Books Read: January 2022

A new year and I was inundated with books this month as many of the titles I recommended my library get digitally they go the rights to, so I read more, which is pretty normal when it’s dark and cold for me. Some books I’m still thinking about in this list, especially The Midnight Library and The Matrix.

The Midnight Library

Nora Seed finds herself unhappy with her life and decides to end it all after her cat dies, but she ends up in The Midnight Library with her elementary school librarian who guides her through seeing what her life would’ve been like if she’d made other choices. And she lives in those lives until she feels unhappy in them. It’s a brilliant story where we see played out something we’ve all wondered about all our lives, what if I had done X instead of Y at a certain juncture?

Maybe that’s what all lives were, though. Maybe even the most seemingly perfectly intense or worthwhile lives ultimately felt the same. Acres of disappointment and monotony and hurts and rivalries but with flashes of wonder and beauty. Maybe that was the only meaning that mattered. To be the world, witnessing itself. Maybe it wasn’t the lack of achievements that had made her and her brother’s parents unhappy, maybe it was the expectation to achieve in the first place. She had no idea about any of it, really. (loc 1781)

The Churchill Sisters

I came across this book on a list somewhere and asked my library to get the digital rights and they did! After reading so much history that was told in a novel like way, it was an adjustment to go back to reading a more traditional history, but I did find this book fascinating. I had no idea that Sarah Churchill was the actor in one of my favorite 1950s musicals, for example. But I also didn’t know just how much Churchill’s children suffered in various ways, a reminder of possible costs of being a great man and having so much of family life revolve around him.


Like the above, I also asked my library to get this book and they did, and while I didn’t love it, it was definitely interesting. The subtitle is Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America and the author also throws in a bit of the story of Julia Child to contrast with the other women in the story. I enjoyed learning about these women and how they lived and worked within the food world of the US in the varying time periods.

Small Things Like These

An Irish tale that has seen great success and sucked me in and I read in quite quickly. It’s a short novella and it was easy to get lost in the language and ideas. Furlong is a man who never knew his father and was born to an unwed mother, but her employer took her in and helped her through the pregnancy and the raising of her son. But in the lead up to Christmas 1985 he has an experience with the convent on the hill that leaves him troubled while he’s also questioning his life and what it all means. A brilliant story that I highly recommend.

Always it was the same, Furlong thought; always they carried mechanically on without pause, to the next job at hand. What would life be like, he wondered, if they were given time to think and reflect over things? Might their lives be different or much the same – or would they just lose the run of themselves? (loc 170)

‘Where does thinking get us?’ she said. ‘All thinking does is bring you down.’ She was touching the little pearly buttons on her nightdress, agitated. ‘If you want to get on in life, there’s things you have to ignore, so you can keep on.’ (loc 375)

Was it possible to carry on along through all the years, the decades, through an entire life, without once being brave enough to go against what was there and yet call yourself a Christian, and face yourself in the mirror? (loc 869)

…[T]he worst that could have happened was also already behind him; the thing not done, which could have been – which he would have had to live with for the rest of his life. (loc 879)

A History of What Comes Next

Mia finds herself in Germany in 1945 helping to rescue Nazi scientists who’d been working on rockets and from there we learn that Mia and her mother are the latest generations of women who’ve been passing on knowledge for generations and following a set of rules that can never be broken. Unfortunately Mia and her mother do break some of the rules and they pay the price, as they move through the space race, trying to fulfill the mission of the Kibsu; to take them to the stars. I’m intrigued where this story will go in the next installment, as this first book ends with more questions than answers.


Marie, a bastard who is half sister to the Queen, finds herself dumped at a convent to become the prioress. She’s tall and not the best looking woman, but she soon learns there is a power in her role and she settles in to care for the women of the convent to the best of her ability. As we follow her life, we see a glimpse into a world of women in the midst of the Middle Ages, women who care for each other, protect each other, and accept everyone who comes their way. This book is on so many 2021 end of year lists—deservedly so—it’s a great story.

Aging is a constant loss; all the things considered essential in youth prove with time that they are not. Skins are shed, and left at the roadside for the new young to pick up and carry on. (loc 2227)

Foolish creature, old Marie would say to that child. Open your hands and let your life go. It has never been yours to do with what you will. (loc 3124)

The White Album

After Joan Didion died I realized I’d read very little of her work. A novel, her memoirs of growing up in Sacramento, but I still had yet to read others that sat on my library list. Luckily I was able to get this book of essays quickly as all her books now have long hold lists at my local library, and I slowly read through them. While reading, I read a piece in the New York Times that was critical of her, in a way I hadn’t seen before. As I continued with the essays I realized that Didion most likely is quite elite, but she’s also a great writer with a lifetime of writing that’s worth reading.