Last December my blog post about my favourite books of 2021 was quite popular, so here’s another round-up of the best books I read in 2022.
Once again it turns out that I read over fifty books, but some were re-readings, which either does or doesn’t count, depending on your point of view. Here are five of my favourites:
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood. A weirdly comic tale of the author’s upbringing as part of a Catholic family (her father is a priest) in the midwest of the United States. Unless she’s making it up, her whole family seems to have the gift of speaking in hilarious quotable phrases. The family dynamic is deeply strange, but Lockwood has the most brilliant, quirky eye for its details. Where did she learn to write so well? My pleasure in this book was enhanced by hearing the author speak (on Zoom, alas) at the Edinburgh Book Festival in the summer.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. The author is part of the musical duo ‘Japanese Breakfast’. Here she writes about her love of Korean food and how she used Korean recipes and cooking to connect with and remember her Korean mother after her mother died from cancer. It starts off like a food memoir but becomes sad. I have never tasted Korean food, but this lovely, haunting tribute has inspired me to try.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro. This 2001 collection of short stories by the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is my favourite of her story collections so far. The characters are all small-town dwellers with ordinary lives, but each story is a subtle revelation. As you read, you can feel the author manipulating the threads of the story and drawing them tight , but although I went back and read some of the stories several times, I was still amazed by what she’d done. Superb.
The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks. My daughter gave me this book because she had really enjoyed reading it, and I did too. It’s the 1999 coming-of-age tale of a young American woman navigating the stormy waters of dating, relationships, watching other people try to untangle their mistakes, etc. I loved the graceful, light touch of Banks’s perceptive prose. In the first story, the narrator recalls her brother Henry bringing an older girlfriend home to meet the family. Her descriptions are lovely: ‘I thought maybe she’d look older than Henry, but it was Henry who looked older than Henry.’ I re-read the book as a homage when I read that the author had died in August 2022.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. The tale of a small bookstore in Minneapolis, haunted for a year from All Souls’ Day 2019 to All Souls’ Day 2020 by the ghost of Flora, the shop’s most annoying customer. Tookie, who has come out of prison, works in the bookstore and grapples with Flora as she attempts to restore quiet to the premises. The book deals with the strange and painful experience of lockdown during the first year of the pandemic, but it also gives the reader a glimpse of the Native American experience, for both author and heroine are Native Americans, powerfully tuned in to spiritual qualities.
And that’s it for now. Five books, all by female writers. Hooray!