Finding ‘thanks’ in books

The following was written by library director, Ryan Johnson, and was featured in a recent edition of the O’Fallon Weekly.

Thanksgiving may be in the rearview mirror, but I’d still like to take a moment to look back at some books I’m thankful for in 2022.  It is, after all, “best of” season, as we look back on the year that was and rank our favorite shows, songs, movies, moments, etc.  Speaking of, be sure to stop in the library and claim your free copy of the December BookPage.  This is a monthly magazine for book lovers and, of course, the current issue is dedicated to the Best Books of 2022.

Back, however, to my Thankful List.  The first book I wish to highlight is The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal.  I read most of this book while on family vacation this summer.  It tells the story of a fractured family and two sisters whose lives develop in very different ways.  One ends up becoming the CEO of a huge international beer conglomerate.  The other sister…well, not so much.  It’s a heartwarming tale that is both engaging and witty.  The Lager Queen also features strong female leads that span generations.  I found the characters (both main and secondary) extremely relatable.  If you are so inclined, grab a cold one and find a comfy spot to dive in.

My next two books are both by Emilys.  I’ve written about Emily St. John Mandel before.  She is the author of Station Eleven (one of my favorite books of all time) as well as The Glass Hotel.  Her newest book is The Sea of Tranquility.  It clocks in at only 258 pages, so you know that no words are wasted.  It’s science fiction with a lot of time slips and parallel narratives, two things that St. John Mandel excels in executing.  I remember audibly gasping at one of the reveals, turning to my wife, and not having the words to describe my dumbfoundedness.  I will without a doubt read this book again at some point down the road.  It’s that good.

Emily Lloyd-Jones, or Emily #2 in this case, wrote The Drowned Woods, a Young Adult fantasy about the Welsh Atlantis myth.  Didn’t know there was a Welsh Atlantis myth?  Me neither.  After reading this book, though, I did a deep dive online, which has only heightened my fascination with this story.  The Drowned Woods is full of adventure, suspense, and world-building.  It’s that world-building that Lloyd-Jones is so good at.  You can’t help but feel transported to ancient Wales, to feel like you are walking the streets of this fabled kingdom right alongside the characters.

The final book I’ll mention is the one I’m currently reading, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.  The scope of this book is alarming, but the author is masterful at keeping the content concise and accessible.  The book takes you through prehistoric times, to the first empires and religions, through the agricultural and scientific revolutions, and numerous other stops along the way.  Sapiens is as thought-provoking as it comes, especially for history and anthropology nerds like me. 

I hope each of you have some books you are thankful for this season, or perhaps from seasons past.  Books that changed the way you viewed the world, viewed yourself, or connected to those around you.  Sometimes a book just needs to be an escape from the day to day, and that is OK too. 

Happy Reading.

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