This is the second part of my best books of 2022, featuring the one that I enjoyed the most this year (#1). Happy New Year!
1. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Over the years of reading, a genre that has emerged as one of my most favorites is science memoirs, especially those written by women. I love Braiding Sweetgrass on so many levels. Women in science, integrating the matter-based scientific knowledge with the spiritual, deep understanding and descriptions of nature–I am for all of the above. Most of all, the book presents a worldview that is worth considering: the indigenous way of existing and relating to this Earth. Kimmerer says to be indigenous is to see the Earth as home. As a gift. And to treat it as such.
“For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it.”
This indigenous wisdom is enlightening in at least two ways. In my professional world, we brainstorm, work, and engineer for sustainability, the circular economy and the like. In this pursuit, there’s a lot to gain from ancient knowledge on how we can better utilize Earth’s resources and design truly kind, compassionate systems.
In my spiritual world, this wisdom contrasts a worldview that I am more familiar with, a this-world-is-not-my-home-I’m-just-a-passing-through type of mentality. Unfortunately, one of the natural consequences of this attitude is a detachment from the physical world, an underdeveloped understanding of what it means to bodily inhabit the Earth. A rental instead of a home. To this, Braiding Sweetgrass is an out-of-the-box meditation on the interconnected relationships that exist in nature, and how humans are very much part of this web.
(Another one of Kimmerer’s book, Gathering Moss, was part of my best reads list in 2021.)
Another repeat author from a previous best reads list. I find Rachel Held Evans’ writing compelling; her words and sentences are very poignant. This book, posthumously woven together by Jeff Chu, touches on some spiritual experiences that I know many have today with the Christian faith. One of the gems I treasured from an essay in the book is the following:
The title is a reference to the Shema prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God. The Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Yet the reality that many have experienced is something akin to being told, Love the Lord your God with half of your heart, half of your soul, and half of your mind. Don’t bring all of who you are to church, because it’s not acceptable.
There are many other gems in this collection of essays. Worth considering.
If number 3 of my best books of 2022: Part 1 was about resisting treating human beings as commodities, this book describes exactly how human beings were treated as commodities. Thus far, this is the best book on slave trade that I have ever read. Each chapter is couched in a body part of the enslaved, serving both as a metaphor and a point of historical description of how that body part was valued in the slavery economy. Like the subtitle says, the book describes how the machinery of capitalism came down on the physical bodies of slaves. Truly, the half has never been told on this subject.
This science memoir takes us along decades-long adventures of a marine biologist in pursuit of understanding bioluminescence. I simply have a lot of respect for people who dedicate their lives to study and research–what a gift to humanity.
Moving on to fiction. It turns out, there’s a reason why this book is so popular. I picked it up because the movie was coming out, and I wanted to read the book first (of course the book is better, but I enjoyed the movie too). What I love most about the book are the incredible descriptions of the natural beauty of the marshes, inspired by the author’s background no doubt, and the moving poetry on loneliness that the main character experiences.
A beautiful and heartbreaking human story, set in the very real, largely-unknown history of forced sterilization of black women in America in the 20th century. This book is also worth reflecting upon in the context of the abortion debate that was front and center last year.
Favorite Books Lists
2022: Best Books of 2022 Part 1, Best Books of 2022 Part 2.
2021: Best Books of 2021 Part 1, Best Books of 2021 Part 2.
2020: Best Books of 2020 Part 1, Best Books of 2020 Part 2.
2019: Best Books of 2019 Part 1, Best Books of 2019 Part 2.
2018: Best Books of 2018 Part 1, Best Books of 2018 Part 2.
2017: Best Books of 2017 Part 1, Best Books of 2017 Part 2.
2016: Best Books of 2016 Part 1, Best Books of 2016 Part 2.
2015: Best Books of 2015 Part 1, Best Books of 2015 Part 2.
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