Best Books of 2022

Now that we’re nearly halfway through January, I should probably get around to writing my 2022 wrap-ups, huh?

So let’s get to it.

I read 160 books last year. I gave seven new-to-me books five stars, but that doesn’t mean they were necessarily new favorites. Sofi Thanhauser’s Worn: A People’s History of Clothing was incredibly informative and eye-opening, but it’s not a book I’ll dive back into any time soon.

But there are several I would be happy to reread or count as new favorites of all time.

So. The best books I read in 2022:

Once they’ve grown to a certain size or scale, the world’s great cities develop a genius loci- a spirit that best embodies the spirit of the place, its people’s background, its personality, etc. These spirits come into existence to aid the city and its people and defend it from threats if necessary. New York City is a special city, though. Instead of one spirit, it gets six. The six people who embody the city’s spirits have to find each other, develop their powers and come together to fight an interdimensional threat that seeks to destroy New York City, its people, and its spirits.

This was so different from anything I expected it to be, which I should have expected given that N.K. Jemisin wrote it. It was fresh and unexpected, and I loved the characters (except for one, who I felt sorry for more than anything). I know this wasn’t most people’s cup of tea, but I had a great time reading it. The sequel, The World We Make wasn’t quite as good in my opinion (it wrapped things up a little too quickly), but I was satisfied with the whole storyline and would gladly read more if Jemisin writes more in the series.

This is a collection of poems by the Tang Dynasty poet Chia Tao (or Jia Dao, I’ve seen both) who lived from 779-843 BCE. The original Chinese is included next to the English translation, so if you can read the Chinese you can see how the translation stacks up. I can’t read Chinese (sadly), but I loved the translated poems, which were full of beauty and wit. I haven’t seen this book in my local used bookstore, so one of these days I’ll have to co a little further afield to find a copy for myself.

This little novel opens with the death of Janet, a strange and free-spirited sixteen-year old who never quite fit in with friends or family, and who was determined to live life by her own rules. But rather than being a whodunnit story where the mystery of Janet’s death is unraveled across the book, it rewinds back to Janet’s childhood and details her life from birth to death. Barker’s prose is remarkable, and while Janet isn’t the most likeable of children, she is always sympathetic, and her motives for her pranks are always clear and make sense. I was sad to find out that O Caledonia was Barker’s only novel. I wanted to read more by her. I’ll have to settle for reading O Caledonia again.

This gorgeously illustrated graphic novel is a story of the sea and a take on Moby Dick, as told by whales. Bathsheba lives for the hunt, and her pod soars through the oceans, searching for the great whaling ships that threaten their kind. But Bathsheba’s Captain is relentless and obsessed with finding the ship that wounded her years earlier. When, one day, the find a ship bobbing on the surface of the great Abyss above, the whales expect a typical hunt, but what they find is something greater and far more dangerous than they imagined.

King Lear’s wife is a mere footnote in Shakespeare’s great tragedy, King Lear, but Thorpe imagines what her life might have been like, and in so doing holds up a mirror to Lear’s story. Though she is the perfect match for the young King Lear and bears him three daughters, she is exiled to a nunnery for reasons no one will tell her. For years, she remains locked away with the hope that one day, Lear will send a messenger and free her. But when a message does arrive, it’s to inform them all that Lear is dead, and so are all three of his daughters. Learwife tries to leave so she can visit the graves of her family. But leaving isn’t as easy as it should be, and the Abbess is reluctant to let her leave.

The story Thorpe weaves is as Shakespearean as I could have hoped for, and her prose is gorgeous. I was listening to the audiobook, which is narrated by the brilliant Juliet Stevenson, and about halfway through I decided to buy myself a copy. I’m looking forward to rereading this one.

A groups of students at a small liberal arts college in rural Vermont fall under the influence of their eccentric Classics professor who inspires them to seek a libertine lifestyle based on the ancient stories they read for class. But the pursuit of this freewheeling lifestyle leads them to commit a violent act, and their attempts to cover it up lead to even darker deeds.

I was hooked on this from the first couple of pages, and once I reached the halfway point, I spent an entire summer’s afternoon finishing it off. The characters, almost to a one, are awful in their own ways but the narrative is so compelling and the prose so elegant that I couldn’t put it down. This book has stuck with me more than most of the books I read in 2022, and inspired me to seek out more Dark Academia novels. I have yet to find one that is as instantly captivating as The Secret History, but there are plenty of them out there.

There are the best books I read for the first time in 2022! There were several rereads that I loved, of course, but do I need to keep going on about my love for The Lord of the Rings or Pride and Prejudice? I mean, sure I could, but that would just be repeating the obvious. So give these a try if they sound interesting, because I definitely recommend them

9 thoughts on “Best Books of 2022

  1. I would have to reread both books to answer that question properly. But off the top of my head, here goes. The Goldfinch is a longer book, the pace is more thriller-ish (it concerns a stolen painting) the hero is more empathetic; it’s less influenced by William Golding. I loved both books. But its hard to compare her works because she never repeats herself. I think she only produces a book every 10 years, so hopefully we are due for a new one soon.

  2. I’ll have to add The Goldfinch to my TBR, then. Maybe I’ll try it out over the summer to have a reading experience with it that’s something like the one I had with The Secret History, when I just sat down with it on a horridly hot afternoon and let my mind end up in Vermont.

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