2022’s Most Memorable Reads

There is something so inexpressibly sweet about beautifully written prose. When the words transport you and you feel yourself transform into the protagonist or narrator: your heart rate following the arc of their experience. The sense of anticipation as you are led on a journey of discovery. Holding your breath, feeling the hairs rise on the back of your neck as you edge — or hurtle — toward the climax.

I have historically leaned toward reading fiction. You can both learn about other places, times and people’s lived experiences and enjoy the flow and art of the writing. In my first year at university, I anticipated majoring in International Development Studies (IDS). When it was time to declare my major, I realized that my favourite class each term was English. I learned and remembered more about human relationships through my American Lit class, more about the second world war and global political affairs through Canadian Lit than I did through the geography, political science and sociology classes I had to take for IDS.

Extraordinarily compelling non-fiction writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Carlos Fuentes helped change my mind about non-fiction. When the human experience is woven into writing, whether it’s “true” as in, based in fact, or “true” as a vehicle for deep wisdom and knowledge, it’s memorable and poignant… and readable. All of the books listed below are both readable and poignant.

I’ve included little snippets of my thoughts about these books. If you choose to pick one up, do tell me what stands out for you.

Non-fiction:

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

While breathing is the most vital and unconscious of human actions, most of us are breathing wrong. It’s sapping our energy, destroying our health and shortening our life spans. James Nestor takes you on a wild journey of discovery as he endeavours to repair his own health through breath. It’s both compelling and informative and has got me breathing through my nose at all times.

The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher L. Heuertz and Richard Rohr

I was surprised that the best Enneagram book I have read has a strong Christian overtones, but the biblical quotes and references to the holy trinity were wonderfully informative. I felt I better understood western civilization as a whole, as well as myself and the other personality types based on the Enneagram. If you’re an Enneagram newbie, it’s the most complete personality profile I’ve come across and hugely valuable in understanding why you or others behave in certain ways and what drives us as humans.

If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie

This book is personal and universal. It’s exquisitely written, heart-achingly true and horrifyingly potent. Sharon Blackie weaves Celtic mythology through her own heroine’s journey: her true coming of age in a world that has been determined to disconnect women from ourselves, the land and each other for centuries.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals: Oliver Burkeman

The truth about time management is that if you think you’ll have more time by optimizing your life, you’re wrong. Oliver Burkeman, after spending years writing a column in The Guardian about time management, came to the conclusion that the best way to feel more spacious in life is to accept your finitude. Once you accept that you only have so much time, you’ll choose what to focus on and let go of need to do all of the things and keep your options open. And that’s just one of the gems that came through in my first reading.

Fiction:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A blind French girl. A brilliant German boy. An enormous cursed diamond. Radios and molluscs and the most artful and gorgeous weaving of the story that brings their lives together. I’m not usually one for WWII novels but this one is a tale of humanity, of love, of fear, of the strength of the human spirit. I devoured it. I wept. It was cathartic, as I read it while in South Africa grieving for my aunt and the country where I grew up.

The Japanese Lover by Isabelle Allende

I adore Isabelle Allende. Her ability to weave together timelines is unrivalled and I feel I have learned more about world history from her than any other author. This story touches on the Japanese internment in the US during WWII, but also addresses a surprisingly wide swath of the other uglinesses of humanity, from child trafficking to the AIDS epidemic. It’s fast-paced with extraordinarily compelling and believable characters. I devoured it in a weekend.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Murakami is my favourite right now. This and IQ84 are, in my opinion, his best novels. A young artist splits up with his wife and goes to live in the home of a famous Japanese painter — the father of a friend of his from art school who is in a nursing home with advanced dementia. There he discovers a never-before seen painting, becomes embroiled in the personal affairs of a strange and singularly obsessed billionaire, and is thrown into an impossible and surreal misadventure.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

This isn’t high art but damn is it a good story. Mars has been colonized and all of the castes of humans grouped in colours. Reds are at the bottom; Golds are at the top. The Reds have been tricked into believing that their toil is for the future of humanity: the surface of Mars is still uninhabitable. Except it isn’t. The protagonist, a scrappy young Red who has lost everything, infiltrates the society’s ruling class by becoming one. It’s kind of like Harry Potter meets Hunger Games but in space. We listened to this on long road trips and everyone got deeply invested.

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