March 3, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Zoe Smith

In 2022, I read approximately 75 books.

They varied in genre, length, and the message behind each story. As a creative writing book nerd (although a majority of the books I read this year were powerful stories) there were a select few that stuck out to me and left a lasting impact on me as a reader. So out of the 75 books I have read in the past year, here are my top three favorites.

My favorite book of the past year was by far “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. It tells the story of Nora Seed, a young woman. One particular night, her desperation reaches a peak, and she attempts to take her own life, but the story doesn’t end there.

Nora awakens in this library, a place on the edge of the universe that only exists between life and death. The library is filled with an infinite number of books. Each book, when opened, transports Nora to parallel lives that Nora could have lived if she had made different choices. Nora travels through hundreds of different versions of what her life could have looked like and becomes hundreds of different versions of herself.

From a rockstar to a glaciologist to an Olympic swimmer, Nora experiences every life possible. The only catch is that once she begins to feel dissatisfaction or disappointment, she is removed from that life and must pick another. Once Nora finds a life she feels serenely happy in, she can live in that parallel universe for the rest of her life.

The novel is very well-written and leaves a thought-provoking impact on the readers. Nora’s feelings of regret, despair, and joy are all portrayed deeply. It drew me in as a reader, encompassing the different emotions that come with being a human.

Critics of the book have argued that the book becomes too repetitive, but I argue that Haig does that with purpose. He portrays how even though Nora assumed that life where she became rich or famous or married, she would be happier, yet she found herself continually fighting to find a sense of belonging, no matter what world she was in, pointing out how in any life a person chooses to live, there will always be a relentless fight to find the purpose of life.

Next is the critically acclaimed “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The story follows this small, basement cafe in Tokyo that allows its customers to travel back in time. There are many rules that must be followed in order to time travel. You must wait for the ghost in the corner to leave its seat because that is the only seat that allows time traveling, and you can only travel back to a point when you were in the cafe. But the most important rule is that you must return to the present before the coffee gets cold.

The story is separated into four parts, as the reader follows four different people coming to make use of the cafe’s unique time-traveling offer. Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story attempts to address the lifelong question: if you could travel back in time, what would you do differently? What would you say?

The mind-wracking book leaves readers with many questions, is it possible to find inner peace if you could change one thing? One moment in time? The beautifully haunting book leaves readers of all ages staring at the wall after finishing the book asking themselves each of these questions.

“Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney, the same author of the hit sensations “Normal People” and “Conversations with Friends” is the final book on my list. This story is one of her more recent novels. It follows the lives of four college friends as they stay in contact through long, existential emails. The emails detail the romantic hardships that two of the characters, Alice and Eileen, face with Felix and Simon, their two other college friends. The four young adults face the hardship of life catching up on them too quickly, each of them cynical in their own way.

The story addresses the fear that many face: figuring out how they should live and find meaning in such a troubled world. They grapple with struggles that any ordinary person faces. In this book, the author focuses on topics including class issues, mental health, and the trials and tribulations of relationships. Like other novels written by Rooney, she strives to showcase the beauty in the ordinary and reassuringly, manages to find it.

At first, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this story. I thought it was a slow-paced, anti-climactic novel that just followed the uneventful, ordinary lives of simple people afraid that their quiet life has no real meaning. But then, after I finished the novel, that was exactly what made me start to fall in love with the piece. Just like the extraordinary classic “Little Women”, the book follows the simple lives of people struggling with the fears of growing old and making no real memorable impact on the world.

 Reading books like these is what reminds readers that not every aspect of your life is going to be filled to the brim with excitement, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful — all you have to do is look for it.

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