7 Books That Helped Shape My 2022

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I could write an epic poem based on my 2022. But I shall refrain and avoid boring you all. I’ll just say this, it was one helluva year.

But I read more books than I expected, and that’s a win I’ll gladly take!

Despite everything that happened last year, I believe it was all worth it. Because I learned that I love learning, exploring, and uncovering new perspectives.

Here are 7 books I’m glad I read in 2022:

In Arcadia, Ben Okri

One read I wasn’t expecting or hadn’t planned.

No, this book found me. I was sorting things in the back corner of a forgotten closet, and there it was calling my name. And what a treasure it is. A portrait sends a group of diverse characters on a deeply magical journey filled with stunning scenery and fascinating mythology. Not to mention Okri’s eloquent prose.

Ben Okri’s In Arcadia will transport you to a world of intrigue and history.

Memed, My Hawk, Yashar Kemal

Another book I hadn’t heard about, but grabbed from my roommate’s shelf before a 7-hour train ride. I headed out the door and hoped for the best.

The story is a fast-paced adventure that takes you through the Turkish countryside with a clear narrative style that perfectly suits this tale of rebellion. But at its core, Kemal’s Memed, My Hawk wants you to walk away from it with a different perspective on good and evil and their impact on society and the individual.

Tender Is The Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald

A lover of The Great Gatsby, I was intrigued to read more from Fitzgerald. Even more so when I discovered that this novel was his fourth and final novel. Although I wasn't prepared for the depths of sadness this book reaches I couldn’t put this down.

Tender Is The Nighthauntingly mirrors the tragic but real experiences so many of us have had at one point in our lives.

Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

A smack-back into reality.

A well-deserved smack might I add. Butler’s Parable Of The Sowerkeeps you on your toes with its all-too-familiar themes of religion, climate change, survival, and community. Its main character, Lauren, will be your new best friend, your confidant. And with each turn of the page, you join her in her crumbling world. And that strikes quite close to home.

If you’re looking to get into sci-fi, Butler is the best author to start with. This is a must-read.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

A touching and immensely powerful cultural touchstone of not merely African-American literature but World literature. Walker weaves a realistic story of a young woman’s journey from the drudgery of domestic abuse to independence.

The novel is unapologetically female and black and opens up readers to a richly cultured world that has been ignored for hundreds of years. Listen up, time to pay attention. Give this magnificent story a try.

The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien

The adventure that started it all, and one I read as a child. But I must admit I fell in love with Amazon’s Rings of Power series, so I immediately ordered The Hobbit and devoured it in one go.

It’s simply a great modern classic!

J.R.R.’s worldbuilding is LEGENDARY. His magical creatures, their mystical cultures, and the constant perils they face are imaginative and so inspiring. Who knows, maybe I have a fantasy story in the works!

Sula, Toni Morrison

A book I’ve read more times than I’ll admit on the internet but one I’ll continue return to. With each delicious read, there’s always something new to uncover. Toni Morrison is a master of prose and effortlessly portrays the friendship between two black women - the love, the betrayal, and the loss of innocence.

Sula makes me think about my own friendships - current and lost - and how profound platonic love is.


My Thank You Letter To Toni Morrison

Photo credit: Michel Euler/AP/Shutterstock

I’ll never forget the moment I finished reading Sula by Toni Morrison.

I closed the book and then cried.

I cried at how beautifully the story was written, I cried at the powerful revelation Nel (one of the main protagonists) has at the end, and I cried out in relief. Relief that, for once, both black and female characters were shown in all their glory – and flaws – outside of the white male gaze.

Their sense of self was not created based on how white America perceived them, but on how they perceived themselves. And as a gay black writer born on the East Coast, that felt revolutionary to me.

“I’m writing for black people… in the same way that Tolstoy was not writing for me, a 14-year-old colored girl from Lorain, Ohio. I don’t have to apologize or consider myself limited because I don’t [write about white people] – which is not absolutely true, there are lots of white people in my books. The point is not having the white critic sit on your shoulder and approve it, - Morrison told The Guardian.

Toni Morrison was the recipient of the 1977 National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon, 1988’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Beloved, and the Nobel Prize in Literature a few years later.

Morrison’s writing and characters have gone on to resonate with millions of readers across the globe of various races and ethnicities. Not to mention the generations of writers, like myself, that she has and will continue to inspire.

From her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, to her last, God Help The Child, Toni Morrison has vigorously and unapologetically encapsulated the human experience that so many Black Americans endure despite the masks we wear for society at large, which transformed American literature as we know it.

An enormous part of her legacy is the work she did to establish and extend the Black American literary canon, both in her own writing and in the work she did as an editor prior to having published her first novel.

Toni Morrison's Writing | Making Black America | PBS

Morrison leans into topics many would consider taboo and creates complex characters with raw psyches and emotions.

The authenticity, the rawness, and the brutal honesty touches you in a way I can’t even begin to try and type out or describe. All I can say is that after each Morrison novel I’ve read, I’m left both inspired and hungry for something else from her. Inspired to create characters that look like me, from worlds like mine, who are bigger than life, and unapogetically black.

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it,” - Toni Morrison.

Her works force you to confront the ugly truths of society, the links to our brutal past, and the relationships forged because of a history we often would rather forget, then revisit.

"Quiet as it’s kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby that marigolds did not grow" - The Bluest Eye.

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, Morrison has written is a work of literary art. However, we all have our favorites. Here are mine:

1.Song Of Solomon - Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. As Morrison follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, she introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized Black world.”

2.Love - In life, Bill Cosey enjoyed the affections of many women, who would do almost anything to gain his favor. In death his hold on them may be even stronger. Wife, daughter, granddaughter, employee, mistress: As Morrison’s protagonists stake their furious claim on Cosey’s memory and estate, using everything from intrigue to outright violence, she creates a work that is shrewd, funny, erotic, and heartwrenching.”

3.Paradise- “Starts with a horrifying scene of mass violence and chronicles its genesis in an all-black small town in rural Oklahoma. Founded by the descendants of freed slaves and survivors in exodus from a hostile world, the patriarchal community of Ruby is built on righteousness, rigidly enforced moral law, and fear. But seventeen miles away, another group of exiles has gathered in a promised land of their own. And it is upon these women in flight from death and despair that nine male citizens of Ruby will lay their pain, their terror, and their murderous rage.”

No matter which of her books catches your eye first, you’re bound to be in for an adventure that puts your emotions on a rollercoaster and introduces you to some of the most well-written and thought out characters.

Toni Morrison is one of the best American authors. Thanks to her, readers and writers across the world are inspired to speak their truths and stand fully in who they are and what they stand for; just like she did.

Thank you, Toni!


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To The Stars Above - The Importance Of Octavia Butler

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I thought Octavia E. Butler was a dope writer back when I first stumbled upon her 1979 novel Kindred—arguably her most famous work. But now that I’ve read most of her novels, if not all, I have soooo much respect, admiration, and appreciation for her work and everything she stood for.

I’m not the only one who feels that way either, Butler went on to receive a raft of awards and accolades for her works, starting with:

  • The first science-fiction author to be honored with a MacArthur "Genius Grant"
  • The first Black woman to win the Nebula Award
  • The first Black woman to win the Hugo Award

Butler's fiction helped frame Black women's agency and individuality in a world that often denies them both. Born in Southern California, Butler was raised by her widowed mother, and at a young age, she discovered her love of reading and writing science fiction.

While in college Octavia was encouraged to attend the Clarion Workshop, which focused on science fiction and led to her first published work, Crossover. By the late 1970s, Butler had become sufficiently successful as an author that she was able to pursue writing full-time - THE DREAM!

“All that you touch

You Change.

All that you Change

Changes you.

The only lasting truth

is Change.

God is Change.”

Octavia E. Butler,Parable of The Sower

What a powerfully profound quote from such a violently relevant book.

Butler’s work has radically changed my perspective on life and has left a lasting impression on me as a Black man and a writer.

Above And Beyond - Octavia’s Legacy

Before I had the honor of encountering Octavia Butler’s body of work, I already adored science-fiction and fantasy. There are so many books, comics, shows, and films that I enjoyed as a kid, but the main thing they taught me was that someone who looked like me and came from where I was from could never be the main character.

Then sometime between high school and college, I discovered Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Alice Walker, all prolific Black American writers. Yet, when it came to adventures in deep space and post-apocalyptic settings, there was little out there.

Thank the heavens for Nichelle Nichols and the doors she broke for black actors, but where were the black science-fiction writers?

In walks Octavia Butler . . . Not actually [I wish], but figuratively.

“Embrace diversity.


Or be divided,




By those who see you as prey.

Embrace diversity

Or be destroyed.”

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of The Sower

After I finished Kindred, I knew I had to DEVOUR everything else by this amazing writer. Building out my Octavia Butler collection has been a source of pleasure during stressful days and also an inspiration for my writing.

Octavia Butler shows me as a reader that we can exist alongside everyone else in science-fiction and that, as a Black writer, the stars are the limit. She’s given me permission to write about whatever the hell I want and not to allow hateful, bigoted ideologies stop me from telling the stories I’m meant to tell.

“I fantasized living impossible but interesting lives – magical lives in which I could fly like Superman, communicate with animals, control people’s minds.” Butler wrote in 1999.

Butler mastered the art of storytelling by digging into deeply uncomfortable terrain - particularly humanity's hierarchical nature - and examining it with unwavering honesty. Her works challenged widespread notions of evolution, community, and sexuality as set against the backdrop of alien invasions or post-apocalyptic America.

Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

And this is only the beginning.

Butler’s work continues to inspire a renaissance of Afrofuturism. I can’t wait to get my hands on the amazing works to come that have been inspired and empowered by Octavia’s novels.

My personal recommendations

I think all of her novels are worthy of reading, but here are a few of my personal favorites:

  • Kindred Undoubtedly her most popular work, this is a fantastic introduction to Octavia Butler and her out-of-this-world writing style. It’s an exquisitely rendered telling of the haunting connection 20th-century Black women have with 19th-century chattel slavery.
  • Dawn The first novel in the Lilith’s Brood trilogy and is living proof that science-fiction doesn’t have to revolve around a white protagonist to be compelling or memorable. Octavia’s storytelling is impeccable. All three novels leave readers on the edge of their seats, wondering if humanity will continue to resist or finally relinquish to tentacle-covered galactic travelers.
  • Parable Of The TalentsWinner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the sequel to Butler’s riveting dystopian classic Parable Of The Sower. The novel picks right where the first ends but from the POV of the first book’s protagonist’s daughter. Butler’s eerily prophetic novel provides a reality-check about what could be our terrifying potential future and our potential salvation.

Sixteen years after Butler's death, her legacy is more relevant than ever.

Octavio Butler stands as the blueprint for future Black science-fiction writers - and all writers - who seek to share the worlds they’re conjuring and the outstanding characters they’re creating.

This weekend, do yourself a favor and check out any of Butler’s books, you won’t be disappointed!


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Getaway — The Real Hidden Gem of Nashville

I love nature, but I’m also a home boy. I adore snuggling up on the sofa with all of the creature comforts of home. Being a Tennessee native, I tend to vacation close by. I figure, what’s the point of traveling when there’s still so much to discover?

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot in Nashville and loved every bit. Whenever my friends come to visit, we make sure to hit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Broadway, the parks, and my favorite restaurants and bars.

I really enjoy my state. I know where to go when I’m having a relatively hard day, what pizza — and yummy toppings! — to order at City House, and where to find the best cocktails. Although I view myself an expert on Tennessee, I have yet to find an idyllic place for a weekend escape off the grid.

I was scrolling through Instagram when I noticed a post about Getaway Dale Hollow, which is located near Celina and set in Moss Forest. The forest floor is a carpet of deep green moss and the cozy cabins looked super quaint.

Getaway’s an excellent alternative to the same-old, same-old vacation but in a rustic setting. Tucked away in the most beautiful places, they have clusters of tiny cabins that offer the comforts of home, just two hours from major cities. Getaway Dale Hollow’s location is only two hours outside of Nashville.

With 50 to 150 feet between cabins, they’re socially distant by design. Check-in and check-out are contact-free. Plus, rates start at only $99/night.

I’d be completely alone and have a chance to reconnect with my thoughts, feelings, and myself. Each cabin has a warm shower, a private toilet, air conditioning and heat, a charming mini-kitchen, and a freshly made queen-sized bed that sleeps two — or two queen beds that sleep four.

It seemed like the perfect hidden gem close by the city of Nashville. I booked it and couldn’t wait to head there that weekend. From the minute I stepped out of the car, the quietness was bliss. I found my cabin — even better than the website — and ran in to see my comfy queen-sized bed. The huge glass window has to be my favorite: no sidewalks, no buildings, no traffic, nothing but trees for miles.

On my first night, I relaxed on the Adirondack chair by the fire pit, watching the flames and sipping on a crisp Chardonnay. I got the best night’s sleep in months. I didn’t wake up to my blaring phone alarm, which was all packed away in the lockbox. Instead, I woke to the sun streaming in through the window. Once I’d polished off my morning cup of coffee, I was off to explore.

I started with a trek around Roaring River Falls — only a few miles from the cabin! I walked till the end of the trail and was rewarded with the most beautiful waterfall — the second gem I uncovered.

I stopped at Teddi Lou's Bakery for lunch and picked up an order of fresh apple fritters and their famous jalapeno poppers — absolutely delicious! My afternoon was spent at the Clay County Museum of History, taking in all the local history. Then I popped into Dale Hollow Antiques and picked up an antique tea set for my mom.

On my way back I grabbed a few ingredients from Scott's Bestway and rustled up a delicious dinner that I savored by the fire wrapped in a comfy blanket — absolute bliss! The next morning I got in another quick hike through the Bearwaller Gap before heading back to the busy city.

I know Nashville is incredible, but Getaway has revealed a whole new site to Tennessee. Now when my friends come to visit, I can take them to Getaway so we can all really relax. These glorious cabins nestled in the woods have made me love my state even more.

Any time I need an escape, I simply hop in my car and take off for a perfectly blissful weekend only two hours away.

If you’re looking for a tranquil time away — with a little adventure mixed in — check out Getaway Dale Hollow. It’s truly the Hidden Gem of Tennessee.

Plan Your Next Adventure With Getaway!