Happy Tuesday everyone! 2022 is about to end. I can’t believe that today is the last Tuesday of the year ad that within a couple of days, we will be welcoming a new year. With the year dwindling down, I hope that the remaining days of the year will be filled with blessings and good news. Although for my brothers in the Southern Philippines, the past few days have been nothing but blessed as torrential rains have caused constant flooding. They celebrated Christmas damp while some had to bear some losses. I hope you could spare them a prayer.

Nevertheless, before we could wave goodbye to 2022, let me cap it with my last Top 5 Tuesday update for the year. Top 5 Tuesday was originally created by Shanah @ the Bionic Bookworm but is now currently being hosted by Meeghan @ Meeghan Reads.

This week’s topic: Top Five Books of 2022

I have completed over 100 books this year, a feat that I have achieved for the very first time despite setting eyes on it for years. I actually didn’t expect it and was even pessimistic about my chances. But lo and behold! I managed to pull it off. Among these 100 books, there were several that stood out, really stood out. This makes it a little challenging to pick which ones to include in this list. I bet I will be having the same struggles when I will try to list my top ten outstanding books for the year. Nevertheless, here are some of the books that stood out for me.

Title: A Suitable Boy
Author: Vikram Seth

Kicking off the list is one of the books that I have long been looking forward to. This book occupies an important place this year as it was my 100th year and was the last book that completed two of my reading challenges; talk about hitting three birds with one stone. Had it not been for must-read lists, I would have never encountered the book, which was also my first 1,000+ pager since Hungarian writer Péter Nádas’ Parallel Stories. The book was daunting and the intimidation only grew as the novel moved forward. On the surface, the story seemed domestic enough, simple enough. We meet Lata, the youngest child of Mrs. Rupa Mehra. When we first meet the mother and daughter pair, we witness the marriage of Lata’s older sister, Savita. Savita’s marriage was arranged for by their mother as their father has already passed away. That left Lata, who was nineteen when we first meet her, the last one for an arranged marriage. The story got complicated as it moved forward. Three more families were introduced, their common connection being the Mehras. Their other main connection was politics which was integral to the story. The story was set during the infancy of the Indian republic and it wasn’t long before it unfolded. The heft was really meant to daunt but like with Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, I found the novel easier than it looked. Overall, it was an insightful portrait of contemporary India, its colorful history, and its diverse people. It is easily one of my most memorable reads of 2022.

Title: The Garden of Evening Mists
Author: Tan Twan Eng (Chinese: 陳團英)

It was a real-life friend that introduced me to the wonders of Tan Twan Eng’s prose. My friend, who back then visited Malaysia, had nothing but positive words for Tan’s debut novel, The Gift of Rain. I have since been on the lookout for a copy of the book. Unfortunately, I never got the chance. I would encounter Tan a couple of years later but it was through his other novel. I came across a copy of The Garden of Evening Mists while browsing through an online bookstore and without any more ado, I purchased the book. I even made it part of my 2022 Top 22 Reading List. I was really looking forward to the book and, thankfully, it did not disappoint. The focal point of the story was the Second World War but rather than the typical European setting associated with the war, Tan’s sophomore novel transported me to his home nation, the Malaysian peninsula. The intersection of history, memory and the vast spectrum of humanity captured by Tan’s story made The Garden of Evening Mists a potent and memorable work of contemporary fiction. It was a triumph of storytelling, a stellar book worthy of the accolades it earned, consolidating Tan’s status as one of the contemporary’s promising literary voices. I can’t wait to read The Gift of Rain.

Title: Tomb of Sand
Author: Geetanjali Shree
Translator (from Hindi): Daisy Rockwell

To be honest, had it not been for the International Booker Prize, I would have not encountered Geetanjali Shree and her novel, Tomb of Sand. When the longlist was announced by the Booker Prize, it was one of the titles that immediately grabbed my attention and when I saw how thick it was, I somehow had an inkling that it was going toe-to-toe with Nobel Laureate in Literature Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob. I admit I was pleasantly surprised when Tomb of Sand was declared the winner but it only piqued my interest in the book further. Certainly, Tomb of Sand was no walk in the park. At the start, I struggled to find my footing and I nearly resigned myself to simply finishing the book. The language was unusual; it was common to see related words strung together in a sentence, with no commas separating them. The novel was also without quotation marks. My persistence paid off past the 200-page mark; the first part was rather stagnant. As soon as the action picked up, the story had my focus. I started to appreciate the direction Shree was stirring the story to. Its lightness and humor belie several sensitive and seminal subjects, many of which are relevant in the contemporary.

Title: Palace Walk
Author: Naguib Mahfouz
Translator (from Arabic): William Maynard Hutchins and Olive E. Kenny

It was over seven years ago that I first encountered Naguib Mahfouz through an online bookseller. I didn’t have any iota about who he was but a quick search yielded that he was a Nobel Laureate in Literature, something that meant little to me back then. This did not stop me from acquiring two of his works: Miramar and Palace of Desire. I ended up liking Miramar despite it being short. However, I had to hold back on reading Palace of Desire after I learned that it was the second book in Mahfouz’s renowned Cairo Trilogy. In 2020, I was finally able to complete all books but it would again take me some time before I finally got to start reading the trilogy. As it was imperative for me to start reading the trilogy, I included Palace Walk, the first book in the trilogy, in my 2022 Beat the Backlist Challenge. Palace Walk was also my third novel by the first Arabic winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. It was also the heftiest of the three. I am glad the book, a chronicle of al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad and his family during one of the most pivotal moments in modern Egyptian history, did not disappoint. I had quite lofty expectations of it. Mahfouz masterfully captured the image of Egypt in transition. It was complimented by lush cultural touchstones and the historical context which made me learn more about Egypt, its people, and its contemporary history.

Title: The Books of Jacob
Author: Olga Tokarczuk
Translator (from Polish): Jennifer Croft

From one Nobel Laureate in Literature to another. From virtually being in the woods to one who keeps on looking forward to reading more works of Nobel Laureates in Literature. Among the laureates growing up on me was 2018 awardee Olga Tokarczuk. After reading Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead and Flights, I knew I was hooked. When I learned that an English translation of what the Swedish Academy cited as her magnum opus to date, I just knew had to read The Books of Jacob. It was daunting not only because of the accolade attached to it but because it was physically hefty. But with many readers equally excited to read the book, might as well dig in. The novel chronicled the story of a Messiah. Tokarczuk conjured a world that was hopelessly clinging to certainty. But as The Books of Jacob, and even history itself, has underscored, nothing is ever fixed, including identities, religious dogmas, and physical boundaries. We inhabit a world that continuously shifts. This makes the novel resonate in the contemporary. Limits, whether physical or intellectual, existed to be breached, and breach them Tokarczuk did by weaving a rich tapestry that was brimming with vivid details of diverse cultures, religions, and ideas. The Books of Jacob was lush and complex but at the same time remarkable and highly immersive.

Here are other books that captured my interest during the year.