My 5 Best Books of 2022

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This year saw a moderate return to normal as we reentered the world and redrew the boundaries between our work and personal lives. It was a challenging and rewarding year for me personally, with a slew of academic challenges and successes, family health problems and new additions, and my faith being worked and reworked. Some memorable reading moments include: causing a stir on my Instagram with a poor review of Version Control by Dexter Palmer, finally getting a copy of Trung Le Nguyen’s graphic novel The Magic Fish, rage quitting It Ends With Us (sorry, Hoover fans), finding a copy of Robert W. Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee in an Airbnb with my mom, and going to book talks with Fredrik Backman (and finally getting to read the end of the Beartown series!) and William Kent Krueger. As always, I’ve taken a long look to narrow down 52 books into the 5 that you absolutely cannot miss (plus a few extras because I love you).

In 2023, be sure to follow along on my Instagram or Facebook pages as we embark on a year-long series entitled This Moment Only: A Year-long Conversation with the Saints. I’ll be exploring one Saint a week and how their life relates to the Liturgical season, and the season of life me and my people find ourselves in. Additionally, I’ll be releasing some audio projects in the spring and summer, and will hopefully finish my third book in time for a fall release.

I hope 2023 brings you peace, joy, and challenge, as it shapes you evermore into the person you’re meant to be. Without further ado, here’s my top five books of 2022.


#5: The God of the Garden by Andrew Peterson

Multi-talented writer, singer-songwriter, and Rabbit Room owner Andrew Peterson wrote this memoir during the pandemic, themed around his relationship to God and nature. After the chaos of the past few years, reading through this was a bit of cheap therapy. I sobbed, laughed, and left a little filler. I have a notes page on my phone filled with quotes from this book. If you’re in a season of waiting, grief, or harvest, this book has a little something for you.

If you prefer fiction, try Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga series (one of my picks for best books of the 2010’s). If you want something more theological, try Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund (which I also read this year).

#4: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Reading (or, in my case, listening) through this memoir from iCarly star Jeanette McCurdy was a bit like watching the 2019 film Joker. It was an incredible artistic experience that was completely emotionally and psychologically overwhelming. I hope to never experience it again. McCurdy details her abusive childhood, eating disorders, codependent relationships, and other traumas encountered during her childhood and early adulthood. This isn’t trauma porn, though: there is some redemption in the end. McCurdy is a powerful narrator with a natural giftedness toward writing and comedy, even amidst horrific subject matter. This is a book that’s hard to recommend because it is as exceptional as it is devastating. Readers should use their best judgement in deciding whether to read this, and should take it in slowly, rather than all at once.

#3: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reid’s 2019 novel about the rise and fall of a fictional 70’s rock band will have you looking up The Six on Spotify and Apple Music. After reading (or, again, in my case, listening) through this, you’ll be certain you’re confused. This isn’t fiction at all; it has to be a real story about real people. The Audiobook version is a must. You’ll feel like you’re listening to your favorite podcast and Judy Greer gives a career-defining performance as Karen. I can honestly say Daisy Jones and The Six is one of my favorite bands and it doesn’t matter that I’ve never heard their music. I love these people so much. If you’re sober, in love, heartbroken, married, or childless, this book is for you.

For another fiction book that reads like truth, try What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell. If you prefer a real look inside the music industry, try Sing for Your Life by Daniel Bergner. If you’re a fan of watching what you read, Daisy Jones & The Six is coming to Amazon Prime on March 2nd.

#2: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

A young woman in late 1700’s France makes a deal with a night spirit to save her independence, inadvertently cursing herself to an immortal existence in which no one can remember her. She spends 300 years alone, learning languages and traveling continents until she stumbles into a New York bookstore and a miracle – a boy who remembers her. I spent a long weekend devouring this and will always keep Addie and, strangely, her night spirit, deep within me. Schwab’s novel is a haunting exploration of what we’d do to save ourselves, and how much suffering true love requires of us. I recommend reading this one, as the jump between timelines might not come across well in audio form.

If you don’t like fantasy, but love sacrificial love, strong women, and the interweaving of historical events, try my sixth favorite book of the year, Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González.


#1: Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley

Before you make a rush judgement about this book, I want you to consider that a lot goes into my decision on what makes the number 1 pick every year. The best book of the year has to be good, obviously, but it also has to stick with me. I have to notice it coming up in conversations unexpectedly. Until Proven Safe was that book this year, familiar to many of my coworkers because I just didn’t stop talking about it. You might expect this, given I work on projects related to COVID-19 and other pandemics, but none of that came up in my conversations. Manaugh and Twilley don’t just focus on quarantine where you might expect it, given your lived experience with COVID quarantines. They detail a thorough history and future of quarantine, including diseases such as COVID, but also as seen in nature with honeybees and the inevitable discovery of earth by alien lifeforms who need to avoid our nuclear waste sites. Until Proven Safe is interesting, compulsive, and entertaining, easily making it my best book of the year.


Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Like him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram and Goodreads.

My 5 Best Books of 2021


The year 2021 ended about how she began – grim and tragic with the loss of the iconic Betty White. It’s important to note, though, that there was good too, which so often gets swept up underneath the endless current of loss. Racial justice was delivered in key court cases, vaccines were deployed across the world, and people reconnected with their families, friends, and the tiny and big worlds around them.

As we settle in to a new variant and the increasing effects of climate change, we must also remember the good: the people we love and who, miraculously, love us; the days we fill; the nights we pass with closed eyes and open dreams. Wherever 2022 takes you, know you are loved. Without further pleasantries, here are the five best books I read this year (and if you need even more, check out my 10 best books of the decade):

#5: The Girl Without Skin by Mads Peder Nordbo

Nordbo delivers Nordic murder at its finest. In front of an empty, arctic landscape, a Viking is unearthed next to the flayed body of a Greenland police officer. Full of removed organs, deep character development, and a conspiracy theory that bends and almost breaks, The Girl Without Skin will spark your next murder-mystery obsession. Journalist Matthew Cave and his not quite sidekick convicted murderer Tupaarnaq prove compelling characters to follow into the icy abyss.

P.S. the sequel, Cold Fear, is equally incredible.

#4: Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind by Kermit Pattison

The most basal question of who we are is where did we come from? Pattison’s hefty exploration seeks to not only answer that question but also to understand who the men are behind the iconic skeletons like Lucy and Ardi. At a time when science sentiment has never been so hostile, and science literacy has never been so sparse, Pattison reminds us that all true things start with complicated people, nestled within their contexts of fierce global politics, NSF funding, and the ego of self and country. A gripping book of non-fiction, Pattison delivers an intriguing and accurate description of humankind’s genesis and an unflinching portrayal of the messy men who unearth it.

#3: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Sometimes people make mistakes, sometimes people fall in love. Mostly, people are just really anxious. Set on a bridge, in a hostage room, and inside a therapist’s office, nothing is quite as it seems in this conceptually simple, pragmatically complex book about anxious people in a terrible situation (by which I mean life). Backman retains his place as one of the world’s most compelling authors in his latest attempt. Plus, when you finish the book you can catch the Netflix adaption out just a few days ago.

#2: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

You’ve most likely read this already but if you, like me, get a little nervous about universally loved books, exit out of this post and add this to your cart immediately. If you’ve already read this, but haven’t read by #2 pick from last year, The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, it’s time to pick that one up. In Miller’s most iconic work to date, the demi-God Achilles finds a breathtaking and heartbreaking path with his other half, the awkward prince Patroclus. Told in achingly poignant detail, the two warriors battle for control of the ancient world, and the fates that control them. This novel will leave you soaring and sobbing.

#1: Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

It’s a bit shocking to me I only read this book this year considering how many times I’ve recommended it to others. In fact, when a dear colleague unexpectedly resigned earlier this year, this book was the only gift I could think of suitable to thank her. McConaghy’s international debut blends suspense, literary fiction, cli-fi, and feminist manifesto into a novel that erratically approaches the end of the world. Franny Stone is dangerous. Franny Stone is collected. Franny Stone is trying to document the last migration of the Arctic terns amidst a dying world and a hostile academy. This book broke me open to the marrow – and carefully reminded me that it is sometimes the most broken parts of ourselves that shine the most beautifully. A triumph plain and true.

Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Like him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram and Goodreads.


Reading Recommendations for the Apocalypse

As you doomscroll through your phone, it’s tempting, likely even, to believe that the world as we know it is coming to an end. The world refugee population is growing exponentially, bounty hunts are underway in Texas, streets are flooding, the earth is shaking, and a virus continues to ravage the world’s population. Those in power horde vaccines, write think pieces on the ownership of bodies they’ve never piloted, and shove their hands deep into their pockets sadly musing aloud that nothing can be done. This may be the end times or these may simply be dark times but either way, here’s some reading recommendations for when you’re able to put your phone and your posters down and find some relief.


If you’re worried about climate change

You should read Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

The oceans have emptied of fish and the rest of the world’s wildlife is following quickly. Franny Stone, an exiled researcher incapable of staying still arrives in Greenland to follow Earth’s last Artic terns on their migration to Antarctica. As Franny journeys south, she must reckon with her past alongside humanity’s and ultimately answer: what is she willing to lose to find healing? McConaghy’s novel is everything at once: masterful suspense, critical literature, devastating cli-fi, feminist manifesto. Migrations is so evocative and freeing, we are left to wonder if it is still art or simply a reflection of our inner (and sometimes outer) lives, a piece of that devastating but realistic hope we carry with us.

If you’re upset about the recent Texas legislation

You should read Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Abortion is illegal and five women in a small Oregon town wrestle with what that means for their lives. There’s Ro, who’s trying to get pregnant and writing a biography of a polar explorer, Eivør who is a polar explorer, Susan whose life is falling apart, pregnant teen Mattie, and Gin the mender who just might be a witch. Zumas’ book has often been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale which is equally fair and unfair. It’s a book about abortion as much as it a book about whales. It’s a story about justice and motherhood, how we fall in love and what happens when we find our family. Even as we feel hopeless we are reminded that blood is still in our veins and communities are built on the backs of individuals strung together.

If you’re consumed by the refugee crisis

You should read The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Part memoir about fleeing the Vietnam war, part reflection on parenthood, Bui’s graphic memoir tells the story of her family’s escape from Vietnam in the 1970’s, her journey into motherhood, and the history of her people. Some distance from current contexts may be a good change of pace while still maintaining a grasp on the refugee crisis and how it feels to be displaced. To be home but not home.

If you’re frustrated with the government

You should read Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Even in the midst of the world’s most reclusive and oppressive regime, there is also love. Demick’s landmark book tours North Korea in its most turbulent time through the eyes of six defectors, former ordinary North Koreans. Some are devout supporters of the regime during their time in the DPRK, others had been hostile, if submissive, to the regime. Two are secret lovers, one is a mother trying desperately to hold her family together, another is a doctor fighting between ethics and safety. Each has a unique vantage point and fight for survival. A remarkable achievement in every sense of the phrase, Demick’s non-fiction account will have you hooked. Completely accessible to the reader terrified of reading something true, Nothing to Envy‘s characters bleed with nuance and accountability, revealing that even the thing we are most sure about may not be entirely true.

If you’re wondering if the apocalypse will have snacks

You should read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Told in the days shortly before, and the years after, a pandemic wipes out most of earth’s inhabitants, Emily St. John Mandel primarily follows a theater caravan that wanders the wasteland performing Shakespeare for villages. As their world begins to change, we have to wonder if art can really save us all or if we’re doomed to become shells by the wastelands we inhabit. Partly post-apocalyptic fiction, but mostly a love letter to humanity and all that we produce, Station Eleven structures itself as a book you can read again and again, always finding something new to sink your teeth into.


If you’re having a general unease about death

You should read From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty, everyone’s favorite mortician, travels around the United States, and the world, in search of the good death. Majority culture America’s nervous avoidance of death and aging is an outlier to the rest of the world. Doughty’s travelogue documents death practices and perspectives from a variety of non-Western cultures, peeling back the fear and appreciating the beauty of the Great Beyond and what’s left of us when we leave. Artist Landis Blair offers striking illustrations and the people Doughty meets remind us we might just be okay, even if it doesn’t feel like we could be.

If you’re trying to care about the world but your personal life is in shambles and you don’t know what to do

You should read The Autumn Balloon by Kenny Porpora

Addiction has ravaged Porpora’s family. He knows this as he watches his mom write messages on balloons above Long Island. As she turns more and more to the bottle, the family loses their house and is forced into exile in the Arizona desert. Full of drug addicts and devastation, Porpora is finally able to escape into the walls of the academy. A mix of humor and sorrow, resilience and suffering, The Autumn Balloon is the book that has made me sob the loudest and feel the most whole.

If you’re trying to care about the world but you just can’t get out of bed

You should read The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Petersen

Written for young readers but dark enough for all of us, The Wingfeather Saga books follow The Igiby children – Janner, Tink, and Leeli – as darkness threatens to take over their homeland. The four-book saga follows the children on an adventure as they learn who they really are, what they are capable of, and how to save the world. Beautifully written with monsters that will terrify you, The Wingfeather Saga proves we are all children at heart and all capable of surviving that which tries to kill us.

Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.

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The Wrap: May 2019

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What a month. Even though I graduated in March, the rest of our school is graduating this upcoming weekend so the past few weeks have been full of goodbyes, free food, and equal parts joy and grief. I was also finally able to find a good amount of time to read and finally chip away at some books on my shelf. I also was able to cook up the perfect reads for Father’s day. And to top it all off, I have a few TV and podcast recommendations so without further delay – jump on in below.

*As a reminder, all books posted are linked to Book Depository which offers worldwide free shipping and helps support this blog.*

Continue reading “The Wrap: May 2019”

The Wrap: September 2018

Last first day of Undergrad! Thanks to Etienne for being my photographer.

I’ve been back at school for a week (yes, I know, it’s soooo late, but just remember we do the same three and a half months of work; we just do it in 10 weeks) and I’m already drowning. Before I got too into conferences, homework, and work, I was able to sneak in a couple last-minute summer reads. I also have some spooky reads for October, and some new shows I’m obsessed with. Jump on in, and let’s explore small towns, horror, and horror in small towns.






Continue reading “The Wrap: September 2018”

The Wrap: August

I know I haven’t been as consistent as of late but there’s good news. The entire month of September is in a queue right now! That means every week in September, whether I remember or not, new content will be posted. Huzzah!

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Copyright  © Bryce Van Vleet

Also, part of the reason I’ve been delayed is because I wrote a book! You can pick it up in ebook or paperback here. (And 25% of the profits go to sexual violence survivors, so it’s a win-win!)

Anyway, now that all that business is out of the way… enter below for horror, systemic racism, and war (oh my!), as well as some pre-fall and Labor Day book and TV suggestions.

Continue reading “The Wrap: August”

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