Top 5 Books of 2022 + Wrapping Up // 5 Fall Favorites 2022 Day 6

We’re wrapping up the Five Fall Favorites blog party today. The past few days have been a whirlwind of book recommendations, fallish discussions, and strengthened community; I’m so glad I got to participate!

In case you havenโ€™t caught the previous posts, Five Fall Favorites is an annual time for the bookish community to celebrate fall and good books. Each day has a genre theme, around which participants share five book recommendations. There is a fall-themed giveaway that you can earn entries toward throughout the week, and several authors offer freebies or deals on their ebooks during this event. If you are looking for a good book or want to revel in the autumnal aesthetic, I hope you will stick around! More details and the giveaway can be found on the hostโ€™s site/landing page, Once Upon an Ordinary.

To wrap up, we’re sharing five of the best books we have read this year (so far). And y’all, it’s finally cool enough to wear long sleeves! Yesterday morning (well, late morning) I was actually almost cold while getting gas in my car. Today’s high temperature is supposed to be in the 70s, it might rain, and it should at least be overcast for part of the day – and I am honestly so excited. I might try to eat lunch outside today if all goes well. Just in time for the finale of this blog party!

Top Five Books of 2022 (so far)

Please note that these are listed in the order that I read them, not necessarily in exact top-five order. They are all too good for me to figure that out yet!

First up is a middle-grade novel about figure skating – the perfect follow-up to watching the winter Olympics! The Comeback by E.L. Shen (2021) tells of Maxine Chen, a Chinese-American middle schooler who skates competitively, and she’s good at it. She isn’t always the best, but sometimes she is, and I think that is part of what makes this book so readable. I want to read about someone who could win it all, but who isn’t guaranteed to do so. She is always striving to do and be better because she clearly has the capability to excel, and while she has talent, this book shows that isn’t enough to get you to the top in something like competitive figure skating. I love reading books with characters who skate, and I see some of my former self in Maxine. I would have completely loved this book when I was the age of the primary audience, and I still enjoyed it very much as a young adult. However, it’s not only about skating. Maxine deals with a lot of things that are common themes in middle grade books: bullying, external and internal pressure to succeed, and schoolwork, to name a few. They’re handled well, and even though Maxine could be a little annoying at times, I highly recommend this book to middle grade or YA readers who have any interest in skating, however vague it may be.

The next book I want to talk about is one that I don’t think I would have ever considered if I hadn’t taken a children’s literature class the year before. Best Friends for Never by Colleen A.F. Venable (Katie the Catsitter #2) (2022) is a juvenile/middle-grade graphic novel about a middle schooler who is secretly a superhero’s sidekick. In the first book we met her superhero mentor and all of the cats who help her carry out her missions, and in the second book we get to know them better. On one level, this is another book about a middle schooler dealing with complicated friendships and figuring out how to get along while being true to herself and her beliefs, and on another level this is a commentary on the difficulty of always playing a support role without being recognized. You can read it as relatively deep, but it’s also just plain fun. Cats who know how to dismantle complex forces of destruction? Check. Superhero drama? Check. Fun art? Check. This is a quick read that has some meat to it if you take the time to think about it.

I described Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken (2018) as “the best book I disagreed with,” and I think that is still basically it in a nutshell. The bottom line of this book is that no church is perfect, and in all likelihood every church will have some aspect that makes you uncomfortable because the Gospel doesn’t call us to a comfortable life (which is true!). Christianity isn’t supposed to be a life of sitting in comfy chairs and calmly agreeing about everything. There is going to be tension and both God and people might ask us to do things that make us uncomfortable, like being intentional about greeting visitors. However, there are a lot of things the author describes as acceptable and even good in a congregation which I believe he is misguided about. I cannot endorse a substantial amount of the actual theology in this book, but the heart behind it and the message of following God rather than your personal preferences is so good. Similar to how Tables in the Wilderness came into my life at a time when I greatly benefitted from reading about someone in a similar situation (even if they ended up at a somewhat different view of church than I hold), Uncomfortable came at a time when I could engage with the concepts very well. Some of them I had already been thinking about; I read this book after years of looking for a congregation to belong to, and while attending the one that I would place membership with a few months later. This isn’t a book to read because it’s going to tell you the right answers about anything (although some opinions are obviously presented), but because it makes you think. It’s very well-written, and I appreciate every word. I would love to participate in a discussion group about this book with Christians from different backgrounds; I’m sure it could instigate a lot of conversation and productive thoughts, and it would be interesting to see where the points of agreement were laid out as well as the disagreements.

Completely changing gears now, the next book is Youngbloods by Scott Westerfeld (Impostors #4) (2022). This is the fourth and final(?) book in the Impostors series. It builds so well on the previous books and draws in a ton of information from Westerfeld’s previous Uglies series. Also, it is really hard to talk about this book without giving away any of the major plot points! Suffice it to say that this is a really good book, and while I understand if this is truly the end of the series, I think there is still more that could be explored in the world and I will not be surprised if there are more books in this series eventually or even another separate spin-off series.

Finally, the last book for today is also the last one that I reviewed: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip by Sara Brunsvold (2022). This book blew me away! The intergenerational friendship, sort of dual timeline, and theme of Biblically-founded encouragement make this an incredible book. I’m so glad I read Victoria Lynn’s review and decided to check out my library’s copy! I have so many good things to say about this book in my review that I couldn’t narrow it all down to a single paragraph here. Just go read my full review and know that this, perhaps more than any other book on this list, is one I confidently recommend to nearly everyone regardless of what you usually read. If you’re a Christian and read any type of fiction, and won’t be overwhelmed by a main character who is dying for the entire book, please consider it! I promise it isn’t as morose as it sounds.

Honorable Mention: Once I Knew (2022) by Victoria Lynn would definitely be on this list if I hadn’t already used it earlier in the week (here).

Blog Party Wrap-Up

Thank you to everyone who followed along with Five Fall Favorites this week, I hope you enjoyed all of the book recommendations! And a huge THANK YOU to Kate for hosting this and getting all the details put together – you’ve done a great job and I hope you enjoy a few minutes of calm and a warm drink of your choice this weekend.

Until the next chapter,

Jana

5 thoughts on “Top 5 Books of 2022 + Wrapping Up // 5 Fall Favorites 2022 Day 6

Add yours

    1. When I took a children’s lit class last year, I had the realization that maybe I hadn’t outgrown middle grade books as much as I thought – or maybe, as C.S. Lewis might say, I was growing back into them. I’m so glad you appreciate them too!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I really enjoyed The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, too. I couldn’t believe it was the author’s first book!!

    I’m not familiar with the other books, but they look interesting.

    Thank you for your lists!

    Liked by 1 person

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