My Best Reads of 2022
Updated: Jan 16
I love both fiction and nonfiction, and here are some of the best titles I read last year.
Most of them aren’t new releases. But as Ann Patchett, author and owner of Parnassus Books, says, “If you haven’t read this book, it is a new book to you.”
If you amass a lot of books as I do, think of your TBR stack as a wine collection—some books are great fits for some times, while other books are great fits for other times. Your stack holds options for you whenever the time is right.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Gann unravels a mysterious series of murders among the Osage Indians that stumped the police. The murders were investigated by a unit that would become the FBI. In the 1920s, the Osage Indians inherited great wealth because their land contained large oil deposits. When wealthy tribe members began getting murdered, it terrified the community because there were no solid leads.
With investigative reporter skills, Gann exposes the murderers and their motives. This is a great true crime book.
Blood and Thunder
Having grown up in Arizona and New Mexico, with many years on the Navajo Indian Reservation, I thought I knew everything about Kit Carson and the conquest of the Navajo Indians. Not so.
Sides goes into stunning depth about the exploration of the southwest, the near extermination of the American Indian, and the complex life of Kit Carson, a remarkable man who lived an amazing life. A gripping read, this book reveals both sides of the many conflicts, presenting a fair, comprehensive look at American expansion in the mid-1800s.
The Weight of Air
Poses (1976–2022) was a drug addict who escaped death over and over. He led an often tragic life and suffered from a lifelong deep depression and a drug addiction that was nearly impossible to break.
David fought his way out of his addiction by substituting a less harmful drug, which is a controversial treatment approach, and managed to marry, have children, and become a true inspiration.
David died in 2021, thankfully after sharing his story with the world and advocating for drug policy that focuses on the mental health of the individual. This is such a good story about a very brave man.
The Year of Dangerous Days
Griffin takes the reader back in time to when Miami was a cocaine haven, when Fidel Castro sent thousands of refugees there (including many who were criminals), when the city was one of the most dangerous in America.
The story takes us through Cuba, the drug trade, and the day-to-day danger on Miami’s street. Another excellent true crime book that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
This book won the Pulitzer Prize, and the honor is well deserved. Since I am a child of the ’50s and ’60s, the Cuban Missile Crisis is embedded in my memory. Having read newspaper and magazine articles through the years, I thought there was little more for me to know about Cuba. I sure was mistaken. Ferrer dives deep into the long, complicated, and disgraceful role America has played with our southern neighbor. Throughout most of the relationship, America has used and abused Cuba while shamefully engaging in the slave trade. This book is a long read but a good one. Every American should read it before judging Fidel Castro and the Communist Revolution that occurred in the late 1950s. Ferrer has Cuban roots and a true love for both Cuba and the US. She does a masterful job of martialing the facts and making the book readable by historians and casual readers alike.
The Last Picture Show
Because McMurtry (1936–2021), author of several bestselling novels, including Lonesome Dove, is a Western legend, I decided to pick up a book or two to learn what made him great.
The Last Picture Show is a powerful tale of small-town America, where high school football, the local pool hall, and the movie theatre define the town. McMurtry’s characters are people you know, with lives you can relate to, with realistic outcomes.
I was a bit afraid the book would disappoint me, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Larry McMurtry was one of a kind, and I will find time to read the rest of his novels.
A Place Called Home
As a person who wrote a memoir about harrowing life experiences, I love stories where a cycle of poverty, abuse, and crime are overcome by a brave person who defies the odds.
Ambroz is that person. From the first sentence, he grabs the reader. He’s hungry, cold, and in danger walking the streets of New York at Christmastime with his mentally ill mother. Many times, I couldn’t imagine how David and his siblings would get through it all, much less go on to have better lives. David’s story lifted me up and helped me understand what courage truly means.
The Girl Who Dared to Defy
Jane Little Botkin
This book examines the plight of a woman determined to rise above her lowly status during the coal-mining wars in Ludlow, Colorado, during the early 1900s. The Ludlow Massacre is a dark stain on American business, a time when armed guards murdered strikers and their families for fighting for a living wage. Botkin focuses on female maids and their fight to form a housemaid’s union. These are women no one cared about, no one helped, so they helped themselves.
Botkin brings you into their lives and their fight for dignity, respect, and enough money to live. Their struggle would be forgotten without books like this.
Path Lit by Lightning
David Maraniss Maraniss has written many great books, including When Pride Still Mattered, a book about Vince Lombardi, and First in His Class, a book about Bill Clinton. Jim Thorpe has always been a hero of mine. He was an Indian boy from the Sac and Fox Reservation at a time of tremendous racial discrimination against Indians. He rose above it to win the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games. Thorpe could do everything well. He was lightning fast, a great baseball player, a football superstar who helped found the National Football League, and a track star.
But he suffered from many things: he was taken advantage of by his coach, the legendary Pop Warner, stripped of his Olympic medals because he had played baseball for meal money, discarded when his athletic feats faded, discriminated against, and forced to try to fare in a white world that made him into an icon without treating him like a man.
This book is sad in many ways, but Thorpe’s prowess and determination shine through, as does his struggle to be treated as an equal. Set during an ugly chapter in American history, this compelling story is well told by a masterful writer.