Thursday, December 29, 2022

Read-at-Home Mom's Top 25 Books of 2022

I read a ridiculous number of books in 2022 (320+ and still counting...), thanks largely to audiobooks at high speeds and long stroller walks with the twins, especially in the past few months. Though I will keep reading to the end of the year, I don't have anything on my TBR that I expect to like more than the titles I've already selected as my top 25 of the year. So it's time to reveal my favorites list. I haven't ranked these at all, but I sorted them into categories. Books marked with a * were published in 2022. 


Though I usually enjoy what I choose to pick up, I don't read a ton of nonfiction compared with other genres, so it's a little surprising that there are four nonfiction titles on this list. 

This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson is the author's beautiful reflection on how God has accompanied her during the darkness of her struggles with mental illness. It's written mainly as a memoir, and the author talks a lot about beloved works of literature that have been influential in her journey. Though Clarkson is not Catholic, this book complements Catholic teaching on suffering quite well, and I so appreciate the hope this book offers to those struggling through their own seasons of darkness.  

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr caught my interest first because the author is the father of twins, and this book is about the author's life in Rome during their infancy. I read it in September, when the Goldberry Reading Challenge theme was travel books, and I could not get over how beautiful the language is. I don't read WWII historical fiction, so I'm unlikely to read Doerr's novel, All the Light We Cannot See, so I was glad to have this opportunity to get a taste of his writing.  I plan to read some of his short stories in 2023, and maybe Cloud Cuckoo Land at some point. 

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O'Connor is the book to read whether you like Flannery's fiction or not. The essays in this collection provide invaluable insight into Flannery's creative vision and illuminate her fiction in a way nothing else can. They're also really thought-provoking in general, and there is a lot to think and talk about even for readers who have dismissed her fiction as too dark. My book club read this, and though it didn't change anyone's opinion on the author, it did make for a great conversation. 

*Twelve Great Books by Joseph Pearce is a collection of essays by a Catholic convert who writes and speaks about literature, and especially about Shakespeare. Included are four Shakespeare plays along with novels such as Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Brideshead Revisited. In each essay, Pearce explains the Christian interpretation of each of the great books and pokes holes in the secular readings of them that have been promoted by many colleges and universities in recent years. This book was a major source of healing for me in my journey as a recovering English major. Absolutely everyone who loves literature should read it.  I will have a full review at Catholic Mom in early January. 


I read a lot of romance in 2022, largely because that's also what I've been writing. There were a lot of good ones published this year, and the backlist titles I picked up were great too. It was hard to narrow it down, which is why there are 8 books in this category. 

Eight Perfect Hours

All in Good Time by Carolyn Astfalk is the story of a widow falling in love again. It's filled with realistic descriptions of life with kids and very believable human reactions to the pitfalls and difficulties of life. I found this to be a real page-turner and couldn't put it down until I reached the happy ending. 

*The Bodyguard by Katherine Center is one of the few books I stayed up late to finish this year. It's a romance between a famous guy and his female bodyguard. To avoid letting his family know she's a bodyguard, they invent a fake relationship that, of course, eventually becomes real. As she always does, Center adds some high stakes and serious issues to this love story. 

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis was one of my first books of 2022, but it has stuck with me all year long. It's an emotional story about love and fate, set during winter, and I distinctly remember gasping out loud on my afternoon walk listening to the audiobook when a certain reveal happened. I typically don't like books that rely heavily on coincidence, but this was a wonderful exception.

*Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez involves two different worlds: the fast-paced urban hospital where the heroine works and the cozy small town that is home to the hero. It was so satisfying seeing the heroine walk away from her abusive ex and I fell in love with the small town. I think this is the best book I've read by this author. 

I listened to *By Any Other Name by Lauren Kate on a whim and completely fell in love with the premise and the characters. The heroine, Lanie, is a romance editor and she has recently been assigned to work with her all-time favorite author, a famous but reclusive writer of bestsellers. When her favorite author turns out to be a man, and not a woman as everyone believes, Lanie questions everything, including her relationship with her boyfriend and her possible growing attraction to the author. This was a really sweet and heartwarming love story.

*Kit McBride Gets a Wife by Amy Barry is a historical romance set in the American West and starring three characters: Kit, a single man, his teenage sister, Junebug who advertises on his behalf for a mail-order bride, and Irish maid Maddy, who through a comedy of errors, ends up responding to the ad. The characters' voices were so enjoyable, and I loved that I could be immersed in a historical setting without being bogged down with any of the sad storylines so often included in historical books.

*Host for the Holidays by Martha Keyes is one of the seven titles in the Christmas Escape series, which is a set of Christmas-themed standalones written by seven different romcom authors. This one - set in Paris, and starring lovable, memorable characters - was my favorite. I wish this author wrote more contemporary romance, but I will definitely check out her historicals. 

Snow in April by Rosamunde Pilcher is a very subtle love story, filled with lots of domestic details, which is what I love in this author's books.  I read this one in April, and it was the perfect reading experience. 


I read a bunch of classics this year, but since I don't count re-reads when I make my favorites lists, most of them don't appear here. The three I've selected were first-time reads that blew me away. 

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner was the second book Close Reads covered in 2022, and I loved it instantly. Something about Faulkner's stream-of-consciousness style really resonates with me and I felt strong empathy- or at least a sense of understanding - for each character. I am now a Faulkner fan for life. 

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene was covered on Close Reads in the past, and I went back to listen and read along. This was my first time reading this author,  and I absolutely loved his writing. I also read The Power and the Glory and found that much harder to enjoy,  but this book was pretty straightforward and really relatable to the average modern person.  I suggested it to my book club and we will be reading it together in 2023. 

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is my mom's favorite book, so I read it in May when the Goldberry Reading Challenge prompt focused on the favorites of mothers. I expected this lengthy tale to take me weeks, but reading along with the audiobook, it took me only days. What a page turner! I know this book has its critics, but I found it so engaging and interesting. 

Other Fiction

The rest of the books I read this year are an eclectic mix of different brands of fiction.  

Jacket Weather by Mike Capite is a love story set in New York City about ten years ago. I love the author's portrayal of New York, and the line-by-line writing was really beautiful and I wanted to highlight so much of it. I read this back in February, and it has remained near the top of my list all year. 

A Little Hope by Ethan Joella was featured on The Book Bumble, my new favorite bookish podcast. At its center is a couple, the husband half of which is undergoing cancer treatment. This couple has relationships outside of the home with others in their community, and the novel explores all the moments of hopefulness these characters experience alongside the pain of everyday life. The writing in this one is beautiful, too, and it really gave me a greater sense of the beauty of the human experience. 

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler is one of three books by this author that I read this year and every single one received five stars. It was hard to choose a favorite, but I think I liked the characters in this one slightly more than the ones in French Braid and The Clock Winder, and it has stuck with me a bit more. I love Anne Tyler and plan to read all of her books. 

The *Patron Saint of Second Chances by Christine Simon surprised me by being a very Catholic story. Set in Italy, it's the story of a town that needs new pipes before it loses all access to water. Self appointed mayor Signor Speranza decides to bring money into the town by pretending a famous celebrity is planning to film a movie there. The colorful characters and quirky plot made for such an entertaining audiobook, and I loved the references to the church and that there was a priest in the story. 

I found a copy of In the Woods by Tana French in a Little Free Library and grabbed it based on the many glowing reviews I'd heard of this series. I was immediately drawn into the world of this story and into the author's writing style, and I savored the book, reading every word with my eyes instead of defaulting to the audiobook. I now own the whole series thanks to my mom and they are on my 2023 TBR.

*The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd was in the Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading guide this year. I was skeptical because the recommendations in that guide have been decreasing in quality over the past few years, but this was a delight. It's best to go into it with minimal background information, but it involves libraries,  maps, and family secrets. 

I read The Stand by Stephen King in September when #WorldFullofBooks was reading big books. I had already seen the 90s miniseries so I knew the story, but I loved experiencing the full novel. I listened to the audiobook, which was very well done. This book really isn't that scary. It's more fantasy than horror and there are very strong spiritual elements, which I especially liked.

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon was the next book I needed to read when I stalled out on the Mitford series. It took me forever to get to it because there was no audio available,  but when I learned the audiobook that does exist isn't narrated by John McDonough I gave in and read it with my eyes. It was so, so good. One of my favorite fictional tropes is when characters return to their childhood homes and this one delivered all the angst and nostalgia associated with that. This is possibly the best written book of the series. 

*Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell is a short story collection. Most of the stories are romance and a bunch are set at Christmas or New Year's. I skipped one story - the one set in the universe of the author's gay romance/fantasy series - but all the others were nearly perfect pieces of writing. I learned so much about writing from reading this book and listening to it was a highlight of the weeks leading up to Christmas. I'd like to listen to some of the Christmas ones again next year.

*The Hero of this Book by Elizabeth McCracken is the book that upset this list! I'm not going to reveal the title that got booted to keep the list at 25, but this one made such an impression I couldn't make my list without it. Classified as a novel and written like a memoir, this book features a narrator telling the story of her mother's life and death and the last trip the narrator and mother took together. There are also lots of comments about the writing life. I loved that it wasn't fully clear what was fact and what was fiction, and the writing was just so good. I've added everything else by this author to my list on Scribd.

Bonus: Top 5 Children's Books 

The Golden Name Day

It used to be that my entire favorites list was nothing but children's books. These days, most of my kids' books are re-reads of titles I pre-approved for my kids years ago and am now sharing with them, but there are always a few new ones. Here are five new favorites I discovered this year: 

The Golden Name Day by Jennie D Lindquist is the story of Nancy, a young girl who goes to live with family friends, Grandma and Grandpa Benson,  while her mother recovers from an illness. The Benson family is Swedish, so Grandma and Grandpa and their grandchildren celebrate name days, but the almanac doesn't list a day for Nancy's name. Throughout the book, everyone looks for ways to give Nancy an authentic name day celebration. I read this aloud to my girls, who have some Swedish ancestry on my husband's side, and they loved it. We also enjoyed the sequel, The Little Silver House. (Purple House Press has recently republished The Golden Name Day with some minor revisions. It's impossible to get used, so the revised edition is probably better than nothing.)

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates was another read-aloud with the girls, to coincide with my oldest daughter reading about slavery in her history studies. This book is so beautifully written and it made the subject matter accessible even to my daughter who was four when we read it. This book complemented another wonderful book, Carvers' George by Florence Crannell Means, which made me realize what an amazing man George Washington Carver was. Both of these men kept such hope in the face of darkness and adversity, and Carver, especially, made so many contributions to science.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a book I attempted to read multiple times as a kid without ever making it past the first chapter. I decided to read it aloud to my girls this year, and I just absolutely loved it. It's a beautiful story of overcoming grief and finding hope, and my kids loved it just as much as I did.

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus was one of my reads for the #WorldFullofBooks library theme, and it ended up being a great Christmas audiobook for my kids as well. It's the heartwarming tale of three children who pose as evacuees from London during WWII in the hopes that someone will adopt them. (The audiobook has a hideous cover, but that says nothing about the content.)

My oldest daughter and I read The Romance of Chemistry by Keith Gordon Irwin together during these first few months of the school year. She didn't like it (too much history, not enough science, apparently) but I was utterly fascinated by how little we knew about chemistry just 200 years ago compared to what we know now. I learned so much and wished I had read a book like this when I was in high school and about to flunk chemistry.

So, there they are, my favorites of 2022. Have you read any of these?  Do we have any in common? Let me know in the comments!  

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Read-at-Home Mom Report: November 2022 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

I read a ton of books in November. This is largely due to Audible's Black Friday deal whose promise of a coupon got me to sign up for four months of Audible and Premium Plus and gave me access to a bunch of very short Audible originals. I'll start this wrap-up with those and then dive into the rest of the books I read. 

Audible Originals

Quite a few of these surprised me with how good they are. These are all the 4 and 5-star Audible originals I listened to. 

  • Snow Day by Julie Lipson (5 stars)
    This was a really cute romance short story about a couple that meets while traveling. The way the story is structured really helped me organize my thoughts about a project I've been working on. 
  • You Can Thank Me Later by Kelly Harms (4 stars)
    This one is a heartfelt family story set over a series of Thanksgivings. I really liked the characters and though some parts were a little dramatic, I enjoyed the story too. 
  • For Love or Music by Julie Lipson (4 stars)
    This romance involved an established couple briefly driven apart by their ambitions when they both qualify for a prestigious music competition. 
  • The Best Worst Christmas by Kate Forster (4 stars)
    This author's writing reminds me a bit of Rosamunde Pilcher, only with an Australian connection and slightly more spice. This was a really entertaining listen and it made me laugh out loud a few times. 

  • A Tail as Old as Time by Elle Hay (4 stars)
    As I am currently writing a story about a magical dog in response to a specific submission call, I enjoyed this animal-themed romance. It gave me some good inspiration for managing the animal at the heart of my own work. 
  • The Christmas Pawdcast by Emily March (4 stars)
    This one involves both an animal (a pregnant cat) and a true crime podcaster. It was equal parts sweet and serious. 
  • Home Shopped Holiday by John Burd (4 stars)
    This was a You've Got Mail style story involving a home shopping channel. I really enjoyed it, though I did sometimes have trouble telling some of the character voices apart. 
  • The Secret History of Christmas by Bill Bryson (4 stars)
    This quick nonfiction exploration of the ways Western culture has celebrated Christmas over time was very interesting and informative. I learned quite a few new things about Christmas customs. 
The rest of these were not as memorable, and they all got three stars. 
  • Better than a Box of Chocolates by Emily March (3 stars)
  • The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland (3 stars)
  • The Wedding Proposal by John Swansiger (3 stars)
  • One of Those Flings by Lauren Blakely (3 stars)

Middle Grade

Middle grade books are starting to creep back into my repertoire again and I'm fine with that. They are really fun to zip through on audio.

  • A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus (5 stars)
    I've been meaning to read this all year and I finally got to it in November thanks to #WorldFullofBooks which had a library theme for the month. This was such a heartwarming story, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, given the WWII setting. 
  • The Rose Round by Meriol Trevor (5 stars)
    This was my last reread of the 40 Rereads Before 40 Project. I still love it. Reading it again has inspired me to plan to prioritize Meriol Trevor in the first quarter of 2023. 
  • Those Miller Girls! by Alberta Wilson Constant (5 stars)
    This was a reread, but not for my project. I read this aloud to my girls, and they really loved it.
  • The Library of Ever by Alexander Zeno (3 stars)
    I picked this audiobook at random on Scribd because it was about a library, and random ended up being the main word I would use to describe it. It was entertaining, but there was no real rhyme or reason to the story. It was just a string of unrelated events.
  • Tank Commander by Ronald Welch (3 stars)
    There is a lot of detail about WWI in this book, and I just couldn't stomach it. It was well-written, but just too much for me. 
  • The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe by Tricia Springstubb (3 stars)
    I love some of this author's earlier books, but this one was just okay. I am uncomfortable with the book's message that it's okay for a mom to neglect her kids for a good cause.  I'm also disturbed that this is not the only recent contemporary middle grade novel I've read that has this message. 

Young Adult

YA is also creeping back into my repertoire, largely because I'm finding YA books to be helpful crash courses in plotting. 

  • The Christmas Clash by Suzanne Park (4 stars)
    I had an e-audio ARC of this book from Netgalley, but ended up missing my chance to listen to it and getting it from Hoopla instead. This was a good one to read in November because it starts earlier in the falla and ends with Christmas. I loved the mall setting and the conflict of the feuding restaurants. 
  • Tessa and Weston: The Best Christmas Ever by Abbie Emmons (3 stars)
    I didn't like this book nearly as much as the first one, but it was enjoyable. I think it's hard to write a sequel to a romance that involves the same couple so I thought that was an interesting choice and enjoyed seeing how the author pulled it off.  

Short Stories

  • Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell (5 stars)
    This short story collection actually includes quite a few Christmas stories, which was a nice surprise. These are some of the best written romance short stories I've ever heard, and I wished there were more. I did skip one story, as it came from the author's fantasy series that I don't read. 
  • Beyond the Woods: A Supernatural Anthology by Jessica Thompson (4 stars)
    I received an ARC of this collection from the publisher and thought there was a lot of variation in quality among the stories, the book as a whole was very enjoyable. My favorite story was a retelling, "Frankenstein's Snowman."  


November was a really good month for romance. I had four 5-star romance reads. 

  • By Any Other Name by Lauren Kate (5 stars)
    This bookish romance about a male author who secretly writes books under a female pseudonym was so well written and the audiobook narrators were excellent too. 
  • Authentically Izzy by Pepper Basham (5 stars)
    This very gentle epistolary Christian romance about a budding  long-distance relationship between a librarian and a bookseller was a cozy delight. I want to read more from this author.
  • Kit McBride Gets a Wife by Amy Barry (5 stars)
    This historical romance stars a cowboy, a maid mistaken as a mail order bride and a meddling teenage girl. I loved these characters, and I loved that this was a light and humorous historical setting. 
  • Lovelight Farms by B.K. Borison (5 stars)
    This was a bit spicier than I wanted, but the writing was otherwise excellent. I loved the characters.
The rest of the romances I read were not as good: 
  • A Snowy Little Christmas by Fern Michaels (3 stars)
  • The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas (2 stars)
  • All I Want for Christmas by Maggie Knox (2 stars)

Mystery & Miscellaneous

  • The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda (3 stars)
    This was probably my least favorite book by this author, but it was still an entertaining read. 
  • The Broken Spine by Dorothy St. James (3 stars)
    This is another title I picked up for the #WorldFullofBooks library theme. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't quite as good as the books in the Library Lovers mystery series by Jenn McKinlay.
  • The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day (4 stars)
    This was my local book club's November pick. I enjoyed the audiobook and we had a very interesting discussion. 
  • A Little Hope by Ethan Joella (5 stars)
    I heard about this on the Book Bumble podcast, which I saw recommended on Instagram. I normally wouldn't seek out a book about cancer and grief, but I'm glad I made an exception because I loved the characters and the writing in this book. I appreciated that the story leads the reader to look for hope again and again. 
  • For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Vol. 1: 1979-1982 by Lynn Johnston (5 stars)
    I found out that this series of comic strip collections is on Kindle Unlimited! I loved these when I was a teenager, and I'm looking forward to reading them all through eventually.
  • The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles (4 stars)
    I don't often read historical fiction, but Book Bumble made this sound so good I couldn't resist. It ended up being very interesting, and it's made me want to try more historical novels.

As for the rest of the family's reading...

M. (girl, 9 years old )
  • The Scopes Trial by Renee Graves
  • The Story of Albert Schweitzer by Anita Daniel
  • The Good Master by Kate Seredy
  • The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy
  • Homesick by Jean Fritz
  • Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis
  • Winter of Spies by Gerard Whelan
  • Katie's War by Aubrey Flegg
  • The Story of Scotland Yard by Laurence Thompson 
  • The Story of the Secret Service by Ferdinand Kuhn
  • Guglielmo Marconi by Richard Tames
  • The Secret of Skeleton Island by Robert Arthur 
  • The Mystery of the Fiery Eye by Robert Arthur 

C. (girl, 7 years, 2 months)
  • Freddy and Mr. Camphor by Walter Brooks 
  • Luttrell Village by Sheila Sancha 
  • Castle Diary by Richard Platt
  • The Adventures of the Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton 

E. (girl, 5 years, 1 month)
  • Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla 
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

R. (boy, 2 years, 8 months) & A. (girl, 2 years, 8 months)
  • Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry 
  • Ten Little Babies by Gyo Fujikawa
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • The Three Little Pigs 
*My husband didn't finish any books 

Up Next For Me

I have a stack of Christmas books calling my name, including Talk Santa To Me by Linda Urban and This Year it Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy, as well as many Christmas romances on Kindle Unlimited.