M.B. Henry’s Top 10 Reads for 2022!
What a year for books! And I don’t just mean the release of my own, which believe me, it was a real whirlwind (click here to learn more about that). There were the book signings, the zoom-in book clubs, and the book release parties – the sales, the marketing, the social media. It was a lot to learn and sometimes, it was a real interesting experience trying to stay afloat! But through it all, I couldn’t be more proud to see my book smiling down at me from bookstore shelves all over the country. It was a major dream come to life, and I couldn’t thank all my readers and supporters enough for that.
Along with my own adventures in literature, it was also another fantastic year for reading. I found myself dabbling in all kinds of different genres this year, even picking up a new fantasy series for the first time in decades. Yes, I do mean decades, not to age myself at all! 😉 Another big twist in my book year was that I didn’t read as much Historical Fiction as usual. Instead, I tended to gravitate towards meaty family dramas and even some good suspense novels, diving into the David Baldacci world for the first time. I guess no matter how awesome your favorite genre is, sometimes you just need to branch out. However, I never stay far from non-fiction historical reads, and I read more than a few good ones this year. Some just for fun, and some for research for my latest writing project, of which I’m hopeful you will hear more about very, very soon!
I also have to admit that I had a larger amount of DNF (Did Not Finish) reads than usual. Although I do think that had more to do with my busier schedule than the books themselves, it’s always sad when I’m unable to finish a book. I guess I feel like there’s so many books and so little time, so if I’m not hooked in after a certain amount of chapters, I have to put it aside. Also, I sometimes just bite off more than I can chew with books and can’t possibly finish all the ones that I start!
Through it all, there were plenty of gems in my reading this year, and after a lot of back and forth, I managed to pick the ten that stood out to me the most. Whether they taught me something new, gave me a badly needed laugh, allowed me to view the world through a different lens, or moved my heart with absolutely beautiful writing, all of these reads have stuck with me through 2022. It gives me great pleasure to share them with you now – in no particular order:
Black Buck – Mateo Askaripour
While the intro to the book was interesting enough on its own, “Black Buck” also tells the wildly entertaining story of Darren – a contented twenty-something Starbucks barista who doesn’t need much more from life than his girlfriend’s company and his mother’s love. But then he meets Rhett Daniels – the CEO of a mysterious, hot new tech start-up company. Impressed by his persuasive skills when it comes to selling drinks, Daniels offers Darren the opportunity for a new path, laden with riches and success. What follows is a roller coaster ride that takes Darren through the many and intense pitfalls of being a black employee at a mostly-white company, not to mention his dizzying journey from the ground floor to the… well, read it and find out for yourself! A book that made me laugh, cry, and cringe in horror, this is a story that will definitely keep you guessing.
Crossroads – Jonathan Franzen
I think I fessed up last year about what a sucker I am for a good meaty family drama. If you’ve read Jonathan Franzen, you will know that despite the controversy he sometimes sparks, he’s dang talented at delivering on the family drama front. His latest work follows the contentious and quite dysfunctional Hildebrandt clan in 1970s Chicago. There’s Russ, the arrogant, wife-neglecting pastor of a local church who would do well to heed some of his own religious advice. His wife Marion – whose unfulfilled life dreams and desires have put her a bit off track. Then there are their children, Clem, Becky, and Perry. One rashly enlists in the army, one falls into the dark world of drugs and mental illness, and the other gets snapped up in a whirlwind relationship that delivers a surprise much faster than expected. It’s the stuff that any good family drama is made of, against the highly charged backdrop of Vietnam America – which leaves ample room for thought-provoking political thoughts and ideas. Despite its length, you won’t want to put this one down.
LA Weather – Maria Amparo Escandon
Along with meaty family dramas, I also have a soft spot for stories that take place in my old Los Angeles stomping grounds. When I happened upon this book, I found a story that includes both. Here we meet the Alvarado family, and the incredible mess each member happens to be in, while Los Angeles swelters under a historic drought. Patriarch Oscar winds up in a heap when he buys an almond farm behind his family’s back, only to have the drought pick both the farm and his life savings apart. Keila, his wife, can’t understand her husband’s mounting distance, or his newfound obsession with the Weather Channel, and she contemplates filing for divorce. And while her three daughters bring the judgment hammer down on her head for that, they can’t escape the truth of their own flawed relationships, which are all in various states of crumble. A story that both opens and closes with harrowing near-deaths, this was a wonderful read that had me rooting for each family member to win out in the end.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois – Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
To tell you the truth, I’m at a loss on how to sum up this absolutely beautiful book. A story that spans several generations, provides a glimpse into the many perils of racism, and allows one to view the world through so many different lenses, all I can say is this book, despite its length, was well worth the time I put into it. A dual timeline story that follows budding historical scholar Ailey in the present day, and the long, often-times heartbreaking story of her many enslaved ancestors (all threaded together with quotes and sayings from W.E.B Du Bois), this story has so much to offer – with powerful themes of education, history, overcoming adversity, and rising up to empower oneself. I was especially taken in by Ailey’s story, as she discovers the gravitational pull of what it means to study history and try to bring it to life. In short – this book helped me fall in love all over again with the magic of what I do, and what’s not to like about that?
The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s – Piers Brendon
The rise of Fascism. Worldwide Economic Collapse. The Dust Bowl. Poverty. Warring political factions. Dictators on the prowl. A bloody Civil War. When you take all this into account, it’s hard to think of a decade much darker than the 1930s, and this incredibly detailed volume encapsulates it all. With viewpoints spanning every corner of the world, it’s easy to see through the highly informative writing how this incredibly turbulent time lit the match for the explosive Second World War. Anyone looking to understand this difficult decade, along with the repercussions from it that dribble into the modern day, will benefit from reading this fantastic historical work.
All Souls Trilogy – Deborah Harkness
Vampires, Daemons, and Witches – oh, my! The first fantasy series I have read in quite some time, I stumbled upon this gem in the library when I was looking for something to get me in the Halloween mood. I had never heard of it before, despite its rather substantial fan base and the successful television series it spawned. This trilogy follows Vampire Matthew and super-witch Diana as they fall into a forbidden romance amidst a supernatural world on the brink of war – mostly over a centuries old, and now missing, “book of life” that could change the meaning of their existence as they all know it. Heavy on the swoony romance and laced with suspense and imagination (not to mention time travel!), I highly recommend this immensely entertaining series.
The Nineties – Chuck Klosterman
I’m lucky to be a part of an incredibly special generation – the last to experience life before the internet and social media took over everything. Growing up in the late 80s and 90s, my adulthood has been ruled by the internet, but I still remember summer days spent outside until the street lights came on, drinking from the garden hose, and roaming the neighborhood on my bicycle without a cell phone. Because there were no cell phones. Unless you want to count Zach Morris’s brick phone from Saved By the Bell, a 90s high school sit-com I tried to never miss. Klosterman’s throwback read to a truly unique decade brought back a whole slew of memories. He relives the 90s in all their flannel swaddled, Doc-Martin splendor – the great Nirvana songs, the cheesy comedy movies, the first email accounts, the super-cool car phones, the Oregon Trail game, and the excellent TV shows (like the one with all of the FRIENDS!). Honestly, the only thing missing was the jelly shoes. Give this book a read for a truly enjoyable shot of nostalgia.
Left-Handed History of the World – Ed Wright
Not only am I a part of a very special generation, I’m also a proud member of the elite Southpaw club. Our numbers may be few (only one in ten people are left-handed), and we have our weaknesses (more likely to die young, more likely to be mentally ill, and more likely to have bad tempers and drinking problems). But on the whole, lefties are a dominating force. Ed Wright’s fabulous book reminded me just how many of the world greats were lefties, including but not limited to Joan of Arc, Leonardo Davinci, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Alan Turing, Bill Gates, Jimi Hendrix, Babe Ruth, and many, many, many more history makers, earth shakers, and core quakers. Fun side note – an exceptional number of military geniuses were also lefties – including Ramses II, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and Patton. So, if the lefties choose to rise up, you better watch out. Because with our foul tempers and fine fighting skills, we just might make YOU use left-handed scissors.
The Prophets – Robert Jones Jr.
This incredibly powerful book from a debut author tells the story of Samuel and Isaiah, two young men enslaved on a plantation in the pre-Civil War Deep South. Danger lurks around them in many forms, but tensions mount even higher when a relationship develops between them, putting them, and their loved ones, at odds with the new plantation preacher who is out to curry favor with the slave owners. There was a lot to love about this novel, especially the inclusion of so many different viewpoints, and the unique focus on the women and their heaps of extra plights. But I think what moved me the most about this book was the many things I learned about ancient Africa while reading. Jones weaves so many interesting cultural facts and customs into the story, and he does so in a most stunningly beautiful way. With a book that left me both haunted and educated, crafted with some very extraordinary writing, I can’t wait to see what comes next from this author.
The Women of Chateau Lafayette – Stephanie Dray
I very much enjoyed “America’s First Daughter” when it came out, and it made my top ten list for that year. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Stephanie Dray found her way back here. This time telling the story of Chateau Lafayette, a castle in France that played host to many famous faces throughout history. This story focuses on three women in particular – one being Madame Lafayette herself, wife of the famous freedom fighter. Another is Beatrice Chanler, a witty, WWI-era socialite who decides to put her connections and money to use to help war orphans. The third is an orphan-turned-resistor who forges fake identity cards for Jewish children in World War II. Being along for the ride during three different world-rattling conflicts makes a great read by itself, but readers can also find a lot of inspiration in how the women cross paths in their own way, finding so much courage, comfort, and hope within the walls of their historic building.
Cloud Cuckoo Land – Anthony Doerr
What do a fifteenth century young orphan, a modern-day octogenarian, and a futuristic teen trapped on a spaceship have in common? The answer is the long-time legend of Cloud Cuckoo Land – an imaginative tale that interweaves three completely different lives in a way you will never expect.
Bellewether – Susanna Kearsley
I love me a good dual timeline, especially when it involves a ghost. When hauntings persist at the small-town museum, curator Charley tracks down the legend of a 1750s French officer, his lover Lydia, and a romance interrupted by war. Part swoony, part ghosty, it’s an engaging story with an ending I didn’t see coming.
Dream Town – David Baldacci
Was it the setting in old-timey Hollywood, or the 1950s slang that drew me in? Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience with Baldacci’s private eye Aloysius Archer. This time tracing a screenwriter gone missing in the city of dreams. Hang on to your fedora hat, because it’s quite a ride in a very fancy car.
And that’s a wrap on this year’s top ten reads! Let me hear your favorite books of the year in the comments below!
NOTE: This will be my last post of 2022! I wish all of you a most miraculous holiday season, and I look forward to another great year on WordPress! Bring it on, 2023!
An interesting and eclectic title selection. Congratulations on your successful book publishing.
Thanks very much! I highly recommend any one of these books, they kept me very entertained during a wild year!
A fascinating, impressive list, MB! “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” sounds especially intriguing. I haven’t read even one of the 13 you mentioned — 😮 — but did enjoy two other excellent Jonathan Franzen novels: “Freedom” and “The Corrections.”
I haven’t read “Freedom” but I read “the Corrections” a few years ago and really enjoyed it! 🙂 And yes the Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is definitely worth the time it takes to get through it, if you ever want to pick it up! 🙂
I also read Crossroads and had the same reaction you did.
So good, right?! I definitely couldn’t put it down! Have you read any of his other works?
I’ve read Freedom and The Corrections. They were equally engaging. It’s not just that you can’t put them down, they are stories that you remember and that stick with you.
Absolutely agree! I haven’t read “Freedom” yet but I did read “the Corrections.” It was so good. It made me happily snap up Crossroads and any other works of his when they come out.
Thank you for sharing some of your favorite reads, M.B., all new to me. Isn’t it amazing how many books there are and how few of them we get to open during our short lifetimes? If there is an afterlife, I hope we’ll be able to get to all of them then. 😊 📚
My version of heaven is a giant, beautiful library with lots of delicious coffee and beautiful books 🙂 <3
It does sound heavenly! 🙂
Enjoyed reading your picks – not familiar with any of them. Maybe I’ll try a “best books” post this year for a change.
Ooooh yes please do! 🙂 🙂
I’m glad you’ve had time to keep up with your reading despite your whirlwind year. None of these were familiar to me, and none said “Read me now!” but there’s still value in a post like this. It’s a reminder to get to that stack on the corner of my desk and get reading.
That’s the beauty of books -there’s plenty out there, even if these don’t speak to you! 🙂 What’s your favorite genre to read? I might be able to toss you some recommends that are more up your alley, although it sounds like you have a TBR of your own to get through already 🙂
I enjoy essays, journals and letters, and natural history. In fact, most of the reading that’s stacked up is somehow related. Favorite authors? Annie Dillard, John McPhee, Loren Eiseley, May Sarton, Flannery O’Connor, Paul Theroux. If you’ve never read Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast, I highly recommend it!
I will have to add that to my list!! 🙂 Thanks so much! I actually read a Civil War journal a long time ago called “Hard Marching Every Day,” and it has stuck with me even after all this time. Journals can indeed be excellent reads!
Greetings from a fellow sinistral!
YES!!!! I’m glad to hear you are in our club!!
Glad I’m in the club. Wouldn’t want to be left out.
Oooooh well done on the lefty pun!
Congratulations on your book. This is an interesting collection. There ae only three books I have been unable to finish: Finnegan’s Wake, La Morte d’Arthur, and one that was such rubbish I can’t even remember its name.
HAHA that third one made me laugh Derrick! Sometimes books are just bad enough where they drop out of your memory completely! I always hate to put a book down but I just have WAY too much on my TBR list! Sometimes I have to move on.
I’m keeping notes for a couple of these and they’re on my TBR list now. Congrats on your book too!
Weee! 🙂 I always enjoy passing on reading recommends! May I ask which ones spoke to you?
The Dark Valley and The Chateau Lafayette 🙂
Both excellent. I hope very much that you enjoy them! 🙂
Quite a variety. I read anything except romance, so I appreciate a varied list.
I can understand that. I wouldn’t call romance my favorite genre, but sometimes I reach for one when I’m feeling especially down in the dumps and need a nice palate cleanser.
The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s looks like it’s right up my alley.
The 30’s was a fascinating decade. If you’re as fascinated by it as I am I recommend, Hard Times by Studs Terkel. It’s an oral history of the Great Depression.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.
Oooh that sounds like a book I would get a lot from! Thanks so much for the recommend! 🙂 Happy Holidays to you as well!
I just got your book yesterday through Amazon. Very excited to read it. Thanks for sharing your favorite reads.
I hope very much that you enjoy it!
I am just getting started, but so far it’s awesome! I am already learning. Excited to get more into your book. Thanks for all of the unimaginable time and hard work it took to put together a book.
thanks for all the time you put in reading it! It means a lot!
You are so welcome. I have a question for you, and if you don’t want to broadcast the answer, you are welcome to contact me through my WordPress site. My contact info is in there.
You mentioned early in the book about to the Nazi “breeding program”. Was that real? I never heard about it before. But one thing that is very eery is the same thought process and propaganda that Hitler used is being used by Trump and his far right crowd.
I’m afraid that was real – it was called Lebensborn. You may read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebensborn
Thank you for the quick reply, and the link. Lebensborn was an absolutely disgusting practice and concept. They were literally treating women like animal breeding stock. It seems as if the Nazis had no bottom level. Just disgusting.
Thanks for confirming this though. Enjoying your book.
Thanks for the list. The Franzen and Doerr books are in the big stack of books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, along with Hamnet, a book on a previous list of yours.
Ooooh Hamnet is very good – she has another book out this year that is on my TBR list!
You certainly have eclectic taste, MB – a great selection. I have no ability to concentrate right now but have a book that is not finished…
Thanks very much! 🙂 Hope you’re able to finish your book! 🙂
I read another chapter last night. Whoop, whoop!
Some really interesting sounding reads. To me shame I haven’t read any of them. In fact, since the film criticism thing took off most of my time has been split between watching movies and writing about them. I miss more free time.
Ha! I have your exact same situation but in reverse. I’m so swept up in book reading and writing that I don’t have as much time as I used to for movies! I’m always glad to read about them on your wonderful page! 🙂
Well M.B., I am about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through your book, “All the Lights Above Us”. Here is my take. It is absolutely incredible! You have done such an amazing job of bringing out the human side of this story. I absolutely love it! The characters are just wonderful. Every chapter adds new depth and insight. Boy are you a great writer.
I feel so lucky that I have been following you here on WordPress. All I can say is thank you for writing this. Please do more books.
Hope you have had a wonderful Christmas, and of that isn’t your thing, then just hope your Holidays are wonderful.
<3 <3 <3 Thanks so much for your incredible support!
Howdy. My favorite reads were An Actual Life, by Abigail Thomas, and The Reivers, by William Faulkner.
I haven’t read either but sounds like I should look into them! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!
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It looks like you got through a nice number of books M.B. I managed to get through quit a number also, I did get a heap of books on my Xmas list but sadly yours wasn’t included!! But my birthday isn’t far away and yours is the only one on it so fingers crossed.
Otherwise I’ll just go out and purchase it myself! Ha Ha!
Well I hope very much you enjoy it when you do get it! 🙂 🙂 Thanks so much for all your support!
Looks like a fabulous year of reading! I’ve heard of only a couple of these titles, but I made note of some other titles to delve into someday.
Last year was kind of a lacklustre reading year for me. I didn’t get to read as many books as I would’ve liked, and a fair number of those were mediocre ones. However, I really loved Silent Stars by Jeanine Basinger (my fave Hollywood historian), Arcadian Adventures of the Idle Rich by Stephen Leacock, and I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven. These are older books (some are VERY old), but they are wonderful.
Oooooh! These all sound delightful! Thanks so much for the recommends! 🙂 And I think there was something in the air last year with reading, I too didn’t get through as many books as usual and had a fair amount more DNFs than usual as well.