I love to read! This year I read 90 books. These were my five favorites.
My Top 12 Books of 2022
I love to read. This year I read 90 books from a variety of genres, including memoir, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and theology. Lots of them were great, but these were some of my favorites that I highly recommend. What was the best book you read this year? I would love to know! Please share with me in the comments below.
(Note in the interest of full disclosure: Links in this post contain affiliate links. When you make a purchase using these links you don’t pay any extra money and I earn a small commission from Amazon. I put this money toward my student loans.)
12. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Classic Novel)
This text is available for free at Project Gutenberg.
My undergraduate degree is in English Education, so I can’t help but have a huge soft spot for the classics. Winter in Pennsylvania is cold and icy, so it always puts me in the mood to read Russian literature. This year I tackled this massive book by Dostoevsky.
Wrestling with Dostoevsky felt like climbing a mountain. I was glad when I completed the challenge, but it was often arduous. The Brothers Karamazov took me over a month to complete, but I am so glad I spent the time to finish reading it. I feel like something deep inside of me stretched and grew as I contemplated the deep theological arguments Dostoevsky set forth in his novel. I don’t agree with all his assertions, but I appreciate how he made me question so many systems and ideas I often take for granted.
I was particularly captivated by the famous short story in this novel entitled, “The Grand Inquisitor.” I continue to turn this story around in my mind and contemplate it. It makes me uncomfortable and sad. It haunts me and I find myself thinking about it at strange times, like when I’m washing the dishes. If you are in a melancholy mood, interested in great works of the literary cannon, and enjoy contemplating questions of theology, I encourage you to consider reading The Brothers Karamazov.
11. Where Sunday Used to Be by Daniel Klawitter (Poetry)
Available on Amazon (affiliate link)
I am the type of oddball who loves poetry and theology, so when the two are combined, I become extremely excited. I’ve been a fan of Klawitter’s writing for several years now and I really appreciate how finely wrought his poetry is. He clearly knows his craft and he always makes me look at the world in a new light. I enjoyed this collection of his “greatest hits,” and the new pieces he wrote specifically for this book. Highly recommended for other theology nerds who love poetry.
10. Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life by Sutton Foster (Memoir)
I read the audiobook while crocheting, which seems very appropriate. Available in audio and in print from Amazon. (affiliate link)
Sutton Foster is an award-winning Broadway actress, but she is also a crafter. This year my New Year’s Resolution was to learn how to crochet small stuffed animals. I already knew how to crochet scarves and blankets, but learning this new technique opened up a whole new world of crafting for me. I had always assumed that because of my low vision I would never be very good at crafting, so I didn’t bother to try to make anything more complicated than a scarf.
But once I became determined to learn, I realized that I could do a lot more by touch and feel than I originally thought. I even found a group of fellow crafters through the National Federation of the Blind who enjoy crocheting and knitting. I was inspired by them, as well as other friends and acquaintances who are blind and enjoy fiber arts. After lots of trial and error, I eventually learned how to craft mostly by touch. I had so much fun making small animals that I decided to take my crafting a step further and learn to knit.
Knitting was incredibly hard for me to learn, but now that I have the hang of it, I can do it with my eyes closed (literally). I love to sit quietly in the evening with my husband and our pets and knit away with my eyes shut (they get tired after a long day) while listening to an audiobook.
Sutton’s memoir about crafting and her Broadway adventures was a perfect read for those delightful quiet evenings. I recommend this book for fellow fans of musical theatre and fellow craft lovers.
9. The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem by Adam Hamilton (Nonfiction)
I enjoy the work of Adam Hamilton. His writing is simple and concise. His studies work well for small groups and he is a good teacher. I read this book as part of my preparation for my Christmas sermon and I think he really helped me to consider the story of Christ’s birth from a unique angle. My favorite sections were the ones in which he talked about Mary and imagined the story of Christ’s birth from her perspective. I recommend this book for use with small groups or for individual study.
8. Witness at the Cross; A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday by Dr. Amy Jill Levine (Theology)
Dr. Amy Jill Levine is one of my all time favorite authors. I read this book as part of my preparation for my sermons for Holy Week and Easter. I love the way she explains the historical context and how she draws connections to her Jewish understanding of the Old Testament.
Although the title includes the phrase “Beginner’s Guide,” I would argue that this is actually a book for those who are more mature in their journey of faith and understanding of Christian theology. I highly recommend this book to other clergy and to Sunday School teachers.
7. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (Memoir/ Christian Classic)
This year my beloved Tinkerbell passed away. I know she was only a dog, but she was my precious little friend and I loved her very much. She was a great comfort to me during my last four surgeries and I was so sad to lose her. I believe that all dogs (as well as all beloved pets) go to heaven and that God takes care of all things God creates; however, I still felt the loss very acutely.
Reading this short work by C.S. Lewis helped me when my grief was most acute. As I watched him struggle and wrestle with his grief after the death of his beloved wife, I was reminded that loss is simply part of the human condition. We all love—and we all grieve. It is our faith which sees us through these dark times and gives us hope.
I appreciated C.S. Lewis’s uncensored thoughts on just how painful it is to say goodbye. I recommend this book to others who are dealing with grief, with the caveat that this book is incredibly real and raw. Approach with caution.
6. How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain by Gregory Berns
After Tinkerbell passed away, we adopted a new dog we named Wesley. Tinkerbell was a tiny grumpy chihuahua and Wesley is a giant goofy baby. I will always miss Tinkerbell, but Wesley is helping my heart to heal.
Wesley the Dog has these deep soulful brown eyes that look almost human. When I stare into his eyes, I can’t help but wonder, “What is he thinking? What is going on in that adorable head of his?” I often wondered the same thing about Tinkerbell. This book provided some fascinating answers to that question. It turns out that science has proven what many of us pet lovers already knew: Our dogs really do love us. I recommend this book to other dog lovers.
5. Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports
I love to run. I’ve completed several half marathons and I dream of completing a marathon someday. It wasn’t until reading this book that I realized that women weren’t allowed to run the marathon until very recently. In 1967, Katherine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.
That thought boggles my mind. The year 1967 really wasn’t that long ago! It’s amazing how far we have come in the fight for women’s rights. I had a great time reading her book and learning about the history of women in running. Her writing makes history come to life and I felt like I was really there, training alongside her. I recommend this book to other runners.
4. Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent by Dr. Amy Jill Levine
A fabulous book by one of my favorite theologians. This was a huge help to me while preparing my sermons this advent. I love all Dr. Amy Jill Levine’s books. I would like to use this book to lead a small group advent study in the future. I recommend this book to clergy, Sunday School teachers, and small groups.
3. Mixed Plate: Chronicles of an All-American Combo by Joy Koy (Memoir)
My father was Filipino and I am proud to be Filipino-American. I always enjoy media that includes Filipino representation. Joy Koy is also Filipino-American and he shares lots of stories about what it is like to grow up with mixed heritage in the United States. I found Jo Koy’s book highly relatable and he made me laugh out loud lots of times. I read this book on Audible and hearing him narrate his own writing really brought the text to life. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good laugh or who is interested in the Filipino-American experience.
2. While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Maull McKinstry (Memoir)
Carolyn Maull was only fourteen years old on September 15, 1963 when a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The explosive had been planted by the Ku Klux Klan. During this tragedy, four of Carolyn’s best friends were killed. They had all been in the girls’ restroom, close to where the bomb had been planted. Carolyn herself had been in the restroom with them only moments before. Her life would have ended as well if she had lingered with her friends only a little longer.
Although Carolyn was not killed in the tragedy, she was forever changed. That day became a turning point in her life and she was never the same. Although Carolyn deeply grieved the loss of her friends, she did not allow the tragedy to break her. Her memoir is a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. I learned a great deal about the history of the Civil Rights Movement by reading her words. She taught me about what life was like in the Jim Crow south and shared what it felt to grow up amid the bombings, marches, heartbreaks, and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement.
Before I read this book, I had only a “textbook” understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. Carolyn’s words made the horror, brutal reality, and resilient hope of the movement come to life. I had the opportunity to hear Carolyn speak when I took a trip down south with fellow clergy as part of the Susquehanna Conference Civil Rights Journey. It was a deeply moving experience.
When I returned home, I read this book with a small group of my parishioners from both the congregations I serve. After we read the book, we gathered to watch the documentary entitled “Four Little Girls.” It made all of us cry, but we were all inspired by Carolyn’s faith and the continued ministry of the 16th St. Baptist Church. Despite constant attacks, the congregation remains and is still active in ministry. Carolyn’s words of hope continue to inspire future generations. I recommend this book to everyone.
1. Buses are a Comin’: Memoir of a Freedom Rider by Charles Person
The book Buses are a Comin is a memoir of a Freedom Rider and was written by Charles Person. It is a detailed account of Mr. Person’s life and the events surrounding the original May 1961 Freedom Ride organized by the Congress of Racial Equality. While reading this book, I learned about the training that the Freedom Riders went through to prepare themselves to face the racism that they knew they would encounter as their journey took them further and further south. Although Charles Person and his friends did their best to prepare, no one could have imagined the savage attack that would occur on Mother’s Day, May 14, 1961.
Mr. Person’s story is one of both spiritual and physical courage. He was the youngest of the original thirteen Freedom Riders, and I can only imagine the fear and the pain he must have endured when he was attacked at the bus station in Birmingham, Alabama. He believes that only the sudden flash of a photographer’s bulb—and the grace of God—spared his life that day.
Mr. Person uses his writing and his voice to remind the rest of us how we are all called to “get on the bus” and continue the fight for freedom. Although the original Freedom Ride ended prematurely, soon supporters of the movement flooded the buses and continued to fight for integration. The courage and resilience of Mr. Person and the other Freedom Riders inspired others to continue to fight for full inclusion and will continue to inspire future generations.
I included the story of Mr. Person and the other Freedom Riders in one of my sermons. I wrote a summary of the book and put it into our church newsletter and added the book to our church library. I believe Mr. Person is a true hero and that his story can inspire us to continue to fight back the darkness of fear, hatred, and racism in today’s world.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Person and here him speak during the “Civil Rights Journey,” that I took with fellow clergy from the Susquehanna Conference. While on that trip, we learned a great deal about the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. Person’s personal testimony left a huge impact on me. I recommend this book to everyone.
I hope that you had a blessed Christmas and that You have a very happy New Year! What was your favorite book that you read this year? Let me know in the comments below!