By Debbie Stone and Gini Cunningham

Debbie:  Why do I have to narrow it down to five? Because there is no room for more than that, otherwise, I’d have my top twelve listed. It’s so hard to choose. While I am listing five books, they aren’t in any order, but just a wonderful blend I enjoyed in 2022. 

Let me begin with Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. I said I wasn’t going in order, but this might be my absolute favorite of last year. How to explain a curmudgeonly octopus as the main (and much loved) character? You just have to read this charming story. It is about hope, friendship, community.  The writing is good and the characters well-developed. (Gini: I love the octopus).

Love and Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food and Love by Kim Fay - the title says it all.   If you are a lover of epistolary novels (plus food and friendship), you must read this one. It consists of letters between two multi-generational women who become friends as a result of an initial fan letter. “The world is big, small, and gloriously astonishing all at once!” Trigger warning: reading this might make you hungry!

Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister, is touted as a thriller, but it’s more domestic suspense. What would you, as a mother, do to try and understand how your sweet son could commit a murder? Go back in time to try to understand? Of course, you would! This book has a unique twist on time-travel/time loops and the ending is satisfying; you’ll be glad you picked it up.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl is my non-fiction nod to Gini. Who knew that I would fall in love with the author? I don’t even know what music Nirvana and the Foo Fighters play - see how confused I am about the music - but the story is the best. It’s one of my favorite memoirs of all time as Grohl loves his family, loves his friends, loves his music, and tells his story well. 

I am going to leave you seasonal readers with one of the best Hallmark-type books you will ever read: Faking Christmas by Cindy Steele. Don’t laugh, don’t judge, because yes, a dose of seasonal cheer can surprise you with a good story (not cheesy) with a well-developed plotline, and complex characters plus humor AND depth. It’s too bad I don’t have room to mention: The Leopard is Loose, No Land to Light On, The Unsinkable Greta James, The Gunkle, Woman on Fire or All the Lonely People, because I would if I could. 

And she did!

Gini: The reading year in review… a favorite topic for reflection. While choosing just 5 is difficult, it offers rewards as I scan the crème de la creme. Preferring non-fiction to fiction I tried to balance – 3 non and 2 historical fiction, based on facts with the blanks filled.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Body, and Mind in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, helps me understand the body’s reactions to stress, pain, and anxiety as well as helping others who face the aftereffects of debilitating circumstances. Not a fast read, I studied it in doses to glean the greatest information. 

From there I move to Secrets of Sprakkar by the first lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid. Born in Canada the author brings open eyes to her new country as she explains about this fascinating land. From health and child care to family connections and foreign influence, I loved it. Having been there adds to my enthusiasm and only makes me want to return for further exploration from seashore to volcanoes to the wide open spaces of amazement.

Andrea Elliot’s amazing research for Invisible Child captivates me as she details the life through the eyes of a child, Dasani, as she survives extreme phases of poverty, being displaced, finding opportunities but not the support to help her thrive, and above all the guilt from her belief that she has caused her family’s destitution. “Entitlement is born of self-worth. Some kids have it naturally. Others must develop it against the proof of their experience.”

Geraldine Brooks’ Horse links the skeletal findings in a Smithsonian attic with a discarded painting to depict the life of the greatest racehorse in American history. This book bounces from 1850 through the post-Civil War south to Washington DC in 2019 as Jess and Theo piece together the fragments of this equine puzzle. Art, science, love, obsession, and racism combine to captivate the mind. I end with Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday and his magnificent character development and descriptions. It’s a delight.