This year I set my annual goal on Goodreads as usual, however, I must admit that, for the first time in a long time, I spent half of my usual reading time writing instead of reading which has been wonderful. So even though I don’t regret how I’ve spent my time I do have fewer books to review this year than usual.
As always there were a few rereads on my 2022 Read List and many new friends too.
So without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2022 (in no particular order):
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
We read this book in the book club I lead “The Wandering Bookclub”, if you would like to join please feel free! We are on Facebook (click here to join the Facebook Group).
I have been wanting to read this for a while and I really enjoyed it. It was quite eye-opening to many facts I didn’t know or didn’t want to know cause they cause me anxiety like when he talks about the meat industry or pollution and global warming. Those chapters made me so anxious I wanted to close the book and leave it on the shelf but one friend once told me that closing my eyes won’t make all the bad things disappear, by closing my eyes I’m just becoming less able to deal with them. He is right. Closing our eyes to our world’s problems is not the solution and to deal with a problem we have to see it first, understand it and face it head-on. So this reading was challenging for me and also immensely enjoyable cause there is so much information about everything! It is a really ambitious project. Harari tried to cover so much that of course he fell short (anyone would have) and there is no great depth to any of the topics he touches on but that’s the only way this book was going to work. A book like this, sold for the general public… It had to stay on the surface level of things or risk losing itself within itself. Nevertheless, at times I wish this book had been a bit more academic and that he would have cited more or given us more references (hey, I am a nerd and a scholar, what did you expect?). But I join the critics who praise this ambitious book and its author. He gave us a glimpse of so many things, enough to pique our interest and he lets us carry on by ourselves. I recommend this book to anyone interested in humankind and our world, which should be really all of us. Enjoy!
Man’s Search for Meaning / El hombre en busca del sentido by Viktor Frankl
This book was inevitable. It has sat on my bookshelf all my life and it’s been calling to me since I was quite young. I would get close to it, I would open it and start and then shut it in terror and flee. I think I knew that I would find something that would shake me to my core and I wanted to put that off since I know what that feels like all too well. But for some reason, this year I finally had the courage to immerse myself in the beauty, depth, and pain of Viktor Frankl’s masterpiece. I started the book, almost absentmindedly, not really giving it much importance. It was just my morning read for one sunny morning while I drank my coffee before starting teaching and then… I couldn’t put it down. I worked that day with my heart pounding and his words and images swirling in my mind. As soon as I finished work I went back to it and I read it all through to the end in one seating. I just couldn’t put it down. I cried (as expected) my heart out. I cried out of joy, pain, sorrow, helplessness, hope, and gratefulness. Frankl has always been in my heart thanks to my parents who both studied Logotherapy. I knew what this book was about… and I’ve lived by his ideas since I was very young, unknowingly. But reading his words with my own eyes and through my own understanding was… It’s hard to explain. I felt like someone in the world understood. I felt like all my life I had been waiting to read those words. Since I was young and a terrible event in my life woke me up, I’ve been living in a certain way that has allowed me to survive brutal awful things in my life… and even though my whole belief system has served its purpose I still sometimes doubt it. Sometimes I think, what if I am wrong? What if truly one day something will happen, even something more awful than the other things and I realize this whole spiritual dimension I’ve created in my life is not enough to get me through it? Sometimes these thoughts keep me up at night. So Dr. Frankl’s words were like a giant, warm, comforting hug. It was as if someone bigger, older, and wiser than me was giving me the reassurance, comfort, and security I needed. It was a huge “You are not alone” that I felt with all the fibers of my being. And of course, if I put into perspective, all the awful things that have happened to me, compare nothing to what he went through. And I measure my life by these things. There are 4 big events in my life that were simply heart-shattering. They broke me to my very core, they fragmented me, they simply killed me and because of that, they gave me a chance to be reborn. And the worst of these things, my number 1 event, is the yardstick, I measure everything else by it. The other 3 events were terrifying, awful and life-altering… but they still don’t reach that number 1 event. And when something happens I measure it against that first event and I ask: is it worse than that? The answer has always been no. And I hope with all my heart it stays that way. With this answer, I have been able to survive all the other things cause I know that if I survived that one event, I can survive any others that are less… catastrophic. But I’ve always lived in fear that something is going to topple that event, that something will happen and will replace that event and I will be at a loss. And I am kidding myself if I think this is not a possibility. I can think of a number of things that would be worse, way worse than that. So, I know… I’m not safe from any sorrow the human world has to offer. And yet, reading A Man’s Search for Meaning gave me the relief and reassurance my mind, my body and my self needed. I have decided to take Dr. Frankl’s experience to heart and to use him and his experience as my yardstick. I think not many things can compare with the horrors of being in a concentration camp and losing all your family, your livelihood, your identity…. I am so sorry that happened and is happening to anyone… and I cannot thank Dr. Frankl enough for sharing his experience cause as I was reading I was feeling it with all my being and the experience was so strong that I take his findings and reflections to heart too. He has become a beacon of hope and light and strength in my life. Whenever I am faced with a situation that feels too big, I think of yes, all my four events, but I think of Viktor as well (I love him so much now that I’ve decided to call him by his first name, sorry not sorry, in my heart, he is a friend). I think of him and what he went through, of all that he says in the book, things I have experienced myself, that resilience, that willingness of your soul to live, to survive, despite awful conditions, despite being at the brink of death, I’ve experienced that as well. I know my shadow and I know the darkest corners of my mind and I’ve also seen my strength and my courage and my greatness of spirit. I know all these things thanks to those 4 big events that have killed me enough to let me see my soul once the ego, the body, and the mind is crushed. I am grateful now for those events cause I would’ve never known the strength and dimension of my soul and the greatness of my being if those events hadn’t put them to the test, hadn’t coerced them out. I hope I never get a test as big as Viktor’s or even worse situations that are happening now as I write this to someone, somewhere. All I know is that Viktor and his words have become a symbol in my life for that undying, unbending, unbreakable, unyielding strength and courage of one’s soul. I believe it is in all of us and in our darkest times it shines through. I am grateful for finally being brave enough to read this and it has become one of those books I keep on my bedroom shelf instead of my library/home office because I always want it close, I never want to forget, and I know that if I ever need reminding, it will be there to shine some light in the darkest times.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I’ve been meaning to read this for so long but, as The Wandering Boocklub picked it out for our monthly read, I finally did. I cried, which is surprising cause a fiction novel hadn’t been able to make me cry in a while (I know I cried with Frankl but that’s not fiction, that’s real life, it’s way more cry-worthy).
Ishiguro is a master storyteller. I had read a few of his books before and he has never disappointed me. His prose is beautiful and soul-felt. His characters are so multi-dimensional (the ones that matter) and they are profoundly human (even though they are not quite, sorry, spoiler alert!). As most good science fiction books do, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go poses important philosophical questions to the reader, among those, are the following: What is a human, what makes us human, what is a soul? Does art reveal one’s soul? What is the ethics behind technology and science? Is love enough?
I don’t want to say much about it cause I am afraid of spoiling it. All I will say is that if you want to dive deep into your own humanity and wonder what’s inside of you, what makes us human… you’re in for a treat!
Find Momo: A Photography Book by Andrew Knapp
This year two of my best friends came to visit me in Mexico City and I was the happiest guide tour on Earth. We spent the whole summer exploring and enjoying Mexico City which became even more beautiful to me as I was able to share it with them and observe it anew through their eager eyes. It’s one of my most treasured moments of this year.
I came across this book one day when I took my friends to yet another bookshop because shocker: we are all bookworms and we eat books like they’re chocolates (one more reason why we are all such good friends). So, there we were browsing for hours, each of us lost in the world of books, and I noticed this cute cover of a dog called Momo. First, the name Momo is an immediate eye-catcher for me cause I am a Michael Ende’s fan. My favorite will always be The Neverending Story but Momo is so close to my heart too. Instantly, I wondered if Momo’s human named him that after her. Turns out he did. So I sat there in the bookshop and I read or actually, looked and searched for Momo all throughout its pages until I had reached the end. This photography book is about a fellow wanderer, Andrew Knapp, who travels with his dog, Momo. The pictures are amazing and in each of them, Momo is hiding somewhere. It was a joy to sit there patiently looking closely for a cute black and white spot somewhere behind some trees or under a bridge or in the window, sometimes just a tail mid-wag next to a yellow cool van. Whenever I found Momo I felt a sense of pride and achievement. I must have looked like an idiot, smiling down at the book in my hands, so close to it that my nose was almost touching it (I had forgotten my glasses and my eyesight is a mess), but I didn’t care. I felt so happy. Looking for Momo felt like a meditation for my mind and body. After I finished, I felt relaxed and carefree. My friends came to help too so I cannot take all the credit. But still, it felt good.
So if you fancy, lovely pictures, a challenge, and a cute animal friend to brighten your day, I definitely recommend checking out this book and following Andrew on his Instagram account. Momo has sadly passed away and Andrew shared such a nice IG post about him that I wanted to share here. He wrote this quote that I felt deeply since my own dog, my first dog, my dear beautiful Tano, died this year too.
Grief is praise, because it is the natrual way love honors what it misses.Martin Prechtel.
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
I loved this book! I read it so fast cause it was just so enjoyable.
I read this book while I was in London for my MA graduation (which got pushed back so many years because of covid) so that added to the joy of reading it. I read it on the underground, on the bus, on the train, in my favorite cafes and bookshops, at the library, on a bench in Hyde Park… in all my favorite spots in London. It was a joy to read such. a cute story in a city so close to my heart. It was my first time back in London since I moved back to Mexico after I lived there. I had missed it with all my heart and now I know that when I open The Borrowers again I will be reminded of London every time. Which is one of the reasons The Borrowers also made it to my bedroom shelf. Another reason is just that it is a good, funny, cool story. You might know it from Studio Ghibli’s movie Arriety which I love too, it’s so beautiful and aesthetic. The book is a bit different and I found it funnier and wittier. It got me thinking a lot as well. And every time I enter a new house or room now or in my own apartment for that matter I wonder (and hope) if there might actually be borrowers in the world. I am a believer. I believe in most things so, why not? All I know is that next time something goes missing in my apartment, I’m blaming them haha 🙂
Delightful reading on the London bus
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
It took me quite a few months to get through this book though I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time. When I searched for it in London it was sold out in most bookshops which is only a statement of this book’s popularity and I join the hype. I really loved this book. I found the writing simple but beautiful and the characters relatable (too relatable) and multi-dimensional. A word of warning: this, as most Greek myths, is a tragic story, so don’t expect a happy ending. But even with the heartbreaking ending, I found light in this book and comfort in the sorority that permeates it. The reason this book took me so long to read it’s not because of any fault of its own.
The real reason this book took me a few months to read is that it wasn’t easy to listen to the words. It’s never easy as a woman to be reminded of the pain we feel and have felt and probably will still feel as women in a world made by and for men. One of the main themes in this novel is the idea that women throughout history (including in freaking literature, fiction and mythology!) have paid the price for men’s actions. Ariadne’s story is a clear and painful example of just that.
I remember the first time I heard of her story was in high school when our Spanish teacher (one of the most wonderful teachers I’ve ever had by the way) split the class into groups and assigned each of the teams a different Greek myth that we were supposed to make a play out of and enact in front of our classmates. The prospect of acting out a Greek myth in front of the class felt mortifying as well as exciting to my teenage self. My team and I got the Minotaur, Theseus and Ariadne’s story. One of my best friends to this day and since high school who was on my team in that class is called Ariadna (the Spanish version of Ariadne’s name) so naturally, the role of Ariadne fell to her. I actually don’t remember what role I played (haha my character was that important! I may have been the narrator but I’m not sure haha). Nevertheless, there is a clear image seared into my brain, and I will never forget it. It was the scene when Ariadne (played wonderfully by my friend Ari) wakes up alone on Naxos after Theseus has abandoned her after she helped him defeat the Minotaur and he promised to take her to Athens with him and marry her. I remember clearly as if it was happening right now. I remember my friend Ari waking up, looking around for her non-hero, screaming for Theseus and her agony as she slowly realized that he wasn’t there. I remember her falling to the ground in utter devastation. That moment has stayed frozen in my mind, not only because of the awesome work my friends did playing their roles but also because I remember aching as I watched Ariadne… Ari, my friend, in pain. I felt it, too. Even though she was just playing a part back then… I’ve seen that pain before and since then in too many friends and on my own countenance as well. That pain felt all too real even then, before I even knew true heartbreak due to a man. Now I know that pain first-hand and reading Saint’s Ariadne was like watching me relive the heartbreak, the pain, the betrayal, the grief, the devastation… It was too much. I had to take it slowly.
That’s the main reason I was so drawn to this book. I’ve read the Classics in university since I am a Literature major and I love them all but this story has stayed with me since I saw my friend Ari playing the part of Ariadne in high school and I doubt I will ever forget it but I hope that I won’t see it enacted as often in real life in years to come, not by myself or any of my friends.
And if you ask me, of course, I recommend this book! As it sisters (I’m thinking of feminist rewritings) it helps create awareness, muster the courage for making changes, and gives voice and space to characters that should’ve never been silenced. It rewrites the story from a much-needed perspective. It’s a story that comes to us way overdue. We needed this story, her story, in her own words, and it may have taken a few too many centuries to arrive but it’s finally here and I join the praise to Jennifer Saint. Her book also invites us to speak up and change past, present, and future narratives with our own words, our own perspectives, and our actions. It’s inspiring because it showcases brave women with great spirits and it’s motivational because it’s outrageous. I can’t recommend it enough but be warned: it’s not easy to read, because like all its sisters, it’s painful. But pain helps, anger helps… it’s there to tell us that limits and boundaries have been crossed and that something must be done, and that balance must be restored for the good of us all.
And finally, here is a collage of all the beautiful places I read this book in. It includes: The Costwolds, Oxford, London (UK), Brugge (Belgium) and Ixtapa Zihuatanejo (México). That cute cat in the first picture is called Dolly and she is the most loving cat I’ve met. I miss her so much. She is in Bourton-on-the-Water, in a beautiful cottage that functions as an AirBnB, and she is probably lounging by the fire right now too. She loves that as you can see from the picture. She seemed to like Ariadne too. I read it to her out loud a few times and she jumped on my lap and purred, so I think that means she liked it.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
I read this book twice this year and I plan to read it again and again. Every time I do, it blows my mind. It literally sets my mind aside so I can finally breathe and listen with every cell in my body and whole self. Reading Eckhart Tolle is always like a meditation in itself. I read this every time I need quiet and peace of mind, whenever I need reminding of the important things and more than anything, it gives me hope. Hope for humanity, hope for myself, hope that everything will be alright and that indeed a new Earth is emerging and that I have a role, just like every one of us, to play in that birthing of a new world, a kinder world, a more peaceful place. The kind of place we’ve all been dreaming about. I do believe it’s a reality we can move closer to with every decision we make as individuals and as a collective. Eckhart Tolle reminds me of that, reading his words is like touching base, it grounds me in hope, in stillness. When everything feels like chaos around me I read this and I come back to myself, I feel that aliveness within and outside, I feel that infinity. I connect with my soul. If you ever need to reconnect with yours too, Eckhart Tolle’s books are a way into that. I would always recommend reading first The Power of Now and then A New Earth. If you do pick up these books and read them, know that you are awake and that you have an active role to play in this new world that we’re all going to make, hopefully as consciously as possible. Thank you for being here too. If you’re reading this, I’m glad for your presence in this world and knowing that there are other people out there who read these books and feel this way too makes me feel hopeful and not alone. So thank you, dear Soul. And may your spirit stay strong and hopeful and awake. We’re all going to need that.
Other notable works I read this year:
Galatea by Madeline Circe (short and brutal but effective and impactful as always); My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante; Will by Will Smith; I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy; What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Oprah Winfrey and Dr Bruce Perry.
Books I am looking forward to reading next year, in 2023:
- The Cat Who Saved Books by Sôsuke Natsukawa
- Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R. F. Kuang
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
- Psychic Witch: A Metaphysical Guide to Meditation, Magick & Manifestation by Mat Auryn
- Finding Me by Viola Davis
- Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Elektra by Jennifer Saint
And so many others… I wish you all many happy readings in the year to come!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, dear readers! May 2023 be filled with love, health, abundance, peace, magic and good books for all of us!