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Twelve Favorite Books in 2022

By Pam Lamp December 23, 2022 Lifestyle

In my reading life, I did something different this year. I kept track of all the books I read, along with comments about what I liked or disliked. Friends often ask me to recommend a book, and this method helps me remember what I read two or three or four books ago.

This week, it was fun to look back over my list and review my thoughts. I read MANY books I loved and had a hard time narrowing my list down to 12 favorites – a book for each month in the new year.

After much obsessing – drumroll please – my top choices of the past year…

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Be kind. Don’t judge. Written proof everyone is dealing with something we know nothing about. We all carry a secret of some sort.

This novel jumped onto my radar after my conversation with Susie Orman Schnall. And I regret I didn’t read it sooner. 

“I’m worried about what I want to be when I grow up,” said Claude, the youngest of five sons. 

Once I settled in, I appreciated Ms. Frankel’s rambling sentences and spot-on multi-hyphen descriptors. Because that’s how we process our universe. We grab bits and pieces and store them in our mind’s various compartments. 

Although the book is fiction, the author draws from her own family dynamics and transgender child. And isn’t this why we read books – to get a glimpse inside another’s world and discover what else exists?

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

If you travel to New York City, I beg you to set aside an hour or two to pop into the Morgan Library and Museum. Tucked along Madison Avenue at 36th Street, J.P. Morgan’s personal library originally faced his Manhattan mansion.

One of my favorite historical fiction novels (ever!), this well-researched book tells the story – based on her diary and letters – of Belle da Costa Greene, J.P. Morgan’s librarian. During her tenure, Belle amassed the most impressive collection of rare books, manuscripts, and artwork in the United States.

Well-respected and well-read, Belle was a Black woman who passed as White to protect her legacy and career and support her family.

These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant

“The thing about grace is that you don’t deserve it. You can’t earn it. You can only accept it. Or not…”

After hearing the author interviewed on a podcast, I added this book to my “to be read” pile. This suspenseful novel is not a dark and creepy story that will give you nightmares. I promise.

Cooper and his 8-year-old daughter, Finch, have lived in a cabin in the remote Appalachian woods for eight years. Living off-grid, two people know where they are – Jake, who delivers supplies once a year, and Scotland, a nosey neighbor with questionable intentions.

It was easier for Cooper to hide from his past when his daughter was young. But now she’s older, smarter, and asking more questions.

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

This book may sit atop my 2022 list. I’ve been singing the novel’s praises to anyone who will listen and imploring them to read it. And those who have surrendered to my urging have loved it.

Until the revolution in 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu (and his wife, both with third-grade education) terrorized the citizens of Romania. They bulldozed homes and buildings, installed listening devices in the newly erected, cramped, universal cement-block apartments, and switched off electricity and water.

Although fictionalized, Romanians interviewed for the story – including Olympian Nadia Comaneci – insist it could be true.

A remarkable tale of hardship, heartache, and resolve.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

“When you go home today, ask yourself what you will change. And then get started.”

This quirky (in a good way!) novel, set in 1960s Southern California, revolves around a female chemist and a whole cast of men who don’t think women are as wise as their male counterparts.

Elizabeth Zott, a single mom, is determined to change the era’s existing beliefs surrounding pregnancy, marriage, careers, and roles. As the host of a successful television cooking show, she has her chance.

With a delightful and humorous feminist bent, readers will rip through this London-based author’s debut novel. Ms. Garmus proves, at age 64, it’s never too late.

Apple TV has optioned the book, with Brie Larson to star.

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki

In the 60s and 70s, my mom stocked our kitchen cupboards with a variety of wonderful foods – Kool-Aid (yes, red), Tang (the astronaut drink), Twinkies, Ho Hos, Log Cabin maple syrup, and an assortment of breakfast cereals. And I have Marjorie Post to thank for them all!

In Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie’s father, ahead of his time with his healthy eating philosophy, introduced Americans to Postum, a grain-based powdered coffee substitute, and Grape Nuts, the first-ever breakfast cereal. After his death, 27-year-old Marjorie was not content to bide her time as a luxuriating heiress to the Post cereal fortune.  

Intelligent, rich, and kind, Marjorie expanded the company’s holdings and devoted her life—and her millions – to serving others.

With a book cover as beautiful as the story inside, I loved this historical fiction novel from beginning to end.

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom

Wow. Just wow.

In this thought-provoking memoir, author and psychotherapist Amy Bloom travels to Zurich with her husband to end his life at Dignitas, the Swiss nonprofit organization offering accompanied suicide.

After his early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Amy’s 65-year-old-ish husband announces “the long goodbye of Alzheimer’s is not for me.” Of course, Amy struggles with this decision and must lead the delicate dance of supporting her spouse.

Witty and introspective, Amy flips readers between the couple’s unimaginable week in Switzerland and flashbacks to their former life.

This isn’t a sad or depressing story or one where readers might judge the author for holding her husband’s hand as he drinks sodium pentobarbital. It is factual – here’s the problem, this is how a man chooses to solve the problem, here are the steps he takes.

This beautifully written memoir reminds us Alzheimer’s will, most likely, touch every one of our lives.

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

I didn’t want this book to end!

Fans of the Hallmark Channel, please take note… My favorite read of last summer, this novel is fun and light without being fluffy or silly.

Nora Hamilton writes formulaic movies for the Romance Channel in the tea house of her beloved, well-worn home. Her scripts are all the same. A quaint small town. A cupcake bakery or a flower shop or a romantic inn. Two people butt heads, only to fall in love after the commercial break and live happily ever after.

After her divorce, Nora pounds out the best screenplay of her career. Heartthrob Leo Vance is cast as her loser husband, film crews take over Nora’s home, and her life will never be the same.

This feel-good, happy book would make a great movie in real life. I can picture it on the big screen!

True Biz by Sara Novic

True biz (adj./exclamation; American Sign Language): really, seriously, definitely, real-talk

This is the first book I’ve read focusing on a deaf community’s perspective. I enjoyed this dive into sign language, cochlear implants, and homes with hearing siblings or parents.

At River Valley School for the Deaf, a boarding school, readers follow students and their hearing headmistress through the ups and downs of high school life. Although the coming-of-age story was entertaining, I was more intrigued by the deaf world I knew nothing about.

Author Sara Novic, also deaf, attended college and graduate school classes with an interpreter, often feeling isolated from the mainstream. She wanted this bestselling novel “to be a place where deafness is the norm and you, as the hearing reader, are the weird one.”

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

“It is a gift in this life that we don’t know what awaits us.”

After finishing this thought-provoking book, I had one question for myself. How in the world was this my first Elizabeth Strout novel?

In 2020, when the world shuts down, Lucy and William leave their Manhattan apartments for a seaside cottage in Maine. The divorced couple rides out the pandemic together, rekindling friendship and compatibility.

Strout writes in an autobiographical, relatable way. Her reflections about love, aging, suffering, grown children, and hope might be any reader’s thoughts. I saw myself time and time again as I lost myself in the pages.

Now that I’ve met the characters in this novel, I plan to pick up Strout’s bestseller Oh William! in 2023. And also, her Pulitzer Prize-winning, Olive Kitteridge. I have some reading to do!

The Social Graces by Renee Rosen

Fans of HBO’s The Gilded Age will also savor this historical fiction novel narrated by Caroline Astor, Alva Vanderbilt, and Society. Caroline – the Mrs. Astor is a Knickerbocker. Alva is new money. And Knickerbockers do not want to mingle with the nouveau-riche.

Alva will stop at nothing to persuade society to accept her. Based on fact, this novel is a delightful romp of the extravagant measures the two women undertook to maintain their places in society’s hierarchy.

Several of Ms. Rosen’s other novels seem intriguing, including her next one (April 2023), which revolves around cosmetic icon Estee Lauder.

The Real Mrs. Tobias by Sally Koslow

As the mother-in-law to two daughters-in-law, I fret over what I should and shouldn’t do. Or what I did or didn’t say. As wonderful as my sons’ wives are – and they are! – mother- and daughter-in-law relationships are tricky.

A huge thank you to author Lynda Loigman for putting this novel on my radar. I ripped through the page-turning story about family dynamics and the ups and downs of mother- and daughter-in-law behavior.

Sally Koslow, the former editor-in-chief of McCall’s magazine, weaves a heartwarming story told by the three generations of strong Tobias women. Confronted with surprises, struggles, and loss, Veronika, Mel, and Birdie work to solve problems and try to hold their family together. But are they the people who should confront these issues?

This mother-in-law learned some excellent lessons!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What is a favorite book you read in 2022? What book are you looking forward to reading next year? What is your favorite genre? (I’m a historical fiction fan.)

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Muffy

I became totally immersed in Lessons in Chemistry, top book of the year for me. Thanks for the list of others, this is always a great resource!

Pam L

Thank you! Yes, I too loved Lessons in Chemistry

Barbara Farber

I read close to 50 books a year..so many incredible books this year… favorites… the marriage portrait, mad honey, Horse.. Next year? Who knows…

Tracie Cecenas

Mad Honey was good!

Pam L

I’m not familiar with Mad Honey – will check it out.

Pam L

I liked The Marriage Portrait, and I hear good things about Horse. I’ll look into Mad Honey, I’m not familiar with it. Thank you!

Great recs! Thanks for these!

Rohini

Yes I have visited Morgan Library and Museum and loved it. It is an amazing place. This book Th Personal Librarian would not make my top 12 of year 2022.

Marie Story

I too enjoyed The Personal Librarian very much, I hope to visit the Morgan Library someday.
Looking forward to reading other books on the list!

Pam L

Thank you – I hope you like some of the others.

Wendy

Wow, Pam. I never say stuff like this, but I’m a book snob. You put together a wonderful list. I’m ordering The Personal Librarian and then definitely the one about Alzheimers. My mom has it — it’s devastating for both my mom and dad. The others look awesome too. Well done!
Just sharing my favorite books: Pachinko, Free Food for Millionaires, Cutting for Stone, House of Sand and Fog and a few more. I call books my “dessert.” I keep the short list on my blog: theInspiredEater.com//5-star-reads/5-star-reads/.

And — if you like historical fiction — have you read the Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson? It’s so good that I read the book and then listened to the audio several times.

It’s about Churchill and how he fought off the Nazis all the while trying to get the U.S. involved. Really good.

Thank you for a fantastic list,

Best,

Wendy

Pam L

Thank you Wendy! And thanks for your recommendations. I’ve read a few of them. I haven’t read The Splendid and the Vile yet. It’s on my list, and I plan to get to it soon. Happy reading!

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The Author

For over five years, Pam Lamp has explored one new thing—every single day. At Who I Met Today, she writes about these discoveries and the people she’s met along the way. The Who I Met Today podcast is now available on all podcast platforms. A book lover, Pam lives in Nashville.

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