Well, it’s that time of year. The time when every magazine, newspaper, website, and blogger published their “best x books of 2022” list, like, two months ago.
(How do you even know until the year actually ends? What about the books that get published in November and December? Are they destined to be sad and lonely forever?)
Anyhow, I like to wait until the year is closer to actually being over. And I like to resist the urge to pretend that I know anything at all about the best books of 2022.
But here’s what I do know. I know I read a bunch of books in 2022—some published in 2022, some published earlier. (I’m hesitant to say how many, because what does that even mean when books vary so much in length and density?) I know I liked a lot of them, but some more than others. And I know I’d love to share some of the ones I liked most with you.
Thus, my “totally biased fave reads of 2022”!
Let’s start with fiction, and then we’ll mosey on over to nonfiction next week.
I don’t know that I had one clear favorite fiction book this year. (Although if I did, it would probably be Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.) I feel like it’s hard to compare, because there are so many different genres, different subject matters, different levels of seriousness. All worth reading.
So instead of trying to rate them against each other, I’ve made up some made-up awards. The books are ordered, very imprecisely, from most heartbreaking/serious to most light/fun.
Here we go!
- Most heart-wrenching exploration of queer people & communities’ experiences in the 80s: Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers (Penguin Books, 2019)
Omg, this book was sad. Loved the characters and was right there with them. And it helped me understand and empathize with the people and communities impacted by the AIDS crisis in a deeper way.
- Most epic multigenerational historical fiction with morally complex villain: Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (Grand Central Publishing, 2017)
So epic. Learned a lot about East Asian history, woven through this story about a Korean family living in Japan. Beautifully done. Especially appreciated the attention to women’s lives and experiences. And for some reason I found the main villain-ish character very delightful—not delightful in the sense of being likable or a good person, but in the sense that his complicated bad-ness was complex and interesting.
- Most awesome first half before becoming a little more grim than I was hoping for: Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun (Tor Books, 2022)
I was so into this book for quite a while, but the last maybe-third-ish of it was…I don’t want to say disappointing, because maybe you’ll love it (and that’s great if so!), but personally I was bummed about it. But I really, really liked the early story about a cunning and gutsy girl who survives poverty to become a novice monk and then a sort of nonviolent(ish) resistance fighter against the empire.
The parts narrated by the octopus were my faves, to be honest, but the book as a whole was also delightful. Bonus points for being set in a fictional town in western Washington. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, Ken and I both enjoyed this one.
I felt like this book had some (good) messages that were laid on a little thick, but it was still a good, fun read. Lucy was my fave.
- Most delightfully interconnected fictional universe of the rich and famous: Everything (not a book called “Everything,” but actually all the things) by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
I read Malibu Rising (Ballantine Books, 2021) early in the year and found it a lovely, intriguing story about the adult kids of an absentee rock-star (like he’s literally a famous musician) dad, combined with some nicely-woven-in-and-not-too-unsubtle thoughtfulness about love and family and such. So I kept going with Taylor Jenkins Reid and ended up reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Washington Square Press, 2018), Daisy Jones & the Six (Ballantine Books, 2020), and Carrie Soto is Back (Ballantine Books, 2022).
I enjoyed all of them and don’t think I could pick a favorite. So, if you’re looking for one to start with, you can choose whether you want to get into surfing (Malibu Rising), acting (Evelyn Hugo), music (Daisy Jones), or tennis (Carrie Soto).
As a fun side note (not a big part of the stories, but still fun), I enjoyed that they’re all set in the same fictional universe. (As in, minor characters in one book play a large role in another.)
Hope you enjoyed these made-up book awards! Feel free to comment or otherwise get in touch with your own—I’d love to hear what fiction you’d recommend these days.