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Top 5 reads of 2022
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It's one thing to share a year-end reading list but I'm also a sucker for a little Top 5 curation. So here is a list of five books from 2022 (and some honorable mentions) that really stuck with me this past year.
Authors: Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham
In her 1991 memoir, pioneering memory scientist Elizabeth Loftus exposes how our memories—as well as the criminal justice system—fail us when it comes to eyewitness identification and the reliability of our recollections. With co-author Katherine Ketcham, she paints a stark picture of how easily memories can be altered or implanted by suggestion, leading to false convictions and wrongful imprisonment. She has participated in some of the largest criminal trials of the past 50 years. The case she refused—alleged Nazi John Demjanjuk aka Ivan the Terrible—is a standout but full disclosure: Lotfus has worked in the defense of some truly horrible people, including serial killer Ted Bundy. The "why" is what made this book so compelling.
Author: Rebecca Makkai
So hear me out. This a tale of two timelines: one following a group of Chicago-based friends during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, the other following a woman's experiences in Paris during a city-wide emergency thirty years later. It is a devastating novel. Full stop. But so beautifully written that it becomes less about loss and more about love and joy and friendship in face of shared tragedy. A haunting reminder of how the past is always with us, in one form or another, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise.
Author: Seth Rogen
A love letter to cannabis and other drugs. Embarrassing personal and Hollywood anecdotes. But also a portrait of Vancouver in the 1980s and a firsthand behind-the-scenes take on the North Korea situation: including all the controversy around Rogen's The Interview and the Sony Hack that followed. Easy to read with lots of laughs is a hard combination to pull off but this memoir does it.
Author: Omar El Akkad
A refugee boat washes up on the shore of the Greek Island of Kos, igniting a story that unfolds forward and backward in time across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. I didn't know if I could read this novel after our film Someone Like Me was released last year: the first chapter felt like too much, too soon—though I'm glad I didn't put it down. What happens after is a captivating feat of imagination that immerses you in the global refugee crisis and a testament to how storytelling can foster understanding between cultures.
Authors: Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder MD
Some books echo across your life in unexpected ways and this is one of those stories for me. I grew up in the city where Michelle Remembers takes place. It tells the story of a young woman who starts seeing a psychiatrist in 1976 to talk about her recent miscarriage and a troubling dream. Over the course of intense therapy, she begins remembering horrific childhood abuse at the hands of her mother and a cult of devil worshippers. This was my third time reading this and it doesn't get any easier. Writing quality, narrative construction, and subject matter are all...what’s the right word…challenging. Still, it helped ignite a worldwide panic over satanic cults that has never really gone away. I'll have some more stories about this one coming in January.
Author: Jackie Ess
And now for something completely different: a mischievous and empathetic satire about manhood and marriage and the secret lives of cuckolds. If you’re finding the rest of this list all too mainstream and normy-normal for your taste, this is the novel for you.
Author: William Gibson
Set in the near and distant future through two interconnecting storylines, this took me weeks to read. The writing style (condensed, austere, not a word wasted) feels like a 100% fit with the technological dystopia subject matter. Made me think of Cloud Atlas in terms of scope and scale. It's also very different from the Amazon Prime series so don't worry about spoilers or the streaming adaptation ruining the book.
Author: Tracey Thorn
What song introduced you to electronic music? Can you pick just one? For me, it was the remix of Missing by Everything But The Girl in 1994. Their 1996 album Walking Wounded was the first time I heard drum and bass and downtempo electronica. It's hard to think of the 1990s without thinking of Tracey Thorn's unforgettable voice and its liquid melancholia. As one half of Everything But The Girl with Benn Watt, Thorn was a reluctant pop star with an uncoventional music career, and her book explores why.
Starting in January I’ll have some new stories for you. Until then, I’ll be getting my writing chops back this month with some posts about books and movies and shows from 2022. Thanks, as always, for reading. Looking forward to hearing what you think.