I’ve read 91 books so far this year.

Although I haven’t kept records all my long and enthusiastic reading life, I’m pretty sure I outdid myself in 2022.

A critical mass of events explains my overachievement. In March, I had surgery to replace my right knee. Six weeks of recovery provided ample reading time.
In June, I retired from a 32-year stint as a school librarian. I enjoyed about six weeks of summer vacation, then underwent replacement surgery on my left knee. More reading time.

I began the book list as a librarian. I kept it in the back of my agenda, so if a patron was looking for suggestions (a request sure to make my mind go blank), I could refresh my memory of favorite titles. Also, I always put out a reading list for staff members in June, to provide ideas for summer reading and the book group I organized during the school year.

Now, it’s just an enjoyable habit.

I was going to write a column highlighting the best books I’d read in the summer and fall, since the last time I wrote about what I was reading. But something changed once I left library work. I no longer felt I needed to keep up with what was new and popular. I didn’t have to read children’s and young adult literature anymore.


I could go to my bookshelves and select something I’d purchased years ago, but never had time to peruse, because I’d been busy with “professional reading.”
Which was almost always pleasurable reading as well. But it was reading with a purpose, not “what do I feel like reading right now?”

One of my retirement presents was a gift card to the Twice-Told Tales used bookshop in Brunswick, which is run by the Friends of Curtis Memorial Library. I’d never been there, but it turned out to be well worth the trip. After an hour of pleasant browsing, I left with a stack of books.

A couple of weeks later I was post-surgical and mostly housebound — in August. I thought one of my new-to-me books was just the ticket to foreign adventure that I needed. Susan Hermann Loomis’ “On Rue Tatin” is a memoir of her American family’s move to Normandy and their restoration of an ancient house. Since Loomis is a food writer, there also are recipes.

I thoroughly enjoyed my sojourn in the village of Louviers. What would I read next? I scoured my shelves. Why, Julia Child’s “My Life in France” would be a perfect follow-up. It turned out to be one of the most delightful books ever. Child’s infectious good humor imbued every page, and that was a bonus, as the story of her life and her relationship with her husband, Paul, is deeply fascinating.

How fortunate it was that I also purchased “Provence, 1970” by Luke Barr at Twice-Told Tales. Subtitled “M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard and the Reinvention of American Taste,” the book tells the story of how the three connected in the south of France during a pivotal time in American culture. The author, Fisher’s grandnephew, details the trio’s interactions as well as their part in changing American eating styles. The country was moving from a TV dinner mentality to embrace farmers’ markets, ethnic cuisine and vegetarian fare.

Meanwhile, inspired by all this “Frenchness” I decided to return to a series I had started a while back: “Bruno, Chief of Police,” by Martin Walker. I’d only read the first one. My husband, Paul, however, had continued with them, and we had seven books in the series just sitting on the shelf. I would read them all. (And more.)


I’d only done this with two other authors, who are also among my top favorites — Louise Penny and Paul Doiron. In successive summers, I reread the first book in each of their series and then kept on until I’d reached their current offerings.

This kind of marathon reading is a delicious indulgence for the avid reader, especially mystery fans like me.

And “Bruno” is a fun series. He’s a great character, a small-town cop in the Périgord region of southwest France who also happens to be a gourmet cook. Bruno loves to ride his horse and spend time with his basset hound; he keeps chickens and a large kitchen garden. He has a varied and lively group of friends. Oh, and it’s not just dead bodies that turn up in the quaint stone villages of his jurisdiction — Bruno also gets involved in a considerable amount of international intrigue.

I’ve reached the 2022 entry in the series, but I’m taking a break to read the latest Louise Penny. I’ve also started checking some of my favorite readers’ advisory sites, like IndieBound’s Indie Next List and LibraryReads for, yes, what’s new and popular. When something catches my eye, I reserve it through interlibrary loan.

Usually it takes a while for my requests to go through on these just-published books, but the other day I had two waiting for me at Lithgow Public Library. An embarrassment of riches — which may just push me over the line with 100 books read in 2022.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]

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