Top Five Powerful Books I Read in 2022

In a slightly different approach to a yearly reading list recap, I thought I’d mention my top five powerful books I read in 2022. I first saw this on Stephen’s blog at Stephen Writes and I thought it was a brilliant idea. Basically this is a short list of books that left a strong impact on me, whether emotionally or educationally. As Stephen so eloquently puts it, the writing style also had an impact on how well I connected to a book. I think it’s fair to say that these books would also be included in a “favorite books of 2022” list.

Though December isn’t quite over, at this point in time I don’t really have any reading plans that might potentially upend this list. I have one last BBNYA book to finish, but I can’t talk about it, so naturally I wouldn’t be able to include it here anyway. And my only other plan is to finish the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman.

With that said, here are my top five powerful books I read in 2022, in no particular order.

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

I requested this book on a whim from NetGalley earlier this year. I had no idea what to expect, but this book is stunning. It’s a historical fiction that takes place mainly in the United States in the 1880s during the Chinese Exclusion Act. Daiyu, the main character, is kidnapped in China and brought to the U.S. to be a prostitute. But she escapes, hides her identity, and keeps her head down to make a living for herself. But no matter how invisible one tries to make oneself, it’s difficult to escape hate. The writing in this book is absolutely beautiful. And even though it’s not a happy story, Zhang delivers Daiyu’s story to the reader with grace and empathy. You can read my review here.

The Dark Queens by Shelley Puhak

the dark queens

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen me hype up this book several times. Not only did this book reawaken my interest in medieval history, but it’s a fantastic narrative nonfiction about two 6th century queens. I found this book particularly significant because it is difficult to firmly convey what occurred during the early Middle Ages. So the author had to do a good amount of research and apply a female lens to tell the stories of Brunhild and Fredegund as something other than accessories to their husbands’ power. You can read my review here.

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

I went into this book not expecting much since the reviews I skimmed through prior to reading it were middling. However, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the level of detail and atmosphere Blake wove into THE ATLAS SIX. Dark academia isn’t a fantasy subgenre I typically reach for (for no particular reason). But I just might seek it more often after reading this. THE ATLAS SIX is full of pretentious, spoiled, complicated characters, each competing for a prestigious spot in a secret society. It’s brooding, tense, and beautifully written. Though I’m not on TikTok, I believe this was a BookTok sensation, and I feel it’s justified in this case. For more thoughts, read my review here.

Ejaculate Responsibly by Gabrielle Stanley Blair

This short book wasn’t on my radar at all until my sister-in-law sent it to me while I was ill at the end of October. Yes, the title is absolutely meant to grab your attention. Within this book are short, approachable chapters that introduce a topic about why pregnancy prevention should shift more to the man than the woman. There was, in my opinion, some very convincing reasoning offered by the author. The crux is that women bear the brunt of the responsibility for birth control. Yet all pregnancies occur due to irresponsible ejaculation.

This book certainly doesn’t absolve women of all responsibility. But the medical side of the arguments won me over. Consider that women are fertile for literally hours out of a day whereas men are fertile at all times once reaching sexual maturity. Consider how difficult, time-consuming, sometimes painful, and expensive it is for women to obtain birth control. Compare that to how easy and simple it is to obtain birth control for men, not to mention that it’s less harmful to their bodies. Dare I even mention that a pill for male birth control never rolled out because they couldn’t handle the side effects? That is, the same/similar side effects women have dealt with for the past 60 years just so we could have reproductive autonomy?

I could go on, and I’m not phrasing the arguments as eloquently as the author. But I think you can tell I might get too passionate here. I didn’t write a book review for this one, but I encourage you to read it. You can easily read it in one day if you have the time.

Jane Against the World by Karen Blumenthal

And, staying with the previous topic, I read this book after the U.S. Supreme Court axed Roe v. Wade. This book isn’t specifically about that pivotal court case. But it’s a succinct, approachable history to women’s reproductive rights. Blumenthal writes about the motivations behind criminalizing abortion (money and xenophobia). She describes how laws passed in the late 19th century had a detrimental effect on women’s knowledge of their own bodies. Naturally, since the following is unfortunately so inherent to the issue, she also covers how banning abortion has a significantly more negative impact on those who are economically depressed. And, of course, this book looks at how various Supreme Court justices interpreted the Constitution and the effects this had on the abortion topic. For more thoughts, read my review here.

Have you read any of these books? What was a powerful book you read this year?

7 thoughts on “Top Five Powerful Books I Read in 2022

  1. Thank you so much for mentioning my post, Celeste! It’s wonderful that it inspired you to write your own ? I’ll try and check out some of these books, they sound great!

    1. You’re very welcome! I thought it was a wonderful idea and felt inspired to do the same. Enjoy your reading these last 2 weeks of the year! 🙂

  2. I’ll be honest, I came to finally hear an opinion on The Atlas Six (which I’m definitely moving up to the top of my pile; I’ll need SOMETHING full of magic brats after I finish Nona The Ninth), but Four Treasures Of The Sky really caught my attention, I’m gonna check that out directly. Thanks for the recs!

    (Also reproductive rights are human rights; I’m so sorry that those two reads were unknowingly prescient, and wish I had some optimistic cheer to offer re: prising bodily autonomy from the skeletal grip of this nightmare country)

    1. Oh, I loved THE ATLAS SIX a lot more than I thought I would. For once I actually savored a book rather than binged it. The writing is just so eloquent and I wasn’t expecting there to be more than a dash of philosophy or metaphysics, which normally would put me to sleep, but was done so well. If you end up reading it, I hope you enjoy it.

      Yes, FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY is amazing. It’s sad, but a great read. I wish it had received more attention than it did. I saw that it came in last in its category on the Goodreads Awards this year. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. The author writes beautifully.

      And thanks for your kind words re: the books about reproductive rights. I anger-read JANE AGAINST THE WORLD, which actually was a great primer on the history of those rights. I enjoyed it so much I bought my own copy to refer to.

    1. Yes!! It’s a great look into part of Early Medieval history. It’s just amazing how many moving parts and personalities everyone had to account for.

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