Telling the truth about our parents, talking galaxies, and tulle
This past summer I assigned the high-achieving high school students I counsel the task of choosing and reading three books — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and/or plays. Most struggled to pick titles they genuinely felt compelled towards; and even after I pelted them with umpteen suggestions and we settled on their lists, most did not complete the assignment.
They had three months to read three books. Teenagers, if you don’t want to read now, what do you think you’ll be doing in college?
Meanwhile I gave myself twelve months to cover one hundred books. By December 22nd, I hit my goal; and then tackled a couple of Herman Hesse novels to German existentialist my way through the stale bread end of the year (yes to Demian, le sigh to Steppenwolf). My students have no idea where I find the time, but my social life is far from back to whatever normal might be, thanks to the ongoing pandemic. Here’s to the learning flavor of frequent isolation!
There’s of course the dopamine hit of having done the challenging thing I set out to do; but what matters to me most is the road map that reviewing my list of books read gave me around the emotional tenor of the year. Many patterns emerged: telling the truth about our parents, how to leave cults, defining queerness, comedians reflecting on how they got here.
The circle of the list closes perfectly. Book #1 was the memoir Educated by Tara Westover — a young woman escapes familial abuse within a religious cult — and book #100 was the novel Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, in which an exhausted mother at last experiences some sense of personal autonomy when she starts turning into a wild dog in the wee hours. Let’s start there.
Here are my favorite books I read this year, along with runner-up choices that are also from my 2022 list. All affiliate links support my online bookstore — so if you forgo your public library to own these treasures, thanks in advance for using these links!
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
I loved this novel, which operated out of its own logic and was as wild in its mechanics as its premise. This year I read several books that tackled the profound difficulties…