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December 2022

The Best Books We Read in 2022

Read time: 6 minutes
The Alumni Association staff share their 2022 book recommendations.

As another year comes to a close, the staff at the Alumni Association took a look back on some of the best books we read this year. From fascinating historical fiction to remarkable nonfiction, here are our favorite book recommendations of 2022. 

The Warmth of Other Suns

by Isabel Wilkerson (Vintage, 2011) | Recommended by Corie Pauling 

It is a mesmerizing commemoration of the Great Migration told from three life accounts and masterfully weaving in jaw-dropping empirical research.

Description from the publisher: In this beautifully written masterwork, the Pulitzer Prize–winner and bestselling author of “Caste” chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of Black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

Cover of "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
Cover of "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow" by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

by Gabrielle Zevin (Knopf, 2022) | Recommended by Katie Frankhart
 
You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate this story about two childhood friends who become legendary video game designers. Everyone can relate to the desire to lose themselves in a fictional world when they want to escape the weight of the real one, and everyone knows what it feels like to wish for a chance to try again; endless chances, endless restarts. I love how this novel blurs the lines between reality and play, telling stories within stories about friendship, creativity, identity, and disability.
 

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power 

by Robert Caro (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) | Recommended by Jeremy Carroll 

I’ve long been fascinated with past U.S. presidents, and Robert Caro’s multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson is perhaps the most detailed account of the life of one of our former presidents. This year, I finished the fourth volume of the series, “The Passage of Power.” This book specifically highlights Johnson’s campaign for the presidency in 1960, his years sulking as vice president, his feud with Robert Kennedy, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and then does a deep dive into the first weeks of Johnson’s presidency.

Caro does a marvelous job of showing the reader what a flawed man Johnson was, but also highlighting his incredible leadership in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

I highly recommend the entire series and, like many others, can’t wait for the fifth and final installment to be published.

Cover of "The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power" by Robert A. Caro
Cover of "Carrie Soto is Back" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Carrie Soto is Back 

by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine Books, 2022) | Recommended by Katherine Fiorillo 

“Carrie Soto Is Back” is the story of a tennis star, once the best tennis player in the world, whose record for most single Slam wins has just been tied by a young up-and-comer. Though she’s now far older than the other players, has an old and threatening knee injury, and hasn’t trained in years, Carrie decides to come out of retirement to defend her record and once again take her place as the best tennis player in the world.

But this isn’t really a book about tennis. It’s about Carrie’s journey to accept herself and all she’s accomplished and let it be enough for her. 

“Carrie Soto is Back” is for any reader who struggles to feel like they’re enough no matter how much they’ve already accomplished. It will speak to the unsettled, the uncomfortable, and the discontent. While discontent can fuel us to reach greatness, it doesn’t always serve us when what we truly need is peace.

Olga Dies Dreaming 

by Xochitl Gonzalez (Flatiron Books, 2022) | Recommendation by Haley Briggs 

Not just historical fiction, or a romantic comedy, or a journey of identity, this book bends genres. The debut novel by Xochitl Gonzalez has appeared on several best of 2022 lists and will not disappoint.

Description from the publisher: It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are bold-faced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers. Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. 

Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Xochitl Gonzalez’s “Olga Dies Dreaming” is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream—all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.

Cover of "Olga Dies Dreaming" by Xochitl Gonzalez
Cover of "The Surgeon's Daughter" by Audrey Blake

The Surgeon’s Daughter  

by Audrey Blake (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2022) | Recommended by Caitlin Glimco 

Nora Blake is the only female student at the prestigious University of Bologna in the 19th century. It was fascinating to learn medical details from the time and learn about how women were both able to achieve more than you’d suspect given the strictures of the time, but still faced discrimination and an uphill battle to achieving professional roles. Bonus, I studied at the University of Bologna as part of a program that included University of Michigan students. It was very fun to revisit the city and read about places I had seen in person.

Facing the Mountain 

by Daniel James Brown (Penguin Books, 2022) | Recommended by Caryl Wilfong

What I like about “Facing the Mountain” is that it tells the story from the beginning of the attack on Pearl Harbor and how the families and different generations of each family were treated and the effects it had on the Asian population. Even though I had learned of the “camps” that this group was placed in, it is a great eye-opener as to how they were treated.

 
Cover of "Facing the Mountain" by Daniel James Brown
Cover of "The Once and Future Witches" by Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches 

by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook, 2020) | Recommended by Jessica Jimenez-Brown

This was one of my first  dips into the genre of feminist fantasy but if you love magic, sisterhood and women fighting for the right to vote and use magic, it’s simply wonderful.

Description from the publisher: In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters ― James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna ― join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote―and perhaps not even to live―the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive

Build 

by Tony Fadell (Harper Business, 2022) | Recommended by Lily Nazarian

Fun fact: the author of “Build” is actually a U-M alum. I am very interested in entrepreneurship, minored in it for undergrad, and found this book very insightful.

It is always great to hear real advice from real entrepreneurs who have been able to become someone and achieve their dreams. This book basically acts as an inanimate mentor for people at different points in their career whether they are starting, in the middle, or looking to make a shift!

Cover by "Build" by Tony Fadell
Cover of "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison

The Invisible Man

by Ralph Ellison (Random House, 1952) | Recommended by Gregory Lucas-Myers

If you have not revisited this classic since high school – or have not experienced it at all – I cannot recommend it enough. The anonymous protagonist’s journey is inexorably tied to the Black American experience, but it speaks just as strongly to anyone trying to make their way in a world of changing circumstances and forces beyond one’s control.

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