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  • Katie Breen

Favorite Books of 2022

Year-round, my "books of the year" post is consistently the most highly-trafficked page on FemtasticPodcast.com. So let's get it going for 2022.


A note before we get started: you may have noticed that Femtastic Podcast has been more dormant than usual in the last 6 months. After YEARS of posting two episodes per month, 2022 got real hectic, real fast.


Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. I got married a week later. I initially needed a little summer break to get married, take a honeymoon, and do some mourning and recuperation after years of preparing for Roe's fall. What else did I have to say about Roe in that moment? Everything that reproductive justice activists had been saying for years would happen...happened. None of the fallout was unpredictable. If you wanted to know what was happening, all you had to do was listen to Femtastic Podcast episodes from the last year that laid it out. I had nothing to say that hadn't already been said. To be honest, it's pretty depressing to be part of a movement that's been shouting for years that this terrible thing is going to happen, only to have it happen and then have people clutch their pearls and suddenly bang down your door wanting to know what they can do to stop it. As Jojo said, "it's just too little, too late." This must be how climate activists feel!


Anywho, around the time I would've come out from my post-Roe shiva, I became the Interim Executive Director of the nonprofit where I work (on maternal mortality, not-so-ironically), which saddled me with more professional responsibility and stress than ever before. Life has felt like an unrelenting sprint since then, and I have not had the time or energy to run the podcast or do very much at all outside of work. For an over-achieving, perfectionist, Enneagram 1, Capricorn energy queen, having to take this step back has not been easy, but I'm slowly (very slowly, and with the help of a new therapist) letting go of the guilt I feel over it. Is this forever? I can't say. But it is what it is for now.


ANYWHO, let's get to the books. I'm not going to do a fiction vs. non-fiction breakdown this year because I am tired and short on time (see above). But I would appreciate your feedback on whether you'd prefer a breakdown by fiction vs. non-fiction in the future!


MY TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2022




  1. Sea of Tranquility, a novel by Emily St. John Mandel

I've historically not been a sci-fi person, but reading Emily St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven" in 2019 changed that for me. Her books leave me in awe of other people's imaginations. People who can make up worlds like this make me feel like I have all of the creativity of a wet cardboard box.


These aren't part of a series so you don't have to do this, but I would recommend reading her books in the order that they came out: Station Eleven, and then The Glass Hotel, and then Sea of Tranquility.











2. Caste: The Origins of our Discontents, non-fiction by Isabel Wilkerson


This book and her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns, should be required reading for every American.


















3. Three Girls from Bronzeville, a memoir by Dawn Turner


A personal and moving memoir about growing up with the author's sister and best friend, and how their community shaped all three of them in different ways. Especially in the case of her sister, this is one of those books where you can feel the author's fierce love for someone through the pages.















4. Olga Dies Dreaming, a novel by Xochitl Gonzalez


This is where ranking books in order gets hard. I may have recency bias since this is the last book I read in 2022, but to over-simplify, it combined many things I love: history, politics, New York, and making fun of the wedding industrial complex which I was recently a part of. Also has a rom-com element to it. What more could I ask for?














5. The Secret Life of Bees, a novel by Sue Monk Kidd


I love everything Sue Monk Kidd writes. The Invention of Wings is one of my all-time favorites. Set among a family of Black beekeeping sisters in South Carolina in 1964. I love anything that could be considered historical fiction and I'm a sucker for the power of female friendship, so this was a shoe-in.


















6. Sabrina & Corina, a collection of short stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine


Beautiful collection of short stories about Latinx and Indigenous women, set in gentrifying Denver. Beautiful regardless of where you live but I definitely recommend to Coloradans.



















7. People We Meet on Vacation, a novel by Emily Henry


This book, written by the author of another book called "Beach Read," would make a perfect beach read. It is a delightful rom-com of a book that made me literally laugh out loud. It's a little bit predictable in the way that all rom-coms are, but we all need a little fun from time to time, no?
















8. Nine Perfect Strangers, a novel by Liane Moriarty


Delightful, funny, emotional, like everything else she writes. Nine strangers spend ten days at a health resort. The reader gets to know each of them (which sounded overwhelming to me at first but was quite fun) and goes on a page-turning adventure. Would also make a good beach read.
















9. Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, non-fiction by Patrick Radden Keefe


In 2020 and 2021, I read both of Sam Quinones' books on the opioid crisis: Dreamland and The Least of Us, both of which are must-reads. I've watched Dopesick on Hulu and Crime of the Century on HBO. My day job for the last 3 years has dealt extensively with the opioid epidemic. All that is to say, I almost didn't read this book because I felt like I already knew everything it could tell me.


I'm glad I read it anyway. It was a fascinating (albeit long) story focused on three generations of the Sackler family and their role in the opioid crisis. I was surprised at how interesting and compelling I found the stories of these family members. Their (at least outward) denial of any wrongdoing, and steadfast commitment to obviously disprovable facts, is astounding. It makes me wonder if they actually buy their own BS and live in passive denial, or if they instead are going through their miserable lives lying through their teeth. Also learned a ton about the messed up American tax system, the absolutely insane tax breaks rich people get for philanthropy and charitable giving, and how the philanthropic industrial complex interplays with government to put rich people in the best position to fund social services that otherwise could be publicly funded and run! But that's a whole 'nother blog post.





10. Crying in H Mart, a memoir by Michelle Zauner


There's a reason this book is on pretty much everyone's "best of" list this year.


It's a gorgeous and highly personal account of caring for and mourning an ailing parent, told from the perspective of a Korean-American daughter taking care of her immigrant mother.


If you're a food lover, it's got delicious stuff in store for you, too.


As the title might suggest, it's not all rainbows and sugar plums, but it is beautiful.








Honorable Mentions:


The Midnight Library, a novel by Matt Haig

This would be my number 11 on the list (though the ones below it aren't in any particular order). Another one on a lot of people's "best of" lists this year. What would your life look like if you had made a different choice, on any number of choices?











The Lost Apothecary, a novel by Sarah Penner


It is historical fiction and involves toxic men getting their come-uppance at the hands of empowered women - what do you want from me? Soy una bruja.











The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, a novel by V.E. Schwab


I don't normally like books with fantasy elements but I always love historical fiction. This is one of those "she can't die so she has to stay alive forever through the ages and watch all her loved ones die," but I promise it's good.











The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, non-fiction by Kate Moore


Super interesting story and history of the use of radium in everyday products in the early 20th century, and the horrible effects it had on women working with radium in factories.









Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, non-fiction by David Grann


Shocking and important history (and injustice) that American society glosses over.











I Owe You One, a novel by Sophie Kinsella


Another great beach read. I also generally enjoy books set in the UK because the new-to-me colloquialisms are fun.












A Long Petal of the Sea, a novel by Isabel Allende


I enjoyed learning about the Spanish Civil War and Chilean political turmoil, two subjects I knew very little about. Historical fiction with love stories across generations and continents.











Malibu Rising, a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid


I mean...with a name and a cover like this, it's obviously gonna be a good, if not a little depressing, beach read. I literally read it on a beach in Spain.

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