I initially thought that last year was going to remain my top year (241 books), until I noticed that while I didn’t read as many books this year, I read over 5,000 more pages. I’m pretty impressed with that considering how stressful 2022 has been. Granted, when I’m stressed I tend to escape into books, which would explain why I’ve been reading a lot more fantasy and/or books that help me lose myself in another world or character’s situation. Here is a run down of (some of) my favorites from this year. I stopped myself after fifteen, which was hard, so you should check out the full thread of my favorites (all 134 of them) on Twitter.
Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds with artwork by Jason Griffin
I have both the physical and audiobook of Ain’t Burned All the Bright, and I come back to them every time life becomes difficult. Jason Reynolds always seems to have the exact words I need, and Jason Griffin’s artwork is perfect.
Noor by Nnedi Okorafor
I read this in January, and I’m still grappling with the questions it poses about disability and what it means to be human. Okorafor’s characters and world building are so nuanced and complex; her books stay with me long after I’ve finished them.
Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
Baldwin is one of my favorite writers, and Glaude’s book made it clear why studying his work is so important now. The quote from Baldwin that inspired the title: “Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.”
Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation by Maud Newton
Newton’s journey to understand her family was honest and inspiring, and it made me very curious about my own ancestry. After finishing the book, I created and account on Ancestry.com and started my own exploration. While what I believed about my family’s background isn’t necessarily untrue, I’m learning that there’s so much more to my family’s history than I initially thought. What I’ve uncovered is fascinating, and I have so many questions to attempt to answer.
The Death of Vivek Oji and You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
I read five books by Akwaeke Emezi this year, and I could easily include all of them. I think what impresses me most about Emezi is that they are able to write brilliantly for different age groups and in different genres. I also love watching Emezi talk about their writing, and what they are trying to accomplish in each piece.
Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry
In 2019, Ibram X. Kendi and Imani Perry spoke at the Harrisburg Book Festival. At that point, I didn’t know much about her, so I bought a copy of Breathe: A Letter to My Sons to read before seeing her speak. I vividly remember exactly how I felt reading the first page and how in awe I was at the brilliance of her writing. When I got to meet her at the book festival, I was stammering like a giddy fan girl, and Kendi (chuckling) chimed in that he felt the same way when he first read her work. It was definitely one of the dorkiest moments of my life, and I will cherish the memory forever. I hope to teach A Raisin in the Sun this year, and Looking for Lorraine will be such a valuable resource. I learned so much from it.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
This is one of the most powerful, moving, and important memoirs I’ve ever read. I could write an entire dissertation on why it should not be banned, but that should probably be its own post.
The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
I’m not sure anything I write can do this series justice, but I was inspired to do some creative journaling after reading it (which is the only time this has happened). I used so many sticky notes, which doesn’t happen often when I read fiction. It’s no wonder Jemisin’s books win every single award, and I can’t wait for The Broken Earth trilogy to become a movie!
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Another extremely moving, challenging, and important memoir. I read it twice because it was the most frequently banned/challenged book in 2021, and it was a common choice in educator book clubs. I should give this its own post, because I have so many thoughts and feelings. I wish I had a book like this when I was a teenager.
The Absolute Sandman, Volumes 1-5 by Neil Gaiman
I first read The Sandman for a graduate seminar in cultural studies focusing on the 80’s goth subculture. I was an undergrad at the time, but I convinced the head of the English department and the professor to let me take the course. I earned an A-, read Gaiman for the first time, and was introduced to Joy Division. Twenty-three years later, Gaiman is my favorite author and I’ve read The Sandman more times than any other text, but unfortunately, the Joy Division cover band my brother and I talked about forming never happened. This re-read was combined with watching the Netflix series, which was even better than I hoped it would be. Kirby Howell-Baptiste was perfect as Death, and Mason Alexander Park made Desire my favorite character. (Park has become one of my favorite performers, and I love them on Quantum Leap. I can’t get enough of their performance of “Space Oddity” with Mike Garson.) Season two will probably require yet another re-read.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Potok’s writing drew me in from the start, and the story is beautiful. The Chosen also gave me a lot to think about and brought up areas where I need to learn more about Judaism. My step-father was a complicated man and our relationship was not always pretty, but I deeply appreciate the values he instilled in me, which were largely drawn from his Jewish faith. I’ve been reading more texts by Jewish authors and reading more nonfiction about Judaism to connect with these values.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro makes me uncomfortable (in a good way) by raising extremely complex ethical questions that tend to haunt me for years. I’m still trying to get everyone I know to read Never Let Me Go (which I read in 2006), and I’ll probably be doing the same for Klara and the Sun.
I should probably just start my own book club for books that are complicated, messy, uncomfortable, and/or thought provoking (like How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu and To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara).
Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka
One of the many issues I have with those who are still trying to center the canon/classics is the assumption that contemporary writers aren’t on par with the writers of the past. This play absolutely destroys that notion. I’m in the process of getting it approved and added to my district’s curriculum because it addresses colonialism/post-colonialism in a way that I think will resonate with students, and Soyinka’s writing and dramatic structure is so complex and powerful. There are so many possibilities with this play.
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride
I finished this in one sitting, and when I was done my thought process went something like this: “WAIT! WHAT??? NO WAY. OMG HOW DID YOU [McBride] DO THAT???? I NEED TO START THIS OVER RIGHT NOW.
I can’t really write any more about this because I don’t want to give anything away. Just read it.
The Legendborn Cycle by Tracy Deonn
I’ve saved these for last because The Legendborn Cycle has the potential to become my favorite fantasy series of all time. I can’t say much, because anything I write at this point would be an epic spoiler (especially how I feel about a certain character whose initials are SK). I cannot recommend these enough!!!
I’ve read so many good books this year, and I owe a lot of that to the various book clubs and Twitter chats I participate in. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club and #THEBOOKCHAT on Twitter. Many of my favorites are books I probably wouldn’t have read if it weren’t for these two book clubs!
One of my reading goals for 2023 will be to write reviews of books as I read them, because I had a lot of fun writing the short blurbs for this post.
Here’s to another great year of reading in 2023!