I read 39 books this year, falling short of my goal of 50 by a few, but I’m not mad about it. I normally winnow my top selections down to 10 or fewer but I don’t have the energy to whittle right now so I’m going ahead and including every five-star book I read in 2022.
I’m listing them in chronological order of when I read them.
Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui (non-fiction)
A deep dive (pardon the pun) into why we swim, including history, science, and personal stories and anecdotes, this beautiful book reinforced my love for swimming.
A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman (non-fiction)
Part memoir, part science writing, Ayelet Waldman documents her experience with microdosing LSD. Hilarious, informative, and insightful, this book was seriously life-changing for me. I hope Waldman never stops writing. I have a huge writer crush on her.
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman (fiction)
I had no choice but to read another book by Waldman after devouring A Reall Good Day. I had no idea what to expect from her as a fiction writer, but, just like she was able to make science writing funny, she also brought a sense of humor to the especially dark topic of infant loss. This book was published in 2006; I was shocked that I’d never heard of it before.
Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan (YA fiction)
I read this book partly because my ten-year-old got to it first — I checked it out of the library for me, not her —and I felt that after doing the probably irresponsible thing (letting her read it), I should do the responsible thing (read it myself so we could discuss) and I was not disappointed. If My So Called Life and Thelma and Louise had a baby, it would be this book, which chronicles a teenage girl’s quest to procure a safe, legal abortion after her boyfriend sabotages their birth control in an abusive play to keep her in the relationship.
After reading the book with my kid, the only thing left to do was watch the movie, which we also loved. Although it was maybe not age-appropriate, both the book and the movie opened the door to some important conversations.
Mercy Street by Jennifer Haight (fiction)
This was one of those books where nothing really happens yet you can’t put it down. The characters are well-developed, the writing is beautiful, and the story revolves more around shifting hearts and minds than “action.”
Know My Name by Chanel Miller (memoir)
I hope to someday be 1% the writer Chanel Miller is. To say this memoir was powerful would be an understatement. The book recounts her experience navigating the legal system and the trauma of sexual assault at the hands of Brock Turner. It should be required reading for all high school students.
Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation by Erika Krouse (memoir)
If I had to pick one book to recommend from this entire list, it would be this one. Krouse masterfully told the story of her work as a private investigator helping to expose the culture of sexual assault and misogyny that ran rampant through the CU Boulder football team in the early 2000s and how that experience forced her to reckon with the sexual abuse she experienced throughout her childhood and the trauma it left her with. I tore through it in a few days.
And omg I am just now understanding the double meaning of the subtitle (“the story of a private investigation”) and I’m even more convinced that Krouse is a total genius.
Cheat Day by Liv Stratman (fiction)
A funny, insightful look at diet culture, body image, and the cult of health and wellness vis a vis a light, well-told story about a woman whose compulsive dieting and infidelity threaten to ruin her life. Great if you’re looking for a vacation read.
The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank (fiction)
This was a re-read after learning of Bank’s untimely death. I recalled reading it when it was first published in my 20s and felt so differently about it now, but I loved this tender, funny coming-of-age story just as much as I did then, if not more. Writing this, I kind of want to read it again. Re-reading an old book like that feels like chatting with an old friend.
Beach Read by Emily Henry (fiction)
A light read with plenty of juicy make-out and sex scenes. Witty, entertaining, and fun. Plus, no one will look at the cover and know you’re reading erotica!
This Story Will Change: After the Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Crane (memoir)
Elizabeth Crane is one of my all-time favorite authors and wow was this memoir just SO ELIZABETH CRANE. In her signature quirky, hilarious, honest, insightful way, she makes it impossible to stop reading about her (pretty recent) divorce.
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon (non-fiction)
Part science writing, part memoir, Gordon (who you may know as the co-host of the Maintenance Phase podcast) is honest, vulnerable, and razor-sharp as she explains why much of what we think we know about fatness, bodies, and health, is wrong while illuminating the insidiousness of weight stigma.
Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott (memoir/essay)
In this sharp, funny, relatable essay collection, Philpott reflects on motherhood, joy, fear, and finding the sacred in everyday experiences as she navigates her teenage son’s new seizure disorder diagnosis.
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (fiction)
Ng is another of my favorite authors. Initially, though, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it through this novel. Not because I didn’t find it gripping from page one- I did – but because the dystopian society in which it’s set felt too close to the reality we’re living in. It explores themes of motherhood, identity, belonging, expression, courage, and freedom.
Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life: A Memoir by Delia Ephron (memoir)
Della Ephron is a masterful storyteller whose memoir shifts seamlessly between heartbreaking and hilarious as she reflects on her experiences with loss, illness, love, and family. I wondered if she considered naming it “L’chaim,” which is what Jews say when we toast. It means “to life!”
You can check out my past lists below: