Reading Roundup: 2022

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

Oscar Wilde

It appears my last Reading Roundup post was in January of 2022, which is unbelievable. Thankfully, that was not the last month I read anything…only the last month I posted about what I had been reading.

This post will be a bit different than those previous ones as I will be summing up the standout articles and blogs as well as all the books I read for an entire year! While I didn’t highlight many articles or blogs this past year, I did read 24 whole books…but I’ll spare you the detailed reviews on all 24 (at least in this post). Instead, I’ll list them by quill (star) rating and will hopefully get back to some book reviews eventually!

So, without further ado, here are the articles, blogs and books that made 2022 my best year for reading in a long long time.

Articles

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

Why our futures depend on libraries, reading and daydreaming. By Neil Gaiman

Reading this was like going to therapy. It was insightful, engaging, helpful, rejuvenating and ultimately liberating. I have always admired Neil Gaiman’s work so hearing him preach passionately about the importance of readers and reading was incredibly impactful for me. I mean, most writers love reading but it’s always nice, as a budding writer myself, to read in their own words what an impact this hobby has had on them as not just magicians of the written word but as human beings at their core. I could not agree with Gaiman more. Reading is important. It’s vital. And it’s something I hope to encourage in all of our kids. This pandemic has been hard and I know my daughter has been getting more screen time than I imagined she would but I can always do better, try harder, and pivot so that reading becomes a part of our daily routine. I know what an amazing effect reading has had on me personally and on my husband. I hope I can pass this love on though I know our kids will be their own people regardless of what we do…wish me luck!

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.

Neil Gaiman

‘More than wonderful’…Gaza bookshop to reopen after unexpectedly successful global campaign. By Alison Flood

This story just warmed my heart right up. After all the horrifically negative news over the past month (or, let’s be real, the past 2 years of this bloody pandemic) this was exactly what my soul needed. Last year I read the story about this man’s book shop in Gaza being destroyed in one of the many explosive conflicts that break out on the regular over there, mostly to the detriment of innocent civilians, and I donated a very small sum hoping to help in my own little way. Reading about the incredible generosity and kindness of strangers across the globe who were determined to help Samir Mansour get back on his feet was…heartwarming as I mentioned. It’s nice to cry happy tears for once. They seem to be more rare these days.

I was so happy when I saw the first shipment had arrived … I felt like a reborn phoenix…I did not expect all this support. But it was something beyond imagination and something more than wonderful.

Samir Mansour

Living in the void: life in Damascus after the exodus. By Khaled Khalifa

Now, I’ll start this with the disclaimer that I’m sure every refugee’s experience is radically different, much as every human being’s experience is so. But reading this was truly an eye-opening look at how some Syrian refugees are experiencing, and trying to make the best of, the horrific situation they are still going through today. I for one cannot imagine being forced to make the choice between staying in the country I love and most likely dying at some point in the near future or leaving for the unknown and the possibility of remaining safe. The choice seems even more impossible now that I have two little ones to look after. I’m not sure what I can do to help but you better believe I’m going to do what small things I can. If you have the time, this is well worth the read.

But I remain convinced that refugees lose their sense of identity, for they cannot obtain a new one or completely forget their old one. To be a refugee is to live in a void – it is to lead a painful life, however hard we try to embellish it.

Khaled Khalifa

The sun is out – so pass me my book and let me dream. By Hannah Giorgis

After a long hiatus from reading and blogging due largely to the overwhelming nature of pregnancy nausea, this column reminded me why literature will always call be back home no matter how long it has been. There is absolutely nothing in this world like losing yourself in a good, or great, book. Nothing. Except, perhaps, realizing that you have written the very book others are getting lost in (one day!). Giorgis is so right – summer is the perfect time for reading. That languid weather – especially the intense humidity we get where I live – just begs one to curl up with a daydream-inducing book and a tall glass of iced tea. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a long-neglected pile of books to get back to.

The sticky months carry with them a natural languor that defies rapid activity. Summer is not the season to move swiftly, to move far, to move at all really. Now is the time to revel.

Hannah Giorgis

‘He’s the only American I have a relationship with’: the friendship that survived 40 years of Afghan conflict. As told to Stefano Montali

Though crisis is not new to humanity, it somehow seems extra hard in this day and age to ignore all the news of terror and strife from around the world. Maybe that is just because I am now an adult and a mother and therefore more aware of and sensitive to the suffering of other individuals around the world (especially those just trying to keep their children safe) but I find myself feeling quite hopeless some days about the state of humanity…which is not like me. Reading articles like this one restores the faith in my fellow humans that I have always strived to hold on to, and is even more helpful when everything seems so bleak. Stories like that of Jabar and David, while by no means simple, are a reminder that at the end of the day we are all human beings – regardless what category society and rhetoric is determined to corral us into – and that we can and should always make an effort to understand one another and find common ground. However else are we supposed to make this world a better place if not by empathizing with each other, even when it is hardest? I, myself, really need to keep reading articles like this to keep the hopelessness at bay. Hope may be difficult to hold on to these days but it is certainly not lost. Not by a long shot.

But I don’t want to be under the protection of the United States. They destroyed Afghanistan and stole all the wealth from my country; they did not come to build it. There is no place for Americans in the heart of the Afghan people. To this day, Wilson is the only American I have a relationship with, and he will always be my brother.

“Jabar”

‘I cooked it!’: meet the schools where pupils grow, pick and cook their own lunch. By Amelia Hill

This was such a heartwarming story. One of my weekly “good news stories” which are curated for me by the Guardian’s editorial team, this piece definitely brought a smile to my face and got me excited to again start cooking and baking with Aria once I’m a bit more mobile. So far, we have only done this once where I measured ingredients out and had her pour them into the bowl and the way her face lit up when she was allowed to help Mommy bake was one of the most gratifying sights I have ever seen. She only turns 3 this year but I am definitely going to continue involving her in everything I do as I know this not only makes her happy but also helps her to feel independent and capable, both of which I want to encourage in her as she continues to grow. I think giving kids the opportunity to take part in their own care (though not to be in charge of it – an important distinction since kids deserve to be kids!) helps them to gain confidence in their own abilities and only sets them up for an easier eventual transition to adulthood. Not to mention, it is never too early to begin understanding food and how it can be cooked in such a way which is not only healthy but delicious. Don’t get me wrong, I love fried foods as much as the next carb-fiend but I know I always feel much better and energetic overall when my diet is heavy on the veggies and fruits and light on the sugars and fats. While I was given a great primer by my parents on eating healthy, not every kid is so lucky. This type of program would be a welcome addition to any school as a way to not only encourage healthy eating but to turn kids into advocates of deliciously nutritious foods.

But how can they grow to be healthy adults unless they’ve learned what vegetables look like in a natural state and how to turn them into soup? … They need to handle fresh, raw fish then learn how to love eating it. They need to know how to bake their own bread.

Louise Nichols

‘I want to open a window in their souls’: Haruki Murakami on the power of writing simply

It is rare that I come across a description of how writing feels that truly speaks to me. For so many writers, it is often described as work and a struggle – which it can be at times. But for the most part, writing seems to come to me naturally, as if there is something swirling inside me (cue Let it Go) for which the only purpose is to get out of my head and onto the page. Murakami’s description of writing being like composing music comes close to a perfect description of how writing feels to me. There is a rhythm to it, a musicality that is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. I am still in the phase of finding my own voice as a writer but the more I write…the more it crystallizes into something tangible. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.

Writing in my new style felt more like performing music than composing literature, a feeling that stays with me today. It was as if the words were coming through my body instead of from my head. Sustaining the rhythm, finding the coolest chords, trusting in the power of improvisation – it was tremendously exciting.

Haruki Murakami

‘Magic in your own back yard’: Danish artist hides enormous trolls deep in Western Australia. By Rosamund Brennan

Hidden trolls in Australia…Need I say more? Not only are the trolls themselves incredibly cool, but the whole philosophy behind this artist’s work – all about coming back to nature and respecting it as powerful and precious – is inspiring. I hope he brings his vision to Canada someday, we certainly have enough wilderness (in modern day terms of course) in which he can dream to his heart’s content, but even if he doesn’t I hope to stumble across one of the glorious giants somewhere in my future travels. Wouldn’t that be amazing.

For me, trolls represent the voice of nature. Sometimes they can be gentle and quiet. Other times they can be really violent and brutal, and that’s how nature is. If you’re not careful, nature will knock your whole house over.

Thomas Dambo

‘It’s hard not to get caught in the act’: meet the people who help total strangers. By Sally Howard

Is this not just a beautiful thought? Doing kind things for strangers and not expecting a single thing in return but just to make the world a little bit kinder, a little bit brighter, even if just in that moment for that person. A cynic might say “well, you do get something in return…the smug feeling of having done something good.” To them I say, how does this hurt anyone? The way I see it, this good deed results in two happy people where there might have been only one…or none. That’s a net positive result if I ever saw one. I do agree that filming the interaction and putting it on the internet, while it might bring joy to many others, may come off as a bit disingenuous (I suppose I’m a wee bit cynical despite my best efforts), but then who am I to judge whether someone has done a real good deed worthy of praise or not? Then again, my own preferred method is definitely those espoused in this article – do the good thing and then walk away knowing you have done a good thing and made someone smile. You’ve made the world a better place, even in just a small way. And that is something to be celebrated.

You don’t pay love back, you pay it forward.

Lily Hardy Hammond

BLOGS

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Having it all – Bordering Grey

After taking such a long hiatus from this blog, I really needed to read this today. For the last 6 months or so I’ve been beating myself up for not writing more. I keep reading things, referred to in this post, about making the time to write. Insisting on that time. Waking up at 5AM to get those words down before your little one gets up and the day truly begins. That’s what real writers do, apparently. But you know what? The last 6 months have been hard. This latest pregnancy has been hard. Being home with an energetic (and fabulously curious) toddler has been hard. Fun, but hard. Working 30 hours a week while pregnant and home with said wonderful toddler full time has been hard. It’s all been, well, hard. This doesn’t make me less of a writer, I’m still a writer. And a decent one at that, I think. I’m just in a season of my life where regular writing is hard to come by, and that’s OK! I’ll get back to it. I know I will. Thank you to this wonderful blogger for writing the exact words I needed to read today, you have no idea how welcome they were.

Books

According to Goodreads, last year I managed to read 24 books to surpass my goal of 22 books in 2022, While that may not seem like much, considering I only read 15 out of my 21 book goal in 2021…I’m quite proud of this achievement!

Luckily, it was not only a banner year for the amount of books I read but also their quality. Not only did I only abandoned one book (and I truly truly tried to give it a chance) but the vast majority of the books I read earned four or five quill ratings from me. Not too shabby!

So, without further ado, here are the books I read in 2022 from the highest to the lowest rated…including the one I gave up on. As I mentioned, I’m hoping to catch up on some reviews over the course of this year. Stay tuned!

5-Quill Rating

4-Quill Rating

3-Quill Rating

Abandoned

As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed the Artemis Fowl series in particular. Overall, though, wow does my taste ever wander! I’m already looking so forward to what reading adventures I embark on this year.

And now, since this post is already long enough, I’ll leave things there. Here’s to more regular reading roundups this year, if only to spare me the task of putting together such a monstrous post.

Remember, no matter how many books turn out to be 5-Stars… Life is beautiful.

xo Erin

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