Friday, January 20, 2023

2022 Reading in Review

I began the new year by reading a book by Catherine Doherty 
and watching my kids smash a gingerbread house. It was a great
way to start 2023 :) 

This new year is already flying by for me, so before we get too far into it, I want to stop a moment and think about my reading and writing life from 2022. When 2022 began, I wrote that my only major reading goal was "reread more books." I didn't have any totals I was focusing on and was not part of any reading group (I unfortunately have a schedule conflict with the local Well Read Mom group--someday I'd like to get back to that group if it works out!). I put down books that weren't hitting me at the right moment, and I read a lot of really splendid books. 106 books, in fact! 

I read about dreadlocks and addiction, history and the liturgy. I read classics and memoirs, nonfiction books for adults and timeless children’s novels. I read about zombies. I read about vampires. I read about nineteenth century women who were unjustly imprisoned in insane asylums, and I read about Romanian teenagers living under a dictatorship in the 1980s. Somehow, I didn’t read any comic books or thrillers (a small sampling of those genres usually finds its way into my reading stack each year), but I read a lot of fascinating books!


Here's a quick highlight with one book I read each month. It isn’t always the best book that I’ve read that month (one month, I managed to read books by Catherine Doherty, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI-may he rest in peace-and John Steinbeck…I don’t know how I could even pick a favorite with a mix like that). But, it’s a way to shine a light on some of the titles that I picked up.

January--The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers

I really enjoyed this time-travel novel about Egyptian sorcerers who are trying to break open the time stream to bring their gods into 19th century England. The story itself focuses on Brendan, a scholar whose passion lies in 19th century poets and poetry. Brendan takes on a role as a guide to time-traveling tourists and becomes stuck in 1810, and craziness ensues.

February--Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart

This novel follows three sisters who live by themselves on a farm in New Jersey. One day, they have a run-in with some thugs who crash into their buggy in town--and Constance (one of the sisters) decides that she will not rest until they have been compensated for damages. This story is based on the real-life adventures of Constance Kopp, the first female deputy sheriff in the U.S. and it was really fun!

March--Sobornost, by Catherine Doherty

In this short but insightful book, Doherty reflects on sobornost, the Russian word for "unity." Rather than referring to a superficial unity, it instead indicated a deep, absolute unity: the unity of the Trinity, which we are all called to. Building on her book Poustinia, this volume is very powerful and gave me a lot to ponder.

April--The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis

I first read this book as a young teenager and didn’t really grasp much of it then. So, after all these years, I finally picked it up again and I am so glad I did! This story follows a man who travels on a bus from hell to Heaven. As he observes the behavior of his fellow passengers both on the bus and once they disembark, he provides many insights and points of reflection for the reader about good and evil, and the gift of life with God in Heaven.

May--By What Authority? An Evangelical discovers Catholic Tradition, by Mark Shea (revised and expanded-Ignatius Press 2013)

Shea, an Evangelical, was saddened to see Christians falling away from God as they bought into modernist claims against Jesus Christ. So, he decided to find a way to refute modernist claims--and discovered that he, as an Evangelical, was accepting extrabiblical Tradition without even realizing it.

June--Emily of Deep Valley, by Maud Hart Lovelace

This story follows Emily as she finishes her high school education in a small town and grapples with growing older and seeing her high school "crowd" all go off to college while she stays behind to care for her grandfather. Emily struggles with feelings of loneliness, depression, and emptiness as tries to process all these big life changes. This is a great story, Emily is very relatable, and there is also a ton of wisdom in these pages. I LOVED IT.

July--The King of Confidence, by Miles Harvey

In the 1840s, Joseph Smith was murdered--and James Strang, an atheist-turned-Mormon-came out of nowhere with a letter (allegedly from Joseph Smith) which declared that he, Strang, was Smith's successor. Strang gathered a group of LDS around him and ultimately moved with them to Beaver Island, in Lake Michigan, where he had himself crowned King of Earth and Heaven.! Strang's story is wild and colorful, and the author's writing style is really fun and engaging.

August--Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels, by Valerie Weaver-Zercher

This utterly fascinating nonfiction book explores the topic of Amish romance novels. Why do people like them so much? What is the history of Amish romance novels? Are they accurate portrayals of the Amish people? The author brought lots of research together and keeps everything pretty open to a variety of viewpoints. I really enjoyed the thoughtful topics especially pertaining to cultural appropriation and the ways in which some evangelical authors have created certain fictions about the Amish (man-swaps to widen gene pools, for example).

September--Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, translated by Martin Hammond

This book was a series of short reflections and thoughts from this famous second century Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher. I didn't agree with everything in here, since he was a pagan, but a lot of his thoughts on the virtues, on goodness, and on one's purpose were simply beautiful.

October--Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte

Observing how the loss of her family's fortune has distressed her father, Agnes Grey decides that she will become a governess. Not only does she want to send money to her family, but she also realizes that this will be a good opportunity to "prove herself." She finds a position with a family that, she is told, is nice and has sweet children, and Agnes optimistically goes off to work for them. CUE HORROR MUSIC.

November--All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

This was a gorgeous WWI novel told through the eyes of a German soldier, Paul. We see Paul in the thick of fighting, back at home on leave, and back to the fighting again. The novel shows the incredible horrors of war, but also the hope and humanity of the men involved, no matter what side they are on. It expresses the sheer trauma that soldiers endure, and the community that they create together.

December--Address Unknown, by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor

Published in 1938, this short novel is a set of fictional letters between two friends: a Jewish art dealer in California, and his former business partner who had just moved home to Germany. Through the letters of these two men, we get a glimpse of how Hitler and his ideologies grabbed hold of so many people. 


I did achieve my goal of rereading a handful of books, and I'm so glad that I did! Rereading a beloved book is like encountering an old friend, or-in the case of some books-like finally starting to understand a past acquaintance ;) I want to continue regularly rereading books, and I've started keeping a book by my bedside, so I can close out each night with 5-10 minutes of rereading a book before I fall asleep. It's been really nice, and I want to keep the rereads flowing in my life :) 

A goal I have in the coming year is to read more poetry, so please send any poetry recommendations my way! Years ago, a relative gave me a gorgeous book of poetry that I've read here and there, but I've determined that I will read all of the poems in order in the coming weeks (I was inspired by a podcast episode on a "Mother's Morning Basket" and decided that my current version of "morning basket" will consist of reading a poem by myself). 

I'll be sharing more about my writing journey over the past year, as well as writing goals for the coming year, in my upcoming newsletter. So, make sure to subscribe to my monthly/bimonthly newsletter if you'd like to ponder the virtue of hope, learn about my writing journey, and get a glimpse into what life is like in my little corner of Oklahoma! 

2 comments:

  1. I have always liked the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay!
    -Jenny @ Unremarkable Files

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Jenny! I will look her up!

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