more in love with it this time than I did the first time around.  One of the reasons is because I didn’t fully experience the poems in this story until my second reading. I should mention, I have a thing for Oxford, England. I considered attending a school in Georgia named Oxford to get as close as I could to the place.

A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT and A PRAYER FOR THE CROWN-SHY by Becky Chambers

A PRAYER FOR THE CROWN-SHY is the second novella in the Monk & Robot series. A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT saved me in 2021.  When I read it the first time, I hugged it to my chest and cried literal tears.  It is such a lovely book; like a warm cup of tea on a cold night and I reread it on the first of the year. I do hope there’s a third in this series. 

SO MANY BEGINNINGS by Bethany Morrow

This meticulously researched YA novel is a reimagining of LITTLE WOMEN by Louise May Alcott featuring black sisters during the same time period. Bethany Morrow is quoted as saying that she is “telling a completely different story.” She has to because a black girl’s story in the late 1800’s would be a totally different than a white girl’s story. It was a beautiful story and one that I wished had been available when I read the original LITTLE WOMEN as a young girl. 

RING SHOUT by P. Djèlí Clark

I don’t typically read horror stories but my friend, Ginger, told me that this was one of the best books that she has ever read. Period! This story reimagines the members of the Ku Klux Klan as actual demons and makes very clear the horrors of that time. P. Djèlí Clark is an academic and his knowledge of history is evident in all of his work.  I will read anything he writes. 

SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Emily St. John Mandel

I read SEA OF TRANQUILITY in February of this year and yes, it maintained a top spot from the day I finished it until BABEL came along. I adored the interconnectivity and multiple storylines spanning 500 years and into the future (love a well-placed sci-fi element). It is a novel about art, love, and COVID; but don’t let that deter you from reading it. It took me a long time to get into it and I wasn’t fully invested until halfway in. The storylines all come together brilliantly into an ending that I adored. I picked this one up because Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy told me that I would like it.  She was right. 

BABEL: AN ARCANE HISTORY by R. F. Kuang

This book slayed me, wrecked me.  Stories about wanting desperately to be a part of something and searching for a place to belong deeply resonate with me.  With more than a passing interest in linguistics and etymology, and my thing for Oxford, this book was right up my alley. It’s thoroughly researched, almost historical fiction with a mild fantasy element which I love.  Be warned, the book raises a lot of questions but answers none of them. Don’t let that deter you.  The writing style is genius and I will definitely reread it at some point. 

BURY YOUR DEAD by Louise Penny

This is the book that relieved me of my BABEL book hangover. The sixth book in the Inspector Gamache Series, this book is an in-depth look at grief and loss. But is weirdly comforting.  It was the perfect book for me to read at the end of a very hard year. 

Per usual, I’m linking up with Anne Bogel’s Quick Lit post over on Modern Mrs. Darcy. If you are here because of her, thank you. 

quick lit – next page, please {best books of 2021 edition}

For the past few years I have been intentionally compiling my best books of the year.  So I thought I would share my top 10 books of 2021. Counting down…

#10 | The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

A practical guide to comfort you in difficult times, including playlists, food, and practical advice.  I have enjoyed everything that I have read by Matt Haig, and have this one on my nightstand to pick up when I am feeling a bit low.

#9 | You Got Anything Stronger: Stories by Gabrielle Union

Though not as funny as her first book, We’re Going to Need More Wine, this one stood out because of Gabrielle’s openness and honesty in discussing difficult topics including infertility, motherhood, and racial justice. For example, she talks about how everyone else was so happy when her surrogate became pregnant but she was mad! This book was so very painful at some moments but it has stayed with me and I cannot stop thinking about it so, on the list it goes.

#8 | The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Delila Harris

This one was unlike anything I have ever read. Some have said it was a book written by a black woman for everyone, but that included often unexplained references to a black woman’s life (IE. Putting on a silk scarf at night). I loved that about it.

#7 | The Wayfarer Series by Becky Chambers

I read all 4 of these books starting with A Long Way to Small Angry Planet.  And thus began my love of Becky Chambers. I will read anything she writes.

#6 | Writers & Lovers by Lily King

This book has the second best ending of a book I read all year so, on the list it goes.

#5 | The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

I don’t know why it took me so long to read this one but such a lovely, hopeful story. Anyone who is struggling to feel accepted and loved by others should take a peek at the magical story.

#4 | Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

In March, the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club read this one; I hadn’t read it since I studied it in college. It held up. I love it as much then if not more now. And it was very interesting to read it as an older woman and how my perspective have changed since then.

#3 | Address Unknown by Katherine Kressman Taylor

Everyone should read this! And at about 70 pages, it won’t take much of your time. Originally published in the early 30’s before the start of WWII, it is a fascinating story told in letters about two friends, one German and the other a Jew and what happens when the German moves home at the rise of Hitler. Fascinating! Short – only 72 pages.

#2 | Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

This book is epic! The longest I have read in a long time. But very much worth my time.

#1 | A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I heart this book so much! I read it for the third time last week and hugged it to my chest when I was done.

What was the best thing that you read last year?

enjoy life…

Per usual, I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and her Quick Lit post.

happy new year + a reading reflection

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Decided to start this new year by posting my answers to Reading Questions for 2021 from my friend, Donna of I am Your Rabbit. If you don’t already, you should check out her weekly book and entertainment updates. She’s my go-to for deciding what the Hubby and I will watch on a Saturday night.

What were 3 books you loved reading in 2021 (published any year?)

I love how Donna emphasized 3 books knowing full well how challenging that would be for us. It made me laugh out loud.  Just three?!?!

  1. A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT by Becky Chambers. I’ve recommend this book to everyone I know who loves to read and those that hint that they might like to read something. I even selected it for the Rocket City Mom Virtual Book Club; we discussed it last night. This short novella may have saved me in 2021. It’s such a lovely book, like a hot cup of tea on a cold night. When I reached the end, I cried literal tears of joy of being seen in such a real way. Becky Chambers dedicates the book “for anyone that could use a break” and that’s just about everyone right now, isn’t it?
  2. CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr. This stands out to me because it is the longest book I have read in a long time, over 600 pages. But the story was epic and spanned hundreds of years, following one book from the 1400s in Constantinople to the future on a space ship. I got swept away in the story and, in 2021, being swept away was a challenge.  It was the right amount of everything I love in a book.
  3. WRITERS & LOVERS by Lily King. I started this book in 2020 and couldn’t get into it.  I thought it would be a sad book. The main character’s mother had passed and she is grieving, in a dead-end job, and struggling to write a book. But this book ends so well, I get goosebumps thinking about reading that ending again.  I loved it!

What book had been on your TBR (to be read list) for years and you’re happy you finally read it in 2021?

I read over 100 books this year; something which I have always wanted to do but, as of this moment, don’t ever want to do again! In perusing my list, I am realizing how little of my books were something that I have wanted to read a long time.  Most of them were new-to-me books.  But I did get a chance to reread THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston.  I adored this book when I studied it in college and was delighted to discover, that 20 years later, I still adore it.

What author did you read for the first time in 2021 that you’ll now consider an ‘automatic read’ the next time they publish a book?

Becky Chambers, author of the aforementioned PSALM. I also read her entire Wayfarer Series this year, as a #buddyread with Donna, no less.  I have one more novella of hers left to be a Becky Chambers completist but don’t want to read it yet, because I always want a new book of hers available to me. Does anyone else do that?

What are a couple of 2022 new releases you’re excited about?

Becky Chambers will release a follow-up novella to PSALM this year and I can NOT wait to read it! It may be preordered already! Also, Julia Whelan is finally releasing another book! Her MY OXFORD YEAR is one of my fav of all time.

What are your goals and/or projects for your reading life next year?

My fellow team members at Modern Mrs. Darcy are incredulous and perhaps a bit amused at my reading goal/project this year. I am planning on reading only 42 NEW books! These 42 books have to meet one major specific criteria – when I heard about them, I must have said, “heck yeah! I want to read that!” There are two important caveats to this project. One, I can read as many rereads as I want. And two, 10% of my new books must come from my shelf of books I already own but have not yet read. I will know by July whether I am going to fail spectacularly at this project or not!

Note: If you’re a listener and supporter the podcast, What Should I Read Next?, you can hear more about this project on this week’s bonus episode.

enjoy life…