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243: Unabridged Book Awards for 2022

Episode graphic: trophy with text "Unabridged Awards for 2022"

In this annual episode that causes us much consternation, Jen and Ashley share some special books we've read during 2022. We reflect over the year, and we each create and give awards to some of our top reads from our 2022 reading lists. It's so hard each year to choose!

For a few more picks, join us on Patreon for an extra bonus episode featuring additional bookish awards. (We just couldn't fit them all in here!) For $5 a month, you can be a Bookish Best Friend with access to at least one additional exclusive episode every month. (The bonus awards episode drops at 5 AM EST on Thursday, December 15th.)

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue ( |

Jen - Joy Harjo’s Crazy Brave (

*Joy Harjo’s project that Jen mentions in the episode

Jen's Book Awards for 2022

Book I bought after I read it because I needed to have it on my shelf - Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle ( |

Book that I regret waiting so long to read - Octavia Butler’s Kindred ( |

Story that enchanted me . . . and defied my WWII book resistance - Sarah Winman’s Still Life ( |

Ashley's Book Awards for 2022

Gorgeous art that tells a powerful story - Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin’s Ain’t Burned All the Bright ( |

Inspiring story about finding your way forward - Silvia Lavado-Vasquez’s In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage ( |

Deep questions amid a compelling plotline - Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Result ( |

Give Me One - A Non-Bookish Award

Listen in to hear the non-bookish awards Jen and Ashley give for 2022.

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Books We Gave Unabridged Awards

Jen's Picks

Book Cover of Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle ( |

From the Publisher: "After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There--after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes--Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.

"A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian's disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian's own story, as the two women's fates--and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times--collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead."

Book Cover of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler’s Kindred ( |

From the Publisher: “'I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.'

"Dana’s torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to antebellum Maryland to rescue a boy named Rufus, heir to a slaveowner’s plantation. She soon realizes the purpose of her summons to the past: protect Rufus to ensure his assault of her Black ancestor so that she may one day be born. As she endures the traumas of slavery and the soul-crushing normalization of savagery, Dana fights to keep her autonomy and return to the present.

"Blazing the trail for neo-slavery narratives like Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer, Butler takes one of speculative fiction’s oldest tropes and infuses it with lasting depth and power. Dana not only experiences the cruelties of slavery on her skin but also grimly learns to accept it as a condition of her own existence in the present."

Book Cover of Still Life by Sarah Winman

Sarah Winman’s Still Life ( |

From the Publisher: "A captivating, bighearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood, and the ghost of E. M. Forster, by the celebrated author of Tin Man.

"Tuscany, 1944: As Allied troops advance and bombs fall around deserted villages, a young English soldier, Ulysses Temper, finds himself in the wine cellar of a deserted villa. There, he has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a middle-aged art historian who has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and recall long-forgotten memories of her own youth. In each other, Ulysses and Evelyn find a kindred spirit amidst the rubble of war-torn Italy, and set off on a course of events that will shape Ulysses's life for the next four decades.

"As Ulysses returns home to London, reimmersing himself in his crew at The Stoat and Parot—a motley mix of pub crawlers and eccentrics—he carries his time in Italy with him. And when an unexpected inheritance brings him back to where it all began, Ulysses knows better than to tempt fate, and returns to the Tuscan hills.

"With beautiful prose, extraordinary tenderness, and bursts of humor and light, Still Life is a sweeping portrait of unforgettable individuals who come together to make a family, and a deeply drawn celebration of beauty and love in all its forms."

Ashley's Picks

Book Cover of Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin’s Ain’t Burned All the Bright ( |

From the Publisher: "Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now. Written by #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds.

"Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin, had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.

"And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is."

Book Cover of In the Shadow of the Mountain by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado

Silvia Lavado-Vasquez’s In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage ( |

From the Publisher: Endless ice. Thin air. The threat of dropping into nothingness thousands of feet below. This is the climb Silvia Vasquez-Lavado braves in her pulse-raising memoir following her journey to Mount Everest.

"A Latina hero in the elite macho tech world of Silicon Valley, privately, she was hanging by a thread. Deep in the throes of alcoholism, hiding her sexuality from her family, and repressing the abuse she’d suffered as a child, she started climbing. Something about the brute force required for the ascent—the risk and spirit and sheer size of the mountains and death’s close proximity—woke her up. She then took her biggest pain as a survivor to the biggest mountain: Everest.

"'The Mother of the World', as it’s known in Nepal, allows few to reach her summit, but Silvia didn’t go alone. She gathered a group of young female survivors and led them to base camp alongside her. It was never easy. At times hair-raising, nerve-racking, and always challenging, Silvia remembers the acute anxiety of leading a group of novice climbers to Everest’s base, all the while coping with her own nerves of summiting. But there were also moments of peace, joy, and healing, with the strength of her fellow survivors and community propelling her forward.

"In the Shadow of the Mountain is a remarkable story of heroism, one which awakens in all of us a lust for adventure, an appetite for risk, and faith in our own resilience."

Book Cover of The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion

Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Result ( |

From the Publisher: "Don and Rosie are back in Melbourne after a decade in New York, and they're about to face their most important project. Their son, Hudson, is having trouble at school: His teachers say he isn't fitting in with the other kids.

"Meanwhile, Rosie is battling Judas at work, and Don is in hot water after the Genetics Lecture Outrage. The life-contentment graph, recently at its highest point, is curving downwards.

"For Don Tillman, geneticist and world's best problem-solver, learning to be a good parent as well as a good partner will require the help of friends old and new. It will mean letting Hudson make his way in the world and grappling with awkward truths about his own identity. And opening a cocktail bar."


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