The beach, the library, my couch, my bed, planes, trains and automobiles – I read lots of places this year! Between shedding one of my many extra jobs in January and taking classes that encouraged plenty of research, I have had time and reason to have my nose often in a book. Here are a few of my favorites (with – disclaimer! – affiliate links). Let me know what else I should be reading!
I got my Louise Penny fix with State of Terror, The Madness of Crowds, and A World of Curiosities. (Yes, I’ve started watching Three Pines and it’s…OK? It goes for a ‘darkness’ thing that I don’t perceive quite so relentlessly in the novels. Curious to hear your thoughts).
A few other authors showed up more than once on my reading list. I finally read both Emma and Persuasion by Jane Austen, and was able to get both Hamnet and The Marriage Portrait from the library, despite Maggie O’Farrell’s work being in hot demand.
Beautiful World, Where are You? did not have me beating down the doors to read more by Sally Rooney. I understand that people messing up their lives is unavoidable in literature, but if the characters haven’t at least shown an interest in getting their acts together by about halfway through, it’s too much for me.
The Sweetness of Water was lovely and moving; American Dirt was also a tearjerker, and The Lost Summers of Newport was a fun reminder of a wedding I attended in Newport this fall – though the wedding had considerably less drama than the book, thank goodness.
Because I didn’t write one of these last year, I should also state my admiration for the Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels, an exception to my rule about wanting characters to get their acts together. I read all four in 2021.
Memoir & Non-Fiction
Kaya Oakes’ fantastic The Defiant Middle was my first book of 2022. Like many of the books I read this year it was memoir-ish creative non-fiction, which is why I put these two categories together. I enjoyed Stanley Tucci’s Taste and should also shout-out Born Round, technically another 2021 read. Crying in H Mart and Eat and Run complete the food-ish memoir category. Kind of memoir but kind of about writing? Anna Quindlen’s Write for your Life and Melissa Febos Body Work.
I devoured The Secret Life of Groceries (get it?) and quickly read Benjamin Lorr’s prior book, Hell-Bent. I recommend the grocery book constantly (the other is great, but Bikram yoga doesn’t prompt the same level of interest as groceries). Also read? From Strength to Strength, The Dorito Effect, The Life We’re Looking For, and How to Do Nothing. Which wraps up my non-fiction list except for…
First things first: I read Sacramentum Caritatis, which I mention first because it gives me a chance to post this photo of myself living my best life on the porch reading papal documents.
Charles Gallagher’s Nazis of Copley Square was readable history with local interest. John O’Malley’s Vatican I history was probably more interesting to me than to many of you, but I loved it. I find it hard to believe I only read American Catholics: A History this year, because I thought about its conclusions so much it feels like I read it much longer ago.
My friends at the Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life hooked me up with three great books by friends: Timothy O’Malley’s Becoming Eucharistic People and Real Presence: What Does it Mean and Why Does it Matter; and Carolyn Pirtle’s Ten Ways to Pray. Highly recommend!
Wanting and Everything After – my deep dive into René Girard
The aforementioned Timothy suggested Luke Burgis’ Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life, which I read quickly over the summer not knowing how much its concepts would become a part of my life for the next six months. Burgis writes an easy introduction to the thinking of René Girard, a 20th-21st century philosopher and cultural theorist who has been having a moment recently. I don’t say easy as a perjorative – it’s a page-turner, easily digestible but deeply researched and though-provoking. Clap it up for Luke Burgis – this was tied with the grocery book for Most Recommended By Me of 2022.
I was studying in two programs this fall, and to my surprise both of them dwelled on Girard and mimetic theory. When, for one of them, I decided to write a final paper on desire in Girard and Ignatius of Loyola, I channeled all my imposter syndrome into making sure it was exhaustively researched. Cynthia Haven’s Evolution of Desire gave a sense of the pace (and yes, evolution) of Girard’s scholarship as well as the context in which it evolved. If you find yourself intrigued by his career and writing, this should be your next read.
Fun fact which did not make it into any of my papers or presentations and which I haven’t even been able to slide into conversation so I will share it with you: Girard had a lifelong regret of not attending the Jesuit school in his native Avignon.
Much of my research focused on Deceit, Desire and the Novel, Girard’s first major work. (Another fun fact: every time I write that out I forget which noun comes first in the title and have to double-check. Very time-consuming). I also looked at Violence and the Sacred, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (read that one in a doctor’s waiting room – the nurse said “wow, a real library book!”), I See Satan Fall Like Lightening and Battling to the End.
There were quite a few other secondary sources that I started in on but didn’t get deep enough into to recommend or really say I’d read, and of course I have a long reading list of articles and books about the “Ignatius of Loyola” piece of my research. Hit me up on the slim chance that you’re interested in those.
What I wrote
This year and last I published two more booklets with Twenty-Third Publications: You Are Not Alone (a book for teens about various types of grief) and How to Talk with Teens about God, Faith and Prayer. I only wrote a handful of posts this year but I’m proud of each of them, which you can find by clicking back to the homepage. Thanks for reading!
Bonus: Music I made!
Tired of thinking about books? Kick back with a few videos – including rare footage of me conducting.
If you’ve made it this far, maybe we should connect on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Goodreads. Have a wonderful new year and be sure to keep reading, writing, singing, praying, and whatever else makes you more alive.