Can you believe we made it through another year? Thankfully, 2022 went down a little smoother than the years prior. As always, I’m amazed – looking back – at how many brilliant books I had the opportunity to read this year. Check out the best books of 2022 (back-list AND new release).
Legitimate Sexpectations by Katrina Marson
I considered myself fairly open-minded and well-informed about sex education prior to reading Legitimate Sexpectations – even though I received little more than the standard “how to use a pad” and “how the sperm penetrates the egg” at school, as far as I can recall. And yet, Marson opened my eyes, again and again, as to how the system as it stands is failing kids (and adults). Most importantly, she doesn’t just identify the problems; Marson outlines potential solutions. I want to thrust Legitimate Sexpectations into the hands of every politician, parent, and school principal. It’s one of the best nonfiction books of 2022, one that has the power to affect real change. Read my full review of Legitimate Sexpectations here.
56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard
Is it too soon for a COVID-19 murder mystery? Catherine Ryan Howard surely hopes not. 56 Days is her latest high-concept crime thriller, set in Dublin in the early days of the city’s first lock-down. It’s a well written, well paced, with tantalising clues and a couple of truly excellent fake-out twists. The couple at the heart of the story barely know each other when they’re forced into the pressure cooker pandemic situation, so the reader gets two (or more?) very different perspectives on the same events. I thoroughly enjoyed 56 Days – so my verdict is that it’s not too soon for a COVID-19 novel, as long as it’s a good one. Read my full review of 56 Days here.
Here Be Leviathans by Chris Flynn
I loved, loved, loved Chris Flynn’s last book, Mammoth – it was one of the best books I read in 2020. So, when I saw he had a new book coming out, I sat up straight and said “yes, please!” in my polite voice. Here Be Leviathans is a collection of nine short stories, narrated by animals, places, objects, and even the (very) odd human. A grizzly bear on the run, a plane seat in a terrifying crash, a genetically modified platypus with the power of speech – each and every one, bizarre and brilliant. Flynn really pushes the boundaries of what we can expect from perspective and it takes a special, rare writing talent to pull it off. Read my full review of Here Be Leviathans here.
Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe
If you loved Say Nothing and Empire Of Pain (like I did), you’ll be overjoyed (as I was) to get your hands on a copy of Rogues, a collection of Patrick Radden Keefe’s most celebrated articles from The New Yorker and one of the best books of 2022. These delightfully detailed investigative pieces focus on his favourite subjects: “crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial”. Honestly, I could talk about each and every one of these stories for hours. They’re all masterfully crafted, perfectly balanced, and totally gripping. Read my full review of Rogues here.
The Importance Of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
The farcical premise and witty dialogue have made The Importance Of Being Earnest Wilde’s most enduringly popular play. I can attest to the fact that it’s a lot more fun than The Picture Of Dorian Gray, to boot. Wilde’s wit and insight shines at full strength throughout, and he gently pokes at the social mores and conventions of the time while still maintaining a timeless quality. It’s still beloved by critics, readers, and theatre-goers alike, and I’m happy to join them in singing its praises. It’s a quick read, remarkably clever, and delightfully ridiculous. Read my full review of The Importance Of Being Earnest here.
A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Very few blurbs have grabbed me like that of Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being. It’s a brilliant premise: a writer finds a diary, locked inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox, washed up on the beach in remote coastal Canada. She suspects it to be debris from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. She reads the diary, and finds herself increasingly obsessed with the life and inner world of 16-year-old Nao, the diary’s keeper. I mean… isn’t that fascinating?! I was very pleased to discover that the contents of Ozeki’s novel – one of the best books I read in 2022 – totally lived up to the high, high expectations that blurb set. Read my full review of A Tale For The Time Being here.
Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
I inhaled Weather Girl in one sitting. The plot is just the right level of ridiculous for a rom-com, the characters are well-developed and well-intentioned, and it has plenty of snort-laughs to offer. Best of all, though, were the steamy and – this is key – realistic sex scenes! Honestly, I wanted to high-five Solomon through the page. For once, rom-com characters experience the actual awkwardness and anxiety of intimacy with someone new, without it ruining the vibe. I gave this one five stars for that alone, one of the best books of 2022 for sure. Read my full review of Weather Girl here.
Sadvertising by Ennis Ćehić
Every so often, a short story collection comes along that changes the game completely. In 2017, it was Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body And Other Parties. I’m pretty confident that Ennis Ćehić’s Sadvertising is next. It’s a collection of short, sharp stories about modern life, technology, and marketing, and one of the best books of 2022. The stories are drenched in black humour, existential dread, and late-capitalist yearning. Some of them are seriously short – as in, 1-2 pages – so they’re quick to read, but deeply resonant. It struck me as I read through the collection that it would be an especially great read for fans of Black Mirror and the Gruen Transfer. Read my full review of Sadvertising here.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace is a fascinating and compelling work of historical fiction, one that tells us just as much about Canadian society and gender roles and the field of psychiatry at the time as it does the crimes of Grace Marks. I also loved the sneaky Gothic elements, which felt very true to form for a story of this nature. This book both satisfied my Murderino curiosity and met high literary standards – no mean feat, as it would have been easy to make this story schlocky and scandalous. Atwood has expressed some troubling views of late, but damn if this wasn’t one of the best books I read in 2022. Read my full review of Alias Grace here.
Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
Karen Joy Fowler wrote one of my favourite and most-often-recommended books, so I did an excited “squeeee!” when I saw she had a new one coming out. Booth is superbly readable. The pages flow by even when nothing particularly thrilling is happening. Fowler paints intimate portraits of each family member, and the narration includes deft wink-nods to the reader and the future. I was most impressed by the way Fowler kept the day-to-day family drama in the foreground – it struck me as very realistic. My hat goes off to her once again – she’s written an incredible, timely, and provocative novel, one of the best books of 2022. Read my full review of Booth here.
The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Of all the great books I read this year, The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks was the first one that came to mind when I sat down to write my list of the best books of 2022. To call it a ‘biography’ feels reductive, as it’s so much more than dates and the facts of a life. It’s a masterpiece of journalistic non-fiction, written by a first-time writer no less. It’s a study of bioethics, a masterclass in accessible science writing, and a testament to the human consequences of scientific discovery. And it’s compelling as heck, to boot! Read my full review of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks here.
Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Setting aside any regards for its contents, Horrorstor is one of the best books of 2022 for design, alone. Look at it! It’s formatted to look like an IKEA catalogue, complete with an order form for a copyright page and product descriptions for chapter headers. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful tomes I’ve ever had the privilege of placing on my shelves. The concept is brilliant, too: haunted IKEA. Doesn’t that just send shivers down your spine? But it’s not all schlocky spooks and jump-scares. This story has hidden depths. Hendrix mines the mind-fuck of consumerism and late-stage capitalism to fuel your nightmares. Read my full review of Horrorstor here.
The Strangers by Katherena Vermette
Despite the (very) heavy subject matter and Vermette’s talent for stark realism, The Strangers is surprisingly readable. The pages fly by! It really exceeded my expectations, and I’m still mulling over it, months later. It’s “a searing exploration of race, class, inherited trauma, and matrilineal bonds that – despite everything – refuse to be broken”. Katherena Vermette is a Red River Métis (Michif) writer, from the heart of Métis nation (Canada), and her heritage permeates this incredible First Nations novel – one of the best books of 2022. Read my full review of The Strangers here.
Calypso by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is a must-read auto-buy author for me now, but I’m forcing myself to take it slow. I make myself read only one book of his at a time, instead of gobbling them all down at once. I started with Me Talk Pretty One Day, then last year Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim, and now in 2022 Calypso – a collection of autobiographical essays that (once again) was one of my best reads of the year. Even though the content of this one is a bit darker in parts, he still writes with the humour and panache that makes him unique. It’s impossible not to be impressed by his mastery of the form, the way in which he can punch in any direction and still manage to remain thoroughly likeable and hilarious. Read my full review of Calypso here.
Odd Hours by Ania Bas
There’s been no shortage of quirky protagonists in recent years, but Gosia in Odd Hours is a different breed. She’s like the Polish love-child of an Ottessa Moshfegh character and a Fredrik Backman character, with a little of a Gail Honeyman character thrown in. The dark, wry humour keeps the story entertaining, rather than wearisome, but it’s far from a light-hearted rom-com. It lives up to the blurb’s promise of “a razor-sharp social comedy about human connection”. The plot builds to an unconventionally happy ending that will delight odd ducks everywhere. Read my full review of Odd Hours here.
Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata
As with Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings before, Life Ceremony was translated into English from the original Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori – and, once again, she’s done a fantastic job. It’s a collection of “weird, out of this world” short stories that mix “taboo-breaking horror with feminist revenge fables”. Exactly as you’d expect from Murata if you’ve read her work before, it’s full of the joyfully strange aspects of human nature and surreal conceits that will blow your mind. The stories vary in length and complexity, but they’re all fascinating in equal measure. Read my full review of Life Ceremony here.
The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald
I was truly blown away by the TV series The Cry when I caught it by chance on the ABC a few years ago. I didn’t actually realise it was adapted from a book until I came across a copy! Even though the ending was ‘spoiled’ for me, I was still keen to read it – and it was still completely gripping. The Cry is a dark, psychological thriller with a gripping moral dilemma, perfect for anyone who enjoys a story about good people doing bad things. And if, like me, you’ve already seen the show, trust me when I say that it’s still worth a read – it’s one of the best books I read in 2022! Read my full review of The Cry here.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
One of my most recent reads is also one of the best books of 2022 (in my humble opinion). Demon Copperhead is surely destined to become a contemporary classic, an essential component of the burgeoning canon of books about the generation of lost boys in 21st century America. Kingsolver crafts a compelling adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic novel, David Copperfield, transporting the story – complete with abusive parents, neglect, poverty, disease, and loss – to the Southern Appalachian mountains of Virginia. Even Kingsolver’s Uriah Heep character is every bit as creepy as the original, if you can believe it! Read my full review of Demon Copperhead here.