I read an even 100 books in 2022, and have listed my favorites below. (My Goodreads account has additional notes and details.)
To be clear, not all of these books came out in 2022. Some are older and some, (like my Netgalley reads) won’t be published until 2023. This is just the year when I read them.
Best YA (Young Adult)
I loved The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson for its wonderful characters, queer representation, and story, (with ice cream recipes!) I also enjoyed Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson, (technically “coming of age,” which is basically nostalgic YA for adults.) It’s a story about teens making art and the ensuing viral response in the pre-Internet era.
No romance book totally bowled me over this year, but I did really enjoy Luci Yi is Not a Romantic by Lauren Ho for its realistic love triangle and insight into how single motherhood is viewed in Singapore. I also enjoyed Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis, a light and breezy tale about the power of fate and serendipity.
In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom is an eye-opening memoir by Yeonmi Park that tells the story of her life within, (and eventual escape from) a country that is shrouded in mystery for most Americans. I also appreciated Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon, which tackles the topic of weight, both metaphorically and literally. It’s (not surprisingly) also heavy reading, but is beautifully written.
The Drift by C. J. Tudor is first and foremost an excellent thriller, but it does have a very creepy threatening element in it that produces a few great jump scares. (This book would make a hell of a movie.) If you like your spookiness more of the ghostly/haunted house variety, check out Home Before Dark by Riley Sager.
This year I finished the The Founder’s Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett, an amazing three book series that includes Foundryside, Shorefall, and Locklands. These are fantasy books, (with very cool magic rooted in scientific principals) that have EPIC action scenes. Seriously, if these books were a movie, you’d want to see them on IMAX, (particularly the third). Frankly, I’m jealous you get to read these back-to-back, because I had to wait years between volumes.
Best YA (Young Adult) Series
The great irony of my life is that my daughter doesn’t like to read! Thankfully she does like graphic novels though, so it was a gift to be able to read the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman with her. (Though she doesn’t love me namedropping it around her friends trying to be a “cool mom.”) These four books have a gigantic, beautiful heart and lovely illustrations. (The Netflix series largely based on book 1 is great too!)
Best Historical Fiction
I adored O’Farrell’s last book, Hamnet. Her latest, The Marriage Pact is also a standout, a touching, intimate story based on the true life of a teen girl betrothed to a Duke in 1550. I also enjoyed Outlawed by Anna North, with its decidedly feminist perspective on the Wild West. Like Portrait, it’s a book with fascinating lessons to teach us about how “barren women” have historically been treated by society.
Two standouts this year were Fairy Tale by Stephen King and Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott. Fairy Tale is King at his finest, serving up a sprawling adventure of a boy on a quest to save the life of the dog (Radar!) that he loves. Thistlefoot is a magical, (and also deeply touching) tale combining Baba Yaga folklore with the story of two siblings who inherit a house that lives on chicken feet. It all makes sense when you read it!
Both of these picks are a reminder of how much we miss while history is happening, and how much of it we forget over time. The first is The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman, which focuses on that unique moment in time before the Internet changed the world forever. The Helpers: Profiles From the Frontlines of the Pandemic by Kathy Gilsinan is a moving series of stories from the early days of Covid, profiling the quiet heroes who didn’t make the headlines.
Both of these books are simply stunning, (and yes…like much dystopian fiction, often deeply sad). The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton describes a very logical/practical end of the world scenario, (we go out with a whimper, not a bang), but also teases a future filled with hope. How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu is a masterpiece of storytelling, taking us through thousands of years, including the fall of civilization, attempts to rebuild, and a quest to find a future among the stars.
Mickey7 by Edward Ashton is a lot of fun, a space adventure with a very entertaining lead character who is a joy to hang out with. (So much so, you may find yourself disliking his clones!) I also enjoyed The Ferryman by Justin Cronin, which is on the other end of the spectrum–a dense, profound story, (written by an author who has impressive pedigree) that takes place within multiple layers of reality.
Best Time Travel
I hadn’t intended to read a boatload of time travel books this year, but apparently that’s what fate had in store! They included teen romance time-travel, arty mind-bender time travel, and these two standouts: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel and This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub. I’m a fan of Mandel’s work and her new book didn’t disappoint, offering an intricate story spanning 500 years. Straub’s book is more quiet and intimate, a father/daughter tale that will both warm and break your heart.
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby has a brilliant premise, (two kinda homophobic ex-con dads combine forces to avenge the deaths of their gay sons…who were married to each other.) Word of warning, it is violent, with a very Sons of Anarchy vibe. I also liked Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak. Not sure how to classify this one. Maybe a paranormal thriller? There is some spooky ghost action and some scary pictures, but then it moves into more traditional thriller territory.
Best Literary Fiction
This one is always hard to choose. Ultimately I’m going with Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead and Celeste Ng‘s latest, Our Missing Hearts. Circle follows the life of Marian, an aviator who vanishes over Antarctica while trying to fly around the world. (Great storytelling, meticulously researched.) Hearts could also be classified as dystopian. It’s ultimately a family drama set in a future in which anti-Asian hate has been taken to extremes.
If this was merely a book about a Black woman homesteading alone in Montana in 1915, I’d call it “my favorite historical fiction of the year” and be done with it. But, it’s about more than that. A LOT MORE. In fact, it’s kinda bananas, (which means some of you will hate it.) I can’t really say anything more without spoilers. All I know is, if you see all these twists coming ahead of time, then you, my friend, are PSYCHIC!