Reading Better | January.

My 2022 reading is off to a great start! I read 19 books last month (shelved here on Goodreads) and was delighted that the “best year of reading” vibe continued from December. I shared quick reviews of those four 5-star books on Instagram (here) and here are a few superlatives for the other 15 (all links are to Goodreads).

Book that made me cry in public/Book to read in one sittingGhost Forest, by Pik-Shuen Fung. A gorgeous debut novel that reads like a memoir about the immigrant experience (Hong Kong to Canada in 1997) and the death of the narrator’s father. I read this cover to cover while waiting for my car battery to be replaced. I’m pretty sure no one could see the tears thanks to my mask 🙂

Book that made me search Spotify for a playlist The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, by Dawnie Walton. A fictional oral history of Opal & Nev, a musical duo from the early 1970’s through their “final revival” forty years later. I so wanted to find the music they played, but a playlist from the author had to suffice. and then when I read Red at the Bone later in the month, I knew to look for a playlist and I found an excellent one from the author.

Book that made me consider reading all the author’s backlist. Also Most Compelling Jacket CopyThe Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel. “…a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.” (jacket copy) This is my 3rd of her books and I now know to expect a cool structure (mixed up timelines, multiple points of view), a slightly off-beat subject, and a bit of mystery. This one included a chapter narrated in 1st person plural, a ponzi scheme and international shipping, and I won’t spoil the mystery part.

Book that convinced me I don’t want to read Tolstoy or ChekhovA Swim in a Pond in the Rain, by George Saunders. from my journal “5 stars for Saunders and I would’ve DNF’d the short stories :-)” I listened to this and then downloaded the ebook version so I could study Saunders’ conclusion: “…reading fiction changes the state of our minds for a short time afterward … I’m reminded my mind is not the only mind. I feel an increased confidence in my ability to imagine the experiences of other people and accept these as valid.” (p. 387)

Book that was a lovely surprise and a perfect accompaniment to MiddlemarchMy Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead. Mead wrote a fantastic introduction to my edition of Middlemarch and I really wanted more time there after I finished it. The audio was available for immediate download and I went for it. Part memoir, part English class studying Middlemarch, and part biography of George Eliot … it was perfect! I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone who’s read and loved Middlemarch.

I’m going to save a dive into numbers for a quarterly post, but I am pleased that nearly a third (6/19) of these books were non-fiction and interested to note that over 40% (8/19) were 2021 releases.

One thing that’s working really well for me – I thought about it when I wrote last week’s Saving my Life post – is having a monthly TBR (to read) list. At the beginning of the month (or a few days before), I put a good bit of time into deciding what I want to read, taking bookclubs, buddy reads, new releases, library holds, and some serendipity into consideration, and I lay it out – literally! I print those little book covers for my journal and take a photo. As the month goes on, I check off books I finish … and deciding what to read next is never a problem. It’s like I’ve narrowed down my options and know that whatever I choose will be good. Here’s January’s TBR, complete with checkmarks, and February’s.

I am only 10 days into February, and I haven’t felt compelled to add a title … of course it helps that I didn’t actually finalize my list until the 7th (when I picked up the last library hold).

Thank you for reading to the end! Do we have any books in common? Connecting about books is one of my very favorite things to do!

19 thoughts on “Reading Better | January.

  1. I have read a number of the books on your lists here – we will need to talk about them. I do love your energy and enthusiasm for reading. Having a solid TBR seems to be very helpful. Of course now I have added a book or two to my list 😉

  2. Middlemarch is the only book I’ve heard of from your list. I’m amazed that you were able to actually read that many books in a month (or was it a combination of reading and listening, sorry I had to ask) I read two books last month and enjoyed them tremendously.

    1. I absolutely listen to books … honestly, I’m reading with my eyes or my ears nearly all the time 🙂 Seven of those January books were audio.

  3. I’m always amazed at how much you can read in a month! I also loved Oh William!, The Door, and These Precious Days, but Five Tuesdays in Winter was just average for me.

    1. Five Tuesdays was definitely a mixed bag for me, but three of the stories – the title one, When in the Dordogne (I’d love to read a novel from the older boys’ perspectives!), and The Man at the Door (the last one in the collection) were so good it bumped my rating from 3 to 4 stars.

  4. I cannot imagine reading A Swim in the Pond quickly . . . (I’ve been reading it for months now, and enjoying the slow ride). (And I love Tolstoy and Chekov, both.) I’ve enjoyed many of the books on your January list, Mary. Happy February reading! 🙂

  5. I, too, wanted a playlist (or a soundtrack?) for Opal and Nev! Though I suppose asking a writer to be a composer or to find a composer for their fictional musical groups is asking a bit much.

    I’ve still got A Swim in the Pond in hardcover on my nightstand, and I’ll get to it eventually. I listened to a podcast episode recently ( that informed me that George Saunders is a Very Good Human, so I’m even more interested in reading it now, though I think it will be a long read because I’ll have to take it slowly. Several of the books you have on your list for this month are books that are also on my TBR list, though not necessarily for this month. Too many books, not enough time!

    1. 🙂 I don’t think I’d want Swim in the Pond on my nightstand … those Russians would be haunting my dreams! Saunders, though, is a gift … I have his short story collection Tenth of December on my birthday bibliobrunch shelf and look forward to exploring HIS stories.

  6. I am with Kym… it took me a good bit of time to get through A Swim… and it made me want to read some Tolstoy and Chekov!) I loved the bite sized reading bits and the discussion that absolutely altered how I thought about the bits.

    Red at the Bone was my “read practically in one sitting” book. I could not put it down.

    1. I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been able to finish Swim if I’d done it bits and pieces at a time! The narration of the stories and Saunders’ commentary were compelling and worked for me!

  7. I have been loving my reading routine but it got sidelined with daily appointments which shaved away my reading time. No fears, I have each day to jump right back into the groove. Loved seeing what you are reading.

  8. As you know, we have many books in common. Reading Books of Jacob is going to take most of my next two months. I’ve read many of the books on your list this month, but my local BG is reading the Didion in March. I will get a head start this month. We have so much to talk about!

    1. Juliann and I talked about Year of Magical Thinking yesterday – I’m so glad I re-read it! and Books of Jacob … I’ll be starting soon (and likely not finishing this month either)

  9. I really enjoyed A Swim in a Pond…my sister & I read it together. We had read several of the short stories in school and appreciated how Saunders gave us a deeper understanding of stories that didn’t do much for us when we were younger. I do like Tolstoy and Anna Karenina is one of my favorite novels, so that may explain why I enjoyed both the stories and Saunders so much.
    I just loved These Precious Days and it is a book I will dip into and read again. I also enjoyed Love Medicine and look forward to our discussion!
    I am always amazed at how much reading you accomplish each month!

    1. Wasn’t These Precious Days SO good?! I want to explore more of Patchett’s non-fiction and maybe re-read a few of her novels. I’ve read four and have mixed thoughts/memories of them, so re-reading is probably in order!

  10. You’ve convinced me to read My Life in Middlemarch and we recently read Oh William for my small town book group. I really enjoyed it. These Precious Days (bought! ) sits next to me. Hoping to open it soon. So. Many. Books. 🙂

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