January 2022 Reading Recap

I decided to set a stretch goal for my reading life in 2022. I am hoping to read 100 books this year!

I’m off to a great start with 14 books finished in January, well technically 13 read and 1 DNF (Did not finish). I debated about whether to count DNF books; for now I will be including them in my goal to 100. Every year there are many books I start reading, get a few chapters in and then not pick up again. Sometimes I get a few chapters in and I will save a book for later to possibly return to in the future, even months down the road. However, for me, a DNF is a decision that I generally won’t pick the book up again. There isn’t a lot of rhyme or reason, it can just depend on how I’m feeling about the book.

Below, I’ve compiled a few sentences about each of the books that I read this month. Fair warning, it is a long post. I have written this mostly just for myself and my own records. I want to be able to remember my reading year.

As the New Year was approaching, I picked Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh off of my shelf and decided it would be the perfect book to start 2022. I began reading it in the morning on January 1, 2022 and finished just before going to bed. First published in 1955, it was pleasantly surprising how the writing has aged very well. Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s creative reflections on shells and life provided much fruit for reflection for me. I am grateful to my friend Logan who mentioned Gift from the Sea to me in the fall of 2021 and encouraged me to pick up this book which had been on my radar for a while.

My next read was also started on January 1, 2022 and finished listening on January 2, 2022. I enjoyed listening to the audio version of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore. At the beginning of 2020 I decided I wanted to try to read a book set in every state in the United States of America. This is kind of a background goal to inspire me to pick up different books that I might not otherwise read. Most of the events in The Other Wes Moore take place in Baltimore, Maryland and the surrounding area, so it crossed Maryland off of my list.

Here is a snippet from the book description, “Two kids with the same name lived in the same decaying city. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.”

The third book I finished in 2022 I had actually started reading back in December. How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns was another enjoyable audiobook. I’m not quite sure how this book ended up on my radar, possibly because the audio version was available to borrow from the library through Libby. I borrow most of my audiobooks from the library using Libby app on my phone. I went into this book with almost no expectations or preconceptions. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned. I enjoyed Peter Enns writing style and found his chapters well organized and concise. 

My next read was called by the New York Times, “an ‘Instant American Classic’ about our abiding sin.” I first purchased a physical copy of Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson through Book of the Month in September 2020, a few weeks after it was published. My lovely hardback copy sat on my shelf unread until I finally borrowed the audio version from the library. Once I started listening, I read the whole book in two days, January 2-4, 2022. Wilkerson is an excellent writer and researcher. She presents a compelling argument for the ways America has an ongoing caste system. I thought Wilkerson’s first book, The Warmth of Others Suns, was better, especially the narrative storytelling in her first book. But both books are important reading and don’t need to be read in a particular order.

I’m a huge fan of Traci Smith’s writing and had the wonderful pleasure of serving on the launch team for her newest book, Faithful Families for Lent, Easter, and Resurrection. Physical copies were slightly delayed for the launch team so she shared a pdf advance copy. I set aside a few hours on January 5, 2022 and read the whole book in one day. The book is really meant to be used as a resource for families throughout the season of Lent and Easter. I wanted to read it quickly in order to promote it and share with others.

There were three chapters in the book that really stood out for me. Traci presents and reframes the three pillars of Lent which are traditionally prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In Chapter 3, Traci provides wonderful prayers that I would feel comfortable sharing or leading with church families. Traci has adapted fasting to simplifying in Chapter 4. And in Chapter 5, she provides a wonderful reflection and prompts on giving, as well as the importance of receiving. Traci Smith has woven thoughtful theology throughout an incredibly practical book.

I usually try to read a mix of fiction and nonfiction and my first fiction read of 2022 was highly anticipated. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern was first published in 2019. In 2021, I finally read Morgenstern’s first novel, The Night Circus, published in 2011. She is an incredible author who crafts beautiful worlds with her words. Books and reading serve as an important plot point in The Starless Sea and I enjoyed that theme throughout the book. However, I was a little disappointed in the pacing of the book, especially the ending felt like it was too slow, yet also rushed and confusing. Overall, it was only a three star read for me, but still enjoyable.

Probably the book that I have already recommended the most so far this year is Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. I think I first heard of this book from Austin Kleon and his blog/newsletter. Kleon wrote a blog post in November 2021 highlighting a few of the ideas that stood out to him from the book.

If I were to summarize Burkeman’s book in one word it would be: Finitude. The author wants us to remember that we are finite humans – with a finite amount of time on Earth. Kind of in the spirit of Memento Mori, everyone will die. And also kind of in the spirit of Mary Oliver-esque, “What do you plan to do with this wild and precious life?” Rather than productivity hacks, the author encourages honest reflection and assessment. What is truly most important. Focus on those three things and shape your life around them. Or try to do one thing well, rather than do five things not so well. Four Thousand Weeks was a quick, easy audio listen.

My next read was not quick or easy, but definitely a powerful listen. First published in 2017, My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem came on my radar in 2020 following an interview the author did with Krista Tippett for On Being. Menakem’s perspective on racialized trauma is very unique and I greatly appreciated the research he presents on embodied trauma, as well as his suggested breath practices and other body work. I’m glad I listened to this book so I was able to absorb some of the information; it is such a powerful book that I will probably get a physical copy to return to again in the future.

About halfway through the month I had my first DNF of the year. I was really looking forward to reading Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. I had seen a lot of people including this book on their year end wrap ups at the end of 2021. In particular, I remember that Bill Gates included it on his favorite books of the year list. However, I just didn’t connect with the book. My normal rule for an audio book is that if I’m not enjoying it one hour in, I will give up. I gave this book an extra thirty minutes beyond my normal limit if I’m not enjoying something. I think the pacing was too slow for me and the writing style felt too distant.

Once I stopped listening to Hamnet, I decided to pick up my next audiobook, Dear White Peacemakers by Osheta Moore. This book was recommended to me through a board that I recently joined, YCWI (Young Clergy Women International). The board members had read the book last year and several mentioned at a recent meeting how the book had deeply impacted them. The audiobook was wonderful because Moore reads the text herself. I loved her storytelling and the ways she wove together Scriptural analysis and personal reflections. Highly recommend this book for people of faith and those committed to anti-racism work.

My next read in January was one that I nearly DNF’d back in 2021. I borrowed Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro from the library and my copy sat around my house for far too long. The book was WAY overdue back to the library. So on a snowy day, I finally sat down and finished reading it. Klara and the Sun was another book that I highly anticipated after seeing it on so many year end recap lists. However, the writing felt too distant for me to really connect to the characters. I understand the writing style was conveying artificial intelligence, but the premise of it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

As the end of the month was approaching, I was looking for an audiobook that wasn’t too long and I could finish before February. I recently discovered that Holy Disunity by Layton Williams was available for no charge through my Audible subscription. I met Layton in spring 2019 at a friend’s wedding and when her book was released in late 2019 she shared an advance copy via PDF with me. Confession time: for 2+ years, I have felt guilty about not reading the advance copy I received! I was eager to remedy this situation and finally read Holy Disunity. My favorite sections of the book were where Layton analyzes Scripture. I found her theological commentary to be well organized and I agreed with her on many faith and justice issues.

As I was writing up these reflections and compiling my notes on all the books I read in January 2022, I realized that I had 5 days in the month where I read a full book in one day. Part of this was due to several snow days. One of my snow day reads was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. First published in 2008, I had never seen the video or read the book before. It was a book that had been on my radar for a long time though. It is a slim volume, easily read in a few hours, part self-help, part memoir, filled with lots of advice. Here was one of my favorite quotes, “I quote my father to people almost every day. Part of that is because if you dispense your own wisdom, others often dismiss it; if you offer wisdom from a third party, it seems less arrogant and more acceptable.”

The last book I finished in January was another one that I had picked up and put down a few times before. I was determined to finally finish reading Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner so that I could move on to other books. First published in 2003, I felt like the writing didn’t age well and contributed to my lack of enjoyment in reading. The style was overly simplistic and I thought it would have benefitted from more footnotes and citations. I have a small collection of books on the Sabbath and there are other books I would recommend instead of this one.

Part of my motivation in devouring as many books as possible in January is to give myself a buffer for future months where I may not read as much. The cold weather is conducive to staying inside and reading! I also knew that I would be traveling for a good portion of February and probably wouldn’t finish many books. I know that for many people, finishing 14 books in a year would be a great goal. I don’t share this reading recap for comparison. Reading is truly my favorite hobby. Have you read any of the books I finished this month? Please let me know!

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