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Top Five Books: Best of My Winter Reading 2022

Yesterday was the Spring Equinox, and it was a perfect spring day here in my corner of the world. (It isn't always.) We had temperatures warm enough to sit on our patio (with sweatshirts, but without Mr. Heater), and the sky was a beautiful blue. There are no leaves on any trees yet, and the daffodils are still a couple of weeks out. But I do have a couple of brave and early crocus blooms popping up in my garden. Spring is showing up ... right on time!


And that means . . . it's time for me to share my Top Five reads of winter with you. Each quarter, right around the solstice or equinox, I think back on the books I read during the previous 3 months, and I choose my top five.

Here goes: my Top Five from this winter (the link listed for each book will take you to a published review of the book):


First up, a re-read: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. I first read - and loved - this book when it was originally published in 2009. Since then, I’ve planned to re-read it . . . and I finally got around to it, now, 13 years later! I think - in my mind, at least - it has gotten even better with the years. This novel is beautifully written, the story tenderly told, with a cast of unforgettable characters and an amazing sense of place (no matter where the “place” is). It’s an epic tale of love, family, and following your passion . . . with a bit of history thrown inThis book is in the running for one of my favorite books ever. (And that’s saying a lot.) (5 stars from me -- in 2009 and still in 2022.)


Next, I've got a great essay collection by Ann Patchett: These Precious Days.Whenever I read any of Ann Patchett’s essays, I wish we were neighbors or something, and we had some chance to become friends. Because I’d love to be friends with Ann Patchett! Her writing lifts me up and makes me feel . . . better. More hopeful. Like it’s all worth going on. And that . . . is really something these days. I loved this collection of essays, and will give them a special place in my personal library so I can read them again and again. (I gave this collection 5 stars.)


Next, I've got Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez. It’s not often that you get romantic-comedy and political fiction genres to mix well, but they do - with great success - in Olga Dies Dreaming. The writing style is kinda easy-breezy, but with a punch; a pleasure to read. Well-developed characters, good pacing, and a clever plot kept me turning the pages. Racial politics play a major role, but the author does a great job keeping the storyline moving, and the inclusion/weaving in of political fact never comes off “preachy” (which is admirable). (I gave this books 4 stars.)


Next, To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara. Some of you may have taken one look at this book and run the other way (it's a hefty 720 pages), and some of you may have heard that it's kind of a mess. It's a technically brilliant novel, but definitely on the weird side. It's creative, clever, and beautifully-crafted novel; the writing is gorgeous, the characters well-drawn, and the settings are picture-perfect. It's also . . . weird. It's a very chewy read. Told in three parts (three separate novellas, actually), it's set in three different centuries. There are no overlapping characters - although the same names and settings keep appearing. (Hanya Yanagihara puts her readers through the paces with this one.) You've got alternative histories, unreliable narrators, and ambiguous endings . . . all in one package! While it won't be to everyone's taste, it's sure to be an adventure in reading if you decide to pick it up. (I gave this one 4 stars.)


Last, I've got Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. An odd choice, actually, because it's not a great book. But it does have a great message. I'd wanted to read this book since I first heard about it last year, and I'm glad I finally picked up a copy. It's a little gem! I enjoyed the easy-breezy writing style, and found it to be well-organized and full of accessible tips and practical advice. Mostly, though, I appreciated the message, which is just what I needed to hear (and share) right now. That said, this is a book-that-should-have-been-an-essay (it is often quite repetitive). Still . . . I loved it and found it refreshing and inspiring. (I gave this book 3.5 stars.)


How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of winter reading?


If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog.  You can find me here on Goodreads.  And you can read my past Top Five lists by clicking the links below:

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2021

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2021

Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2021

Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2021

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2019

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2019




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I agree with you on These Precious Days... that was really just such a delightful book. I would also add Young Mungo and Still Life... such good (and such very different) reads!

I have never heard of Cutting for Stone. Thank you for sharing!


I haven't read any of these books, though some are on my mental TBR list. My brother has raved about Cutting for Stone for years and I've been meaning to read it, so your recommendation is another good reason to finally do it because I value your perspective on books! I also want to read the Ann Patchett essay collection; it had a long wait at the library the last time I checked, but I'm guessing they've gotten more copies since then.

My favorites from the first quarter of this year (which I'm counting as "winter" to make it easy)? Still Life, Taste, Know My Name, and Inheritance -- all five-star reads.


Sadly, I did not read much this winter and most of it was fluff. I had great hopes for the Rick Bragg book I finishes last week, but to tell you the truth, it became very tedious.

He still has a great turn of southern phrase, but it was a bore of a book with too much self pity.


I've read three of these and have Olga on hold, but I'm not sure about Paradise. I would also like to re-read Cutting for Stone, but I joined the library where Ryan lives and they have been great about keeping me well-supplied with books. So many that I rarely seem to be able to fit in a re-read, but maybe sometime this year.


I've read three Sarah Winman novels (Still Life, A Year of Marvellous Ways, and Tin Man) this quarter -- all 5s -- and am hoarding When God Was a Rabbit, because once read I'll be all out of her books. May she live long, prosper and write many more books!

Rounding out my top five:

In An Instant, by Suzanne Redfearn. I liked the characters and the pacing. Ultimately, it was an interesting take on the choices we make, with all their shades of gray.

The Transit of Venus, by Shirley Hazzard (recommended here by your reader Debbie: thank you!). I'm 3/4 of the way through this, but I'm adding it to my Best 5 list right now. It is SO good.

kim in oregon

I love Ann Patchett, and agree with you, I'd love for her to be my neighbor! Cutting for Stone keeps popping up as something I must read so I guess I better add that to my list!


Thought I had posted earlier when I was at my office, but I don't see it here (I come back to see what everyone is recommending reading-wise!!). Cutting for Stone is one of those books I have come across hundreds of times - either at the library or in a bookstore, but have never picked it up. It is now on my list of TBR. Likewise with the Ann Patchett book - so many are raving about it. For me, right now, The Island of Missing Trees stands out. I've actually slowed down my reading to make the story last - LOL. The writing is so good. Fletch and I are really enjoying reading Taste after dinner, but it is (at times) a bit much (egotistical and all that). But the recipes make my mouth water!


I also enjoyed These Precious Days and Olga Dies Dreaming, in addition to those, I would add The Transit of Venus, Taste, and Graceland at Last.
I read Cutting For Stone several years ago and it might go on my ever growing list of books to re-read!


I have yet to read the Ann Patchett essays - I love her novels, and I think I've read at least one of the pieces in the book already elsewhere. If you enjoyed it, you might enjoy listening to her interview on Kate Bowler's Everything Happens podcast (last week's episode). Really delightful.

I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately. I did enjoy Agnes of Little Neon, and I'm nearing the end of Noah Hawley's Anthem (listening to the audiobook). It's very engrossing, but also disturbing and a little to close to headlines. We'll see if he sticks the landing.


I always glean so much from your book reviews and recommendations - thank you. I really enjoyed Olga Dies Dreaming and How the Word is Passed as well as The Color of Lightning and Crossroads. I think I may pass on To Paradise for now.


I thoroughly enjoyed These Precious Days. Your list is very interesting. I read Cutting for Stone years ago with my book group. I recall we had a good discussion. I also loved Migrations.


I just finished How High We Go in the Dark, one that you might enjoy. It is set in 2030 and later and tells stories of those who survived the Arctic plague. That plague was unleashed from the melting permafrost in northern Siberia (and seems to be even more awful than COVID). Some of the characters repeat, and sometimes the repeated charter was a minor character or the offspring of someone mentioned earlier. It was excellent, although sometime hard to read.

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