My year in reading: 2022, and a new chapter

Updating my blog has become a once-yearly January tradition, like taking down the Christmas lights. I have come to enjoy looking back at my year through the books that I read, recalling the ones I liked, the ones I loved, the ones I couldn’t finish. This year, though, even as I look back at the 2022, I find myself looking ahead to 2023, when my end-of-year reading list might look different, since my reading life is about to change significantly.

I am writing this post from Black Mountain, North Carolina, where I’m midway through my first MFA residency at Warren Wilson College. This is the first of five residencies (and four semesters) that I’ll complete before I graduate. The Warren Wilson program is a low-residency MFA, which means that, apart from the ten-day residencies, the rest of the time, I’ll be working from home, corresponding with a faculty adviser. Each semester, I will be responsible for sending my adviser “packets” of work: creative writing, yes, but also a reading list, and annotations on the books I’m reading. I am expected to read 15-20 books per semester, which tracks to about one book a week, which is about what I read now, on my own time. The difference, though, is that the books I will be reading for my program are not to be read for pleasure, but for analysis. For the next two years, the majority of books I read will be read critically. I will be reading books that will help me grow as a fiction writer, not necessarily books I gravitate to for fun. Consequently, I expect next year’s reading round-up blog post to look pretty different from this year’s.

However! I know myself, and no matter what my life circumstances, unless I am physically prevented from reading (eye gauging accident, say), I will read for pleasure, too. Before I started law school, people warned me that I wouldn’t feel like reading at the end of the day because I’d be reading so much caselaw, I would be made sick by the thought of casting my eyes over another book. But there was a clear delineation in my brain between School Books and Fun Books, and I kept right on reading my Fun Books throughout my three years of law school, even as I was drowning in School Books. I expect the next two years at Warren Wilson to be similar, but who knows what will come in 2023 and beyond! For now, let’s look back at 2022.

First, my stats: I read 59 books this year, and did not finish 8. This amounted to reading over 20,000 pages. Of the books I read, 70% were fiction, 30% non-fiction. Weirdly, 70% of my books were by female authors, 30% by male authors. And I am happy to report that 85% of the books I read were from the library! Here are some of the standouts:

Most gripping narrative non-fiction: In the Kingdom of Ice, by Hampton Sides and Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe

Most moving true crime: Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls, by Kathleen Hale and Tell Me Everything, by Erika Krouse

Novel that I could not stop telling everyone in my life to read/book I loved so much I wanted to marry it: The Five Wounds, by Kirstin Valdez Quade

Favorite short fiction collection: Out There, by Kate Folk

Cleverest literary fiction: Mouth to Mouth, by Antoine Wilson

Best memoir: Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon; I Am, I Am, I am by Maggie Farrell; Free by Lea Ypi

Novel with the most interesting setting/world: True Biz, by Sara Novic

Best novel set in academia: Vladimir, by Julia May Jonas

Book that simultaneously sent me into an existential tailspin, made me weep, and astounded me with its brilliance: Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr

I am not going to list the books I was bored to tears by or wanted to feed into a wood chipper (yes, there was at least one of those), because, as a writer, I would hate to see my work trashed on someone’s blog, but if you’re curious, email me. 😉

Finally, I must admit: this year was still not the year I finished that Hamilton biography.

What did you read and love this year? What are you looking forward to reading in 2023?

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