Monday, December 12, 2022

The Boswellians' Top 5 Books of 2022 - Part Four

So many top 5 picks!

Margaret Kennedy brings us romance and adventure for the holidays.

#1 Portrait of a Thief by Grace D Li. Margaret writes: "Compelling and personal, Grace D Li’s Portrait of a Thief tells the tale of five Chinese American college students as they confront the meaning of identity and attempt to pull off a heist that will shake the world. Will Chen, an art history major at Harvard, and four of his friends are offered a dangerous opportunity from a wealthy Chinese businesswoman - steal back art that was stolen from China, which western museums refuse to return. Li keeps the action rolling as the heist is pulled off and yet is able to explore each of the five friends’ motivations for agreeing to this lucrative deal. The characters are motivated by their place in the Chinese American diaspora, yet each has their own complicated relationship with their heritage. As the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, they grapple between what is expected of them and what they want as the try to do the impossible and shape history in the process."

#2 A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland makes its second appearance on the Boswell top 5 blogs. Margaret doesn't have a write-up for us, so let's go with the Indie Next bookseller quote, from Katie Elms, Bookbug, Kalamazoo, MI: "A sizzling romance that had me on the edge of my seat! Kadou and Evemer are compelling and their world is full of delightful intrigue. Themes of fealty, forgiveness, and the true value of things make this an unforgettable adventure."

#3 A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting by Sophie Irwin. From People magazine: "Bridgerton fans will swoon over this entertaining romp through Britain’s Regency-era high society." Yes, I also have noticed how often I've found myself using pull quotes from People in the past year. Kudos to their book reviewing staff writers, who are really, really good and writing snappy one-liners about books. This debut follows the adventures of an entirely unconventional heroine who throws herself into the London Season to find a wealthy husband.  But the last thing she expects is to find love.

#4 Red, White & Royal Blue: Collector's Edition by Casey McQuiston. We do, indeed, allow top 5 throwbacks for special editions, and this one is particularly special to Margaret. The special hardcover edition of McQuiston's beloved New York Times bestselling novel, featuring illustrated endpapers, an all new Henry-POV chapter, and more. When the book was originally released in 2019, it was selected as a best book by: Vogue, Vanity Fair, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, BookPage, Kirkus, Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, and She Reads. Wow, right?

#5 A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall. This is lush, sweeping queer historical romance that's perfect for Bridgerton fans. From the starred PW review: "The period banter is unparalleled as Hall pulls his characters out of the drawing room and into far closer quarters. He explores difficult subjects with a sharpness matched only by the tenderness underpinning the relationship between Viola and Gracewood. Fans of Lisa Kleypas and anyone looking for romance centering trans characters owe it to themselves to check this out."

Next bookseller on the list is Kay Wosewick, one of our most prolific book recommenders. 

#1 The Alpha Female Wolf: The Fierce Legacy of Yellowstone's 06  by  Rick McIntyre. Kay writes: "This is McIntyre’s fourth book documenting the return of wolves to Yellowstone. Female 06 is unusual from the start: she leaves her natal pack when very young, lives alone for several years, and snubs many suitors. Eventually she chooses brothers 754 and 755 to settle down with, another unusual, yet auspicious, decision. Fierce, fast, fair, and famous, 06 is the epitome of a female alpha wolf. You will fall in love. McIntyre’s series is unparalleled. Why? McIntyre went out every single day for 15 consecutive years to document the wolves. WOW. Just WOW."

#2 What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri. Kay says: "Each story in this collection is a unique gem. Told from animals’ points-of-view, the narrators include a donkey, tiger, vulture, and fox, a rhino keeper’s dog, a sled dog, whale, wolf, and a pigeon. Joy, fear, curiosity, confusion, willfulness, and denial are among the feelings and thoughts revealed by the narrators. Read the stories one at a time. You might find yourself inside another creature’s mind… all on your own."

#3 Nature's Wild Ideas: How the Natural World Is Inspiring Scientific Innovation by Kristy Hamilton. Here's Kay's take: "Biomimicry is a simple idea: take inspiration from nature to solve human problems. Putting it into action? Well, that’s not so simple. Hamilton describes a baker’s dozen of biomimicry projects, each in a different field of study, each with its unique source of inspiration. Three of the sources are human bones, reptile spit, and pomegranates. Curious? Hamilton’s writing is very accessible, and this book will sate anyone’s curiosity."

#4 The Dolphin House by Audrey Schulman. Kay's recommendation: "The inspiration for Schulman's novel is a brief but groundbreaking study conducted on dolphins in the summer of 1965. A young woman is hired to feed four 'research' dolphins who live in a lagoon on St. Thomas. Having grown up around pigs and horses (intelligent animals), Cora is naturally curious. Unlike the scientists, she gets in the water, and is immediately struck by a fascinating variety of sounds. The dolphins flee to the farthest corner, so Cora pretends to be busy and ignores them. Perfect! The dolphins soon come to check her out, and so begins their friendship. In a very short time, Cora devises ways to communicate with the dolphins - a gigantic step in animal research at the time. Scientists and journalist from around the world come to St. Thomas, and soon the world knows that dolphins are highly intelligent creatures. Schulman's story is breathtaking, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, and a must-read for animal lovers."

#5 Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty. Its second appearance in the top 5s. Kay says: "Gunty’s daring, bold, and brilliant debut will shake you, shock you, make you laugh, maybe make you cry, and keep you riveted to the very last page. It takes place in a once-thriving, now decaying industrial Midwestern town. Most residents are decaying with the town, but Blandine’s internal volcano is about to erupt and shake the town. Stunning."

We wrap up today's top 5-ing with Madi Hill.

#1 Unmask Alice: LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World's Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson. Madi writes: "Unmask Alice by Rick Emerson is a debunking of the infamous “real life” diaries that began with Go Ask Alice and the woman that was responsible for their creation. While the title alludes to the more recognizable Alice journal, Emerson spends more attention on its successor, Jay's Journal, that was one of the largest powder kegs to set off the Satanic Panic. After a Utah teen commits suicide, his mother turned to Alice author Beatrice Sparks to spread awareness of teen suicide and the need to focus on mental health, but instead, she created a false diary which became a smear campaign that destroyed the teen's family. This is the true story behind a relentless fraudster who was desperate for recognition and used falsehoods and fear to get it. Unmask Alice is the perfect read for the casual true crime reader that prefers to avoid the gory details. Just remember to check your sources."

#2 Acne: A Memoir by Laura Chinn. Madi says: "Acne is Chinn's story of growing up with divorced Scientologist parents, practically raising herself while heavily smoking and drinking her way through her late adolescence and teens. Through the divorce, relocating to Clearwater, Florida where she struggled with her biracial identity, understanding her class standing, a near-mute alcoholic step father, and her older brother's brain cancer, Chinn has one concern above all else: her cystic acne. There is so much going on in this memoir that Chinn's obsession over her skin condition seems to be one of the only things grounding her in the swirling chaos of the rest of her life. Chinn's writing is witty, smart, and heartbreaking, and will especially resonate with those who know the agony that comes with chronic acne."

#3 Noodle and the No Bones Day by Jonathan Graziano, illustrated by Dan Tavis. This sweet and entertaining picture book comes from the creator of the viral 'Bones or No Bones' TikTok videos. The book version follows Noodle the pug and his human as they navigate Noodle’s first No Bones Day - a day for being kind to yourself. More than just entertaining, Noodle's book and videos present an opportunity to equip kids with an accessible vocabulary to engage with lessons around self-care, motivation, and emotional intelligence that's never been more necessary than during the last two years of pandemic burnout.

#4 Ghost Eaters by Clay Chapman gets this recommendation from Madi: "How far would you go to see a loved one that had passed? Ghost Eaters imagines a world in which it’s possible but at a very steep price. After the overdose death of her ex-boyfriend and best friend Silas, Erin and her friends have to navigate their grief while trying to establish their post-college adult lives. When one of the friends reveals he and Silas found a magic mushroom that allows the living to speak to the dead, the friends try to find Silas, but encounter much more of the spirit world than intended. Though supernatural, Chapman uses this horror story to explore how people cope with mourning and addiction, especially in an already difficult transitory time for these early twenty-something characters. His exploration of an abusive relationship beyond the dead is creepy but gripping. Ghost Eaters explores how history is never truly in the past, and the impact the dead still have on the living."

#5 Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor by Kim Kelly. This is a revelatory, inclusive history of the American labor movement, from independent journalist and labor columnist Kim Kelly. From Amazon’s warehouses to Starbucks cafes, Appalachian coal mines to the sex workers of Portland’s Stripper Strike, interest in organized labor is at a fever pitch not seen since the early 1960s. Inspirational, intersectional, and full of crucial lessons from the past, Fight Like Hell shows what is possible when the working class demands the dignity it has always deserved.

More top 5 lists coming tomorrow! Hooray!

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