Best Books of 2022
11 books I really enjoyed this year
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (2021)
From the author of A Gentleman in Moscow comes the tale of two brothers trying to go west and start over. Their father has died, their Kansas farm has been foreclosed, and Emmett, the older brother, has just been released from a juvenile detention facility where he’d spent 16 months as punishment for his role in a fight that led to an accidental death.
Duchess and Woolly, two stowaways from the same facility, are also looking for a fresh start when they boost Emmett’s car and take it east to New York, turning the brothers’ road trip into a chase in the wrong direction.
Little Rabbit by Alyssa Songsiridej (2022)
Much like A Sport and a Pastime, Little Rabbit is the right speed for reading on the beach with one arm blocking any eyes that didn’t bargain for a sexy passage. It’s no beach read, though, as the protagonist, a 30ish queer female writer who’s taken with a much older straight male choreographer grapples with identity issues around sexuality, privilege, and power. As she’s absorbed into his world, his predilections, and eventually, even his work, it’s hard to tell what she wants and what she’s telling herself she wants.
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton (2021)
Opal and Nev briefly touched the top of the charts in the 70s before the repercussions of a riot at one of their concerts led to the dissolution of the duo. Years later, a journalist sets out to tell the story of their history in advance of a long-awaited reunion show. Walton’s craft is in the way it reads like an authentic oral history or an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music.
Dirtbag, MA by Isaac Fitzgerald (2022)
We’re all a sum of parts and experiences, and in his memoir, Dirtbag, Massachusetts, he lays out all the places on the map that led him here. From his start in a Boston homeless shelter to the fish-out-of-water experience of boarding school to big cities like San Francisco and New York, there was no shortage of fights and drinks in between.
Isaac’s story is by no means a blueprint or a parable with a tidy moral. It’s an account of someone who’s done stupid things, hard things, and loving things, and is now consciously steering toward a healthier destination.
Flight by Lynn Steger Strong (2022)
For their first Christmas since their mother passed, siblings Henry, Martin, and Kate gather at Henry’s house in upstate New York rather than their mother’s Florida home. While nursing the same arguments they’ve navigated for years, they must also come to terms with what it means to be family without the north star of a parent.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (2022)
Mandel’s done it again with her followup to the bestselling The Glass Hotel. It’s science fiction that doesn’t feel like science fiction. Some of the characters have a little more technology than we do, but whether they’re on Vancouver Island in the early twentieth century or a future colony on the moon, they’re still human. What starts as three disparate threads — the exiled son of an earl, a famous writer trying to get home at the beginning of a pandemic, and a lonely detective from the future — coalesces into a moving theory of human interconnectedness.
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell (2022)
Circus Palmer is a talented trumpet player and incorrigible womanizer, but as he gets deeper into his 40s, the chorus of women in his trail starts to drown out his music. There’s his first wife, Pia, who’s still in love with him, their daughter, Koko, who is navigating her teenage years without steady support from either of her parents, and Maggie, a drummer Circus just may be ready to love until the announcement of their pregnancy sends him running. As Circus shrinks from his responsibilities, the women of the novel step in to fill the void with their dreams and disappointments, whether Circus is the cause of them or not.
Chilean Poet by Alejandro Zambra (translated by Megan McDowell - 2022)
Gonzalo meets Carla for the first time at 16 and they fall in love the way only teenagers can. When he loses her the first time, he turns to poetry to soothe his broken heart. When she turns up in his life again a decade later, Gonzalo is still a poet, Carla now has a son, and they quickly fall into an unofficial family unit.
As Gonzalo is thrust into the role of a stepfather, he finds the words that exist for this role and their negative connotations do not match his experience. When Gonzalo and Carla’s relationship ends a second time, we’re all left wondering what becomes of a stepfather without a stepson.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (2022)
Sam and Sadie need each other — as business partners, as friends, and as the driving force in their intertwined fates when the other just doesn’t feel their best. After meeting as children and bonding over their shared love of video games, they reconnect during their college years and start what will become their video game design empire. Along the way, they fall in and out of a love better known as friendship.
The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela (2022)
When his father falls ill, Alejandro is forced to return to the hometown he’s studiously avoided. When he finds himself at his twenty-year high school reunion, he’s confronted by all the reasons he left as well as a desire to better understand that time and those people in his life. A study in the intersection of class, gender, sexuality, nationality, and how each can complicate going home again, The Town of Babylon was my favorite book of the year.