Reading Better | December.

This week I wrapped up my 2022 book journaling – the 21 books I read last month and the 250+ I read all year. I tallied a few stats (which took way longer than it should’ve because I haven’t been as consistent as I’d like about what I track each month!) and spent a lot of time thinking about what I loved about last year and what I’d like to do better in 2023. Today’s post wraps up 2022 and I’ll share what I have planned for this year next week. Here’s what December looked like.

I added 21 books to my 2022 shelf (you can see all the titles here on Goodreads):

  • Nearly 75% were paper, which is closer to my pre-Lucy paper/audio split.
  • Most of the books were mine (six owned, seven purchased new, two purchased used) and I only borrowed six (29%).
  • 18 were fiction, and I had one each for spiritual growth, memoir/essay, and other non-fiction.
  • My intentions skewed to connection (13 books) with not-so-great diversity (six) or growth (three). Five books didn’t check any boxes and one checked all three – The Violin Conspiracy, Modern Mrs. Darcy’s January selection.

Most notable was that 5-star shelf … SEVEN books! Three re-reads (Mrs. Dalloway, The Hours, and A Christmas Carol), three 2022 releases (Signal Fires, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Demon Copperhead), and one backlist-I’ve-wanted-to-read-forever (Peace Like a River). Here are the mini-reviews I wanted to share on Instagram (but couldn’t because of the caption character limit):

📖 Signal Fires, by Dani Shapiro … a new novel from a favorite non-fiction author did not disappoint. This pulled at my heart and the writing … oh my “…we live in loops rather than one straight line; that the air itself is made not only of molecules but of memory; that these loops from an invisible pattern; that past, present, and future are part of this pattern …” of course this was a 5-star read for me!

📖 Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger … a beautiful story about family and faith set in the North Dakota Badlands in the winter of 1962. Similar vibes (except for the winter setting) to Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, but I enjoyed the family and the faith more in this one.

📖 Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf … a re-read that makes we want to re-read more, as well as read more Woolf! The structure, the writing, the characters … this book checks all my must-haves. 

📱The Hours, by Michael Cunningham … I wanted to re-read this (and Mrs. Dalloway) before seeing the Met Opera’s production of The Hours in December 2022. I didn’t remember much about this book except that I’d enjoyed it. On this second read (begun while re-reading Mrs. Dalloway) I found so much more to appreciate. First, Cunningham’s amazing job of re-telling Mrs. Dalloway in the 1990’s, set in NYC. I love the way he played with the characters (who was married to whom, sexuality) and having AIDS as the epidemic. But what elevated this to 5 stars was the addition of the Virginia and Mrs. Brown characters, writing and reading the book. and then, the opera (which was a 10-star experience for me) – opera is THE form to tell three stories simultaneously and it was brilliant.

🎧A Christmas Carol, narrated by Tim Curry … a favorite Christmas tradition (this was my 8th listen) that still delights.

📖 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin … another much-anticipated new release that did not disappoint. This is the best novel I’ve read about friendship, work, and creativity. And not knowing much about video games helped me, I think, because I could focus on the story and the writing, not the gaming.

🎧/📖 Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver … my last finish of the year (love to end on a very high note!). I’m in awe of how Kingsolver retold Dickens’ 170 year old story, making it relevant today. I loved David Copperfield, but this retelling is amazing. Demon’s voice, his struggles, and the institutional systems that continue to fail (especially) children … it was a hard and unforgettable story.

My book journal ♥ were short and sweet: ♥ re-reads ♥ re-tellings ♥ finally a slew of 2022 releases that lived up to the hype ♥ Virginia Woolf.

My look back at the whole year was a mixed bag – on the plus side:

  • I read a lot of amazing books. 52 5-star and nearly 90% were 4-stars or better. Clearly, I’m getting better at choosing what to read.
  • The Women’s and Booker Prize short lists.
  • Re-reading.
  • Re-tellings (and the classics they’re based on).
  • Loved immersing myself in a book by reading with my ears and my eyes (not at the same time, but in tandem).
  • Having multiple books “going” at the same time works great to make the best use of different kinds of reading time. I typically have an early morning book, a non-fiction book, a spiritual growth book, and an easier book for before bed.
  • Bookclub connections ♥
  • Maggie O’Farrell completist! and great progress on Louise Erdrich.
  • Memoir/essay collections are my sweet spot for non-fiction (apart from spiritual growth, which continues to be a most rewarding part of my reading life).

and the not side:

  • I read way more than I ever have, and mostly for reasons I hope won’t repeat (Holly, Marc’s recovery, my injuries).
  • I added way more books to my shelves than I read. I did almost double my “owned” read books (from 8% last year to 15% this year … still).
  • “Big Buzzy Books” mostly didn’t live up to the hype. Maybe reading the hot new releases isn’t my thing.
  • I wanted to read more Growth and Diversity, and I ended 2022 with 39% and 35% respectively, which is nearly identical to last year (36% and 39%). I still want to read diversely, and need to figure out what that means. Growth I might pursue in a different way going forward.

Fiction Matters also challenged me – again! – to choose favorites, and I agonized over these 20 titles for nearly a week:

These books were all 5-star reads for me and a few I added to my lifetime favorites shelf. No matter how I might feel about the nuts and bolts of my reading life in 2022, reading those twenty titles was, quite simply, amazing.

Did you choose a favorite book from last year?

11 thoughts on “Reading Better | December.

  1. I loved The Reading List so much – still thinking about it after almost two months. I love your little icons for audio etc. So fancy. I just picked up Maps of our Spectacular bodies at the library (four holds came in today – I pushed three of them out a few weeks to increase my chance of success!).

  2. It may be because it was read most recently, but I think Tomorrow x3 may have been my favorite book of last year. It’s definitely one I want to buy and reread.

    Though I haven’t officially started yet, I wanted to tell you that I intend to start keeping a reading journal this year! I had Anne Bogel’s fill-in journal last year, but of course it only had space for 100 books. I have a beautiful blank notebook with a Tiffany stained-glass window on the cover that I’ve never used (because it’s so pretty), and I’ve decided it’ll be my first reading journal. I’m hoping to get started on it this weekend, before I have too many books to catch up on.

  3. That is one heck of a lot of books and it certainly sounds like you have gained a lot from them. I can’t choose one favorite book from last year, but I did really love Signal Fires. Enough that I did a re-read just several months after my initial read. Here’s to an enjoyable new year in books!

  4. I was thrilled to exceed my goal of 50 by reading 66 books and 21,242 pages. Some of my books wee tomes. Dust Tracks on the Road was probably my favorite. 2023 goals are 75 books with a focus on non-fiction/biographies. No 21st century politicians or anyone with a Tweeter or Instagram account. Definitely no one whose only claim to fame is being a “Social Media Influencer”. Here’s to great reads in 2023.

  5. You know my favorite! We share so many of your fiction books. I don’t read nearly enough non-fiction and I’d like to pump up my diversity, although I do fairly well already. Your December was certainly full of great books. I’m very excited about reading with you this year, too!

  6. Several of your favorites were mine as well. It’s hard for me to choose a favorite from my 5 star reads, but I especially loved Remote Sympathy for how it shifted my thinking. Here’s to another great year of reading!

  7. Several of your favorites were also mine: The Marriage Portrait, Demon Copperhead, and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I’m always recommending that one. You read SO many books!

  8. You had good reading this year. I don’t know that I could choose a favorite book of the year. The ones that stand out are These Precious Days, The Round House, and All That She Carried. Interesting that I would choose two nonfiction books. I do enjoy the way this community inspires each other.

  9. Wow! That’s a lot of books in a year – go you! It’s nice, though, to read/see how much you enjoy your reading and how diverse your reading is. We share some likes…not all…but some (and what a boring world it would be if we all liked all the same things). My favorites include: The Marriage Portrait, Island of the Missing Trees and No Time to Spare (Thinking About What Matters) by Ursula La Guin. Here’s to another great reading year in 2023!

  10. That’s a lot of books, Mary! And it sounds like you really enjoy tracking them and analyzing how they enhance your life. Here’s to more great reading in 2023!

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