Halfway through 2022 already?!? How?
This year is flying by…and I’m so busy in my personal life, I can see it in my reading. I just won’t push through books that aren’t working for me; if I find a minute to sit down and open a book, it better grab and hold my attention pretty quickly!
I feel pretty happy with my reading life so far this year, and I can’t wait to see which books get knocked off (or stay!) on my list at the end of the year!
Before revealing my Halfway Top 10 List, here are some quick stats:
📚 Total books read – 67 (54%)
📈 YTD avg rating – 3.8
🤎 Diverse books – 23 (34%)
❗️Total pages read – 22,228
🌟5-star ratings – 12 (18%)
🆕 Debuts – 27 (40%)
❤️ Most underhyped book: Yerba Buena
🖤 Most overhyped book: Lessons in Chemistry
I’d love to hear some of the books that have stood out to you so far this year!
And now on to my Halfway Top 10!
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
Published: August 4, 2020
“He said our lives mean nothing except as a cycle of regeneration, that we are incomprehensibly brief sparks, just as the animals are, that we are no more important than they are, no more worthy of life than any living creature. That in our self-importance, in our search for meaning, we have forgotten how to share the planet that gave us life.”
It’s been months since I’ve read Migrations, and what remains with me more than the actual story is the writing. I still remember being totally entranced by some of McConaghy’s sentences – the kind of poetic wording that makes you have to go back and read the passage again. But I also remember Franny’s passion for the Arctic terns and their migratory patterns. Franny is the kind of character that gives everything to her desires and that’s the kind of character I can get behind. Even though I’m not some huge conservationist, I admired Franny’s determination and commitment to the environment and leaving the world in a better place than it currently is. This book is set in the near future and the timing of its message couldn’t be more appropriate. It’s a book I can’t wait to revisit as soon as I read her second novel, Once There Were Wolves!
The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Published: August 24, 2021
“For the original transgression of this land was not slavery. It was greed, and it could not be contained. More white men would come and begin to covet. And they would drag along the Africans they had enslaved. The white men would sow their misery among those who shook their chains. These white men would whip and work and demean these Africans. They would sell their children and split up families. And these white men brought by Oglethorpe, these men who had been oppressed in their own land by their own king, forgot the misery that they had left behind, the poverty, the uncertainty. And they resurrected this misery and passed it on to the Africans.”
It’s not often that a book comes along that can justifiably be called epic, but Jeffers accomplishes that with this incredible story! First of all, I’m completely blown away that this was a debut! The intricacies of the details and the expertly woven backstories of each of the characters was impressive. To top it off, the overall story touched my heart and there were times where literal tears were streaming down my face. I rooted for these characters and wanted the very best for each of them – but as all good stories go, there isn’t always a happy ending. This story was emotional and 800 pages still didn’t feel like enough!
Honor by Thrity Umrigar
Published: January 4, 2022
“But you don’t love something because you’re blind to its faults, right? You love it despite its flaws.”
It kind of feels like cheating to include this one because I read it in December 2021, but it wasn’t published until January 2022. Besides, it’s too good to be missed! Told in dual timelines, Honor examines the repurcussions of religious extremism and the consequences a patriarchial society can have for women. Division can come in many forms – race, gender, religion – and Umrigar explores all of these themes throughout the book. It made me appreciate the freedoms we take for granted as Americans, and it also gave me empathy and compassion for people in other countries that don’t have access to a life of their own choosing as easily as we do. Another story that moved me to tears, Honor has stuck with me since I finished it.
Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour
Published: May 31, 2022
“I lost nearly everything, and then I built something better.”
I didn’t have high expectations when I picked this one up. I didn’t even know what it was about because I hadn’t even read the synopsis. But it quickly revealed itself to be a coming-of-age story that peels back each delicate layer until the whole picture is revealed. This is one of my favorite tropes, so it’s no surprise that this one swept me off my feet! There’s an underlying darkness and gritiness that propels the story forward as each of the characters grapple with finding their way home to themselves. I loved Sara’s determination to succeed, I appreciated Emelie’s desire to belong, and I loved the way these two separate stories collided.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Published: May 24, 2022
“He loved people being messy as fuck—he said it was one of the best things about being human, how we could make such disasters and recover from them enough to make them into stories later.”
Emezi is the kind of author that could write a grocery list and I’d fall in love with it. Their way with words captures me every time – it doesn’t matter what they write about, I’m a fan! One of the things I liked the most about this book is that it’s messy! While that aspect seemed to be a turnoff for a lot of other readers, I liked the way Feyi (the main character) just couldn’t help making her own life chaotic. After grieving her lost husband for five years, she’s determined to start living again. And while I don’t know the grief of a lost spouse, I was surprised the way grief created issues in my life after I lost my mom. There’s an expectation in our society that people grieve for a brief period of time and then move on with their lives, but it just doesn’t happen that efficiently and I felt that inner turmoil and confusion that Emezi portrays in this book so well. I appreciated the complexities of the relationship Feyi finds herself in; I loved her supportive friendship with Joy; and if those things weren’t enough, I also could not get enough of the writing. For me, this one was another homerun for Emezi!
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González
Published: January 4, 2022
“You must remember, mijo, even people who were once your sails can become your anchors.”
This book was a mash up of genres that totally worked for me. Part family drama, part romance, and part political, I flew through this one! While there was a lot going on in this story, it wasn’t a problem for me. It gave the story depth and reflected real life. My favorite aspect of this story was its focus on Puerto Rican history – both on the island and within the United States. I always appreciate a story that teaches me about other cultures, and González delivered! I am shamefully uneducated in the colonialism of Puerto Rico and only understand on a very surface level how poorly we come to Puerto Rico’s aid when they need it. Overall, this book was so well written and I’m excited to know that this is only the beginning of González’ career!
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Published: February 1, 2022
“You were never just you, and you owed it to the people you cared about to remember that. Because the people you loved were part of your identity, too. Perhaps the biggest part.”
This book has all the things that make for a juicy story – secrets, resentments, judgments, forgiveness, and healing. It’s another book that’s epic in its scope, and I completely sunk into it. As Benny and Byron learn about their mother’s history through an audio recorded before her death, layers were slowly revealed. And while I didn’t always agree with the character’s choices, it gave me insight into their pain and how they chose to protect themselves. I loved the scope of this story and how Wilkerson weaved this intricate tale together. I was so sad to reach the end because I wasn’t ready to move on from this family.
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
Published: January 25, 2022
“Grief was a hole. A portal to nothing. Grief was a walk so long Hazel forgot her own legs. It was a shock of blinding sun. A burst of remembering: sandals on pavement, a sleepy back seat, nails painted on the bathroom floor. Greif was a loneliness that felt like a planet.”
The shelves are overflowing with books about murderers and how they came to that life-changing moment when they choose to take another human’s life, but that’s not what you’re going to get in this one. Instead, Kukafka inadvertantly tells the story of Ansel Packer’s life through three female characters: his mother, his sister-in-law, and the homicide detective assigned to his case. By taking the focus off of Ansel, Kukafka challenges the reader to examine everything they think they know about someone spending their last days on death row. She demands that we take a hard look at the broken systems of our society, and how we collectively fail the most damaged people among us. What I didn’t expect was to feel empathy for a cold-blooded killer, but I did. I love a book that challenges me – especially thoughts and ideas I feel confident in – and this one did just that!
Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives by Mary Laura Philpott
Published: April 12, 2022
“I used to think babyhood was the neediest stage of life, but teenagers need their parents just as much—maybe even more. A baby needs a snuggle, some eye contact, a song. A teenager needs a trusted adult to talk things out with when they or a friend gets into a scary situation.”
It’s been a long time since a book has made me feel seen, but every single sentence of this book felt like something I could have said. I am long past the days of infants and toddlers; both of my kids will be in high school this fall. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I don’t like it! Sure, there were many days when that tunnel felt long and endless, but I would give anything to turn back the hands of time and snuggle those chubby babies just a little longer. But that’s not how life works, and Philpott captures this transitory time so well. It’s about holding on and letting go…both at the same time. It’s about being sad that they’re almost moving on, but also being so happy and proud of the young adults they’ve become. This book is equally as good as Philpott’s debut, and if you liked that one, you’ll also find a lot of value in this one.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Published: May 3, 2022
“Maybe love shouldn’t be built on a foundation of compromises, but maybe it can’t exist without them either. Not the kind that forces two people into shapes they don’t fit in, but the kind that loosens their grips, always leaves room to grow. Compromises that say, there will be a you-shaped space in my heart, and if your shape changes, I will adapt. No matter where we go, our love will stretch out to hold us, and that makes me feel like … like everything will be okay.”
And because reading doesn’t always have to be so serious, I had to include Henry’s latest novel, Book Lovers. I’ve had to warm up to Henry’s writing, but I think this one solidifies her as an author I enjoy. She nails the romance genre with witty commentary, well-developed characters, and the perfect amount of give and take. I like the enemies to lovers romance trope and Nora and Charlie’s buildup was absolute perfection. Charlie softens Nora’s hard edges and Nora gives Charlie something worth fighting for. In addition to their sweet romance, Charlie and Nora are both part of the book publishing world, so I can’t imagine a book lover out there that won’t fall head over heels for this story!