It’s always a bit staggering — to find oneself and the world arriving yet again at a December 31st. Here we are, on the precipice of hope, and yet, how easy it is to feel the loss of the year past — how we want to hold so much in ourselves at once.
It has become a tradition of mine to celebrate December 31st with a remembrance and appreciation for some books I encountered during the year, books that brought company, wisdom, linguistic splendor, and perspective — for in times of ever uncertainty, books are a stalwart, omnipresent friend. Throughout electric days, blue days, and the always-prowling fog, look — a book is here, waiting to sing to you as you hold each other close.
I want to acknowledge — there are dozens of books that are still stacked on my floor, yelping to be read. There are dozens (thousands?) of books I mightily wish I could have included in this year’s list, but alas I have not met them yet! For me, the prospect of meeting new books, new poetic or narrative friends, gives me great hope for the new year. So, with the fact that it is impossible to include every book that has made an impact on me, here is my annual sampling of a few books I would like to highlight: texts that were exquisitely staining and impactful to me in one way or another — and have inevitably shattered and rearranged my glass body, my glass path … books that after reading, I will never be quite the same.
In 2022, I’ve been questioning everything lately. So it seems appropriate to question this project as well. Why do we make “end of the year” lists anyway? What is the purpose? Why uplift the books that we do and not others? Who does that serve? How do we make decisions for which books to include in our end of the year lists, and how influenced are we by the lists that others make and share?
I pose these questions to you, to consider and graze on your own.
Here’s how I approach these questions: Sometimes I think of books as bandaids, adhering to my body, healing me wherever I go.
Sometimes I think of books and their content as organic material invisibly floating through the air and collecting on my skin, in my bloodstream. These book particles are vital invigorators, as vital to life as yeast is to a sourdough starter.
In both scenarios, there’s something that sticks to me…for some scientific or spiritual or poetic reason beyond my knowing. It is up to me to pay attention to this adhesive phenomenon; to notice the words that beg to stay, the wisdoms that make a home in me.
Of course, there are some books that just enter into our lives, through trusted recommendation or by a life-changing sweep of the hand at the bookstore or library. There’s a fascinating tango of choice and serendipity that dictates which books we read in a year, the only kind of uncertainty and dare that my soul can bear to look forward to.
Perhaps most of all, my “end of the year” list is a memorial, a reverent bow towards my bethlehem which will forever always be a city made of books and language and the experimental living spirit.
So, on this pensive day of old and new, I give a fizzy thanks to those who write books, make books, bind books, share books, give books, read books, and love books! Happy New Year, and Happy Reading.
(in no particular order:)
Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad *
Manywhere: Stories by Morgan Thomas
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater *
My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga
There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness by M. Leona Godin *
feeld by Jos Charles
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi *
Call Me Athena: Girl From Detroit by Colby Cedar Smith *
How I Became a Tree by Sumana Roy
The Overstory by Richard Powers *
Moldy Strawberries: Stories by Caio Fernando Abreu, translated by Bruna Dantas Lobato
Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit *
This Body I Wore by Diana Goetsch *
Autoportrait by Jesse Ball
Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh*
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk *
The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade *
Everybody: A Book about Freedom by Olivia Laing
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi *
Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong*
Read Dangerously by Azar Nafisi *
Voice of the Fish by Lars Horn
Plans for Sentences by Renee Gladman
* A star next to a book title means that I listened to and enjoyed the audiobook version, and you might enjoy it, too! (Hint: Did you know you can borrow audiobooks from your library system through the Libby app?)
** While there are select titles that I would have liked to include here from the publisher I work for, I have decided to not include any Atmosphere Press books in this particular end-of-the-year roundup.