Best Books of The Year

Best Books of The Year

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

In this episode, Nicole and Gayle share their favorite books they’ve read during this year 2022.

We hope you have or are having a nice winter break and we wish you a happy new year!!

As always you can find below the whole booklist they run through during the episode:

As always you can find below the whole booklist they run through during the episode:

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby | Amazon | Bookshop

Token Black Girl by Danielle Prescod | Amazon | Bookshop

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller | Amazon | Bookshop

The Push by Audrey Audrain | Amazon | Bookshop

Complicit by Winnie M. Li | Amazon | Bookshop

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams | Amazon | Bookshop

Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times by Azar Nafisi | Amazon | Bookshop

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierez | Amazon | Bookshop

Out of the Corner by Jennifer Grey | Amazon | Bookshop

This Is Not A Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan | Amazon | Bookshop

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett | Amazon | Bookshop

Eventide by Kent Haruf | Amazon | Bookshop

Counterfeit by Kristin Chen | Amazon | Bookshop

Novel Obsession by Caitlin Barasch | Amazon | Bookshop

Cover Story by Susan Rigetti | Amazon | Bookshop

Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman | Amazon | Bookshop

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro | Amazon | Bookshop

French Braid by Anne Tyler | Amazon | Bookshop

Home Stretch by Graham Norton | Amazon | Bookshop

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason | Amazon | Bookshop

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub | Amazon | Bookshop

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson | Amazon | Bookshop

*Books linked above are our affiliate links through Amazon. There’s no additional expense to you, but if you make a purchase through us a small portion of that contributes to the costs associated with making our podcast. Thanks so much for listening and for your support.


[00:00:00] Nicole: Welcome to another edition of The Readerly Report. Today Gayle and I are here with our best books of the year. That’s what we’re gonna be talking about. I thought I had something else coming. It didn’t go. All right, so Gayle mentioned briefly before the show, she usually does or we both usually have some reading stats, but we still have a couple of weeks left of the year.

So we will probably open up in January with, you know, like our, how many books we read or how many pages we read and all that other good stuff once we’ve had a chance to take a look. Gayle, are you reading anything now as we’re heading into these last couple of weeks of a year?

[00:00:45] Gayle: Yes, I am reading and I’m hoping.

In the last two weeks, I will be able to get through a few more books cuz I think I’ve mentioned before, I have some travel coming up on the 23rd. So I have some long flights and I’m hoping to get a couple more books in. But as of right now, I’m reading a book called The Long Answer by Anna Holand. and it’s kind of an unusual book.

It’s a book all about motherhood or at least pregnancy and motherhood, and it’s, I feel like it’ll be much better when I have finished it for me to describe it, but it looks at the experience of pregnancy and sometimes pregnancy loss through a couple of different perspectives. It’s a very interesting way that she tells the story, and I’ll wait again until, I guess it won’t be until January for me to really talk about it, but she sort of, Delves into a number of different women and their background and how they got to where they are and how they feel about their pregnancies.

And then sometimes, you know, bad things happen to the pregnancy, sometimes they don’t. And she, you know, it’s kind of got some interesting, like perspective shifts. So anyway, I learned about this on I think it was on a, it was either a blog or a podcast and I can’t remember which one. So it’s sort of an obscure book and I don’t think.

Most people have heard of it. But anyway, I’ll give you a full report once I finished it. And the other book I’m listening to right now is called Someday Maybe, and I’m gonna butcher this last name, Elli. And it is about a woman living in London whose husband kills himself. And that happens like literally on the very first paragraph of the book.

So not spoiling anything. And it’s about her grief after losing her husband. She is a Nigerian woman, but she’s grown up in London, so she has a very close to Nigerian family and kind of about how she’s processing this grief of her husband who has committed suicide on New Year’s Eve with no note. So leaving her very, very disoriented and, you know, horribly mournful and feeling guilty.

And I’m doing this one on audio and it’s very good on. So that’s what I’m reading right now. How about you?

[00:03:02] Nicole: Do you know that I am still reading the same book that by Katie Gutierrez. More

[00:03:08] Gayle: Than You will Ever Know or something

[00:03:09] Nicole: more than you’ll ever know. . I finish it by the end of the year. Oh my gosh. This is like a

[00:03:16] Gayle: blow

[00:03:16] Nicole: dry read for you.

It’ll be so, I so accomplished. And then I have to start on tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow. Right. Just to make sure that by the time we come back in January, I’m ready.

[00:03:30] Gayle: You know, life happens, Nicole. Like it’s okay. This

[00:03:32] Nicole: was a life happens year, you guys. It really was . Yeah, it happens. It happens to, but do you know tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow won the Good Reeds Fiction Award.

[00:03:42] Gayle: I saw that It’s winning a lot of awards, so that’ll be good. . Yeah, I’ve seen it everywhere. I was getting a lot of recognition at, you know, end of year lists or like that.

[00:03:52] Nicole: Okay. So let us get into our best books of the year. I know, Gayle, you broke yours out into a couple of categories and I have about five to six books that I think of the 20 that I read this year.

that are really. Why don’t we go through your categories first? Sure. And then let’s go through your bottom eight, and then we can just go one to one with.

[00:04:16] Gayle: The five. Okay, that sounds good. So I looked over my list and as you know, Nicole, after podcasting with me and being my book friend for , I don’t know how many years, how many decades, I tend to have like a narrow ish band of books that I read.

You are a much more adventurous reader than I am. You cross more genres, you cover more topics, you like more different writing styles. I, you know, usually gravitate toward the same type of books. And this year, I feel like was worse than ever, like, The vast majority of the books that I read are depressing family dramas.

They’re just, they’re so, they’re very depressing books. And I used, at the end of the year, I would list like all of the depressing topics that my books covered, just kind of as a little bit of a joke to be like, you know, what more could you cram into this, you know, kales of whoa. And this year was really no exception.

And it’s just with, with a couple of different pockets of, you know, aberration. There are so many depressing. Books here about bad things happening to people. . I just, it’s, it’s really like, I definitely need next year. And I know I say this a lot, but I really need to expand my horizon. I feel like you’re

[00:05:31] Nicole: back to form.

I mean there were some, these last couple of years, there’s been some times, I don’t know, you’ve been reading romance in these lighter contemporary fiction novels and I didn’t know if you were gonna go back to depressing, depressing the way you.

[00:05:47] Gayle: Well, I kind of miss those like, just because I’m finding sometimes that it all blends.

Like I looked over the list and I sort of ranked my, my spreadsheet by like, you know, stars by rating. So I could sort of just get a quick glance at where my fives and four and four and a halfs were and I had to look at that and be like, which scenario was that one? Oh, right, you. , blah, blah, blah, someone dies, blah, blah, blah.

I feel like I need some more, I need to punctuate this more with like contemporary fiction or humor or non-fiction on a non, that’s not a memoir. Cuz all of the non-fiction I read were memoirs about depressing things happening to people. Hmm. So my categories, I have eight like best books of the year and then I also have a couple of audio books that stood out to me.

And then I have three non depressing books that I think were worth mention. So do you want me to go through like the non depressing books first? Yeah. Okay. These are ones that did get me out of the Depressing Funk. The first one is Counterfeit. This is the book about the women who were involved in the counterfeit handbag scheme.

This is by Kristen Chant. It is about a woman who sort of reconnects with an old friend from college who ends up sucking her into this world of. Counterfeit handbags coming from China. I thought it was really a, a fun read. I mean, it’s not always light and frothy, but it was certainly a, a departure from the other stuff I read.

I thought very interesting to get a glimpse into this world of counterfeit bags. I knew nothing about it and then about the relationship between the two, so that was a good one. And I, you know, had a hard time putting that one down. So if, if you need a something to that you feel like to kind of like get you back into reading more.

I don’t know. More intensively. That might be a good one. I also really like the book Novel Obsession. This is about a woman who grows obsessed with another woman who, I think it was her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. And it’s just a book about obsession. It’s by Caitlin Barish. This one I had a really, really hard time putting down cause I just wanted to.

How is this gonna get resolved? It was one of those like train wreck books, you know, that things were gonna end badly cuz this obsession was just ratcheting up and up and up. But that was a great quick pallet cleanser, read that I feel like sort of. Sucked me out of this, you know, world of doom. And then the last one is Cover Story by Susan rti.

This is a not, I wouldn’t call it a thriller, it’s a story about somebody who grows close to another woman. It’s kind of reminds me a little bit of my friend Anna, cuz there’s a little bit of a mystery and a con involved in this one. I don’t wanna say too much about it, but. You know, it’s kind of that like two friends where one of them seems not to be what she appears and you spend the book trying to figure out like what’s going on here and who’s lying to whom and what’s going on.

So those three counterfeit novel obsession and cover story were pleasant departures from my usual narrow bandwidth. The books. So that is one category right there. And then I also had a category of, of standout audio books. I haven’t done my stats yet, but I would say a good third of the books I read this year were on audio, so it’s gonna end up being, you know, probably well over 20 books.

And these are the ones that I liked the most. And four, three of them were narrated by the author. So is, I find that interesting. So the first one is Out of the Corner by Jennifer Gray. This is the memoir about Jennifer Gray’s life as an actress growing up starring in a beloved movie that.

you know, has become inextricably linked with her identity and just her relationships living in Hollywood, being a star, fame, her feelings about that. So I really enjoyed that one. The second one is even Tide. Even Tide is the second book in the trilogy by Kenta Roof that starts with plain song.

This audio I just really loved. I was narrated. I’ve, I don’t have his name in front of me, but had a, an excellent male narrator that just infused this book with all of the kind of loneliness and melancholy of a Ken Haro novel. I just adored this book. Then came, this is not a pity memoir by Abby Morgan.

Is that Yeah, Abby Morgan. And this is a memoir about a woman whose husband of many years, actually at the time he was not her husband, but longtime partner of many, many years. They have two kids together living in London and he develops an illness and. Quickly finds himself in a coma for many, many months.

And so this is about her experience with his illness and with all of the stress and uncertainty of when your partner is very sick and you’re trying to kind of stay strong and keep faith. She’s got kids, so she needs to, you know, parent through this whole thing. And it’s just a memoir of that whole experience.

So it was, I thought particularly well. . And then finally, I really liked Anne patches these precious days, which is a collection of essays, also narrated by Anne Patchett. I don’t necessarily think she’s the best narrator in the world, but just these essays were so personal and I thought that hearing them in her voice was very good.

I read that back in April, and some of those stories have really just stayed with. Ever since I listened to them. So those are my four standout audios out of the corner. This is not a pity memoir even tied. And these precious. So those are my, my additional categories, and then I have my eight. Best of the year, but I feel like I’ve been talking, talking

So let’s let you get some in for top reads of the year.

[00:12:05] Nicole: I’m just gonna say this one thing and then I’m gonna , I’m gonna make you talk again so we can be even and alternate. Okay. I haven’t finished reading it. I think that if I had finished reading it, I’m kind of, I guess I’ll say I’m sipping from it.

Every now and then is a book of essays by Asar FEI called Read Dangerously, and you know her. Premise with this book is reading authors who are subversive in, in dangerous times. She writes them as a series of collection of essays to her father, who I believe has passed, or maybe he was really sick at the time.

I think at some point she’s writing some letters and he, he is, Already gone. She’s writing them. I think Donald Trump has just been elected, or maybe we’re two years into the presidency, but it’s like early into Donald Trump’s presidency, and she kind of explores all of the different ways that the environment, I guess.

Here and under that kind of leadership dovetails is or is dovetailing more closely to what is going on in Iran and what do people do and where can you re-look to and turn to and re when we’re in the middle of things that are really troubling and, and changing society in ways that we did not expect.

She always references a lot of books, like I think as she gets into. , the essays she is taking on different authors who have been subversive or who have been revolutionary for their times and have things to contribute to this conversation. I just, I love her writing and just how astute and observer that she is about politics and culture and leaving them in with literature.

So her books are always like this fascinating read. So even though I’m not finished, I really do recommend this.

[00:13:52] Gayle: Hmm. Okay. That’s what I need to do next year is read Dangerously . . All right. So

[00:13:58] Nicole: take us through

[00:13:59] Gayle: your first two. Okay. Well, one of them I actually just talked about and that is out of the corner, so, okay, good.

Knocked off the list. Right. So that was one of my favorite reads. And then the next one is a town called Solace. This is, you know, squarely in the category. Depressing, , depressing family. This one takes place in a very small town and it involves the intersection of three families, three different kind of characters, and they all live right near each other.

And you delve into the pasts and figure out how these three end up being connected. And it’s like, it’s, it’s really just sort of a small story, but it. just very poignant and it, you know, fits right in with my sad and depressing books, but I just really enjoyed it. And sometimes when you have just a really, really small ambit, like either a small town or a really tight group of people that you’re talking about, it just ends up being very compelling.

And that was the case with this one. So that’s the first one is a town called SOAs, and I forgot to mention it’s by Mary Lawson.

[00:15:16] Nicole: So I have picked out six books that I really enjoyed this year. They are in no particular order. They’re just the best books I’ve read. So I will just come up, you know, share an, an additional one as Gayle is going through her list. Are yours in order?

[00:15:31] Gayle: Did you make them? No. No order? Nope. Okay.

[00:15:34] Nicole: All right, so we’ve talked about this book quite a bit on the show.

I really enjoyed seven Days in June by Tia Williams. It is about two people who met when they were 17 years old. both had been in very difficult home situations and so they meet, they have this very seven, seven very intense days where they fall in love and are torn apart and don’t see each other for years and years and years.

But they both become authors. , the woman in the story writes vampire fiction and he writes these incredibly literary novels that have I don’t know, taken off and become very popular. . It turns out that they are going to be at the same literary conference, and that is where they run into each other again and slowly begin to get to know each other and examine what happened those seven days in June when they first met and went their separate ways, like damaged their relationship basically until they see each other again and start to see what’s.

Yeah, this book for me, it was one of the ones that I read really quickly just because I enjoyed the characters and their story. I thought they were a different perspective reading a lot of literary fiction we’re usually reading about people who have means and, and you know, are comfortable. So it was. To have a story where I was not reading about pretty much the same thing, you know, like, well, to do affluent people meeting difficult situations.

It was a little bit more gritty in the fact that these two people have really had to work to get themselves into the position that they are and based a lot of different dynamics, and they’re still carrying around and dealing with the baggage that they, that their childhoods and environments have inflicted on.

I don’t think this book came out. I think it came out in 2021, so I think that’s right. So yes, so many of you have may have already read it, but if you have not, you might want to check it out. Lots of romance, lots of sexy times too. in

[00:17:41] Gayle: this book? Yes, that’s a steamy book. Okay, so my next one is this Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub, and this is a time travel book.

Which as you know, I love, and it is about really about a woman’s relationship with her father and the time travel allows her to kind of get to know her father better, and she hopes try to figure out a way to prevent him from getting sick because. At the time, the present time, he is sick in the hospital.

So it’s really about, I viewed this book really about the fleeting nature of life and the impossibility of really getting to spend enough time with the people you love. And so it’s obviously sad and it’s, you know, mortality and loss and grief. I’ve just found it so compelling and moving. I enjoy. Her relationship with her father, I enjoyed her relationship with her best friend, which was consistent and dependable.

So there wasn’t any drama there and I just, I just thought she did a nice job delving into the main character’s childhood, what it was like being a teenager or young adult. Thought she nailed that really well. Life in New York, I was a young adult in New York and I found, you know, lots of. Elements to it that felt very familiar.

So I know that this book got a lot of attention this year. I thought it was earned. Emma’s job for me has always been a little bit hit or miss, but this one was definitely a hit. So she makes my top books of the year. Nice. Yeah. You didn’t read this one, did you? Mm-hmm. I

[00:19:21] Nicole: think I’ve only read one book

[00:19:23] Gayle: by Emma Straub.

Modern Lovers. Modern Lovers. Yes. Yeah. I think you’d like

[00:19:27] Nicole: this. So next up on my list is the Paper Palace by Miranda Callie Heller. It is one of Gayle’s, Gayle would call it Depressing . Mm-hmm. . It’s right. That would fit in my be wheelhouse. Yes. Yeah, yeah, definitely. When I tell you it is just bad thing after bad thing that happens in this book, I guess you can kind of believe it.

It’s almost like overkill. I think I felt a little bit overwhelmed at times, but I did enjoy the paper Palace. The Paper Palace is actually a place, it is a place that this family has been going for, for generations and it’s a little bit sprawling because it is, it is, you know, it’s a mother daughter, grandmother type setup, and it because they’ve been going to this paper palace for such a long time in the summer.

There are complicated relationships with. other people who live there. So at one point our main protagonist falls in love with a boy that she sees every year there towards the summer, but they both marry different people just because there is a complication in their relationship that arises. And basically the novel is slowly to unfolding how they became interested in in each other and what happened that.

we’re not able to be together and they end up married with other people. So the very beginning of the book starts out with her hooking up with with him. It’s something he’s wanted for a very long time. I think she’s kind of wanted it for a very long time, even though they are. Both married to other people and have wonderful families, but that is how it starts out.

And it just, everything is unfolding to what will she do with what has happened, you know, because now she has, she’s cheated on her husband. Is she gonna stay in her marriage? Are they gonna ride off together in the sunset? So it’s all about repercussions. But as you delve back and you go back into the past, you see her relationship with her sister.

You see the tragedies that have formed her, the tragedies that have affected her mother, that have informed her upbringing and how she negotiates all of this baggage in embracing her own family and making this critical decision. So, Spans the years. You know, you get to see them when they’re really young and how their mother is coping with situations in her life and, and it just progresses through the years.

I mean, I thought it was really, really well written, compelling, definitely interested in the stories. It is a grief factory , so there, so there is that element where it’s just like, oh my God, like one more bad thing is about to happen to this family. But I really enjoyed it was one of the best reads of

[00:22:12] Gayle: the year for.

Yeah. I remember thinking the same thing when I read that, that it was like almost too much to bear bad things that kept happening. Oh, it skates right

[00:22:21] Nicole: up to the edge.

[00:22:22] Gayle: Yeah, exactly. I have to make a correction to something I said earlier in the show when I was talking about audio and the narrators, and I said that three of them.

The three nonfiction were narrated by the author. And so actually I was wrong about one of them. This is not a pity memoir by Abby Morgan was not narrated by the author. It was narrated by a different person named Fiona Button. And I’m curious about that, why they chose not to have her do it. And I’m reminded of something I heard, I think in an interview with, I can’t remember, we might have been an interview with Julia Whelan, but I did hear somebody say that sometimes memoirs.

Too painful for the person to read cause it forces them to relive the trauma that they’ve written about. And I’m wondering if that was the case here. She, the woman who wrote that book is involved in, I think she’s a television screenwriter, so she’s clearly familiar with performing and acting and, you know, all of that.

And I’m just curious to know why that she didn’t narrate her own memoir, but anyway, just that little correction. . Okay, so my next book, family Drama French Braid by Ann Tyler, I’ve talked about this on the show a fair amount. This like so many other books by Ann Tyler is about a family in Baltimore, and the book follows the family over the course of about 60 years.

As the kids in this family, there’s three children. Grow up and start their own families. There’s not a lot that happens here. There’s no dramatic plot twists, there’s no big moments of reveal. But I think that’s what Tyler really excels at. She looks at the minutiae of life, the small moments that, you know, sometimes become more memorable than the big moments.

And when you take them in total make up, you know, a genuine life I find that she’s extremely empathetic. She’s really good. Family dynamics and relationships and identities within a family. And this book was no exception. So if you’ve read Anne Tyler and liked her in the past and, you know, have been curious about this one, I think she’s still very much on top of her game and I just really love this book.

[00:24:36] Nicole: All right, so next up for me is the Push by Ashley O Drain. This book was pretty much all over the place. I think everyone. If you’ve seen the cover, if you haven’t read it it is about this young family, this woman who has two children and one she suspects is not all together a good person, I guess she seems a little bit of a male, a malevolent force, and of course it’s one of these books that.

With this examination of motherhood, it’s one of those things where you do kind of wonder if she is a reliable narrator. If things happen, the husband never seems to, you know, catch the daughter in the act. You know? So there is mistrust developing between the two of them because he just feels like she needs to loosen up and make more of an effort with their daughter, which is a source of friction with them.

And of course, she wonders the same thing herself, you know, like. Am I being too hard on my child? Is she really doing the things that I suspect that she’s doing? And just navigating those feelings, like what it does. It’s an examination of motherhood and I guess the cheery aspects that we put on it. And what happens when you don’t find that ease within motherhood like so.

Is she imagining things? Is she making her daughter out to be worse than she is? You know, does she just miss being single or not single, but when it was just her and her husband together? She eventually has another child further friction and like her further tragedy in the family that has her questioning everything that she knows about raising, raising her child, and you know what that meant for her relationship.

definitely. So suspenseful and I feel like can be one of those that you kind of just, I, I don’t know. I read with like a sense of dread and fear . Mm-hmm. . So if you can, you know, if you think you can stomach that around motherhood and around children, like if that’s not a trigger for you at all, then I would recommend this.

But I don’t know, I if I, I probably tread carefully if I were a new. .

[00:26:52] Gayle: Yeah. That was a adrenaline rush of a book. Mm-hmm. . It’s good. I’m glad that it ended up on your list, .

[00:26:59] Nicole: Yeah, it was something else. Definitely. You know, she was a debut for her too. Wow. I, I don’t think I realized that.

[00:27:05] Gayle: I think she works in book publishing, so she’s clearly around books a lot.

But that’s her first book. Okay, so my next one is Chorus by Rebecca Kaufman. It was my first five star book of the year, and again, right in my wheelhouse, family dynamics, multiple viewpoints, shifting timelines. In this book, you have a family of seven kids living in a, on a. Small town farm with a very depressed mother, and the mother takes her life very early on in the book, so that’s not a spoiler.

So the book is really just about these seven kids and how they kind of cope. How do they. Handle their mother’s death. How do they, you know, live and sort of start their own lives and their own families from there? It is a quiet novel. It’s told very simply. It kind of jumps from person to person.

with vignettes into their lives, looking at small moments, kind of the same way that Ann Tyler does. I kind of compare Chorus and French braid a lot. Those two books are very similar to me. I loved her writing, which I found to be verging on poetic and her ability to create complex, memorable characters with just a few words.

And she, you know, she would kind of take a chapter and just look at one small moment in a character’s life, but you would really learn so much about that character just in that one little chapter. So that when the character appears years later as a secondary character in maybe one of the other siblings stories, you still felt like you really understood and knew where the other, where that person was coming from does not end on a sad note.

It has a hopeful, a hopeful finish, which is not always the case with everything I read and I just really like this one. I’ve also read The Gunners by Rebecca Kaufman, but I preferred this one. So this one’s Chorus by Rebecca Coffin, and I did not see this getting a ton of attention this year. So if you missed it in 2022, you know, maybe try to squeeze it in next year.

That sounds like a good

[00:29:10] Nicole: one. . Yeah,

[00:29:11] Gayle: I Did you read the gunners? I can’t

[00:29:12] Nicole: remember. No, I didn’t. I wanted to read that one too, but it sounds like

[00:29:17] Gayle: she, did you read that one? I did. And I liked it, but I liked this one. Okay.

[00:29:23] Nicole: And is this her second book or is this like our third?

[00:29:25] Gayle: No, she’s written other ones, including one called The House on Fripp Island, which I did not read, but I read.

Okay. Oh, I read that one. Oh, you did? Did I? Now I have

[00:29:34] Nicole: to look. So I’ve read a book by Rebecca Kaufman. It’s the House on Fri Island. It’s a story of, I think these two women have been friends for a very long time, but they are in. socioeconomic circumstances and backgrounds. And so there’s, you know, one family is wealthy and one family is not, and they’ve like always, like one friend has always wanted them to vacation together, but of course, you know, the other can’t pay her way.

So she said no and. , I think the rich family wins a vacation or something, so she invites her friend and of course, since it’s not anything that the other friend is paying for, she agrees to go. And it’s like what happens over the course of their stay at this, at this island? It was, it was really

[00:30:22] Gayle: interesting.

Mm-hmm. Okay. I’m gonna add that one to the.

[00:30:26] Nicole: Next up on my list is Blacktop Wasteland by Sa Cosby. I don’t feel like, I’m not gonna talk about this one too much cuz it came up last week when we were doing our superlative shows, but I really, really enjoyed this novel. It is a page turner. It is about this mechanic who is trying to walk the straight and narrow path.

He used to be a getaway car driver. His family has, you know, or not his family, but he has a history of that with his father, who is also a getaway car driver who has disappeared mysteriously and that has always kind of left this ache in his son. But, He has left that life to raise a family. He’s like married his, his childhood sweetheart.

They have two children. He also has a daughter from a previous relationship who’s going to be going off to college, and he really wants her to be able to go and put distance between them and their small town in Virginia. And, but he falls on hard times, like things are not as easy as they had been. He has competition down the road with a new mechanic shop that has opened up and is undercutting his prices, and so he gets an offer that he can’t.

Refuse. Like he will be able to get his business back on track, send his, give his daughter some money to go to college and just like get back to where he feels like he can go back to being a mechanic. Of course, the job does not go the way he thought it would, and it raises all kinds of questions about his identity, like whether it’s even possible to walk away from.

A life of crime and to have a legit life, you know, especially as a black man in a southern town dealing with issues that come up that are, you know, directly related to who he is. So it was a really good book. It was, it was such a page turner. It was one of those that was just kind of tempted to read a little bit of head, just to ease my mind.

he has another one that I really wanna read too, and it’s about, I think it’s about one black father and one white father. And what they go on like this revenge tour when they’re, when their sons, you know, their sons I think are married or they’re in a relationship but their sons are killed and they kind of team up to to find out who’s behind it and give out some payback.


[00:32:48] Gayle: I remember reading about that. I think it’s called like

[00:32:51] Nicole: Razor Top something. Razor Top tiers, or.

[00:32:54] Gayle: Yep. Raz. Yeah, I remember reading about that one. Sounded so painful.

[00:33:05] Nicole: you didn’t run to it. Oh, it’s called Razor Blade

[00:33:07] Gayle: Tears. Razor Blade Tears. Yeah. Okay, so my next one is called Homestretch by Graham Norton. I have also talked about this on the show before. I picked this one up because one of the categories on my reading challenge is book discovered in a bookstore.

So when I was in one of my favorite bookstores, which is Island Bookstore in koala, North Carolina, I just was. Browsing the shelves, picked this one up, had not heard anything about it. Read the book jacket description and bought it. And it turned out to be one of my top books of the year. So this is a book about a car accident that takes place in Ireland, in which a number of people are killed.

And they’re all young. They’re like just in, you know, seniors in high school. So a number of people in the car. Die. And then there are some two survivors and you follow the lives of the guy who was driving the car and the other survivor of the car, as well as the families of the people who were killed.

And so this is just, you know, right up my alley, family drama. And it’s really about you know, You handle grief identities, lots of secrets that are kept over many years and how those secrets corrode relationships and make people feel, you know, differently than they might not otherwise. It was just a, a very satisfying book.

He’s a very realistic writer, lots of detail, and same as Anne Tyler full filled with empathy for his characters. It was you know, just totally up my alley. Character driven family saga. So I remember this one really well. It stuck with me. I, I think I read it. Let’s see, when did I, I reviewed it in August, so it’s been several months now since I finished it.

And I just really enjoyed it. I’ve recommended it to a lot of people and they’ve liked it as well. I had no idea that Graham Norton is like the Jimmy Fallon. Ireland or England. He has a very, very famous and well-known talk show, and I, yeah, we

[00:35:22] Nicole: felt like we had heard that name. Like, yeah, I mean, I knew I definitely had,

[00:35:28] Gayle: yeah, I’d heard, I guess the name was similar, but I had no idea.

Like I’ve seen some clips of his show. He sort of sits and has a. Relatively small couch next to him. And one time he had like Bono and Taylor Swift. You know, like he’s so good. He doesn’t need to spread out the A-list guests. Like he’ll have them all on the same show . Cause clearly he’s got enough a-listers to fill the next, you know, the next show’s couch.

So he’s obviously very well known and he seems very entertaining and funny. But he’s also a very talented writer. And this is not his first book. So

[00:36:03] Nicole: are you gonna start watching his. .

[00:36:05] Gayle: Well, I don’t know if I can get it, but maybe I could watch clips of it. I would watch it. Yeah. , that’s good. So that is Home Stretched by Graham Norton.

[00:36:15] Nicole: Okay, so the next book on my list, I’ve also discussed quite a bit, token Black Girl by Danielle Prescott. It’s the only non-fiction on my list. It’s a memoir and it is about, I mean, the title, it tells you what the book is about, . It is about this young woman who has grown up in situations where she is usually the only black girl in her.

Or in her community and she grows up in a wealthy white community. So she talks a lot about what she picks up and what is modeled for her as she’s growing up and how she kind of internalizes all of this hatred against herself and the ways that it expresses herself as she goes from high school and into her career, which is in magazines, I think in the nineties she, she nineties or late nineties, early 2000.

Or maybe is the timeline even further up thinking how old she is. So maybe in the early 2000 she was in high school and, and then the 2010 she was working in magazines like Vogue, or Teen Vogue and Cosmo and I can’t remember the last one. I think she worked So, and she just talks about her experiences and how.

they really exacerbated her relationship with food, her relationship with her body. As I’ve said before, what I really like about this memoir is that she is very honest in the ways that it shaped her personality and made her something of a mean girl, or very competitive and just not always that nice.

One of the interesting things, other interesting things about this memoir is how tightly she holds it. Because even though she knows. , you, you know that she has a sister and her family is in there briefly. It really is focused on her experiences and sometimes I think it would’ve been a little bit richer if we knew, like her interactions with her family on a as considered way or daily as we did her relationships with her classmates and coworkers.

So I don’t know if that was protective over them, but there were were times when I wanted to know a little bit more, but it’s, it’s such. Memoir, so you should check it out.

[00:38:32] Gayle: Okay, so my next one is Sorrow and Bliss. Which is by Beg Mason, and it is a novel about a woman who has mental illness and it delves into her mindset and what it is like to live with this illness.

It is a sensitive and sympathetic treatment of a often unlikable woman, but she’s also very funny. So there’s lots of humor throughout the book, so I know it sounds super depressing and it’s, it’s really not. It is just a very honest and illuminating and incisive book that takes a look. You know, a very specific condition.

The illness in the book is never actually named and in fact, I think it’s made up. I don’t think she actually, you know, based it on any real thing cuz she didn’t want the reader to kind of attach their own perceptions or experiences with a particular illness. To this character. Her name is Martha.

It’s, the book jumps around a little bit, so there’s lots of discussion at the present, but then lots of flashbacks to her childhood and her relationship with her husband, with whom she has decided to part ways when the book opens. So it’s just, it’s kind of a swirling, you know, Like a kaleidoscope of experiences and emotions and I just thought it was incredibly well done.

So I know a lot of people have read this book and really, really liked it, and it was very high on my list this year.

[00:40:10] Nicole: Sounds good. All of these sound great. I’m gonna have to, I’m not gonna even start that. couldn’t even say that sentence. . . All right, so the last book I have is Complicit by Winnie Emily. It is about a young woman who had a career in the movie business, but she is now working as a teacher in a college.

She’s teaching an intro to film class. She once worked on a movie with a very famous actress and an equally famous producer, and she is now being asked by the New York Times to. Contribute and, and provide background on a me too like story. So she is considering her experiences in in film when she used to work at this production company when she was a producer on the film in question.

this is a really quiet story. I think it’s like it’s build as a me too story and there’s definitely that element there that it’s building to, but I think more than that, it’s the coming of age story of this young woman who she went to an Ivy, I think she has spent. Her career at Columbia and you know, her family RE is really expecting her to do something, I guess in the business world with that.

So they’re a little bit de disappointed or baffled when she decides that she wants to go into film. But she’s always loved film. So as much as it’s about it as it is about these other things that go on, it’s a little bit about how naive she is, how the cultural differences might have played a part in how.

Felt that she had to remain silent about certain things. Like you just get so much about people. You know, when you’re in your first job and you’re trying to prove yourself and you’re in an industry that is just very flashy and very impressive, how easy it is to not always see that you’re in dangerous situations.

To not always know what to do when you’re in those situations and just, you know, who has responsibility in things like that. So it’s very, I would say it’s kind of like, more than a Matt Lauer situation. It’s like a Harvey Weinstein situation where you have, you know, a young actress, young producer, , you know, tons of things going on around them, and just how do you navigate all of that?

[00:42:38] Gayle: All right, well, I think we’re at my last one, which is my favorite book of the year, and that is, so the list was not ranked but , but this is the favorite. This is my favorite, and I’ve talked about this one on the show. So this is no surprise. And this is Signal Fires by Danny Shap.

[00:42:55] Nicole: I know, but I didn’t hear it.

I was like,

[00:42:57] Gayle: Hmm, what happened to that one? So like homestretch, this book opens up with a car accident. It also involves secrets that emanate from that car accident and talks about the lives of the people involved. For decades to come. So it is in many ways similar to home stretch. It is, you know, typical Danny Shapiro, very character driven filled with empathy for her characters and really about, you know, the passage of time and familial ties and.

Identity within one’s family and aging. And mortality and grief. So same themes that have really come up in a lot of the books that made this list. But I just adore her writing. I found this one very hard to put down and it was for me, like my, you know, perfect novel. So

[00:43:57] Nicole: how many was that? It was like 14, 15.

Well, plus your others. So we have left you with quite a collection of books to consider . Yes. That we thought were really, really good. So if you have the opportunity and you have a long break ahead, these are the ones that we would put forth for you to enjoy in your time off. Or if you need something to round out your, if you are doing a reading challenge, something to round that out.

the rest of this year, and so next year we will be back. Yes. We’ll be back. We’re gonna take a bit of a break,

[00:44:33] Gayle: right? Taking the next few weeks off. I’m traveling. What, Nicole, what are you doing over the break?

[00:44:38] Nicole: I’m traveling, but it’s gonna be traveling where I am gonna be off two weeks at the end of this year, so I’m probably just.

Put some things in order in the house, see my family, and then I’m just gonna make a game day decision on going someplace.

[00:44:53] Gayle: Oh, fun.

[00:44:54] Nicole: Can’t wait to warm to lay out. Yeah. Where I land, it was so difficult. Like I was considering so many places that I think I just overwhelmed myself. Got it. And could not make a choice.

I was just like, whatever. I’ll just decide when I’m ready to go. .

[00:45:13] Gayle: Yeah, so we’ll be back in January and we’ll have our reading stats for the year and I can update you on where I landed with my challenge. I still have two more books to go with that, so I’ve gotta get cracking cuz it’s like two more weeks of the year.

And we’ll have some reading goals for next year. Maybe talk about some particular books we wanna read or some themes we wanna. and we’ll also do our book club discussion of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow by Gabrielle’s Evan and our winter preview. So we got lots of good things coming in January and until then, we hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and a very happy New Year and we will be back in January.

[00:45:59] Nicole: Happy reading. Happy reading.

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