Adventure Kate contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! I’ve said several times this year that I haven’t read as much as usual. Much less, in fact — as I write this, I’ve only read about 30 books, far from my usual 60-80. One reason is because I’ve been working hard on my new site, New Hampshire Way, and developing new strategies around Adventurous Kate. To be honest, I was feeling pretty bad about it. Reading is one of the ways I introduce myself. That said, I ended up reading five books this year that really influenced me, and I want to share those five books with you! If you’re looking for something comforting to end the year, you’ll be very well served by any of these books. lets take alook! He wrote about Iceland in Benin Emondson in Akureyri, Iceland A Working Heart by Rob Delaney (2022) One night, shortly after, Rachel tells one of Henry’s caregivers, that his cancer has returned and he is going to die. I cried, “Oh no! Oh Henry! Oh Jesus Christ, no!” I recoiled from the news as if I had hit her. “No, no, no,” she continued. “Yeah, yeah,” I thought. Her response was like water in the desert to me. Rachel was from Nigeria, a mother, and a devout Christian. Perhaps one or more of these factors explained her response, I don’t know. But it beat as hell because of so many English and American responses that I and the people got when they heard the news. Many people are afraid of you when your child is dying. I preach empathy in a lot of situations, but not in this case. Maybe because my sympathy won’t do anything. Life and death will slam at their door soon enough; I really don’t know that a lecture from me about how wimpy they are would help. So, Rachel, thank you for gasping with pain and grief when you learned Henry was going to die. In the years since, I think it’s often the best response I’ve ever had. You helped me, Rachel. Yes, shout it from the rooftops. My sweet baby is going to die. Rob Delaney Actor and comedian Rob Delaney lost his two-year-old son, Henry, to a brain tumor. A Heart That Works is the story of Henry’s life, Henry’s death, and what it’s like to live with this as a parent. This is a memoir of grief unlike anything you’ve read before–or most people have ever read, as many of the reviews say. Delaney tells Henry’s story in a circular narrative, hopping back and forth in time, his feelings bouncing back and forth. It’s very sad, of course. It is filled with anger. But on top of that, this book is full of fun moments. And this is one of the main themes that I found – how can all these feelings exist at the same time. The quote above is something that will stay with me forever. It will also be the part where Delaney talks about how he and his wife had sex twice while Henry was having major surgery. And he almost never mentioned it, but you know what? They loved each other. They were afraid, they loved each other, and sometimes their love manifested itself in sex. (Delaney has since said in interviews that other couples have told him they felt guilty about having another child while their eldest child was in therapy, because they worried it would look like they were “having fun” while their child was so ill.) I don’t think other memoir writers of grief are any less honest than Rob. But this book shows a unique view of grief that I haven’t seen before. And every page of the book is wrapped in love for Henry, shining through on every page. This is my favorite book of 2022. I hope you read it too. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014) Jeevan finds himself thinking about how human the city is, how everything is human. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; It was never impersonal at all. There has always been a huge sensitive infrastructure of people, all working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the whole process stops. Nobody delivers fuel to gas stations or airports. The cars are stranded. Planes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their original points. Food never reaches the cities; Grocery stores are closed. Businesses are closed down and then ransacked. No one comes to work at power plants or substations, no one removes fallen trees from power lines. Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out. – Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven The miracle of Station Eleven is that it makes you feel hopeful after the worst has happened. In this case, the worst is a flu that sweeps the world and kills 99.99% of all people. Station Eleven picks up 20 years later with 28-year-old Kirsten. She is now a performer in the Traveling Symphony, a group that revolves around the Great Lakes and performs Shakespeare and symphonies for settlements in the region. The book goes back and forth with a number of characters all related, and a dangerous prophet threatening them all. Some of the apocalyptic books I’ve read, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind, are the scariest books I’ve ever read. devoid of hope. Station Eleven was great by comparison. Even among the dangers – 24/7 surveillance, everyone carries knives – people are kind, gentle and eager to create. People will pass after they lose everything. It left me feeling relieved afterwards. Right now, I’m watching the HBO series Eleven, and it’s totally outdone itself. It takes the story of a great novel and fleshes it out tremendously, building the world up further, correcting every little mistake in the novel (eg Jeevan being a photographer turned journalist, becoming a paramedic, which is strange and unnecessary, to just a failed blogger). I cannot recommend it highly enough. Intimacies by Katie Kitamura (2021) Interpretation can be so confusing, you can be so caught up in the details of the act, trying to maintain utmost fidelity to the words spoken first by the subject and then by yourself, that you don’t. You must understand the meaning of the sentences themselves: you don’t know what you’re saying literally. Language loses its meaning. Katie Kitamura, Intimacies Interpreter at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is the protagonist of Intimacies. She is a multilingual woman with a multicultural background, looking for a place to fit in. Soon, she is assigned to translate the testimony of an accused war criminal, as she realizes that her boyfriend may not be as estranged from his wife as she thought. This book is about the dangerous art of interpretation and how it affects our relationships. For me, the highlight of this book was Kitamura’s writing. Gentle, exuberant, and often intense, but also knowing when to hold back. Interpreting involves a lot more risk than I thought – especially in places like the International Criminal Court. It’s a fine line to walk – using a word with a partially different meaning may turn you into a different judgment. You are expected to interpret the most terrifying testimonies in as neutral a manner as possible, not letting words settle in your head. And I’m a huge fan of books about work that teach you about the ins and outs of different professions. I love that this explanation is covered so well in this book. But more than anything else, this book is about feeling uncomfortable in your surroundings and in your relationships. I enjoyed it a lot and can’t wait to read more of Kitamura’s books. Next chapter on my list. Hi Molly! By Molly Shannon (2022) I briefly dated a software developer. We’ve been to this wonderful restaurant many times and ate this delicious chicken with such various and wonderful sauces – artichoke aioli, garlic and Thai sweet pepper – and talked about anything while eating this chicken and dipping the pieces in the other sauces. Meanwhile I thought, God, I think I really love him. Then we went back again and had the same chicken and sauces – and I thought, oh my gosh, I feel like I’m really falling in love with it. Then we went on a third date to a different restaurant and I suddenly realized – now that the chicken and sauces were removed – it was kinda boring and it was the tasty chicken I liked. I like chicken. Molly Shannon, Hi, Molly! They say the seasons of SNL you remember fondly are the ones you were in high school. And Molly Shannon was the biggest star on SNL when I was in high school! I’ve had a crush on her ever since, and have been looking forward to her diary, Hello Molly! Oh, but Molly’s life! I would never have guessed she had a Dickensian background in Hollywood! When Molly was a little girl, her family got into a car accident, and her mother, baby sister, and little cousin died. Her father was a loving man, a devout Catholic as well as an alcoholic, who had no idea how to raise two young girls on his own. Molly’s father is, in fact, the star of this book. She was actually based on Mary Katherine Gallagher’s grandmother in Superstar It! If you’ve seen Molly anywhere, you know her talent is undeniable. Everyone noticed from a young age that she wanted to be a serious dramatic actress until she was encouraged to pursue comedy in college! Molly climbed the ladder to Hollywood with no connections whatsoever, with an endlessly optimistic outlook even through the struggle. I still laugh at the way she and her friend called every agent in Hollywood and pretended to be David Mamet’s assistants, getting meetings with the great directors! Or how she and her friend actually snuck onto a plane to New York when they were 12! And all the years of SNL – a lot of juicy nuggets in there. But more than anything else, this book is about Molly’s intense relationship with her father, and a life full of ups and downs, shame and deep love and acceptance. This book will take you on an unexpected journey. The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles (2018) When you have no power in this world, you must create your own, you must adapt to your environment and try to thwart the many dangers around you, so the pleasure of a woman – her smile, her grace, her cheerfulness, her sweetness, her perfumed body, her carefully modeled face–not an absurd by-product of fashions or tastes; It is a means of survival. Performance may paralyze us, but it keeps us alive. Francis de Pontes Peebles, The Air You Breathe, I love books that bring wonderful destinations to life. While my favorites are shooting Savannah at midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Air You Breathe does just as much magic with the Lapa neighborhood of 1940s Rio de Janeiro. This novel tells the story of Dores and Graça, two girls from a sugar plantation in northeastern Brazil, one poor and the other rich, both of whom are musically gifted. After eloping, they became local music stars in Rio de Janeiro’s bohemian neighborhood of Lapa before creating a samba troupe and moving to Hollywood to make it in American films. This story, like Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels or Zadie Smith’s Swinging Time, is about the intense, multi-decade friendship between two women. Throughout their lives, they are the most important people to each other. And nothing erases that, not even their loved ones, their grief, and their professional competition. There are two things this book does strongly. The first is the location, which shows mid-century Brazil in a different way than I expected, with lots of quirky and colorful characters. The second is the relationship, the longing between the two women that has ebb and flow over a period of years. If you want a book that transports you to another world, this is it. What are your favorite books you read this year?