My Favourite Books of 2022

Cattle graze for about eight hours a day. This suggests they spend a good portion of their life eating. It must be an enjoyable experience or life for these four-legged beasts would be unbearable.

Author and Christian apologist, G. K. Chesterton was known to have an exuberant personality and a rotund figure. He liked eating, preferring beef to vegetables.  There are some accounts of him eating absent-mindedly if the food was in front of him. Chesterton wrote,

‘The mere brute pleasure of reading is the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing.’

Reading can occupy a few minutes or hours at a time. It often depends on our motivation, whether we are seeking out information or wanting to relax and refresh ourselves.

Reading is a precious gift that needs to be appreciated and applied, not left on the shelf to gather dust.

Reading nurtures and nourishes, focuses the mind, stimulates the emotions, and sets free the imagination.

The following books did all of that and made my reading experience in 2022 memorable and satisfying.

‘Christians’ – Greg Sheridan

Greg Sheridan is a foreign affairs journalist and author. His latest book, Christians, published in 2021, is a vigorous and passionate defense of Christianity and a timely rebuff to secular humanism.

‘Christianity is liberating and empowering for ordinary people.’

‘The Lincoln Highway’ – Amor Towles

Amor Towles’ third novel The Lincoln Highway is set in 1950’s America. It is a multilayered tale of misadventure and self-discovery, an absorbing and exhilarating ride.

‘Time is that which God uses to separate the idle from the industrious.’

‘The Suicide Prevention Pocket Guidebook’ – Joy Hibbins

Joy Hibbins is the founder and CEO of an award-winning Suicide Crisis Centre in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK. The Suicide Prevention Pocket Guidebook, published in 2021, is written with empathy, knowledge, understanding and compassion.

‘It is natural to try to play down what is happening rather than seeing the reality. However, it is important for your friend or loved one that you recognise and acknowledge the extent of their emotional pain and suffering, and their risk.’

‘The Salt Path’ – Rayner Winn

Raynor Winn’s first book The Salt Path is an uplifting memoir. Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. They decide, somewhat impulsively, to walk the South West Coast Path, U.K., a journey of 630 miles of rugged, sea-swept terrain.

‘Rather than the walk being a time to get our thoughts straight and make a plan, it had become a meditation, a mental void filled only with salt wind, dust, and light. Each step had its own resonance, its moment of power or failure.’

Blog Post: The Salt Path                                   

The Salt Path

‘Orwell’s Roses’– Rebecca Solnit

Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books. In her insightful book Orwell’s Roses, we discover how the writer and political thinker, George Orwell, the man who penned Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, found pleasure and solace in gardening.

‘If you dig into Orwell’s work, you will find a lot of sentences about flowers and pleasures and the natural world… Nature itself is immensely political, in how we imagine, interact with, and impact it.’

‘The Mountains of California’ – John Muir

Scottish-born American John Muir was known as ‘Father of the National Parks.’ He educated Americans about the value of the country’s wilderness. In The Mountains of California Muir records his keen observations of flora, geography and geology, the natural forces that shape the landscape and the changing seasons.

‘Now came the solemn, silent evening. Long, blue, spiky shadows crept out across the snowfields, while a rosy glow, at first scarce discernible, gradually deepened and suffused every mountain-top, flushing the glaciers and the harsh crags above them. This was the alpenglow, to me one of the most impressive of all the terrestrial manifestations of God.’

Blog Post: Exploring John Muir’s Passion for Wild Places

Exploring John Muir’s Passion for Wild Places

‘The Chosen’ – Chaim Potok

Chaim Potok, an American Jewish author, and rabbi was born into an orthodox Jewish family in 1929. His first book The Chosen (1967) was listed on The New York Times’ best seller list for 39 weeks. The novel, mostly set during WWII, is a study of two families, linked by ethnic roots, religion and geography but still held at a considerable distance from each other.

‘One learns of the pain of others by suffering one’s own pain,’ he would say, ‘by turning inside oneself, by finding one’s own soul.’

‘And it is important to know of pain,’ he said. ‘It destroys our self-pride, our arrogance, our indifference toward others.  It makes us aware of how frail and tiny we are and how much we must depend on God.’

‘Prison Journal Volume 3’ – George Cardinal Pell

George Cardinal Pell was wrongfully accused of historical child sexual assault and endured more than 13 months in prison, 8 of those in solitary confinement before being acquitted by the Australian High Court. He used his time in prison as a kind of ‘extended retreat’ and eloquently filled pages with spiritual insights, personal thoughts, and love for his fellow man.

‘Christians have as much right to participate in public life and discussion as any other group, and we need to be active and vocal. To be cowed into silence would be shameful, and to be drowned in political correctness would be worse.’

Addendum:

On 10 January 2023, George Cardinal Pell died of heart complications following hip surgery. While the faithful mourned their loss, his accusers rejoiced silently.

Having read Volumes 1&3 of his Prison Journals I have come to a better understanding of the man who polarised opinion, here in Australia and abroad.

Cardinal Pell was a man of principle, upholding the teachings of the church, unflinching in his commitment to the sanctity of life. He loved to read, to watch televised sporting events, and to eat chocolate. He often talked about the need to exercise regularly and to pray more.

Cardinal Pell embodied the spirit of Jesus in that he was kind, generous, thoughtful, and forgiving. He prayed for his enemies and never sought retribution. When I heard of his death I was saddened, feeling I had lost a friend.

Blog Post: The Prison Journals – George Cardinal Pell

The Prison Journals – George Cardinal Pell

‘The Day the World Came to Town’ – Jim DeFede

The Day the World Came to Town is a 2002 oral history of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada in the wake of the September 11 attacks written by journalist Jim DeFede.

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000.

The compilation of stories beautifully rendered give a true account of a community that exemplifies love, kindness, and generosity.

‘They placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked for nothing in return. They affirmed the basic goodness of man at a time when it was easy to doubt such humanity still existed.’

‘The Space Between The Stars’ – Indira Naidoo

Indira Naidoo is one of Australia’s most popular broadcasters and authors. The Space Between The Stars is a heart-rending at times funny and uplifting tribute to love and our innate need to connect to the natural world.

Indira Naidoo takes grief out of the darkness and brings it into the light as her tribute and farewell to her beloved sister Stargirl.

‘Before Stargirl’s death froze me in my tracks, I’d been too busy doing to be fully aware of the tiny moments of wonder unfurling around me. Tree-time is changing that. As soon as I step into my tree’s shadow, a cloak of stillness slips over me.’

Blog Post: How Nature Can Heal Our Deepest Wounds

How Nature Can Heal Our Deepest Wounds

‘The Color of Water’ – James McBride

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, is the autobiography and memoir of James McBride, first published in 1995. It is James McBride’s tribute to his remarkable, eccentric, determined mother.

Ruth married Andrew Dennis McBride, a black man from North Carolina. It was a happy marriage despite the overwhelming adversity and racism. Ruth taught her children that God is the color of water being firmly convinced that life’s blessings and life’s values transcend race.

‘My mother had a casual way of ignoring affronts, slipping past insults to her whiteness like a seasoned boxer slips a punch.’

‘Birding Without Borders’ – Noah Strycker

Birding Without Borders, Noah Strycker’s third book, is a celebration of birdwatching and exploring the world. Traveling across forty-one countries and all seven continents in 2015 with a backpack and binoculars, Noah Strycker became the first person to see more than half the world’s 10,000 species of birds in one year.

‘Birds teach us that borders are just lines drawn on a map – a lesson we can all take to heart.’

‘The School That Escaped The Nazis’ – Deborah Cadbury

The School That Escaped The Nazis by British author and BBC television producer Deborah Cadbury provides a persuasive portrait of Anna Essinger, a courageous school principal who saw the danger Hitler’s hate fueled ideologies posed to her pupils and devised a daring and courageous plan to relocate her small progressive school to the safety of England.

Reflecting on her time at school under the direction of Anna Essinger, former pupil Maria Peters says,

‘It was essential for Tante Anna that she created freedom for her children; no ideology, no fixed beliefs, not even personal goals should be imposed on them. They must choose for themselves. There was something unique about the atmosphere she created in the school… Everyone was aspiring to do their best but in a non-competitive way.’

‘I Let You Go’ – Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh is an award-winning New York Times and international bestselling author. She spent twelve years on the police force in England.

I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh’s first novel, follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, desperate to start afresh and leave behind her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

‘The nightmares didn’t start straight away, but now they’re here they won’t stop. I lie in bed each night, fighting sleep and playing out scenarios in my head like those children’s books where the reader chooses the ending.’

Blog Post: Written in the Sand

Written in the Sand

‘All The Broken Places’ – John Boyne

All The Broken Places by John Boyne is a sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.  It is a devastating, beautiful story about a woman, ninety-one-year-old Gretel Fernsby, who must confront the sins of her own terrible past, and a present in which it is never too late for bravery.

“I suppose you wish you had won the war.” I raised an eyebrow. “Oh, Mr. Darcy-Witt,” I said, as if I were explaining something obvious to a child. “No one wins a war.”

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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