Favorite Reads of 2022: Truth Tellers

I just hit my Goodreads 2022 book goal! I was blessed to find some incredible reads this year and want to share them with you in case you are looking for the perfect gift for someone. I genuinely believe there is nothing better than being gifted a book in the long, dark, cold days of winter!

Since this year’s list is a bit longer than normal, I’ll start with some truth-telling books that gave me a new found perspective on topics I was always curious about but never really investigated on my own.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe

I’m a professional marketer and so I will tread lightly on the origins of the Sackler dynasty. This book sheds light on how they influenced physicians with marketing, well before the invention of opioids. It is perhaps these backroom dealings that always made me feel like I sold a part of my soul when trading journalism for healthcare marketing. Things only get worse from here. This book sheds light on perhaps what is one of the greatest cases of corruption and greed in America and the players behind it. The opioid crisis continues to wreak havoc on our country and it is hard to attribute it to one family, but if you are looking for a book that captures how the epidemic came to be and the dollars and influence behind it, this book will achieve that (and perhaps frighten you a bit as well).

Bonus Opioid Read: Death in Mud Lick: A Coal County Fight Against the Drug Companies That Delivered The Opioid Epidemic

If the opioid epidemic has you wondering WTF, this is another great read. It tells the story of the pharmacy in Kermit, WV that distributed about 9 million opioids in two years to a town with 382 people – and the battle for justice after the drug wreaked havoc in the Appalachians. This is a fast paced fascinating read by a Pulitzer Prize award winning journalist for Investigative Reporting. 

Wasteland: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial by Corban Addison

This is a dense one but important. When CAFOs were first discussed where I live, I didn’t truly understand the potential magnitude of their environmental impact. Nor, did I understand the desire for these to be placed in poor, rural areas. I didn’t believe they’d bring any sort of positive economic impact but I’m sad to say, I was pretty neutral on the topic. I’m glad others were not. After reading this book about the CAFO court battles in North Carolina, I was a bit devastated about the ongoing inequity in rural America. Politicians, ag experts and corporate America are not portrayed kindly in this book – almost to the point of feeling like a one-sided anti-industry hitman attempting to take down big ag. That aside, I learned a lot about the pork industry in North Carolina and what it could have meant for my county had it made its way here.

The Women of Copper Country: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell and Copper Divide by Beth Kirschner

I purchased both of these books on a whim last fall while visiting the UP of Michigan. While fiction, they both bring perspective to the Italian Hall Disaster of 1913. For those unfamiliar, this Christmas Eve disaster happened in Calumet during a union Christmas Party during a major mining strike. Legend has it that someone yelled fire, causing a stampede that resulted in the death of 73 people including 59 children. The who and why part will forever be a mystery. As someone who grew up in a paper mill town, I have a lot of empathy towards the tension between union and non-union, and the economic impact of a natural resource like timber or iron ore versus preserving the natural environment. After all, a major portion of my college tuition was paid for with a multi-year paper mill scholarship in the double digits. Both of these authors do a fabulous job of reminding us that the world is not always black and white and not everything can be summarized as hero and victim or heroine and villain. That said, the tragedy that unfolded that night was a true tragedy and the fact that nobody was ever held accountable remains a real mystery to me.

Next up, three authors whose series wowed me in 2022