Yesterday I shared details with you all about the books I read in 2022 that turned out to be disappointments. Today I have the more challenging task of choosing favourite reads of the year.
I’m in awe of all the bloggers who can select just 5 or 10 books from the 100+plus they read over the last 12 months — and also rank them in beauty pageant style. I find it hard enough to select a short list from the 65 books I read last year, but going that extra step and picking 1st, 2nd, 3rd place winners etc is an impossible task.
The best I can do is put my favourites into two categories: the “star performers” and the “honourable mentions”. I’ve shown them in alphabetical order of author’s surname. Hyperlinks will take you to my review (some are yet to be reviewed.).
Every book I’ve listed resonated because of its theme/s; or the way it evoked an era or the atmosphere of a place. One thing they have in common: they are books that have left the deepest and more enduring impressions. I will likely forget the plot details and almost certainly forget the characters’ names but I will not forget the sensations and emotions generated by these books.
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
My next to last book of 2022 is a masterful tale of a relationship across the political/religious divide in Northern Ireland. Set against a background of sectarian discord and violence, Louise Kennedy’s debut novel is an intense, engrossing tale of how small acts of kindness assume great political significance and put lives at risk.
Educated by Tara Westover
The only non fiction book to make it onto my list, Educated is a remarkable memoir from a truly remarkable woman. Tara Westover was 17 when she set foot in a classroom for the first time in her life. Born to a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho, she had never received a formal education before that time — it was one of the many things her father didn’t believe necessary. Self taught she got to university in the USA, then to Harvard and Cambridge. Her memoir is about more than the fight for an education – it’s an account of the struggle between family loyalties and personal desire.
Small Things Like This by Claire Keegan
Small Things Like These has appeared in many bloggers’ lists of favourite 2022 reads and with good reason. It’s thoroughly brilliant novella about our response when confronted with evil in our midst. Taking inspiration from the true life scandal of the Magdalen laundries, Keegan uses the example of one ordinary family man who has to make a decision: does he act on what he’s witnessed and risk his family’s future as a result or turn a blind eye?
The Fortnight in September by R C Sherriff
I came across The Fortnight in September when it was serialised on BBC Radio 4 in the UK. Though I heard only part of one episode it was enough to convince me I had to buy a copy. It’s a delightful novel, focusing on one family who take their annual summer holiday in the same resort every year. They take comfort in the familiar routines, staying in the same guest house each time, selecting the same spot on the beach and taking the same walks.
Nothing momentous happens yet by the end of the holiday we get the sense that life has changed for each member of the family. Touchingly nostalgic, it gives an utterly absorbing account of the rhythms of family life in the inter-war years.
The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzaponi
The Hiding Place was the first book I read for 20booksofsummer. It’s a stark portrait of life in the docklands area of Cardiff during the 1960s and the experience of immigrant families who chose to make this their home. Among them is Maltese-born Frankie Gauchi and his family of six daughters who grow up amid poverty, neglect and mental illness. Not a book you can say is enjoyable but it’s definitely one that makes an impact
The Long Dry by Cynan Jones: a drought and a missing cow are unusual elements in a novella that exposes the cracks in a strained marriage. it’s a beautifully nuanced novel.
Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood: I am not a fan of Hemingway’s fiction and having read Naomi Wood’s novel about his three wives, I don’t much care for the man either. Wood gives up an insight into the love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway’s marriages and of the women he mistreated yet who continued to love him.
This Mortal Boy by Fiona Barton: I found it impossible to read this and not feel angry at its account of a true life miscarriage of justice in Australia. Barton gives us a fascinating portrayal of the young boy used as an example by a government that wanted to clamp down on what they viewed as immoral behaviour among its young citizens.
An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful by J David Simons: an esteemed British author returns to a traditional inn in Japan where he fell in love many years earlier and wrote the book that made his name. This is a novel that lives up to its title being both beautifully written and intensely emotional.
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell: I preferred Hamnet to O’Farrell’s latest venture into historical venture. But her portrayal of the atmosphere of life in sixteenth century Florence is superb.