January was such a fantastic reading month for me. I can’t even get over it. It reinstated my bibliophile status, I think. Revived my love for BOOKSBOOKSBOOKS. Basically, I quit listening to Booktube. I pulled from various Best of 2022 lists from reliable sources like Time, etc. I think where I was being led astray with Booktube is that I was watching these channels because I liked the personalities, but then I started to realize eventually that my tastes just didn’t align with most of them. Like, I love Kayla from Booksandlala but what she considers horror and I what I consider horror are very different. I have also found that I gravitate more towards literary fiction and less towards the magical realism shit that she is obsessed with.
Anyway, who cares. Here are the books I read in January, all 14 of them! They were mostly all 4 and 5 stars, maybe one or two 3-3.5 in there.
Right off the bat – five star read. This book has humor, humanity, and the found family trope that I love so hard. Most of it takes place on a train / subway where a group of passengers become forced to interact with each other after one of them nearly chokes to death. It mostly centers around Iona, a sort of “washed-up” socialite whose current employer at a magazine is beginning to find her to be irrelevant. Iona has a very strong, abrasive personality that makes the other passengers either despise her or admire her. I adored her. I adored all of them. I am crying right now as I remember how fucking precious this book is and how much it almost made me miss taking the T to work because now I want to actually strike up conversations with the regulars who I used to see every day and assign monikers to based on their fashion choices or whatever.
Well, anyway, this book made my heart grow a size or four. Then I’m sure I had the sound of a child screaming and it immediately shrunk again.
2. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – Gabrielle Zevin
Baby, believe the hype. Solid five stars and I am still thinking about it and getting choked up. I have read from this author once before and genuinely liked it so I was excited to get into this one. However, and I don’t think this is just me because I read other raving reviews that agree, this book starts out slow. Like, not BAD, but knowing that this was on so many Best of 2022 lists, I was confused and really wondering if I was missing something. But then before I had a chance to DNF out of spite (I WON’T LIKE YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME), it hooked me. I can’t explain it, because this book is basically about two childhood friends who meet again when they’re in college (different colleges, same city) and decide to make a video game together.
The characters, their relationships, the blurred lines, their history…it was all so perfectly executed. There is a HUGE TRIGGER WARNING – I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone so you might want to look it up but there is a big traumatic thing that happens, and it wrecked me. I mean, I felt like I was being scooped raw by a melon baller, the pain was real. This will definitely end up being one of the best books I read this year, no cap or whatever Those Kids say.
P.S. Henry also read it and loved it, but he claims he didn’t cry. I mean, I SOBBED.
3. The Hero of This Book – Elizabeth McCracken
Sweet and oftentimes LOL funny, is this a memoir or fiction? Either way – it was a lovely read. 4 stars.
This was a TRIP. The writing was so fresh, the characters beautifully-flawed. I laughed out loud numerous and could clearly hear the protagonist in my head, but my favorite part was the fact that Chooch had to pick this up from the library for me haha.
Anyway, 4.5 stars. Loved it and if this was Jonas’s debut novel, then I cannot fucking wait to read the next one.
5. Twenty Years Later – Charlie Donlea
This was recommended to me by my friend Eve – THANK YOU! What a unique thriller! Part of the plot revolves around an unsolved murder, the suspect of which is presumed dead after being in the WTC on the morning of 9/11. The other part follows a TV personality in present day, who resurrects this cold case while also trying to hide from her own unsavory past. I needed a good thriller, and this was it. 4 stars! Didn’t see the twist coming. (Either one!)
6. The Book of Goose – Yiyun Li
What an elegantly written, intriguing story of a childhood friendship between two girls living in rural postwar France. Honestly, Fabienne was a bit of a cunt and I wanted Agnes to haul back and clock her. But yeah, if you’re in the mood for something beautiful and literary, try this one – it’s another 4 star for me, fam.
7. Bad Dolls – Rachel Harrison
You know I tend to SORRY NEXT when it comes to short story collections, but I had to exception for Rachel Harrison, I just love her so. There were 4 stories in, one was a 3-star, 2 were 4-stars, and one 5-star about a bachelorette weekend. One of the 4-star stories was a SUPER RELATABLE tale about a savage diet app that actually had me wishing it was real because sometimes a bitch be desperate.
This was a fantastic, quick read and just what I needed – something fun that I could listen to while taking my frigid winter morning walks. 4.5 stars overall (is that how averages work!?!?).
This one was also an audiobook, and I chose it in a whim through Scribd. I just needed something to listen to for when I walk and nothing was really looking too compelling to me. I haven’t heard of this author or this book before. It was fine! It was entertaining for sure but, and maybe this was because of the narrator, it kind of had a Christopher Pike feel to it, especially the scenes were people are killed. It’s like, “Oh OK, this person is dead now, moving right along.” Like I would have read this SO HARD in 9th grade and thought it was the coolest book ever.
It was actually pretty creepy, I’ll give it that much. Will I read the rest of the trilogy, probably not, doc.
9. Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club – Roselle Lim
I was so close to DNF’ing this. I just could not connect with it and picking it up had become a real drag. But, just when I was telling myself, “Finish this chapter and then call it,” something changed. I can’t pinpoint it, it probably was a me-problem, something with my attitude, but I was suddenly ON BOARD and then the rest of the book was just a sheer delight (ok that’s not true, it had some sincere sad moments and the main character’s strained relationship with her mom stressed me out bigly). I also loved the tiny sprinkling of magical realism that was involved in that Sophie, a professional matchmaker, could see ribbons attached to peoples’ hearts and knew when there was a love connection by the way ribbons would react when two people were near each other.
Sophie moves into a new apartment building and immediately targets a group of elderly men, called the Old Ducks, as potential clients. Each Old Duck is adorable, even the one who is super grouchy. ESPECIALLY the one who is super grouchy – I actually pictured him as Glenn throughout the entire book. The Old Ducks and the FOOD were the real stars of this book.
4 stars, glad I gave it a chance! (I think this is another one that Eve suggested, so thank you, friend!)
10. All This Could Be Different – Sarah Thankam Mathews
Solid four stars, but dayum did it give me anxiety. There is A LOT going on here but in general, books about young adults out in the real world, trying to stay afloat and not perish financially, emotionally, and mortally, really makes me sweat. Our main character S is actually not very likeable but hoo boy did I feel for her. Her parents are back in India after her father takes the fall for a crime, leaving S behind in America as a teenager. Now she is out of college, being strung along by a boss who promises to sponsor her for citizenship, living rent-free in an apartment above the racist property manager who makes her life hell (this is where I was REALLY secondhand misery), becomes obsessed with and eventually starts a relationship with a girl she sees in a hardware store, but in the midst of all of this she is also developing beautiful precious friendships with some people who become her family. Love me a found family saga!!!
I can’t explain this book as well as it deserves, but I really fucking loved it and couldn’t wait to pick it back up every time I put it down.
11. Britt-Marie Was Here – Fredrik Backman
My least favorite Backman book, but still better than most books I’ve read – that should tell you something. He has definitely become one of my favorite authors at this point. The way he crafts his characters! The dialogue! The SUPER DIFFICULT BUT LOVEABLE protagonists. The way he makes you want to live in a small town! From the telephone check-ins Britt-Marie forces upon a girl at the unemployment office to the begrudging companionship to finds in a rat, to the character in wheelchair known solely as “Somebody,” to SAMI <3. This book gave me so much to think about, so much to love. 4.5 stars.
12. Signal Fires – Dani Shapiro
Five stars, and I’m not ready to talk about this, I’m sorry. It got me good. Tears, lots. I love you, Ben Wilf.
13. The Me You Love in the Dark – Skottie Young / Jorge Corona (art)
Finally, a graphic novel/comic that I actually liked! The story was decent but the art was excellent. Artist moves into a haunted house, becomes close to the ghost that haunts it. 3.75 stars.
I want to read more classics this year and this was an excellent start. I don’t really think it needs much introduction, and I’m just sorry it took me so long to read it because it was brilliant. This book is obviously a classic for a reason, extremely intense, emotional and throught-provoking. I wish I had been required to read it in high school, to be honest. Solid 5 stars, everyone should read this once in their lifetime.
I feel so honored to have three books that you liked on your January reads!! Because sometimes I think books are fantastic and other people don’t, and then I read books everyone raves about that I found were absolute garbage. Like Colleen Hoover. I just don’t get the hype. I read Britt-Marie years ago when I first discovered Backman. And pretty much the other books you read I have on my TBR, so that’s great.
I only read 5 in January. Of those, None of This Would Have Happened If Prince Were Still Alive by Carolyn Prusa was good. I feel like you read it already, but it was fun. If you didn’t, it’s about a woman who feels about Prince like you feel about Robert Smith. She’s stuck in a rut and feels like all her best days happened before Prince died. She comes home to evacuate from a Cat 5 hurricane, only to find her husband crawling out of bed with one of her kid’s schoolmate’s mom. So on top of keeping all of her family safe, she has to deal with the implosion of her marriage.
I also really liked My Day as Megan Forrester by Misty Urban. It’s about a 42 year old woman who goes out with friends to celebrate her birthday and wishes her life was different; not the same old same old. The next day, she wakes up in the body of a 24 year old Hollywood starlet, `a la (I know that’s not right but I don’t know the keyboard shortcut) Freaky Friday, who is not all that keen to switch back. It’s fun.
If you want a good reason to just sit and have a good old book cry, The Inn at Tansy Falls by Cate Woods is perfect. A British woman has been tasked by her best friend who died from cancer, to take her ashes to a town in Vermont and spread them. She has a very specific itinerary to complete in two weeks and a surprise at the end of her trip she never expected. You can guess the ending while reading it, but it’s one of those books you want it to end exactly as it does.
I read The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry. The story is fantastic but some of the language is so flowery and annoying, mainly in dialogue between Hazel and her mother. It’s historical fiction, broadly, about Operation Pied Piper, when London sent its children to other parts of England, Canada, the States, etc. to keep them safe. Hazel and her little sister go to Oxfordshire, where they have an idyllic life. Hazel is 14 and Flora is 5. Since Flora was a baby, Hazel has told her stories about an imaginary place called Whisperwood. Then one day, Flora is left sleeping on a blanket near the river and disappears. She is never found. Years later, Hazel is working in a rare bookstore and receives a book about Whisperwood – her stories! She goes on a quest to find out once and for all if her sister is alive.
Here’s a few more. I hope I didn’t suggest them already.
She’s Up to No Good by Sarah Goodman Confino. A grandmother-adult granddaughter road trip, filled with family secrets. The grandmother, Evelyn steals the whole book.
Sweet Sweet Revenge, Ltd. by Jonas Jonasson. He wrote the 100-Year Old Man books. This is about an absolutely horrible man who does terrible things and the people who exact revenge on him. It’s funny and Backman quirky with the language. The 100-Year Old Man books are great, too. Very Ove.
The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain. Albert has been forced into mandatory retirement, his mail carrier career over. He lives alone with his cat. He has no hobbies, no friends, no loved ones. He has some regrets, some secrets. He goes on a quest to find his lost love and finds so much more along the way.
What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum. YA book about a girl whose father died in a car accident. No one at school knows how to talk to her now, except the school’s social pariah, David, who wants to help her figure out what isn’t exactly right about her father’s accident.
One last one for now: How to Bury Your Brother by Lindsey Rogers Cook. This was her debut novel. It’s about a woman who attends her estranged brother’s funeral. He left home when she was young, abandoning her. At the funeral, she catches her parents lying about the circumstances of his death. She once again buries all the trauma and feelings. Some time later, she is called home to clean out the family home and finds letters from her brother to different people, but none to her. She takes it upon herself to hand-deliver each one, to find out more about his life and why he didn’t even write her a letter.
Did you read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry?
I think it made me appreciate Britt Marie’s character, so I was cheering for her by the time I got to Britt-Marie Was Here.
I appreciate your lists because I go through and just add the ones that are available as audio books to my list. Really helps to keep my work days moving!