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The 5 Best Books I Read in 2022
It’s time for my favorite newsletter of the year: my year-in-reading recap!
First, my habits: when it comes to reading, I don’t set specific goals. I’m not trying to hit a certain number of titles, or working through any particular author’s oeuvre. I read whatever strikes my interest, or whatever my book club votes on. I have a few novelists I love (Lauren Groff, Sally Rooney, Celeste Ng, Emma Straub) and I’ll read their new books immediately, but I also love a good debut. I keep a note in my phone and jot down everything people recommend, and I borrow 95% of my books from the library, because reading can be an expensive habit!
Next, the numbers: this year, I read 24 books (I’ll probably finish one or two more before the official end of the year). I averaged three books a month, with the exception of August, when I only finished a single novella! 20 of the books I read were written by women, three were written by men, one was written by a non-binary author, a third were written by diverse authors, and all were published between 2017 and 2022 (my attempt to keep up with the publishing industry). I read three short story collections, one nonfiction book, and the rest were novels, which is clearly my favorite genre.
Finally, my feelings: it was an okay year for reading! My book club read a string of really heavy, really sad titles, which was tough. (Luckily, we ended the year with one of my new favorites.) I read a few books that didn’t quite live up to their hype. My favorite genre tends to be literary fiction about insular families going through it, but this year I branched out to more sci-fi and dystopian stories—gee, I wonder why? I’m already looking forward to my TBR list for 2023, and am eternally grateful to every author who shares their stories and makes our world more interesting.
And now, the books:
My 5 Best Books of 2022
Modern Lovers, Emma Straub. I read this on the plane to Italy and it was the perfect read—sweet, wistful, a charming cast of characters, and a great meditation on family, friendship, and love. Also really funny!
All This Could Be Different, Sarah Thankam Mathews. This was our final book club read of the year, and WOW, I loved it. A young woman gets her first job out of college as a change management consultant, and navigates new adulthood with a great group of friends and lovers. It’s also about sexuality, socialism, friendship, and claiming a place for yourself in the world. The dialogue was truly incredible.
The Christie Affair, Nina De Gramont. I picked this up because it was written by my former professor and thesis advisor. I’m not a huge mystery reader, so I was surprised by how much I genuinely liked it! It retells the real-life 11-day disappearance of Agatha Christie, but from the POV of her husband’s mistress, and it just gets better from there.
Cult Classic, Sloane Crosley. This was another really funny novel about letting go of the past so you can move forward. In it, a woman keeps running into her ex-boyfriends, except it’s not as coincidental as it seems. Yes, there is a cult involved. Yes, it is delightfully bonkers. Yes, I laughed and also cried. Highly recommended!
Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket, Hilma Wolitzer. This was a collection of short stories by Wolitzer, written over the span of 30 years. While the stories are not exactly connected, many of them center on a couple, following them over the years. After a while, it felt like checking in on old friends, and the last story was about as heartbreaking and beautiful as you might suspect.
Most Dystopian: The School for Good Mothers, Jessamine Chan. “Unfit” mothers have their children taken away, and must attend a school to improve themselves and hopefully win them back. Dark, disturbing, and full of twists.
Prettiest Prose: Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel. Not my favorite of her books, but no one can write a sentence like St. John Mandel. I also love seeing characters cross over from book to book. She is truly building a universe.
Most Helpful: Atomic Habits, James Clear. I love a good habit, and this book had some solid tips for cultivating them. “Habit stacking” will stay with me for a long time!
Slowest Burn: Matrix, Lauren Groff. I wouldn’t normally pick up a novel about a 12th-century nun, but in my book, Groff can do no wrong. This was no Fates and Furies (one of my all time top 5 books) but it was brilliant enough.
Most Interesting POV: We Are Watching, Eliza Bright, A E Osworth. A Gamergate-inspired story, the POV shifts from a single character to entire subreddits.
Best Ensemble: The Last Suspicious Holdout, Ladee Hubbard. Another great collection of loosely connected short stories, these ones center on Black Americans in southern suburbia.
Most Timely: This Time Tomorrow, Emma Straub. Another Emma Straub! This was her newest book, about a women who figures out how to time travel between her 16th and 40th birthdays. As a brand new 40-year-old, it was poignant and lovely and inventive. The best kind of book.
PS: If you want to see every book I’ve read since 2013, good news! I have a spreadsheet for that.
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