A late (and quick) reading wrap-up from december ’22 through january ’23

I’ve been reading, but at this point it should be abundantly clear that I haven’t been writing.

Part of the delay in the December wrap-up is that I actually wrote about a few of these books in my Favorite Books of 2022 rundown, so it felt unnecessary to expand upon them further. Alas, guilt and shame has brought me to this moment, an abbreviated look at the books I read at the end of 2022 and the start of 2023!

Look out for February’s wrap-up in the coming days and (hopefully) some other writing I’ve been doing.

Notes on december + january reads

We Spread / Iain Reid

Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of my favorite novels ever, so I was cautiously excited about his newest (plus that cover!) It’s remarkably successful at putting the reader in the head of someone with a dementia-related illness, but that doesn’t make for a particularly enjoyable read. It’s still a fine accomplishment.

Never Let Me Go / Kazuo Ishiguro

For my book club I got the opportunity to reread this masterpiece a decade later, and it holds up! Quietly horrifying, this is dystopian fiction at its most literary.

Mercury Pictures Presents / Anthony Marra

Despite being meandering in ways that are not always the most engaging, Marra still pulls this off nicely. There’s an anecdote about a side character’s methods of supporting herself during the war by marrying 18 servicemen that made me genuinely laugh out loud, with a smile at its resolution.

It Came from the Closet / Edited by Joe Vallese

I had high hopes for this collection of essays by queer writers on the horror films that influenced their lives, but the majority of it ends up being less cultural criticism and more personal essays with references to horror movies. A slight disappointment.

The Empire of Gold / S.A. Chakraborty

If you read my Favorite Books of 2022, you already know this book killed me.

An Immense World / Ed Yong

This is a fascinating look at the senses and ways of sensing the world around us, from creatures great and small. The kind of anecdote-filled book that I needed as a child, and it fed my curiosity even now. It’s so much fun!

Alive at the End of the World / Saeed Jones

I love Saeed Jones’ writing, and his latest poetry collection bowled me over at times. I often struggle with poetry, so finding a collection that feels modern and keyed into my sensibilities is always a joy.

Trust / Hernan Diaz

You already know Hernan Diaz bodied this. Check out my thoughts in my Favorite Books of 2022 wrap-up.

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us / Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif. Abdurraqib. Enough said. Check out more in my Favorite Books of 2022.

Small Things Like These / Claire Keegan

A beautiful thing about literature is that “short” does not mean “slight,” and Claire Keegan proves this rule with this novella about doing the right thing in the face of immense powers working against you. Yes, it’s about the Catholic church, how did you know?

Stay True / Hua Hsu

A book so good it still nearly brings me to tears just thinking about it. Read more: Favorite Books of 2022.

Also A Poet / Ada Calhoun

By writing this wrap-up I am exposing how recency bias may have played into the books that I selected as my favorites last year. Anyways, this book rules. Check out Favorite Books of 2022 for more.

Foster / Claire Keegan

After finishing one Claire Keegan novella, I turned to her most famous work and found a story so filled to the brim with compassion, yet still managing to never feel melodramatic or saccharine. She’s a great writer everyone!

Thistlefoot / GennaRose Nethercott

I kicked off the new year with this fantasy novel about Baba Yaga, a house with chicken legs, and other fantastical beings. It felt like a side story from American Gods, which is a high compliment coming from me, and I really enjoyed this one. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much fun that you hardly notice the blemishes.

Lie With Me / Philippe Besson

Sad? Yes. Gay? Yes. French? Absolutely. Another novella? Yes, don’t judge me. This is a quiet story of first love with an ending that will break your heart.

Happening / Annie Ernaux

Annie Ernaux won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, and I decided to check out one of her best known memoirs, a short recounting of an abortion she sought out when she was a young woman in the 1960s. It’s remarkably free of the moralizing we so often get from all sides of the abortion debate, and Ernaux excavates her frustration and righteous anger at the system that is set up to deny her control of her body.

Upgrade / Blake Crouch

“Wow, Andrew! You’ve been pretty measured and positive for most of these so far!” Yeah well, that stops now. Blake Crouch wasted my time. This was a book club pick and we had a delightful time picking apart this flop of a speculative novel. I very much do not recommend.

Red Queen / Victoria Aveyard

This was a reread for me, the first book in a series that eventually FLIES off the rails in a deeply unsatisfying manner. So why am I re-reading it? Because this first book is such fun, I couldn’t help myself.

Lost in the Moment and Found / Seanan McGuire

My returns from the Wayward Children series have been diminishing over the past few installments, but Seanan McGuire course corrected in this one. Cohesive and laser-focused on its themes, this one delivered the goods. When they hit, they hit!

Hell Bent / Leigh Bardugo

Ugh. I was so disappointed by this book. I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Ninth House, an urban fantasy romp set in at Yale University that had a lot on its mind. With this sequel, we ditch the urban setting halfway through and just go full fantasy, abandoning everything that I found so absorbing about the first book. I will angrily not be continuing on with this series, how disappointing.

Easy Beauty / Chloé Cooper Jones

I read three really great memoirs recently (see above) despite it not being a genre I tend to enjoy nor gravitate towards. Easy Beauty got a lot of “Best of the Year” notices last year, and Cooper Jones’ story about living with a visible disability and becoming a mother worked for me until it seemed to lose focus in the second half.

The Immortalists / Chloe Benjamin

This book was huge back in 2018, and it has sat on my shelf for about that long. Since I have a cross-country move ahead of me this summer, I’ve decided to dive into some of these books that have lingered on my shelves for awhile. This book is fine! A sprawling family story, and a lot of tragedy. It’s fine!

Dune Messiah / Frank Herbert

I really liked Dune. Every friend of mine that has read this series has warned me about book two. They were right, it is… wowza. However, with time comes clarity, and this short (for Frank Herbert anyway) novel is best viewed as Dune‘s epilogue.

All This Could Be Different / Sarah Thankam Mathews

I loved this book so much. It’s about being young and broke and living in Milwaukee in the mid-2010s (an experience I know well.) I hope I can expand upon this with its own separate review very soon.

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