This was an interesting reading year for me. I read less than I have in the past couple of years, probably in part due to the easing of pandemic limitations and the return of busyness that came with it. But I also seemed to hit the distracted malaise this year that many described having earlier in the pandemic. So many stories—whether books, shows, or movies—just felt “meh” and I struggled at times to really get into things. But even with that, looking over my top ten I realize that I read some truly stellar books this year, including a couple that may land on my personal “best ever,” which isn’t too shabby for a slumpy year. I’m also struck by how many of my top 10 ended up being non-fiction, which perhaps says something about what was needed to spark my brain. As always, love to hear about your favorites of 2022!
Top 10 Reads of 2022
- Olga Dies Dreaming, Xochitl Gonzalez – This book has everything—romance, career-woman-on-a-journey, intergenerational trauma, reflections on white supremacy and American imperialism—all wrapped up in a package that winds up being powerful and moving, but also fun.
- Trust, Hernan Diaz – I keep hearing people describe this novel as a “puzzle box,” which is not untrue, but it’s also an exploration of how a story shifts depending on who’s telling it and why, and it unspools in a really intriguing and fun way.
- The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O’Farrell – The book that brought me out of blog retirement. Another example of O’Farrell bringing a historical woman back to vivid life.
- Vagina Obscura, An Anatomical Voyage, Rachel Gross – Regardless of what bits you have personally this is a fascinating journey into what we know about female sexual anatomy, as well as a frustrating exploration of how much we still don’t know and how long it took to get the information we have because of how it was dismissed as unimportant.
- Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis, Brit Wray – My favorite “climate” book of the past year, exploring how we find meaning and purpose in these scary, rage-inducing, heart-breaking times. Wray also does one of the better jobs of recognizing the historical and present inequalities around who has, is, and will be experiencing the worst climate impacts even as she makes space for everyone’s distress.
- Ten Steps to Nanette, Hannah Gadsby – I laughed, I cried, my stomach churned. A particularly unique “portrait of the artist” memoir.
- A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, Hanif Abdurraqib – An absolutely exquisite collection of essays. More essay collections from poets, please!
- Light from Uncommon Stars, Ryka Aoki – A delightful genre mash-up that includes a transgender violin prodigy, a teacher fulfilling a vicious bargain with the devil, and a family of interstellar refugees running a donut shop.
- How High We Go in the Dark, Sequoia Nagamatsu – I love a novel that’s also interconnected short stories or vignettes so this was right up my alley. The subject matter is heavy (pandemic! climate change!) and yet the beauty and uniqueness of the settings and characters deftly dances with that darkness.
- Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Zevin – As soon as I finished this book I thought, “This is going to be the best book I’ve read this year.” The story focuses on two friends, Sadie and Sam, who become successful video game designers but one does not need to be into or really know anything about video games to appreciate this examination of being a creative person, a friend, a colleague and collaborator, and a lover of immersive experiences to get through the pain and complications of being an imperfect human in a messy world.
- Honorable Mentions – A Psalm for the Wild Built, which I’ve probably recommended more than anything because it’s just so damn charming, and This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno, a smart, horror mish-mash.
- Best Series – I had a lot of fun reading V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, including listening to the second two on audiobook, but the top award goes to Naomi Novik’s Scholomance trilogy. I read the first book last year and thought it was fine. But then devoured the second and third, in part because of the unique and very dark spin on a popular trope (school for magic kids) but also the nuanced and smart politics embedded in the world of the book.
- Best Re-Read – I left older books off my top ten list but I would be remiss to not mention my re-read of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, Susannah Clark’s Piranesi, and Madeline Miller’s Circe, all of which are superlative reads from superlative authors, hence the re-reads.
- Best Read-On-A-Dare – This year I finally read This is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s epistolary sci-fi, fantasy romance. But within it one character encourages the other to read Travel Light, Naomi Mitchison’s 1952 fairy tale, which turned out to be a lovely little surprise.
64 Books read (8 re-reads). 18, 679 pages
|The Fifth Season||N. K. Jemisin||Yes||*|
|A Spindle Splintered||Alix E. Harrow||No|
|To The Lighthouse||Virginia Woolf||Yes||**|
|Olga Dies Dreaming||Xochitl Gonzalez||No||*|
|The Obelisk Gate||N. K. Jemisin||Yes||*|
|This is How You Lose the Time War||Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone||No|
|The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo||Taylor Jenkins Reid||No|
|A Psalm for the Wild Built||Becky Chambers||No||*|
|The Stone Sky||N. K. Jemisin||Yes||*|
|Winter Recipes from the Collective, poems||Louise Glück||No|
|The Blue Witch||Alane Adams||No|
|Travel Light||Naomi Mitchison||No||*|
|No One Is Talking About This||Patricia Lockwood||No||*|
|Notes on an Execution||Danya Kukafka||No||*|
|A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance*||Hanif Abdurraqib||No||*|
|Grievers||adrienne maree brown||No|
|Light From Uncommon Stars||Ryka Aoki||No||*|
|A Gathering of Shadows||V. E. Schwab||No||*|
|How High We Go in the Dark||Sequoia Nagamatsu||No||*|
|Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments||T. L. Huchu||No|
|Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World*||Katherine Hayhoe||No|
|A Conjuring of Light (audio)||V. E. Schwab||No|
|Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis*||Britt Wray||No||*|
|In the Dream House||Carmen Maria Machado||No||*|
|Once There Were Wolves||Charlotte McConaghy||No||*|
|This Thing Between Us||Gus Moreno .||No||*|
|The Murders of Molly Southbourne||Tade Thompson||No|
|The Tradition, poems||Jericho Brown||No||*|
|The Lost Queen||Signe Pike||No|
|4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals*||Oliver Burkeman||No|
|Sea of Tranquility||Emily St. John Mandel||No|
|The Undiscovered Self*||Carl Jung||No||*|
|When Women Were Dragons||Kelly Barnhill||No|
|Courting the Wild Twin*||Martin Shaw||No|
|Red, White and Royal Blue||Casey McQuiston||No|
|Fevered Star||Rebecca Roanhorse||No|
|Where the Drowned Girls Go||Seanan McGuire||No|
|Siren Queen||Nghi Vo||No|
|Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow||Gabrielle Zevin||No||**|
|Beneath the Sugar Sky||Seanan McGuire||No|
|Mind of My Mind||Octavia E. Butler||No||*|
|The Atlas Six||Olivie Blake||No|
|Ten Steps to Nanette*||Hannah Gadsby||No||*|
|The Book Eaters||Sunyi Dean||No|
|A Prayer for the Crown Shy||Becky Chambers||No|
|A Third University is Possible*||la paperson||No||*|
|Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage*||Rachel Gross||No||*|
|The Last House on Needless Street||Catriona Ward||No|
|The Last Graduate||Naomi Novik||No|
|The Hole||Hiroko Oyamada||No|
|The World We Make||N. K. Jemisin||No|
|The Atlas Paradox||Olivie Blake||No|
|The Nest||Kenneth Oppel||No||*|
|The Marriage Portrait||Maggie O’Farrell||No||**|
|Daisy Darker||Alice Feeney||No|
|The Daughter of Dr. Moreau||Silvia Moreno Garcia||No|
|The Method: How the 20th Century Learned to Act*||Isaac Butler||No||*|
|The Golden Enclaves||Naomi Novik||No|