My Favorite Books from 2022
Happy new year, friends! I somehow read a total of 100 books in 2022, which is truly a record for me. I don’t think I’ve read more than 50 books since I was in elementary school (when I used to read a book a day #nerd). Today, I’m sharing my top 10 favorite books of the 100 books I read last year. Here we go!
TOP 10 FAVORITE BOOKS (in the order I read them)
BEASTS OF A LITTLE LAND by Juhea Kim
Spanning over several decades during the 20th century Korea, Beats of A Little Land chronicles the lives of Jade and JungHo. Born into a poor family, Jade is sold as a young girl to a courtesan school, which takes her to Seoul where she becomes one of the most coveted performers. The orphan son of a tiger hunter, JungHo joins a group of beggar boys and eventually finds himself in the Korea independence movement. There are other who come and go and those who stay until the end. Throughout all of this, Jade and JungHo remain special to each other. I loved both characters so much for how human they are. The plot is realistic but not predictable necessarily.
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith
An older release from 1943, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn unexpectedly captured my heart! France Nolan grows ups in Williamsburg. Her family is poor and her dad is an alcoholic. She learns at a young age that life is hard and that life isn’t fair. Francie, her brother Neely, and her mom Katie somehow make it through it all though. This coming-of-age story warmed my heart so much. It is one of those books you throughly enjoy reading and never want it to end.
KAIKEYI by Vaishnavi Patel
A retelling of an “evil” mythical character from the Indian epic Ramayana, Kaikeyi engaged me from the beginning to the very end. Patel writes in a way that requires no previous knowledge of understanding of Ramayana, and you will understand and feel for Kaikeyi despite her flaws and hypocrisy. I loved the complexity of the characters in this book!
THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DU BOIS by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Truly an epic, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois chronicles the lives of an African-American family, spanning over centuries. Their stories are complicated and intertwined, some in unexpected and even uncomfortable ways. The characters are complex, nuanced, and real, and they’re narratives both heartbreaking and hopeful. At over 800 pages, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois may seem daunting but this was a book I could not put down. This was a book I kept thinking about all year.
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON by Ryan Lee Wong
Through a semi-autobiographical(?) protagonist Reed, Lee Wong articulates the challenging topics many of us, especially in the Asian American community, contemplate on our own but for which there is often no open dialogue: the actions within the Asian community that may uphold or perpetuate “the white supremacist heteropatriarchy.” Lee Wong’s writing is beautifully and captivating; his depiction of Korean BBQ and bathhouses/sauna made me feel like I was right there with Reed! Reminiscent of Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings, Which Side Are You On scratched an itch for me.
DUST CHILD by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Another challenging and important story from Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, Dust Child writes about the dualities of life and war, the importance of forgiving but not forgetting, and moving forward with life while remembering the loved ones who can’t. The way she writes every character as a full, complex human allowed me to understand the complicated situations they were all in, during and aftermath of the Việt Nam War.
THESE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS by Salma El-Wardany
While not very long, These Impossible Things made me feel all of the emotions. The friendship between Malak, Kees, and Jenna is so special, it made me jealous. The year of separation and what each of them endures alone during the period broke my heart. I was relived and ecstatic when they reconcile not only with each other, but also their internal conflicts about choosing between their faith/family/upbringing and the true, happy lives they want to pursue.
MEN WE REAPED by Jesmyn Ward
My favorite Jesmyn Ward book, Men We Reaped is about her community and loved ones. She recounts the deaths of five young men in her small Mississippi town, including her younger brother. The chapters alternate between the young man’s life story and Jesmyn’s life throughout childhood and her 20s. This book affected me and opend my eyes in a way that I didn’t expect.
ACNE by Laura Chinn
Memoirs are often described as “brutally honest” but I don’t believe I truly understood what that meant before reading Acne. Laura Chinn simply throws out the window any expectations you may have for vulnerability coming into her story. Acne made me uncomfortable, made me laugh, made me emotional, made me feel all the things. There were lots of moments when I had to pause and re-read because I couldn’t believe what I was reading; there were moments when I wasn’t sure how to feel because Laura China writes about some really sad and uncomfortable things in her unique, humorous way. I loved the book, and I can only imagine the audiobook would be even better.
SOLITO by Javier Zamora
In Solito, Zamora chronicles his journey from El Salvador to the US as a little kid. The book is written matter-of-factly with great details; considering what was supposed to be a two-week trip ends up taking much longer, it’s evident how much this migration imprinted on little Javier. Javier’s innocence and naïveté make this story even more heartbreaking. Nine-year-old Javier, who is afraid of using the toilet alone, simply wants to be reunited with his parents who are in the US already. This is a book I recommend to everyone–it’s long but didn’t feel like it, especially on audio.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (loved these books too!)
IN THE DREAM HOUSE by Carmen Maria Machado
THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang
PART OF YOUR WORLD by Abby Jimenez
THE VERY SECRET SOCIETY OF IRREGULAR WITCHES by Sangu Mandanna
LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Gramus
THE MOUNTAINS SING by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
P.S. My Reading Goals for 2023!
P.P.S. My Favorite Books from 2020 and What I Read Last Month.