Your Favorite Books of 2022
(Plus one late-breaking contender for my list)
I shared my favorite books I read for the first time in 2022, and now, to close out the year, I want to share your recommendations. Other Feminisms will be back in the new year, though I might send a brief link to a particularly good essay or two over the holidays.
I want to thank you again for all the support that readers have given to this project. I have a very limited number of writing hours with two mobile girls who want to play with the same toys at the same time. Paid subscribers let me turn down some freelancing gigs in order to do this substack.
And it’s the commenting community that means I want to turn down better paid work to do this. You guys are the best part of my social internet. I know we have commenters who would show up to opposite sides of a protest, but who are all deeply committed to trying to do right by women and are up to explore what divides them.
In that spirit, I want to share “We disagree about abortion but with one voice support this urgently-needed law” which is an op-ed jointly written by pro-choice and pro-life activists, united in support of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). I support it, too.
If you’d like to call your congressperson, Physicians for Reproductive Health, a pro-choice group, has phone scripts that you can use or adapt, and there’s nothing in them that a pro-lifer wouldn’t endorse as well.
Sarah offered the best pitch for The Silmarillion that I’ve heard to date:
One of the themes I've been thinking of is the role of sorrow in the book and how Tolkien can interweave sorrow and beauty and hope and wisdom together in such a poignant way where the grief is itself redeemed and also permanently acknowledged.
Mary ofnamed several books, including A Good Birth by Anne Lyerly, which is based on in-depth interviews with a diverse group of moms. Mary wrote:
To use the epidural example, some women found that they needed to "tussle" with the full pain of childbirth to feel fully present and other women found that pain relief helped them to be fully present, but pretty much universally women wanted to be "present" at the birth, and that was a big part of what made the birth good or bad. I found that it helped me think more clearly about my expectations and "plans" for birth and helped me articulate why I was drawn to some things more than others. It helped me shake off lingering guilt about not doing birth "right" and put me in a better place to make decisions that were best for me and for my family and be confident in those decisions.
I’m putting it on my Other Feminisms wishlist.
Eve Tushnet recommended Stepchildren of the Shtetl: The Destitute, Disabled, and Mad of Jewish Eastern Europe, 1800 - 1939, which I put on hold back when she recommended it inand I am just starting now.
And now, some rapid-fire recommendations from your lists. (I’ve added a triple asterisk [⁂] where I can personally corroborate the recommendation):
The Case Against the Sexual Revolution by Louise Perry
Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez
⁂ Motherhood: A Confession by Natalie Carnes
⁂ Educated by Tara Westover
⁂ Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Women Are Up to Something: How Elizabeth Anscombe, Philipa Foot, Mary Midgely, and Iris Murdoch Revolutionized Ethics by Benjamin Lipscomb
⁂ War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
⁂ Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
And finally, the book I should have included on my best of the year list, but which I started reading right after writing the list: Ed Yong’s An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us.
The details about animals are fascinating, but it’s just as wonderful a book about epistemology. How do you study stimuli to which you yourself are insensitive? How does it even occur to people to extend their imagination in this way.
In one research project, scientists studying elephants have to follow them around waiting for them to pee, and then they dig up the wet dirt, so they can put it in a truck and drive it somewhere else to dump in front of other elephants to see how they respond.
The scientists can’t understand what message the elephants might be sending, so they can’t make a simulacrum. They have to settle for the thing itself, in all its complexity and weight.