Home place: 2022 book list

I build my house up on this rock, baby
Every day with you
There’s nothin’ in that town I need
After everything we’ve been through

– Brandi Carlile

I have lost track of the number of times I’ve watched the movies in the “Cars” franchise this year. Add to this the very short animated films in the universe and the “Cars on the Road” series and it is safe to say that I’ve spent more time in Radiator Springs in the last few months than anywhere else (except perhaps Arendelle, kingdom of Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, thanks to an equally strong obsession with “Frozen”).

Such is the life of a parent of a young child. Aside from these two forays into the Disney dynasty, we have been reading a lot of books that span a wider range of topics. We are a family of book lovers. We have been the recipients of many hand-me-downs as well as the purchasers of our own childhood favorites. Knowing that our child could latch on to any one of these books and insist on endless re-reads, we have become careful curators of a library of books that reflect our values, mores, aspirations, and views of the world. We ruthlessly pass along those books that we don’t love, and we own many more books now about the postal service than I had previously imagined existed.

Before I became a parent I fairly bristled at the idea that the whims of a small child would force us to read or watch ad nauseum a small number of media, but for now I relish the regular, predictable rhythms of our consumption.

I have noticed that my own adult reading choices tend to revolve around the same themes – concepts of home, intergenerational dialogue, justice, and the intentional pursuit of meaningful work crop up over and over, year after year. (It is a wonder that I do not re-read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse every year, though instead I return to Ann Patchett’s What Now again and again.)

This year in particular I was drawn to the notion of home, whether a person’s place of origin or the place where they feel most themselves. (It’s not lost on me that both Radiator Springs and Arendelle are fictional locations that evoke fierce loyalties from their leaders. They are both places that snap the protagonist back to their best, truest selves.) Many of the books I read this year either have a strong sense of home or a strong sense of place – or both.

When I first heard, many years ago now, someone refer to their “home place,” they were talking about a childhood home they’d left some fifty years prior. Their “home place” was the home base for their family for generations, a part of the world so intrinsically part of their family as any grandmother’s recipe or intergenerational tradition. So many years later, this place still figured large in their consciousness and their sense of self. As a former student and practitioner of public history I am no stranger to the idea that a particular corner of the world could pull on a person’s consciousness. From Bluebird, Bluebird to The Vanishing Half to The House on the Cerulean Sea (not to mention, very literally, The Wildflower Gardener’s Guide as well as nearly every graphic novel I read this year), many of the books I read this year illustrated the idea of a home place. Whether I knew it or not, I delved deeper into the idea that a location could leave an indelible mark on a person.

In “Cars on the Road,” the main characters are, spoiler!, on the road. They carry the spirit of Radiator Springs with them as they cross the country toward a destination neither one of them is keen on meeting. Faced with adversity, Lightning McQueen and Mater the Tow Truck hearken back to their hometown. Similarly, the characters in the Nghi Vo’s Singing Hills trilogy and Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton can’t truly escape the places they have left behind; the characters in Before the Coffee Gets Cold can travel in time, but only within the geographical confines of a small Tokyo cafe. I loved the way that the remote island of Svalbard cropped up in Midnight Library and a couple of other books I read this year, reminding me that even the most far-flung stories are not, in fact, that far from my own home.

This year I read 58 books; 31 were written by people of color and 42 were written by women.

* my favorite reads this year

Novels and Novellas

*The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo

*When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, Nghi Vo

*Into the Riverlands, Nghi Vo

Down the Rabbit Hole, Juan Pablo Villalobos

*What Now, Ann Patchett

Midnight Library, Matt Haig

The House on the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune

Elena Knows, Claudia Pineiro

The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett

Real Life, Brandon Taylor

Siren Queen, Nghi Vo

Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

*A Children’s Bible, Lydia Millet

*Bluebird, Bluebird, Attica Locke

*The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

*Babel, R. F. Kuang

*The War that Saved My Life, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

*While We Were Dating, Jasmine Guillory

*The World of Pondside, Mary Helen Stefaniak

My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout

*Piranesi, Susanna Clarke

*Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi


*My Body Belongs to Me, Elizabeth Schroeder

The Wildflower Gardener’s Guide, Henry W. Art

*The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh

x+y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender, Dr. Eugenia Cheng

Ain’t I a Woman: Black women and feminism, bell hooks

Fuzz, Mary Roach

*Do Nothing, Celeste Headlee

*Intersectional Environmentalism, Leah Thomas

How to Stop Losing Your Shit with Your Kids, Carla Naumburg

*Out of Office, Anne Helen Peterson and Charlie Warzel

The Big Letdown, Kimberly Seals Allers

Set Boundaries, Find Peace, Nedra Glover Tawwab

Memoir and Other Creative Non-fiction

Dusk Night Dawn, Anne Lamott

Art Matters, Neil Gaiman

*Unbound, Tarana Burke

*The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin

*The Unremembered Places: Exploring Scotland’s Wild Histories, Patrick Baker

*The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, A. Kendra Greene

Kabul Beauty School, Deborah Rodriguez

Graphic Novels

The Incredible Nellie Bly, Luciana Cimino

Why She Wrote, Lauren Burke, Hannah Chapman, Kaley Bales

Jane, le renard et moi, Isabelle Arsenault and Fanny Britt

Wake: The Hidden History of Women Led Slave Revolts, Dr. Rebecca Hall

El Deafo, Cece Bell

Minneapolis Capital du funk, Joe Illidge

Black History in its own words, Ron Wimberly

Billie Holiday, Carlos Sampayo

The Bridge, Peter Tomasi and Sara Duvall

Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre, Alverne Ball and Stacey Robinson

Drawing the Vote, Tommy Jenkins and Kati Lacker


*Snacking Cakes, Yossy Arefi

Sweet Home Café, NMAAHC/Jessica B. Harris

Martha Vineyard’s Table, Jessica B. Harris

*High on the Hog, Jessica B. Harris

*Nadiyah Bakes, Nadiyah Hussein


When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Future Possibilities, Chen Chen

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