Making a best books list is very personal. What appeals to me as a reader may not appeal to anyone else. I am, however, an eclectic reader. Over the last 12 months I have read a huge variety of books. Memoirs, autobiographies, thrillers, LOTS of mysteries, romance, history, non-fiction, religious, devotional, classics, historical fiction, self-help, and fiction. About the only kind of book you won’t find on my shelf is horror or science fiction, although I have read both on occasion.
This last year I read 142 books, which is an average of almost three every week. I’ve only read four in December, so you can tell that it has been a busy month. All of these books are faithfully recorded in Goodreads, which then gives me an end of the year summary of my books. This allows me to think back over the books I’ve read and pick out the best books (for me) of 2022.
What defines a great book for me? It is one I think about after I’ve finished reading it. I wish there were a sequel so I could continue my life with the people in the book. The best books are ones that are so well-written I can’t put them down. If I am walking through a bookstore with a friend, I will point at one of these best books and say, “You really should read that.”
The best book I read during 2022 was “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus. The book is classified as historical fiction, which I thought was kind of odd. It is set in the 1950’s and 60’s, which is during my lifetime, so I don’t consider it history! “Lessons in Chemistry” was chosen as the 2022 Goodreads Choice Award Debut Novel. The 1950’s had to be one of the most repressive times in history for women, especially after the freedom of the 1940’s. Elizabeth Zott, the central character in “Lessons in Chemistry” wants to do scientific research. Instead, she is kicked out of a Ph.D. program, has her research results stolen by her supervisor, and is relegated to being a lab assistant.
I can’t say too much about how the story goes (I don’t want to give anything away), but, for me, it was a powerful statement of the consequences faced by generations of women who wanted more than men thought they should have. Our world and country are still so misogynistic, that “Lessons in Chemistry” was almost a metaphor for life now. I found the character and situations completely believable until the end. The ending, although very satisfying, was overly optimistic. “Lessons in Chemistry” is a story about strength, misplaced power, and rising above tragic circumstances. There are also some humorous elements to the story which makes it even better. I especially recommend it for women in their 60’s, for whom the 1960’s are not history.
Out of the 142 books I read, 32 of them got five star ratings from me on Goodreads. Two of those are by an author that I only discovered this year, Tana French. She writes the Dublin Murder Squad series. Unlike most series, her stories do not focus on the same characters in each book. Instead, someone who was a tangential character or even a “villain” in one book might the be hero of the next. She writes realistically about the people who serve on the squad, good and bad. The books are psychological thrillers that delve into the motivations of the people who become detectives.
The books can be a bit uneven. Some of the protagonists are most likeable than others. Sometimes Tana gets bogged down in emotional details and the pace of the books is a little slow. I have read six of her books and two of them got five stars – the others got four stars. My favorite of her books so far, is “Faithful Place.” It is a dark story but develops the characters in it beautifully.
Another new to me author is Kate Quinn. Although her books are historical fiction, they are so well researched that they lean heavily on the historical side. Each of her books is based on real person who did extraordinary things. Kate brings these obscure women to light and makes them come alive in their historical context. “The Diamond Eye” is about a female Soviet sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, during World War II. “The Huntress” tells the story of a female Nazi assassin and the search to bring her to justice after the war. Both books got five stars from me and I look forward to reading more of Kate Quinn’s books.
Over the last year I read all of Agatha Christie‘s Miss Marple books. Although most of them only got four stars, I love the Miss Marple character. Nosy older women are overlooked and treated in a condescending manner. Miss Marple uses this to her advantage to find out things that other people do not notice, which helps her solve mysteries. My favorite Agatha Christie is “4:50 from Paddington.” If you like mystery movies, I especially recommend the Miss Marple movies starring Margaret Rutherford. They are wonderful!
One last book to mention in my best books list: “HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act at a Time” by Brad Aronson. This book is a collection of feel-good stories about people who saw a need and met it. Some of them are small things, but others are people who started movements or world-wide organizations to help others. The book is an inspiring and easy read. It will make you want to go out and help someone. Aronson also includes a list of worthwhile organizations to volunteer for or donate to at the end of the book.
What are your favorite books of 2022? What book are you still thinking about or recommending to others? Let me know what you think!