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2022 Reading List

2022 Reading List
Photo by Ed Robertson / Unsplash

One of the benefits of traveling is being exposed to different cultures. On this Odyssey, we have the privilege of immersing ourselves in countless different experiences. To deepen our understanding of the places we are visiting, and bolster the amount that we can learn while walking through historic sights, we have tasked ourselves with consuming multiple forms of media from and about every nation we visit. This has been part of our goal to travel intentionally.

What that looks like in the context of this list, is books. While we do not have a perfect track record (accessing international books from our domestic library has proven to be more of a challenge than we anticipated), we have done our best to try and get stories from as many of the countries we have traveled to as possible.

Since our Odyssey began part way through 2022, and we are still engaging with book clubs and family/friend recommendations you will find a smattering of titles on this list. We have read memoirs, fantasy, historical, action, crime, adventure, and more stories from twelve different countries. Where applicable we indicated what nation a book was originally published in (though we did read exclusively in English, so for many this means translations).

There is no priority to the list, it exists only as a collection of what we consumed this year. We have linked Wikis for their plot summaries. Additionally, we outlined the major themes we saw running through the text. While you can never endorse every story you read, there have been several this year that were stand-outs for one or both of us. In 2022, our favorite books have been:

  • The Ominvore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is an insightful breakdown of the American system of food policy and food consumerism. If you are eating anything in or from the USA you should give this text a look. It will reshape how you look at what is stocked in your grocery store and help explain how our diet has morphed into the epidemic-inducing monstrosity that exists today.
  • First They Killed My Father by Long Ung, is set throughout the Cambodian genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. It is striking to hear a child's perspective on political takeovers, starvation, and forced labor. It will leave you emotional and aching for the beauty that flourishes in Cambodia today.
  • The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski is the chronologically first book in The Witcher series. It is a collection of short stories that all follow the characters which will become the leads throughout the subsequent novels. Sapkowski managed to craft fantasy with monsters and mayhem, with a sprinkle of twisted fairytales. The series as a whole starts strong, crafting a world through the first several novels that were a blast to immerse in; however, the later few books change pace and tone. For this reason, we hold a favor towards the earlier books which is why only the first one gets a callout.
  • The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh is an intro to Buddhism that makes it approachable for anyone, coming from every faith background. This text was clear and consumable. The author made it easy to understand the beliefs of over half a billion people on this planet.
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, tells the true story of his experience attempting to summit Mt. Everest in 1996 when disaster struck. The ambition and folly of mankind are laid out for all to see. It was intriguing to follow along with the story's trekkers as they ascended to Base Camp while we did it ourselves; but, it was terrifying to read how easily and how quickly things can and did go wrong on that fateful day. This was a page-turner for anyone interested in adrenaline sports or high-risk activities.

Our goal in recording the below titles, along with much of our content, is to share things - the places we visit and the media we consume are part of that. We want to put out what is educating us and what is inspiring us. We are vessels to help spread awareness about all of the ways we can continue to learn and grow as we move through life.

The Witcher Series - Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny, Blood of Elves, The Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow, The Lady of the Lake, and Season of Storms.

[Wiki] [Poland] [Fiction] [Fantasy]

Themes: ambiguity- who are the true monsters; destiny; personal responsibilities; racism; lies-and-spies politics; corruption; purpose; what is a good vs. evil action; white knight vs. dark knight; found family; and, love.

The Sympathizer - Viet Thanh Nguyen

[Wiki] [Vietnam] [Fiction] [Historical; Political]

Themes: dual identities; countering American narratives; immigration; communism; trust; and, war.

The Coroner's Lunch - Colin Cotterill

[Wiki] [Laos] [Fiction] [Crime]

Themes: communism; corruption; and, spiritualism.

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching - Thich Nhat Hanh

[Author's Wiki] [Vietnam] [Non-Fiction] [Religion]

Themes: buddhism; spirituality; mental health; and, theology.

First They Killed My Father - Luong Ung

[Wiki] [Cambodia] [Non-Fiction] [Historical; Memoir]

Themes: war; genocide; human suffering; and, identity politics.

Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

[Wiki] [Nepal; America] [Non-Fiction] [Adventure; Journalism]

Themes: human ambition and achievement; Icarus' folly; counter-colonialist narratives; and, environmentalism.

Bangkok Wakes to Rain - Pitchaya Sudbahthad

[Wiki] [Thailand] [Fiction] [Realism]

Themes: family; individual purpose; and, change vs. tradition.

Good Omens - Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

[Wiki] [United Kingdom] [Fiction] [Fantasy]

Themes: good vs. evil; friendship; self-determination; and, tragic flaw.

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

[Wiki] [France; America] [Fiction] [Historical]

Themes: hope; bravery; war; greed; self-justification of evil; and, defiance.

Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

[Wiki] [America] [Fiction] [Crime]

Themes: life as an outsider; small-town politics; race; and, complicated self-defense.

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

[Wiki] [France; America] [Fiction] [Historical]

Themes: defiance; moral ambiguity with the oppressor; racism; and, hope.

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

[Wiki] [America] [Fiction] [Realism]

Themes: commitment; love; race; justice system; and, forgiveness.

And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

[Wiki] [Afghanistan] [Fiction] [Historical]

Themes: poverty; broken marriage; class; disability; parental sacrifice; and, neglecting responsibilities.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton

[Wiki] [United Kingdom] [Fiction] [Crime]

Themes: morality; restorative justice; and, love your neighbor.

Broken Earth Series - N.K. Jemison

The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky

[The Fifth Season Wiki] [America] [Fiction] [Fantasy]

Themes: power; corruption; motherhood; racism; disinformation; authority; and, sacrifice.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind - William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

[Wiki] [Malawi] [Non-Fiction] [Memoir]

Themes: innovation; overcoming adversity; education; and, opportunity.

The Color Purple - Alice Walker

[Wiki] [America] [Fiction] [Realism]

Themes: race; socio-economic class; sexuality; traditional gender norms; oppression; and, family bonds.

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories - Norman Maclean

[Wiki] [America] [Fiction] [Semi-Memoir]

Themes: people's potential; alcoholism; family; and, racism.

The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan

[Wiki] [America] [Non-Fiction] [Journalism; Food; Health; Political]

Themes: sustainability; ethical consumerism; national and global economics; modern vs. natural; public awareness; and, healthy living.