To close out 2022 and in case you’re looking for some holiday reading, here’s a list of the books I read this year and a short review of each one. I hope that all of you get some well-deserved time off to enjoy the people and activities that make you happy!
I read 13 books this year, and I have two on deck for my holiday break, spanning the full range from current events, to humor, to really good novels:
1. Crossroads, a novel by Jonathan Franzen. At almost 600 pages, you’re not going to read this in a day, but it’s so worth it. The summary of this book is pretty unassuming: basically a day in the life of a family in the American mid-west. But I don’t even know where to start with how good this book is. Perhaps it particularly resonated with me because it’s about middle-aged parents with young adult children (my life in a nutshell), but I stayed up way too late reading this book. Highly recommended!
2. The Impossible First, a non-fiction outdoor adventure book by Colin O’Brady. Now here’s a book that you probably could read in a day, or at least a weekend. It’s the story of extreme adventurer Colin O’Brady’s solo crossing of Antarctica, an incredible story and he’s a good writer. Recommended!
3. The Man in the High Castle, a science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. I’m admittedly a little late to the party, as this book was published in 1962, but I got completely hooked on the TV miniseries based on the book, which prompted me to read it. Philip K. Dick’s stuff is weird, no way around it, but the premise of this book is fascinating: what would the U.S. have looked like if Germany and Japan had won World War II? Recommended!
4. The Pale-Faced Lie, a memoir by David Crow. This book was recommended by a fellow volunteer on a trip I took with our animal rescue group to the Navajo Nation. It’s really well written and really hard to read: an intense story of a highly dysfunctional family (think The Glass Castle) but with the added dysfunctionality that the abusive family patriarch is essentially pretending to be Native American. Recommended, as long as you have a high tolerance for really heartbreaking family stories.
5. The Other Dr. Gilmer, a memoir by Benjamin Gilmer. I heard the author of this book interviewed on NPR and immediately ordered it. It’s a fascinating story of a doctor named Gilmer, who goes to replace another doctor named Gilmer (no relation) at a rural health clinic, after the original Dr. Gilmer goes to prison for brutally murdering his own father. No spoilers, but the plot is fascinating: part medical mystery, part psychological thriller, part analysis of the criminal justice system. Highly recommended!
6. Chatter, a non-fiction book by Patrick Radden Keefe. I read this book because I love everything Patrick Radden Keefe writes, and I was trying to bide time while waiting for him to hopefully write another book. The book is about global government eavesdropping, and I’d say it’s very interesting but also pretty outdated. The book was published in 2005 and the author did a lot of the research while he was a grad student in the UK in the late 90s, so the information is more than a bit dated by now. Recommended if you really like this author, but otherwise probably only of interest if you’re really into government spying.
7. Olav Audunsson: Vows, a novel by Sigrid Undset, translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally. Oh my gosh, folks. Oh. My Gosh. Talk about a book I never in a million years would have picked up, except that I was a reader for a literary translation competition and I impulsively picked it, and I immediately became obsessed. I had honestly never heard of Sigrid Undset (she won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928), and I had heard of Tiina Nunnally but never read any of her translations. This epic novel (published in multiple volumes: see below) is set in medieval Norway and it’s just amazing. Family drama, mental illness, church/state struggles, dynastic struggles…this book has it all, and the translation is just amazing. Highly recommended!
8. Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?, a memoir by Seamas O’Reilly. Another NPR pick, an easy read, and one of those funny/sad books that I tend to really like. O’Reilly is a columnist for the Guardian, The Irish Times, and other publications, and this book chronicles his childhood in a family of 11 children, focusing particularly on his mother’s death from cancer and the aftermath, in which his father is left to raise the family alone. Recommended!
9. Olav Audunsson: Providence, a novel by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally. The second volume in the Olav Audunsson series! Highly Recommended!
10. Thanks for Waiting, a memoir by Doree Shafrir. I think this was a recommendation in Real Simple magazine? Maybe? It’s a memoir by a middle-aged woman who’s a self-proclaimed “late bloomer,” focusing on her career, meeting her life partner, and having a child. She’s a good writer, but to be totally honest, I agree with a reviewer of this book who said it’s basically 280 pages of “dating in New York is horrible and infertility is tough.” Perhaps I just don’t identify with those experiences, but I would skip this one unless the subject matter really resonates with you.
11. The Stolen Year, a non-fiction book by Anya Kamenetz. Another NPR pick! It’s a book about the effect of the pandemic on American children; to be honest, I’m not really sure why I bought it, other than that I generally love NPR’s recommendations. But this has the distinction of being the only book on the list that I didn’t finish; the book is really well written, well researched, and honestly fascinating, but I just was not in the frame of mind to read 350+ pages about how awful the pandemic was for kids. I loved the NPR interview with the author but the book was more on the topic than I wanted to read. Highly recommended if you’re an education researcher or similar!
12. Any Other Family, a novel by Eleanor Brown. I think this was another Real Simple pick. The plot of this novel is really interesting: four children from one birth mother who are adopted by three sets of parents, who then form an “intentional family” around the kids. It’s an easy read, and I liked the description of family dynamics in complicated situations. Recommended!
13. Happy Go Lucky, a humor book by David Sedaris. This book is a compilation of essays by David Sedaris, whose writing I’ve loved for a long time. As usual, it’s a combination of stuff that’s actually funny, with things that are decidedly not funny (his sister’s suicide and his father’s slow death from natural causes). Most people either like his writing or they don’t, so that’s my recommendation: read it if you like David Sedaris, because it’s pretty similar to his other books of personal essays.
On deck! I’m taking two weeks off over Christmas and New Year’s, so I have two books ready to read:
-The third volume of the Olav Audunsson series (as I said, I’m obsessed!), and The Ransomware Hunting Team, a non-fiction book about cyber counterterrorism by Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden. This is another NPR pick by two reporters at Pro Publica and I’m excited to read it!
That’s it for 2022; Training for Translators will be taking a break until January 6 and I’ll talk to you after that! Happy holidays and thanks for your support throughout the year.
Corinne McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Training for Translators, and has been a full-time freelancer since 2002. She holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College, is an ATA-certified French to English translator, and is Colorado court-certified for French interpreting. If you enjoy her posts, consider joining the Training for Translators mailing list!