If 2022 was a punctuation mark, I’d call it a comma. If the quantity of reading I completed this past year waned, the quality didn’t suffer. It was a year I took the time to press pause on the number of books I read and instead focused on the breadth and depth of longer, longer, longer, longer form storytelling. The year was bookended by reads I like to think of as investment pieces. Books that’ll knock you back a few weeks on any kind of “schedule” but are so worth it in that the characters often crawl into your psyche and become a part of you for at least the time you spend with them.
Without further ado …
The Deluge, by Stephen Markley
Having discovered how long this was a couple of weeks after I had downloaded it onto my iPad, the prospect of finishing it before the New Years was daunting. Thankfully, some time off and a truly compelling storyline — or in the case of this book, several storylines — and I was able to finish ahead of posting this blog. It would be easy to suggest that being my most recent read, I’m not giving the others a chance, but this truly is my favorite read of 2022. Just absolutely masterful prose. Emotionally engaging on so many levels. Just know if you read it, you too may develop hurricane and fire phobias. Gonna go read up on flood prep now …
Fairy Tale, by Stephen King
Would I go as far as Charlie Reade to buy my demon dog a few more years? Visit another world accessible through a secret staircase? Fight for my life against ogres only Stephen King can conjure up? Maybe. Gussy may be an asshole dog, but he’s MY asshole dog. That aside, King’s tale of a fantastical underworld with its version of the Fountain of Youth was a great read, as expected. I’m a King fan, so your mileage may vary.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This came off the bucket list for me this year, having so many people tell me it’s one of their favorites. I enjoy Taylor Jenkins Reid and am not sure why I waited so long to get around to Evelyn Hugo’s escapades, but mostly I’m just glad I did.
Flight, by Lynn Steger Strong
Usually when I read a second book by the same author, I tend to stick with my first read as being my favorite. But in this case, I would say “Flight” is my favorite over Steger’s previous “Want.” Each book is great, I just think I connected more personally to her most recent tale of a family of siblings coming together at the holidays to soak in some nostalgia while at the same time making plans to move forward after the death of their mother.
The Family Chao, by Lan Samantha Chang
Another great family drama, set in rural-ish Wisconsin and the town’s signature Chinese restaurant. Family pride, jealousy and a murder mystery make it a page turner that also ended up as one of Obama’s first-half of the year faves list. So, don’t take it from me, take it from Barack …
To Paradise, by Hanya Yanagihara
Another one of this year’s signature long long long reads, Yanagihara’s latest (after a star turn with “A Little Life”) is strange but engaging, to be sure. Like her previous work, “To Paradise” is all about tragedy and character resiliency, and I am here for it.
Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
Also off the bucket list, I had heard about “Crying in H Mart” from a number of people who loved it. And having a soft spot for books with ties to cooking and/or specific cuisine, I was drawn into Zauner’s memoir about her childhood and her mother. Well written and engaging, and now has me on a mission to try making kimchi this winter.
Vacationland, by Meg Mitchell Moore
It doesn’t take much to guess the mystery buried in between the pages of “Vacationland,” but I don’t think that was the point of the read. For me, this was just a nice escapist trip to a fictional summer home on a fictional East Coast shore, and a respite from the gigantic reads I had been picking off so far during the year. It’s a beach read, and a worthy one at that.
The Mutual Friend, by Carter Bays
Another really big read, I would say the same thing about Bays’ cast of characters that I did earlier with “The Deluge” — sometimes it just absolutely takes this much time and space to let well-drawn characters come to life, and this cross-cross group of New Yorkers are just that. Well-drawn, complex, memorable and engaging. And it better be a limited series on Netflix, like yesterday.
The Power of Regret, by Daniel Pink
My personal growth pick for the year, I always enjoy finding a fresh voice to add to my favorite group of thinkers, like Adam Grant and Brene Brown. Pink’s latest reminded me how much perspective is such an important factor when it comes to personal resiliency. Loved it.
The Accomplice, by Lisa Lutz
Lisa Lutz is one of my favorite thriller genre authors, so when she releases a new one into the wild, I’m right there to start reading. Book clubs that like to read the book before they see the movie, please note: this whodunit is under development with Amazon, and is set to star Lily Collins.
End of the World House, by Adrienne Celt
You know that brief moment when learning a language that you find yourself able to not think a word in English first? Or when, for just a flash, math actually makes sense? That’s how I feel about the space-time continuum having read Celt’s tale of time travel set in the Louvre. Just a different kind of read, which is nice when you are looking to mix it up.
Tracy Flick Can’t Win, by Tom Perrotta
Full disclosure, I just love Tom Perrotta. I miss “The Leftovers” so much, and while this has nothing to do with that, if Tom can come back to the world of Tracy Flick, maybe just maybe we’ll get another crack at the Garvey family.
The Swimmers, by Julie Otsuka
The Swimmers was not what I thought it was going to be, but it turned out to be so much more. A tender exploration of a mother/daughter relationship while navigating dementia and, like the book below, the exception to the rule I made up about big books being where character development rules the day.
Mouth to Mouth, by Antoine Wilson
Hahaha, this completely blows what I said about big books and character development out of the water. But here, I will say this — Wilson isn’t trying to write a sweeping family drama across decades. He’s just asking his readers a question: Is every life something worth saving? Tightly written, and one of my favorite reads of the year. Perfect for a book club dissection.
We Were Never Here, by Andrea Bartz
An engaging thriller to knock back some of the doldrums that come along with late winter and a cold spring. Bartz’s story about two best friends and their inability to avoid killing people on vacation has twists and turns that’ll keep you guessing.
The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less, by Christine Platt
My “get yourself organized, already” read for 2022 and a great fit and fresh perspective for the compulsion I usually succumb to in mid-winter to reorganize everything in my life.
The Maid, by Nita Prose
“The Maid” wasn’t my favorite read this year, even by a long shot, but it’s not bad — it’s just that putting it up against everything else, well …. yeah.
Made in China, by Amelia Pang
Full disclosure, I am friendly with the author of “Made in China” — so I hope she will be happy to know that nearly a year later, this book, a peek behind the labor camps that supply so many economies with cheap goods, still resonates nearly a year later. And while I can’t say I’ve been conscious of every shopping decision I’ve made in the lat 12 months, I am more so than in years past and also am committed to remaining and being even more thoughtful about my purchases in the future. Great piece of nonfiction if you are the type that likes books that just plain make you think twice.
Nightbitch, by Rachel Yoder
A lot of people loved this book. It’s being made into a movie with Amy Adams. It’s got an audience. I’m also comfortable in saying I am not one of those people. I love good lit, and for that reason, I can embrace that it’s just a different kind of book. It just strayed weird for me, and I couldn’t get past of the plot devices. Your mileage may vary.
Crossroads, by Jonathan Franzen
Ah, Jonathan. Now here’s an author who gets it — make that long ass story a trilogy! Still, even if this is just Book One, it was over 600 pages. So I suspect I am in for one wild ride. Loved everything about the Hildebrandt family and can’t wait for the next installment.
Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead
Looking back now at this being the first book I read in 2022, I think I may have enjoyed this more as a summertime read, but nonetheless, Whitehead’s prose never disappoints. It’s a serious story, with serious consequences, and Ray Carney is most decidedly a serious man.
…and that’s a wrap for 2022 — if you are looking for book club recs, I’d definitely recommend Mouth to Mouth, Flight and The Family Chao, but if you want to make this the year the club takes on a doorstop book, you can’t go wrong with The Deluge or The Mutual Friend. I’d throw Franzen in the mix there too, but he’s got two more books to go before that saga is complete, so maybe that’s worth saving for later.
This year? I’d love to catch up on my Chris Bohjalian fangirl status with The Lioness, I’ve got The Rabbit Hutch sitting under the Christmas tree, and Celeste Ng’s latest on my bedside table along with Amor Towles and Andrew Sean Greer. As always, I get the best ideas from friends, so never hesitate to drop me your favorite in the comments or on the socials. Here’s to another year with my face stuck in a book — Happy New Year!