We have finally waved goodbye to 2021. After filling in 365 pages, a fresh set of 365 days has been provided to us. With the conclusion of a year is the commencement of a new one. 2021 was filled with uncertainties as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc across all parts of the world. The vaccination drive kicked off as well but the threat of the Omicron variant is about to reverse all the gains made. Nevertheless, hope still springs eternal despite the uncertainties that shroud the future.
Staying true to what has become my annual tradition, I am kicking off the new year by looking back to the previous year, its hits, and of course, its mishits. It is also an opportunity to take a glimpse of how the coming year is going to shape up. This book wrap-up is a part of a mini-series that will feature the following:
- 2021 Top Ten Not-So Favorite Reads
- 2021 Top Ten Favorite Books
- 2021 Book Wrap Up
- 2021 20 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part I)
- 2021 20 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part II)
- 2021 New Favorite Authors
- 2022 Books I Look Forward To List
- 2022 Top 22 Reading List
Over the years, my Top 20, now Top 22, lists were my gateway to some of my best reading journeys. This eclectic mix of classics and contemporary books from various genres keeps me occupied for the year. I am filled with hope that my 2022 reading journey will be as stellar as the previous two years, both of which were landmark years in terms of reading. Without further ado, here’s my 2022 Top 22 Reading List.
Title: O Pioneers!
Author: Willa Cather
Publisher: Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc.
Publishing Date: 1995
No. of Pages: 309
Synopsis: “One of the most important American writers of the twentieth century, Willa Cather mined her childhood experiences on the Nebraska plains and her later love for the Southwest to create timeless tales of romance, tragedy, and spiritual seeking. The author of 12 novels and nearly 60 short stories, Cather won a Pulitzer Prize in 1922. In her second novel, O Pioneers!, Cather discovered the subject matter – the frontier life she knew as a young girl – and the spare but evocative style that would tap her full potential as a writer. Published in 1913, the novel tells of Alexandra Bergson, a Swedish immigrant who, in her early 20s, loses both her mother and father and is thrust into the role of surrogate parent to her three brothers. Alexandra’s success with the family farm enables her to send her brother Emil to college, but the family is challenged once more by his tragic love affair with a married woman. And as vital as any of the book’s characters are the Nebraska plains themselves as depicted by Cather – raw, unforgiving, and breathtakingly beautiful.”
Title: A Suitable Boy
Author: Vikram Seth
Publisher: Phoenix House
Publishing Date: April 1993
No. of Pages: 1,349
Synopsis: “‘It’s Lata,’ said Mrs. Rupa Mehra in a rush. ‘I want you to find her a boy at once. A suitable boy. She is getting involved with unsuitable boys, and I cannot have that.’
Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: the tale of Lata’s – and her mother’s – attempts to find this suitable boy, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. Set in post-Independence India and involving the lives of four large families and those who orbit them, it is also a vast, panoramic exploration of a whole continent at a crucial hour as a sixth of the world’s population faces its first great General Election and the chance to map its own destiny.”
Title: The Little Friend
Author: Donna Tartt
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publishing Date: 2002
No. of Pages: 555
Synopsis: “In a small Mississippi town, Harriet Cleve Dufresnes grows up in the shadow of her brother, who – when she was only a baby – was found hanging dead from a black-tupelo tree in their yard. His killer was never identified, nor has his family, in the years since, recovered from the tragedy.
For Harriet, who has grown up largely unsupervised, in a world of her own imagination, her brother is a link to a glorious past she has only heard stories about or glimpsed in photograph albums. Fiercely determined, precocious far beyond her twelve years, and steeped in the adventurous literature of Stevenson, Kipling, and Conan Doyle, she resolves, one summer, to solve the murder and exact her revenge. Harriet’s sole ally in this quest, her friend Hely is devoted to her, but what they soon encounter has nothing to do with child’s play: it is dark, adult, and all too menacing.
Title: The Book of Form and Emptiness
Author: Ruth Ozeki
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 546
Synopsis: One year after the death of his beloved musician father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house – a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn’t understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, but others are snide, angry, and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.
At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, Benny discovers a strange new world. He falls in love with a mesmerizing street artist, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many. And he meets his very own Book – a talking thing – who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
With its blend of sympathetic characters, riveting plot, and vibrant engagement with everything from jazz, to climate change, to our attachment to material possessions, The Book of Form and Emptiness is classic Ruth Ozeki – bold, wise, poignant, playful, humane, and heartbreaking.
Title: Silent House
Author: Orhan Pamuk
Translator: Robert Finn
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publishing Date: 2012
No. of Pages: 402
Synopsis: “A moving story of a Turkish family gathering in the shadow of the impending military coup of 1980.
In an old mansion in a village near Istanbul, a widow awaits the annual visit of her grandchildren. She has lived in the village for decades, ever since her husband, an idealistic young doctor, first arrived to serve the poor fishermen. Now mostly bedridden, she is attended by her faithful servant Recep, a dwarf – and her late husband’s illegitimate son. But it is Recep’s nephew Hassan, a high-school dropout lately fallen in with right-wing nationalists, who will draw the family into Turkey’s century-long struggle for modernity.”
Title: The Overstory
Author: Richard Power
Publishing Date: 2019
No. of Pages: 502
Synopsis: Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Richard Powers’s twelfth novel is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of – and paean to – the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours – vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
Title: The Books of Jacob
Author: Olga Tokarczuk
Translator (from Polish): Jennifer Croft
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 961
Synopsis: In the mid-eighteenth century, as a new unrest begins to sweep Europe, a young Jew of mysterious origins arrives in a village in Poland. Visited by what seem to be ecstatic experiences, Jacob Frank casts a charismatic spell. In the decade to come, he and his increasingly fervent followers will crisscross the Habsburg and Ottoman empires as he reinvents himself again and again, converts to Islam and then to Catholicism, is pilloried as a heretic one moment, hailed as the Messiah the next – all amid rumors of his sect’s secret rituals and radical beliefs. The story of Rank, a real historical figure around whom mystery and controversy swirl to this day, is an ideal canvas for Olga Tokarczuk’s genius and unparalleled reach. Narrated through the perspectives of his contemporaries – those who revere him, those who revile him, the friend who betrays him, the lone woman who sees him for what he is – The Books of Jacob captures a world on the cusp of precipitous change, searching for certainty and longing for transcendence.
Title: Cloud Cuckoo Land
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 622
Synopsis: Set in Constantinople in the fifteenth century, in a small town in present-day Idaho, and on an interstellar ship decades from now, Anthony Doerr’s gorgeous third novel is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope – and a book. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Doerr has created a magnificent tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness – with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us, and with those who will be here after we’re gone.
Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.
Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.
Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno, and Konstance are dreamer and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of gravest danger. Their lives are gloriously intertwined. Doerr’s dazzling imagination transports us to worlds so dramatic and immersive that we forget, for a time, our own. Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship – of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.
Title: The Last of the Mohicans
Author: James Fenimore Cooper
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics
Publishing Date: 1993
No. of Pages: 423
Synopsis: “The chief extended his arm, and taking the other by the wrist, they once more exchanged friendly salutations. Then the Delaware invited his guest to enter his own lodge, and share his morning meal. The invitation was accepted, and the two warriors, attended by three or four of the old men, walked calmly away, leaving the rest of the tribe devoured by a desire to understand the reasons of so unusual a visit, and yet not betraying the least impatience, by sign or word.”
Title: The Beautiful and Damned
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publisher: World Library Classics
Publishing Date: 2010
No. of Pages: 321
Synopsis: “First published in 1922, The Beautiful and the Damned followed Fitzgerald’s impeccable debut, This Side of Paradise, thus securing his place in the tradition of great American novelists. Embellished with the author’s lyrical prose, here is the story of Harvard-educated, aspiring aesthete Anthony Patch and his beautiful wife, Gloria. As they await the inheritance of his grandfather’s fortune, their reckless marriage sways under the influence of alcohol and avarice. A devastating look at the nouveau riche, and the New York nightlife, as well as the ruinous effects of wild ambition, The Beautiful and the Damnedachieved stature as one of Fitzgerald’s most accomplished novels. Its distinction as a classic endures to this day. Pocket Book’s Enriched Classics present the great works of world literature enhanced for the contemporary reader. Special features include critical perspectives, suggestions for further read, and a unique visual essay composed of period photographs that help bring every word to life. (Source: Goodreads)”
Title: The Copenhagen Trilogy
Author: Tove Ditlevsen
Translator (from Danish): Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 370
Synopsis: Tove Ditlevsen is today celebrated as one of the most important and unique voices in twentieth-century Danish literature, and The Copenhagen Trilogy (1969-71) is her acknowledged masterpiece. Childhood tells the story of a misfit child’s single-minded determination to become a poet; Youth describes her early experiences of sex, work, and independence. Dependency picks up the story as the narrator embarks on the first of her four marriages and goes on to describe her horrible descent into drug addiction, enabled by her sinister, gaslighting doctor-husband.
Throughout, the narrator grapples with the tension between her vocation as a writer and her competing roles as daughter, wife, mother, and drug addict, and she writes about female experience and identity in a way that feels very fresh and pertinent to today’s discussions around feminism. Ditlevsen’s trilogy is remarkable for its intensity and its immersive depiction of a world of complex female friendships, family and growing up–in this sense, it’s Copenhagen’s answer to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. She can also be seen as a spiritual forerunner of confessional writers like Karl Ove Knausgaard, Annie Ernaux, Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy. Her trilogy is drawn from her own experiences but reads like the most compelling kind of fiction.
Born in a working-class neighborhood in Copenhagen in 1917, Ditlevsen became famous for her poetry while still a teenager, and went on to write novels, stories and memoirs before committing suicide in 1976. Having been dismissed by the critical establishment in her lifetime as a working-class, female writer, she is now being rediscovered and championed as one of Denmark’s most important modern authors, with Tove fever gripping readers. (Source: Goodreads)
Title: A Personal Matter
Author: Kenzaburō Ōe
Translator (from Japanese): John Nathan
Publishing Date: 1995
No. of Pages: 165
Synopsis: “In this, his most famous book Ōe examines the devastation, fear, and shame of fathering a brain-damaged child. The central character is Bird, a frustrated intellectual in a failing marriage, who dreams of an escaped to Africa. The magnitude of Bird’s disappointment at the birth of his baby reveals itself through his alcoholism, sexual exploits, and attempts to destroy his own innocent and powerless son until finally, he realizes that he must take responsibility not only for the child, but also for himself.”
Title: Bridge of Sighs
Author: Richard Russo
Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries
Publishing Date: September 2008
No. of Pages: 642
Synopsis: “Louis Charles Lynch (also known as Lucy) is sixty years old and has lived in Thomaston, New York, his entire life. He and Sarah, his wife of forty years, are about to embark on a vacation to Italy. Lucy’s oldest friend, once a rival for his wife’s affection, leads a life in Venice far removed from Thomaston. Perhaps for this reason Lucy is writing the story of his town, his family and his own life that makes up this rich and mesmerizing novel, interspersed with that of the native son who left so long ago and has never looked back.”
Title: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Publishing Date: 1999
No. of Pages: 258
Synopsis: “Tom Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors and the law when an unexpected acquaintance offers him a free trip to Europe and a chance to start over.
Ripley wants money, success, and the good life and he’s willing to kill for it. When his newfound happiness is threatened, his response is as swift as it is shocking.”
Title: The Garden of Evening Mists
Author: Tan Twan Eng
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 332
Synopsis: “Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice “until the monsoon comes.” Then she can design a garden for herself.
As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the Garden of Evening Mists remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?”
Title: Night Boat to Tangier
Author: Kevin Barry
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publishing Date: July 2020
No. of Pages: 255
Synopsis: “In the dark waiting room of the ferry terminal in the sketchy Spanish port of Algericas, two aging Irishmen – Maurice Hearne and Charlie Redmond, longtime partners in the lucrative and dangerous enterprise of smuggling drugs – sit at night, none too patiently. The pair are trying to locate Maurice’s estranged daughter, Dilly, whom they’ve heard is either arriving on a boat coming from Tangier or departing on one heading there.
This nocturnal vigil will initiate an extraordinary journey back in time to excavate their shared history of violence, romance, mutual betrayals, and serial exiles. Rendered with the dark humor and the hard-boiled Hibernian lyricism that have made Kevin Barry one of the most striking and admired fictions writers at work today, Night Boat to Tangier is a superbly melancholic melody of a novel, full of beautiful phrases and terrible men.”
Author: Toni Morrison
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Publishing Date: 1997
No. of Pages:318
Synopsis: “Rumors has been whispered for more than a year. Outrages that had been accumulating all along took shape as evidence. A mother was knocked down the stairs by her cold-eyed daughter. Four damaged infants were born in one family. Daughters refused to get out of bed. Brides disappeared on their honeymoons. Two brothers shot each other on New Year’s Day. Trips to Demby for VD shots common. And what went on at the Oven these days was not to be believed. . . The proof they had been collecting since the terrible discovery in the spring could not be denied: the one thing that connected all these catastrophes was in the Convent. And in the Convent were those women.”
Title: Wandering Star
Author: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
Translator (from French): C. Dickson
Publisher: Curbstone Press
Publishing Date: 2009
No. of Pages: 316
Synopsis: Bearing witness to the boundless strength of the spirit, and based on his own experience as a child in World War II, J.M.G. Le Clézio chronicles the saga of two young women, one uprooted by the Holocaust and the other by the founding of the state of Israel. Esther, a young Jewish girl who travels to Jerusalem after World War II, crosses paths with Nejma, a Palestinian girl, whose story of life in the camps balances Esther’s own tale of suffering and survival. They never meet again, but in their respective exiles, they are forever haunted by the memory of one another. Wandering Star is a powerful coming-of-age story and, as Le Figaro notes, truly a luminous lesson in humanity.”
Author: Maryse Condé
Translator: Barbara Bray
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publishing Date: 2017
No. of Pages: 495
Synopsis: “’Segu is a garden where cunning grows. Segu is built on treachery.’
It is 1797 and the African kingdom of Segu, born of blood and violence, is at the height of its power. Yet Dousika Traore, the king’s most trusted advisor, feels nothing but dread. Change is coming. From the East, a new religion, Islam. From the West, the slave trade. These forces will tear his country, his village and the lives of his beloved sons apart, in Maryse Condé’s glittering epic of family, betrayal, religious fevour and the turbulent fate of a people.”
Title: A Bend in the River
Author: V.S. Naipaul
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1980
No. of Pages: 287
Synopsis: “’A Bend in the River is more than a true and powerful book about Africa. It is… one of those books that make you question many assumptions about the world today.’ ~ Richard West in the Spectator
In the “brilliant novel” (The New York Times) V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man—an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation. Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditions. (Source: Goodreads)”
Title: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Author: Milan Kundera
Translator: Michael Henry Heim
Publishing Date: 1994
No. of Pages: 228
Synopsis: “Commissioned and closely monitored by Milan Kundera himself, this new translation brings a clarity and unmatched fidelity to the author’s original text. Widely held as a work of genius, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is the novel that first brought him to the forefront of the international literary scene. Rich in stories, characters and imaginative range, it was written while Kundera was still forbidden to publish in his home country of Czechoslovakia, which was then behind the Iron Curtain. In seven wonderfully integrated parts, different aspects of modern existence from the posthumous erasure of “enemies” of communism from the historical record, to the subtle agony of the fading memory of a lost love, to the bizarre sexlessnes of modern promiscuity are explored with boldness, subversive humor and the magical power of fiction. (Source: Goodreads)“
Title: The Virgin Suicides
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publishing Date: 1993
No. of Pages: 243
Synopsis: “Firs published in 1993, The Virgin Suicides announced the arrival of a major new American novelist. In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters – beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys – commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family’s fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. Adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Sofia Coppola, The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.”
You have a good selection going! Ruth Ozeki is on my list too for this year.
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You’ve some great treats in store. I’ve read & enjoyed The Overstory and the Tan Twan Eng; read the Donna Tart yonks ago & have a vague memory of not particularly enjoying. I have The Book of Form & Emptiness in my bookcase, beckoning to me … can’t wait.
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