Maybe it’s the pandemic; maybe it’s social media rotting my brain; maybe it’s the grief and stress of handling my father’s estate and taking care of my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, but I have found it difficult lately to read the kinds of books that require me to turn a paper page. Instead, I plug in my earbuds and listen to audiobooks, most often as I walk Laika.
So as I review the list of books I read this way in 2022, I remember listening to one while crossing a bridge over the Ravenna Park ravine, another while painting a bedroom at my mother’s house before we bought it, and yet another while walking around the Wedgwood neighborhood where I lived in high school and now live again.
The highlights of the year were mostly science fiction. Tochi Onyebuchi’s Goliath is a devastating take on gentrification, as wealthy people from space colonies return to a devastated Earth to buy and fix up cheap houses. Oh, to have the drive and talent of Rivers Solomon, who wrote An Unkindness of Ghosts in their twenties. Generations of humans living in a spaceship have re-created a society resembling the U.S. in the early 19th century. It is not a good place.
I devoured the entire five-part Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells. Told by an android programmed to murder, the stories are funny and poignant and sweet. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun is also told from an android’s point of view and has one of the saddest endings I can remember reading. Maybe androids are better humans than we are.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is a brilliant epistolary novel about two women warriors traveling through time to save the future. This was one book I wanted to re-read on the page for the beauty of the sentences.
I read some good books on paper, of course, including the inspiring graphic novel, We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration, by Frank Abe, Tamiko Nimura, Matt Sasaki, and Ross Ishikawa. Carol Smith’s memoir, Crossing the River: Seven Stories that Saved My Life, was a balm for grief, and Kate Jessica Raphael’s The Midwife’s in Town was a timely novel about the underground abortion movement.
As we begin a new year, I am grateful for the writers who work so hard to tell these stories. They travel with me down the sidewalks, along the trails, and across the bridges of my days.