I started the year with a burst of philosophical ambition, thanks to Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, a clever and surprisingly quick read that turns the self-help genre on its head. And yet because I am but a lowly mortal, I boomeranged back to the most desperate kind of self-help with Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin’s Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks’ Old, a goofy little handbook that gave us new parents the confidence we needed to start sleep training when the time was right. Scott Hershovitz’s Nasty, Brutish and Short: Adventures in Philosophy with My Kids made me smile and daydream about the conversations I’ll have with Maeve as she grows older.
Novels helped me escape, starting with Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, which was a fitting parable about the importance of stories. I further flirted with sci-fi in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, which threatened to break my heart. Kawai Strong Washburn‘s Sharks in the Time of Saviors kept me company in the wee hours while breastfeeding, as did Ash Davidson’s Damnation Spring. I finally fell for the allure of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, which gave me more relief than I’d expected. Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson kept me glued to the couch, and Vladimir by Julia May Jonas had me howling with laughter and gasping in shock. I loved the beauty and hope (and the nuns) of Lauren Groff’s Matrix. Laura Warrell’s Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm read like a jazz song.
I read a bunch of books on motherhood and art and identity — the central theme of my year. Jessamine Chan’s The School for Good Mothers hit a little too close to home, but was devastatingly good. I laughed out loud at the release and the wildness of Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch and liked Amelia Morris’ Wildcat, in a similar vein. Alison Gopnik’s The Gardener and The Carpenter provided helpful context that I’ll be thinking about for years. I’m grateful for The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood by Krys Malcolm Belc, a powerful read. Ryan and I both appreciated Courtney Martin’s Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter’s School and we both read Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change by Angela Garbes, too. I hadn’t heard of Jessi Klein before 2022, when I read I’ll Show Myself Out: Essays on Motherhood and Midlife. It was entertaining, but I’d recommend the opening essay (a gold standard, to me) before the entire collection. Sally Mann’s Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs gave me a lot to think about, although I wish I’d read it in print instead of ebook format. (I’ve written more on a few of these books here.)
A few more memoirs: I’d been waiting to read Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford for a long time, and it was beautiful. I gobbled up Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile, which made me seek out the accompanying playlist immediately. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy was both tragic and hopeful, and Burn Rate: Launching A Startup and Losing My Mind by Andy Dunn had an incredibly clear description of living with bipolar disorder. Remarkable writing.
I read The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life by Mark Epstein, M.D., thanks to this review by Oliver Burkeman. I took Sherry Turkle’s The Empathy Diaries off of my shelf for the first time and found myself fascinated by the history of psychoanalysis alongside the author’s own story. Late this year, I read and really admired Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker.
Here are a few final books that didn’t quite seem to fit in other categories: Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Havrilesky, which made me work for it, although by the end I appreciated the ride (a fitting metaphor for marriage, perhaps?) I enjoyed Having and Being Had by Eula Biss, an author I always admire. I also read the classic novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
I’m always eager to hear book suggestions, ideas, and reviews. Send ’em if you’ve got ’em!