Poets can make excellent prose artists, as Clint Smith proved once again in my favorite read from 2022: How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America. Smith takes a journey to sites associated with slavery from Monticello to Angola Prison to the Door of No Return at Goree Island, Senegal. He takes along his personal history as an African-American man and his digital recorder. The effect is mesmerizing.
This is no screed. Smith is passionate about the still-raw wounds of slavery. But he is still a seeker–seeking to understand how an institution that hasn’t officially existed in the United States since 1865 still lingers in contemporary lives and cultures. Even in the places left behind.
My full review is here, but I absolutely recommend this book for everyone who wants to see the world around them with different eyes.
So that’s my list. I have a few honorable mentions as well–books that fell out of contention primarily because they were older. A classic like My Antonia would certainly be a contender otherwise.
Here’s to another great year of reading and a book-full 2023!
Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
To Walk About in Freedom: The Long Emancipation of Priscilla Joyner by Carole Emberton
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Still Life by Jay Hopper
Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrere
And the recap of the Heartlands Best Reads of 2022:
#1 – How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith
#2 – Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
#3 – The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
#4 – Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
#5 – Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv
#6 – Fatal by Kimberly Johnson
#7 – Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty
#8 – Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell
#9 – A Place Like Mississippi by W. Ralph Eubanks
#10 – Shaking the Gates of Hell by John Archibald