The 20 best books of 2022, according to our critics

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Ask four critics to name their favorite books of any year and you’ll get an array of singular narratives. But if any theme emerged among our top 20 books of 2022, it was the individual struggle to shape the future in a range of hostile words: the harsh dystopias crafted by Celeste Ng and Sequoia Nagamatsu; the vicious liars who questioned Sandy Hook; the British colonizers Samuel Adams outwitted and the American colonizers bested by the great Native athlete Jim Thorpe. These are stories told brilliantly — substance meeting its match in style — in which reality might be inescapable, but hope is unkillable.

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The Best Books of 2022

If you want to read about spaceships, talking pigs, or supervillains, you’ve come to the right place.

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Check back with us in the new year, when we'll start rounding up our favorite books of 2023. In the meantime, happy reading!

Didn't Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta, by James Hannaham

Hannaham’s buoyant sophomore novel introduces us to the unforgettable Carlotta Mercedes, an Afro-Latinx trans woman released from a men’s prison after serving two decades. Returning home to Brooklyn, she encounters a gentrified city she doesn’t recognize, as well as a host of new stressors; life on the outside soon involves an unforgiving parole process and a family that struggles to recognize her transition. Over the course of one zany Fourth of July weekend, Carlotta descends into Brooklyn’s roiling underbelly on a quest to stand in her truth. Angry, saucy, and joyful, Carlotta is a true survivor—one whose story shines a disinfecting light on the injustices of our world.

Harry Sylvester Bird, by Chinelo Okparanta

The title character of Okparanta’s gutsy new novel is a white teenager born to xenophobic parents, but everything changes for young Harry Sylvester Bird on a safari in Tanzania, when he develops an enduring fascination with Blackness. Harry soon escapes to college in Manhattan and begins to identify as Black, joining a “Transracial-Anon” support group and longing for “racial reassignment.” When he falls in love with Maryam, a student from Nigeria, a study-abroad trip to Ghana’s Gold Coast puts both their romance and his identity to the test. Outlandish and arresting, Harry’s miseducation is a deft satire of prejudice and allyship.

Young Mungo, by Douglas Stuart

When his Shuggie Bain took home the Booker Prize in 2020, readers were desperate to see what this astounding debut novelist would do next. It will come as no surprise that Stuart’s second effort soars—and socks you right in the belly. Set in the tenements of Glasgow during the 1990s, Young Mungo is the wrenching story of the doomed and forbidden love between two teenage boys, one Catholic and the other Protestant. Insecure, self-loathing Mungo is forever changed by the calming influence of tender-hearted James, but in a stratified society such as this one, their bond can’t be allowed to stand. When the adults in their lives intervene, James and Mungo learn heartbreaking lessons about how boys become men. In a world where hope and despair coexist, Young Mungo is both brutal and breathtaking.

Time Is a Mother, by Ocean Vuong

Vuong’s second collection of poetry is a bruising journey through the devastating aftershocks of his mother’s death. Like Orpheus descending into the underworld, Vuong takes us to the white-hot limits of his grief, writing with visionary fervor about love, agony, and time. Without his mother, Vuong must remake his understanding of the world: what is identity when its source is gone? What is language without the cultural memory of our elders? Aesthetically ambitious and ferociously original, Time Is A Mother interrogates these impossibilities. “Nobody’s free without breaking open,” Vuong writes in one searing poem. Here, he breaks open and rebuilds.

Trust, by Hernan Diaz

In 2018, Diaz came close to the Pulitzer Prize with In the Distance , a probing western honored as a finalist; now, with Trust , he may finally take home the gold. Trust is the story of a Wall Street tycoon and his brilliant wife, who become outlandishly wealthy in Prohibition-era New York. In this puzzle box of stories-within-a-story, the mystery of their affluence becomes the subject of a novel, a memoir, an unfinished manuscript, and finally, a diary. Each layer builds and recontextualizes Diaz's riveting story of class, capitalism, and greed. The result is a mesmerizing metafictional alchemy of grand scope and even grander accomplishment.

Liarmouth, by John Waters

Waters takes his first bow as a novelist with this "perfectly perverted feel-bad romance” about Marsha “Liarmouth” Sprinkle, a con woman caught up in a bad romance with Darryl, the degenerate loser with whom she steals suitcases from airport luggage carousels. Marsha has promised Darryl sex for his services after one year of employment, but when she skips out without paying up, Darryl is out for revenge. In the acknowledgments, Waters aptly describes this novel as “fictitious anarchy.” That’s as good a description as any for this campy, raunchy, surreal story, rife with ribald pleasures. Read an interview with Waters here at Esquire.

Butts: A Backstory, by Heather Radke

This crackling cultural history melds scholarship and pop culture to arrive at a comprehensive taxonomy of the female bottom. From 19th-century burlesque to the eighties aerobics craze to Kim Kardashian’s internet-breaking backside, Radke leaves no stone unturned. Her sources range from anthropological scholarship to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” making for a vivacious blend, but Butts isn’t all fun and games. Radke explores how women’s butts have been used “as a means to create and reinforce racial hierarchies,” acting as locuses of racism, control, and desire. Lively and thorough, Butts is the best kind of nonfiction—the kind that forces you to see something ordinary through completely new eyes. Read an interview with the author here at Esquire.

Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor, by Kim Kelly

With a galvanizing groundswell of unionization efforts rocking mega-corporations like Amazon and Starbucks, there’s never been a better time to learn about the history of the American labor movement. Fight Like Hell will be your indispensable guide to the past, present, and future of organized labor. Rather than structure this comprehensive history chronologically, Kelly organizes it into chapter-sized profiles of different labor sectors, from sex workers to incarcerated laborers to domestic workers. Each chapter contains capsule biographies of working-class heroes, along with a painstaking focus on those who were hidden or dismissed from the movement. So too do these chapters illuminate how many civil rights struggles, like women’s liberation and fair wages for disabled workers, are also, at their core, labor struggles. After reading Fight Like Hell , you’ll never look at American history the same way again—and you may just be inspired to organize your own workplace. Read an interview with Kelly here at Esquire.

Overdue: Reckoning with the Public Library, by Amanda Oliver

Library-goers have long labored under a romanticized portrait of libraries as sacred spaces. In Overdue , a former librarian explores the importance of demanding better from what we love. Through the lens of her time as a librarian in one of Washington D.C.’s most impoverished neighborhoods, Oliver illuminates how libraries have long been vectors for some of our biggest social ills, from segregation to racism to inequality. Now, as unhoused patrons take refuge in libraries and librarians are trained to administer Narcan, our overlapping mental healthcare and opioid crises come to a head in these spaces. At once a love letter and a call to action, Overdue dispels mythology and demands a better future. You’ll never see libraries the same way again.

Woman, Eating, by Claire Kohda

My Year of Rest and Relaxation meets Milk Fed in this slacker comedy about Lydia, a multiracial Gen Z vampire suffering an identity crisis. Fresh out of art school and eager to make a new life for herself in London, Lydia soon gets a harsh reality check: her gallery internship is unfulfilling, her crush is dating someone else, and her supply of pig's blood is running dangerously low. Ravenous and lonesome, she becomes addicted to watching #WhatIEatInADay videos, desperate for the embodied connection to food and life that humans experience. But for this yearning young vampire, self-acceptance won’t come until she finds something (or someone) to eat. Thoughtful and thrilling, Woman, Eating makes a meal of themes like cultural alienation, disordered eating, and the growing pains of adulthood.

The Passenger, by Cormac McCarthy

After sixteen years of characteristic seclusion, McCarthy returns with a one-two punch: The Passenger , out in October, and Stella Maris , a companion volume set to follow in November. In The Passenger , the stronger of the two works, we meet Bobby Western, a salvage diver and mathematical genius reckoning with his troubled personal history. Western is tormented by the legacy of his father, who worked on the atomic bomb, and the suicide of his sister, who suffered from schizophrenia. Told in meandering form, The Passenger is an elegiac meditation on guilt, grief, and spirituality. Packed with textbook McCarthy hallmarks, like transgressive behaviors and cascades of ecstatic language, it’s a welcome return from a legend who’s been gone too long.

Fen, Bog and Swamp, by Annie Proulx

The legendary author of “Brokeback Mountain” and The Shipping News delivers an enchanting history of our wetlands, a vitally important but criminally misunderstood landscape now imperiled by climate change. As Proulx explains, fens, bogs, swamps, and estuaries preserve our environment by storing carbon emissions. Roving through peatlands around the world, Proulx weaves a riveting history of their role in brewing diseases and fueling industrialization. Imbued with the same reverence for nature as Proulx’s fiction, Fen, Bog, and Swamp is both an enchanting work of nature writing and a rousing call to action. Read an exclusive interview with the author here at Esquire.

Because Our Fathers Lied, by Craig McNamara

How do we reckon with the sins of our parents? That’s the thorny question at the center of this moving and courageous memoir authored by the son of Robert S. McNamara, Kennedy’s architect of the Vietnam War. In this conflicted son’s telling, a complicated man comes into intimate view, as does the “mixture of love and rage” at the heart of their relationship. At once a loving and neglectful parent, the elder McNamara’s controversial lies about the war ultimately estranged him from his son, who hung Viet Cong flags in his childhood bedroom as a protest. The pursuit of a life unlike his father’s saw the younger McNamara drop out of Stanford and travel through South America on a motorcycle, leading him to ultimately become a sustainable walnut farmer. Through his own personal story of disappointment and disillusionment, McNamara captures an intergenerational conflict and a journey of moral identity.

A Ballet of Lepers, by Leonard Cohen

A Ballet of Lepers collects never-before-seen early works from beloved singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, including short stories, a novel, and a radio play. The titular novel, Cohen believed, was “probably a better novel” than his celebrated book The Favorite Game . These recovered gems traffic in the themes that would always obsess their author, like shame, desire, and longing. Cohen’s life and art have been dissected for years, but as this revealing volume proves, there are still new shades of him to discover.

Lost & Found, by Kathryn Schultz

Eighteen months before Schultz’s father died after a long battle with cancer, she met the love of her life. It’s this painful dichotomy that sets the foundation for Lost & Found , a poignant memoir about how love and loss often coexist. Braiding her personal experiences together with psychological, philosophical and scientific insight, Schultz weaves a taxonomy of our losses, which can “encompass both the trivial as well as the consequential, the abstract and the concrete, the merely misplaced and the permanently gone.” But so too does she celebrate the act of discovery, from finding what we’ve mislaid to lucking into lasting love. Penetrating and profound, Lost & Found captures the extraordinary joys and sorrows of ordinary life.

Less Is Lost, by Andrew Sean Greer

In 2018, Greer won the Pulitzer Prize for Less , an unforgettable comic novel about aging writer Arthur Less and his international misadventures. Less is back for more in this beguiling sequel, bursting with just as much absurdity, heartache, and laugh-out-loud joy as its predecessor. Dogged by financial crisis and the death of his former lover, Less sets out across the American landscape with nothing but a rusty camper van, a somber pug, and a zigzagging itinerary of literary gigs. Our reluctant hero blunders his way into a cascade of disasters, but the more lost Less gets, the closer he is to being found. Rambunctious and life-affirming, Less is Lost is a winsome reminder of all that fiction can do and be. As Greer writes of novelists, “Are we not that fraction of old magic that remains?” Read an exclusive interview with the author here at Esquire.

Fairy Tale, by Stephen King

The master of horror turns his talents to coming-of-age fantasy in this spellbinding tale about seventeen-year-old Charlie Reade, a resourceful teenager who inherits the keys to a parallel world. It all starts when Charlie meets Mr. Bowditch, a local recluse living in a spooky house with his lovable hound. When Mr. Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie the house, a massive stockpile of gold, and the keys to a locked shed containing a portal to another world. But as Charlie soon discovers, that parallel world is full of danger, dungeons, and time travel—and it has the power to imperil our own universe. Packed with glorious flights of imagination and characteristic tenderness about childhood, Fairy Tale is vintage King at his finest. Read an exclusive excerpt here at Esquire.

The Furrows, by Namwali Serpell

Fresh off the stratospheric achievement of The Old Drift , Serpell’s sophomore novel is a wrenching examination of grief, memory, and reality. When Cassandra Williams was twelve years old, her seven-year-old brother Wayne drowned off the Delaware coast. Or did he? While the first half of The Furrows examines the long half-life of Cassandra’s grief, the second half gets slippery, exploring the possibility that Wayne survived. As the blurry boundaries between what’s true and what’s possible collapse, Serpell resets her novel again and again, like a scratched record skipping back to the beginning. Old wounds never heal, and Cassandra can’t stop revisiting them. Let this breathtaking novel roll over you in waves.

The Book of Goose, by Yiyun Li

Time and time again, Li has proven herself a master storyteller obsessed with the nature of storytelling. In her latest novel, she takes that obsession to spectacular new heights. Set in the ruined countryside of post-WWII France, The Book of Goose centers on the friendship between shy Agnès and rebellious Fabienne. Fabienne devises a game: she will imagine a lurid story, and Agnès, with her perfect penmanship, will write it. When the book becomes a runaway bestseller credited to Agnès alone, it propels the girls on a trajectory of fame and fortune that threatens to sever their friendship. Fans of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels will love this gripping tale of art, power, and intimacy.

Liberation Day, by George Saunders

The godfather of the contemporary short story is back and better than ever in Liberation Day , his first collection of short fiction in nearly a decade. In one memorable story set in a near future police state, a grandfather explains how Americans lost their freedoms through small concessions to an authoritarian government. In another standout, vulnerable Americans are brainwashed and reprogrammed as political protestors, with their services available to the highest bidder. The rousing title novella sees the poor enslaved to entertain the rich, forced to recreate scenes from American history. In these powerful and perceptive stories, Saunders conjures a nation in moral and spiritual decline, where acts of kindness wink through like lights in the darkness.

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Adrienne Westenfeld is the Books and Fiction Editor at Esquire, where she oversees books coverage, edits fiction, and curates the Esquire Book Club. 

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  • Main content
  • Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover
  • The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley
  • The Maid by Nita Prose
  • Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  • House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas
  • A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
  • Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey
  • Book of Night by Holly Black
  • The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
  • One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
  • Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
  • Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
  • The War of Two Queens by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Gallant by V.E. Schwab
  • Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
  • The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
  • To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Violeta by Isabel Allende
  • Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins
  • The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
  • The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

The 22 best books published in 2022 so far, according to Goodreads

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  • Reviewers have already found some of their favorite new books released this year.
  • We turned to Goodreads reviewers to rank the most popular books of 2022 so far.
  • For more books, check out the most anticipated new books of 2022.

Insider Today

Although there are quite literally hundreds of books on my "to-be-read" list, I can't help but gravitate towards the latest releases that fellow readers are already predicting to be the best books of the year. Whether it's a new work from a favorite author or debuts that have been picked up by celebrity book clubs, readers are already finding their favorites of 2022 so far. 

To make this list, we looked at the most popular books on Goodreads . Goodreads is the world's largest online platform for readers to rate, review, and recommend their favorite books to friends and the community. All of these recommendations have been published in 2022 and are ranked by how often they've been added to readers' "Want To Read" shelves. 

Whether you're looking for a great new read to kick off your upcoming vacation or relax with in the morning, here are the 22 most popular books of 2022 so far.

The 22 best books of 2022 so far, according to Goodreads:

"reminders of him" by colleen hoover.

author and books 2022

"Reminders of Him" by Colleen Hoover, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.22

In Colleen Hoover's latest fan-favorite novel, Kenna Rowan is looking to prove herself so she can reunite with her four-year-old daughter, having just been released from her five-year prison sentence. Shut out by nearly everyone in her and her daughter's life, Kenna connects with Ledger Ward, a local bar owner, but as the romance between the two grows, Kenna risks everything to absolve her past and create a new future. You can find more of Colleen Hoover's most popular books here .

"The Paris Apartment" by Lucy Foley

author and books 2022

"The Paris Apartment" by Lucy Foley, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $18.16

When Jess is in need of a fresh start, she reaches out to her half-brother, Ben, to stay with him for a bit in his Paris apartment. Ben didn't seem thrilled about the arrangement, but when Jess arrives to find a shockingly stunning apartment, she finds that he is nowhere to be found. As this gripping thriller unfolds, Jess begins to look into Ben's strange and unfriendly neighbors, each of whom is a suspect with a secret. 

"The Maid" by Nita Prose

author and books 2022

"The Maid" by Nita Prose, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $16.90

"The Maid" is about Molly Gray, a 25-year-old hotel maid who is left struggling to fend for herself socially after her grandmother's passing. When Molly discovers Charles Black dead in a terribly ravished hotel room, the police immediately target her as a lead suspect until her friends step in to prove her innocence in this exciting thriller that's described as a "Clue"-like, locked-room mystery.

"Book Lovers" by Emily Henry

author and books 2022

"Book Lovers" by Emily Henry, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.96

Emily Henry's "Beach Read" and "People We Meet on Vacation" have already captured countless readers' hearts, so it's no surprise her latest release has already done the same. "Book Lovers" stars Nora Stephens, a literary agent whose love life is anything but a romance novel. When Nora's sister plans a trip for the two of them to a picture-perfect little town with a list of "to-do"s to live out the plot of a romance novel all their own, Nora finds herself not with a storybook prince, but a brooding editor from the city with whom she's had plenty of terrible run-ins in the past. 

"House of Sky and Breath" by Sarah J. Maas

author and books 2022

"House of Sky and Breath" by Sarah J. Maas, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $ 17.74

After saving Crescent City, Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are ready to slow down and find some normalcy once again, but as the ruler's threat grows, the two are slowly pulled into the rebel's plans. "House of Sky and Breath" is the sequel to "House of Earth and Blood" , a fan-favorite fantasy/romance featuring demons, angels, and fae.

"A Flicker in the Dark" by Stacy Willingham

author and books 2022

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $17.29

One of readers' favorite new thrillers this year is "A Flicker in the Dark," which follows Chloe Davis 20 years after her father's arrest for the serial murder of six teenage girls in her small town. As Chloe prepares for her wedding, teenage girls begin to go missing once again and Chloe isn't sure if she's just paranoid or nearing a killer for the second time in her life. 

"Hook, Line, and Sinker" by Tessa Bailey

author and books 2022

"Hook, Line, and Sinker" by Tessa Bailey, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.38

Fox Thornton has a reputation as a flirt but his new roommate, Hannah, seems entirely impervious to his flirtatious ways and insists they'll just be friends. In town for work, Hannah has her eye on a coworker and asks for Fox's help. But as they spend more time together, she can't help but fall for him as he tries to prove that he wants more with Hannah than just a short fling.

"Book of Night" by Holly Black

author and books 2022

"Book of Night" by Holly Black, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $17.76

Holly Black has written incredible fantasy young adult novels but makes her adult debut with "Book of Night," an urban fantasy that became a 2022 favorite before it was even published. Charlie Hall is trying to lay low in her shadowy, magical world when a figure from her past returns and thrusts her into a chaotic spin of murder, secrets, magic, and a fight for survival. 

"The Book of Cold Cases" by Simone St. James

author and books 2022

"The Book of Cold Cases" by Simone St. James, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $20.49

Shea Collins runs a popular true-crime website, a passion ignited after she was almost abducted as a child. When she runs into Beth Greer, an infamous suspect in an unsolved double homicide from 40 years prior, Shea asks for an interview, meeting Beth regularly at her alluring but uncomfortable mansion. As Shea and Beth grow closer, Shea's unease refuses to subside in this suspenseful thriller, perfect for those who love true crime.

"One Italian Summer" by Rebecca Serle

author and books 2022

"One Italian Summer" by Rebecca Serle, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $16.08

Just before their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Positano, Katy's mother tragically passes away, leaving Katy reeling and facing their adventure alone. Katy decides to take the trip anyway and as she walks the cliffsides of the Amalfi Coast, she magically sees her mother at 30 years old. Over the course of a beautiful summer, Katy gets to know her mother, her history, and her memories in a way she never could have imagined. 

"Black Cake" by Charmaine Wilkerson

author and books 2022

"Black Cake" by Charmaine Wilkerson, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $17.81

In the wake of their mother's passing, Byron and Benny are left with a voice recording and the family recipe for a traditional Caribbean black cake. As their mother's story unfolds, the siblings are set off on a journey of family history, inheritance, and relationships that reshapes their understanding of their mother, their family, and themselves. 

"Daughter of the Moon Goddess" by Sue Lynn Tan

author and books 2022

"Daughter of the Moon Goddess" by Sue Lynn Tan, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $23.49

"Daughter of the Moon Goddess" is a new young adult fantasy novel inspired by the legend of Chang'e, the Chinese moon goddess. Xingyin has grown up on the moon, hidden from the Celestial Emperor, but when her magic is discovered, she's forced to leave her mother and her home behind and embark on a legendary but dangerous journey to save her mother and the realm.

"The War of Two Queens" by Jennifer L. Armentrout

author and books 2022

"The War of Two Queens" by Jennifer L. Armentrout, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $18.87

Loved for its strong main characters, fast-paced action, and intense romances, Jennifer L. Armentrout's "Blood and Ash" series' latest book continues as Poppy determinedly sets out to destroy the Blood Crown and create a future where both kingdoms can rule in peace. Together, Poppy and Casteel know that there is far more than a war to face as they uncover what began eons ago.

"Gallant" by V.E. Schwab

author and books 2022

"Gallant" by V.E. Schwab, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $14.95

Olivia Prior has spent much of her young life at Merilance School for girls until the day she receives a letter inviting her home to Gallant, a large, strange family house. When Olivia crosses a ruined wall at the home at just the right moment, she finds herself in a crumbling and mysterious version of Gallant and searches for the secrets her family has held for generations. 

"Sea of Tranquility" by Emily St. John Mandel

author and books 2022

"Sea of Tranquility" by Emily St. John Mandel, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $16.25

In a propulsive novel that spans from 1912 Vancouver Island to a futuristic colony on the moon, Emily St. John Mandel's latest work follows three main characters through time and space as their lives are upended around various events. As Edwin St. Andrew crosses the Atlantic and arrives in the Canadian wilderness, Olive Llewellyn writes a pandemic novel during a pandemic, and detective Gaspery-Jacques Roberts investigates their strange stories, along with one of a childhood friend, their metaphysical and intertwining lives create an enchanting science fiction read. 

"The School for Good Mothers" by Jessamine Chan

author and books 2022

"The School for Good Mothers" by Jessamine Chan, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $18.19

Frida is struggling in nearly all aspects of her life when everything suddenly takes a turn for the worst when a lapse in judgment lands her in the hands of government officials who will determine if she must go to an institution that will measure her success and devotion as a mother. In this dystopian sci-fi novel, Frida must prove that she meets the standards of being a good mother or risk losing her daughter.

"The Golden Couple" by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

author and books 2022

"The Golden Couple" by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $17.68

From bestselling author duo Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen comes a new, twisty domestic thriller about successful therapist Avery Chambers who lost her license because of her controversial methods. When Marissa and Mathew Bishop turn to Avery after Marissa's infidelity threatened to end their marriage, this suspenseful novel takes off on a collision course of dangerous secrets. 

"To Paradise" by Hanya Yanagihara

author and books 2022

"To Paradise" by Hanya Yanagihara, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $20.01

"To Paradise" spans three centuries and three versions of the American experiment: 1893, where New York is part of the Free States; 1993 Manhattan in the height of the AIDS epidemic; and 2093, in a society torn apart by plagues and totalitarian rule. In each of these sections, family, lovers, and strangers are torn apart and come together over what makes us uniquely human in a new, powerful piece of literary fiction by the same author of "A Little Life."

"Violeta" by Isabel Allende

author and books 2022

"Violeta" by Isabel Allende, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $22.84

"Violeta" is a sweeping, century-spanning novel about a woman, born in 1920 to a family full of sons, whose life is continuously marked by historical events, crises, and life-changing love. Told in the form of a letter, Violeta recounts her early years in South America through decades of joy and loss and across a lifetime of emotional and inspiring events. 

"Reckless Girls" by Rachel Hawkins

author and books 2022

"Reckless Girls" by Rachel Hawkins, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $22.49

Set on an isolated Pacific island, this new thriller takes off with Lux, her boyfriend, Nico, and the two women who hired them to sail to Meroe Island, despite its eerie history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and murder. When the four meet another couple on the island, they settle into a relaxing rhythm until a single stranger arrives and throws off the group's balance, uncovering cracks in their seemingly-perfect dynamics. 

"The Cartographers" by Peng Shepherd

author and books 2022

"The Cartographers" by Peng Shepherd, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $23.93

When Nell Young's legendary cartographer father is found dead in his office with a seemingly worthless map, her investigation reveals its incredibly valuable and rare nature, as well as the plot of a mysterious collector, determined to destroy every last copy. In this fantastical upcoming thriller, Nell's subsequent and remarkably dangerous journey reveals her family's darkest secrets and the power of the map. 

"The Christie Affair" by Nina de Gramont

author and books 2022

"The Christie Affair" by Nina de Gramont, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $17.33

"The Christie Affair" is a fascinating historical fiction account of the real-life 11-day disappearance of Agatha Christie. Told from Miss Nan O'Dea's point of view, Agatha's husband's mistress, this novel transports readers to 1925 London as Nan slowly lures Archie away from his wife, Agatha simply disappears, and one of the greatest manhunts of all time ensues.

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author and books 2022

author and books 2022

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The 50 best books of the year 2022

Author Sheila Heti

(Credit: Bloomsbury)

Liberation Day by George Saunders

Known as a modern master of the form, this is George Saunders' first short story collection since 2013's Tenth of December, which was a National Book Award finalist. Liberation Day's nine stories consider human connection, power, enslavement and oppression with Saunders' trademark deadpan humour and compassion. "These stories are not only perfectly pitched; they come with enough comedy to have you grinning and enough empathy to suddenly stop you in your tracks," writes The Guardian , while according to the Sydney Morning Herald , "Saunders is masterful, he illuminates with a fierce flame". (RL)

The Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran

Set in a drought-hit backwater of rural Florida, The Kingdom of Sand tells the story of a nameless narrator's existence of semi-solitude, as the memories of his other, previous life come and go. The Guardian said : "Holleran renders an elegiac and very funny contemplation of not just ageing but an age... A wistful, witty meditation on a gay man's twilight years and the twilight of America." The  novel is "all the more affecting and engaging", Colm Toíbín writes in the New York Times , because, in 1978, Holleran wrote the "quintessential novel of gay abandon", Dancer from the Dance. "Now at almost 80 years of age, he has produced a novel remarkable for its integrity, for its readiness to embrace difficult truths and for its complex way of paying homage to the passing of time." (LB)

Bournville by Jonathan Coe

An avid Europhile and chronicler of modern Britain, Jonathan Coe's latest spans 75 years of British history through the lives of one family living on the outskirts of Birmingham near a famous chocolate factory. The novel's events and characters cross paths with those from Coe's trilogy that began with 2001's The Rotters' Club and ended with the acclaimed Middle England (2018), and, like the latter, Bournville is "a state of the nation novel," writes the Observer , one that explores the personal and the political, and the relationship between Britain and Europe with "prose of enduring beauty". The FT writes that Coe has, "with considerable humour, satire – and at times, acute anger – established himself as the voice of England's political conscience". (RL)

(Credit: Faber)

(Credit: Faber)

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver's modern reimagining of David Copperfield is a "powerful reworking" of Charles Dickens's most celebrated and personal novel, writes The Guardian , calling it "the book she was born to write". Set in Kingsolver's home region of Appalachia, it transposes Dickens's critique of the injustices of Victorian Britain to contemporary America, where Copperhead lives in near-destitution amid the US opioid crisis. "This serious subject matter belies the sheer fun that Kingsolver has with her endlessly inventive adaptation," writes the TLS , praising the novel's "sharp social observation and moments of great descriptive beauty." (RL)

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

In 1970s Belfast, a young Catholic teacher, Cushla, meets an older, married Protestant man in the pub owned by her family, an encounter that changes both of their lives for ever. As an affair between the two progresses, the daily news of the Troubles unfolds, and tensions in the town escalate. Previously the author of short stories, in Trespasses, says the Washington Post , "Kennedy has more room to flesh out her characters and dramatise their predicaments. She does so masterfully, convincing her reader of all that unfolds". Meanwhile, The Spectator says : "This cleverly crafted love story about ordinary lives ravaged by violence tears at your heart without succumbing to sentimentality." (LB)

(Credit: Penguin)

(Credit: Penguin)

The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn

When a whale washes up on the beach in Dorset near Cristabel Seagrave's home at Chilcombe estate, the 12-year-old claims it as her own. Benignly neglected by her step-parents, who are distracted by endless parties, she and her siblings find their own way to grow up and educate themselves. Then, as war approaches and their lives take different tracks, the siblings are drawn into the conflict. "Generous, filling, deeply satisfying, funny-sad, every page crammed with life and experience," is how the Sunday Times describes it. Quinn is "one of those writers who has her finger on humanity's pulse. An absolute treat of a book, to be read and reread". The Independent says: "This is a chunky novel to get lost in, full of pacy plotting and luscious language." (LB)

The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li

" The most propulsively entertaining of Li's novels ," according to the New York Times, The Book of Goose is the fifth from the Chinese-born, US-based writer. It is what The Observer calls a " deeply strange " tale of two adolescent girls in rural, post-war France who concoct a literary hoax and briefly become a publishing sensation. The Observer praises "the thrilling complexity of The Book of Goose's relationship with the literary impulse", while The New York Times calls it "an existential fable that illuminates the tangle of motives behind our writing of stories". (RL)

I'm Sorry You Feel that Way by Rebecca Wait

"Desperately sad – and extremely funny," is how iNews describes Rebecca Wait's fourth novel, I'm Sorry You Feel that Way. "Its exquisitely detailed examination of interpersonal relationships allows it to become furtively compassionate, generous even to the worst offenders and one of the richest explorations of family dysfunction I've read." The novel explores the intricacies of family relationships, as sisters Alice and Hanna face a challenging upbringing with a dominant mother, absent father and disapproving older brother. As adults, they must deal not only with disappointments in love and work, but also ever-more complicated family conflict and tensions. It is "razor-sharp", says The Observer . (LB)

The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy

According to The Atlantic , Cormac McCarthy's The Passenger, published in 2022, along with its follow-up, Stella Maris, are "the richest and strongest work of McCarthy's career," and represent a genuine publishing event. The 89-year-old writer of No Country for Old Men (2005) and The Road (2006) is considered one of America's greatest living novelists, and these typically apocalyptic, bleak books could well be his last. The Passenger, writes The Irish Times , is "among McCarthy's most quietly reflective novels, recalling the moments of serenity amid scenes of devastation that made The Road so haunting." (RL)

(Credit: Fig Tree)

(Credit: Fig Tree)

Darling by India Knight

A 21st-Century retelling of Nancy Mitford's classic The Pursuit of Love , India Knight's novel Darling transposes the original to the bohemian household of Alconleigh farm in Norfolk. Our narrator is Franny, and teenage Linda Radlett lives with her rock-star father Matthew, ethereal mother Sadie, and her many siblings. It is an ambitious idea but, according to The Guardian , "Knight rises to that challenge with aplomb… Darling is a very human book, full of feelings and heartbreak and humour and joy". Meanwhile, iNews says  that the characters are depicted with an "enveloping warmth", and the novel is "an absolute hoot". It concludes: "This is a gorgeously bittersweet portrait of growing up, where happiness is only ever fleeting." (LB)

There are More Things by Yara Rodrigues Fowler

In 2019, following her debut novel Stubborn Archivist, Yara Rodrigues Fowler was named by the Financial Times as "one of the planet's 30 most exciting young people," and the author's follow-up has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for political fiction and the Goldsmiths Prize. There are More Things tells the story of Catarina – who grows up in a well-known political family in Olinda, Brazil – and Londoner Melissa. When the two women meet, as political turmoil in Brazil and the UK unfurls, their friendship intensifies. The novel is "an enriching read", says The Irish Times . "From the chaotic London riots and Brexit to the dark era of Brazil's military dictatorship, this novel paints a stirring portrait of the legacy of violence." (LB)

(Credit: Seven Stories Press)

(Credit: Seven Stories Press)

Getting Lost by Annie Ernaux

"The quality that distinguishes Ernaux's writing on sex from others in her milieu is the total absence of shame," writes The Guardian of this memoir of a torrid, 18-month love affair between Ernaux and a married Russian diplomat that began in Leningrad in 1988 and continued in Paris. Getting Lost (which is published in translation this year) is the second book of Ernaux's to be inspired by the affair – the first, a slight, memoir-like novel, was Simple Passion (1991). Recently awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, Ernaux – now in her 80s – is a huge literary celebrity in France. Her writing on sex is spare and direct, explicit and subversive. Getting Lost is, writes The New York Times , "a feverish book… about being impaled by desire, and about the things human beings want, as opposed to the things for which they settle." (RL)

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Written during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, King's latest is a world-hopping fantasy whose hero is Charlie Reade, a talented 17-year-old who has lost his mother in a car accident and is caring for his grieving, alcoholic father. When Charlie befriends the reclusive Mr Bowditch and his ancient German Shepherd dog, Radar, he discovers underneath Bodwitch's shed a portal to the kingdom of Empis, where the people – who have a disfiguring illness called "the grey" – are facing a terrifying evil. Described as "a multiverse-traversing, genre-hopping intertextual mash-up" by the New York Times , Fairy Tale is, according to The Guardian , "vintage, timeless King, a transporting, terrifying treat". (RL)

Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

At 20 years old, Leila Mottley became the youngest ever nominee when Nightcrawling was longlisted for the Booker Prize, and the novel was an instant New York Times bestseller. The story is based on a true crime in 2015, involving sexual exploitation, corruption and brutality in the Oakland police department. The novel's central character is 17-year-old Kiara Johnson, a protagonist who is "one of the toughest and kindest young heroines of our time," says the Guardian . "Restlessly truth-seeking, Nightcrawling marks the dazzling arrival of a young writer with a voice and vision you won't easily get out of your head." Nightcrawling is, says iNews , "an extraordinarily moving debut". (LB)

After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz

Told in a series of vignettes, After Sappho reimagines the lives of a group of notable feminists, artists and writers of the past. Among them are Colette, Josephine Baker, Virginia Woolf and Sarah Bernhardt, each of them facing obstacles and battling for liberation and justice. According to the Irish Times , After Sappho " delivers on its own promise with great stylistic power and verve ". The Guardian says:"[With] sentences crisply flat yet billowing easily into gorgeous lyricism... [After Sappho] is a book that's wholly seduced by seduction and that seduces in turn." (LB)

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

From the author of the 2017 bestseller, Little Fires Everywhere, this dystopian novel is set in a post-crisis US of surveillance and book-banning, where children are forcibly separated from their parents, and people – particularly Asian-Americans – are condemned for "un-American" activities. Twelve-year-old Bird lives with his father, a talented linguistics professor forced to stack books in a library, while Bird's mother – a prominent Chinese-American poet – has disappeared three years' previously. Bird's quest to find her leads him to an underground network of librarian resistance-fighters, and towards the fate of the taken children. "Ng's own masterful telling of this tale of governmental cruelty and the shadow armies of ordinary citizens who both facilitate and resist is its own best testimony to the unpredictable possibilities of storytelling," writes NPR , while Vogue called Our Missing Hearts "an unwaveringly dark fairy tale for a world that has stopped making sense". (RL)

(Credit: Sort Of Books)

(Credit: Sort Of Books)

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

Winner of the Booker Prize, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida tells the magical story of a war photographer who has woken up dead, apparently in a celestial visa office. In the afterlife, surrounded by ghouls, he has seven moons to contact the man and woman he loves most. The novel "fizzes with energy, imagery and ideas against a broad, surreal vision of the Sri Lankan civil wars" say the Booker judges . The Guardian says the novel "recalls the mordant wit and surrealism of Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls or Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita... Karunatilaka has done artistic justice to a terrible period in his country's history." (LB)

The Colony by Audrey Magee

"The Colony contains multitudes – on families, on men and women, on rural communities – with much of it just visible on the surface, like the flicker of a smile or a shark in the water," writes John Self in  The Times . The novel portrays one summer on a small island off the coast of Ireland. Two separate visitors – an artist and a linguist, both seeking to capture the truth and essence of the place – force the islanders to question their own values and desires. "Austere and stark," writes the Financial Times , "The Colony is a novel about big, important things." (LB)

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid

From the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) and the Booker-shortlisted Exit West (2017), Hamid borrows a clever conceit from Kafka's Metamorphosis to imaginatively consider race and racism through the character of Anders, a white man living in a small US town, who wakes up one morning to find his skin has turned dark. As Anders begins to face conflict in his life and relationships; and as more and more people follow suit, violence and unrest erupts on the streets. "For a novel that explores the functions and presumptions of racism, The Last White Man is a peculiarly hopeful story," writes The Washington Post . The Last White Man is "a short novel of very long sentences" that is, writes The Guardian , "[a] strange, beautiful allegorical tale… compellingly readable and strangely musical, as if being recounted as a kind of folktale to future generations." (RL)

Trust by Hernan Diaz

"A genre-bending, time-skipping story about New York City's elite in the roaring '20s and Great Depression," is how Vanity Fair describes Trust by Hernan Diaz, who was a Pulitzer finalist for his 2017 novel In the Distance. A legendary New York couple has risen to the top of a world of apparently endless wealth – but at what cost? Diaz's novel puts competing narratives into dialogue with each other, resulting in a puzzle that explores how power can manipulate the truth. Longlisted for the Booker Prize, Trust is a "surprising, engrossing and beautifully executed novel," says the Irish Times , that "confirms Diaz as a virtuoso of storytelling". (LB)

(Credit: Bloomsbury)

Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie

The seventh novel from the acclaimed Pakistani-British writer of A God in Every Stone (2014) and 2017's bestselling Home Fire, Best of Friends explores the intricacies of friendship through the lives of two very different women, lifelong friends Zahra and Maryam. The novel opens with them as teenagers in 1980s Karachi; later, they are successful forty-somethings living in London with deeply conflicting political views. When troubling events from their past resurface, their friendship is put to the test. "It's the deep-rooted and complicated bond between the two women that keeps us turning the pages," writes The Spectator . The Observer called it : "an epic story that explores the ties of childhood friendship, the possibility of escape, the way the political world intrudes into the personal, all through the lens of two sharply drawn protagonists." (RL)

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

The story of six siblings and an injustice that shatters their close bond, Booth is the Booker-shortlisted novel by Karen Joy Fowler, author of the bestselling We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. The Booth brothers and sisters grow up in 1830s rural Baltimore as civil war draws closer, each with their own dreams and battles to fight. One of them, Johnny, makes a decision that will change the course of history – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. "In its stretch and imaginative depth, Booth has an utterly seductive authority," says The Guardian . The novel, says The Literary Review , "captures with enthralling vividness a country caught in the grip of fanatical populism, ripped apart by irreconcilable political differences and boiling with fury and rage... An unalloyed triumph". (LB)

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (later Costa) prize for her first novel, 1995's Behind the Scenes at the Museum. She has since published several novels – two of which also won Costa prizes – including the acclaimed Life After Life (2013), which was adapted into a BBC TV series this year. Set amid the dancers, drinkers and gangsters of "Roaring" 1920s London, Shrines of Gaiety is chock-full of sex, intrigue and vice coalescing around the figure of Nellie Coker, a notorious entrepreneur who presides over a series of Soho nightclubs. Shrines of Gaeity is, according to The New York Times , "a cocktail of fizz and melancholy, generously poured," while Atkinson is "a keenly sympathetic observer of human foibles, one who can sketch a character in one quicksilver sentence".  The novel is "a marvel of plate-spinning narrative knowhow,'' writes The Observer . (RL)

(Credit: Macmillan)

(Credit: Macmillan)

Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley

Best-selling New York Times essayist Sloane Crosley has combined themes of love, luck and hipsterism to create a New York City anti-rom-com that is also a satire on internet millennial life. Publishers Weekly describes Cult Classic as "a witty and fantastical story of dating and experimental psychology in New York City… Thoroughly hilarious [and] sharply perceptive… Crosley has found the perfect fictional subject for her gimlet eye". The Los Angeles Times , meanwhile, says: "Crosley's writing is as funny as ever, with a great line or clever observation on nearly every page… Her fascinating conceits – entertaining and compelling in their own right – are the engines of the narrative, but her insights into contemporary life are the fuel." (LB)

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Douglas Stuart, the author of the Booker Prize-winning Shuggie Bain (2020), has won rapturous praise once again for his second novel, a heartbreaking queer love story between Protestant Mungo and Catholic James, who come together across the divided landscape of a Glasgow council estate in the post-Thatcher era. "Young Mungo is a suspense story wrapped around a novel of acute psychological observation. It's hard to imagine a more disquieting and powerful work of fiction will be published anytime soon about the perils of being different," says Maureen Corrigan, book critic of NPR's Fresh Air . "If the first novel announced Stuart as a novelist of great promise, this confirms him as a prodigious talent," writes Alex Preston in The Observer . (RL)

(Credit: Little Brown)

(Credit: Little Brown)

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

In Jennifer Egan's 2011 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, Bix Bouton featured as a minor character. Now he is back as a tech visionary at the opening of The Candy House, as CEO of internet giant Mandala who is in search of his next "utopian vision". Bouton's invention, Own Your Unconscious, is the catalyst for the novel's exploration of the end of privacy in the digital age and how tech turns the world upside down. Meanwhile, the underlying temptation metaphor of Hansel and Gretel's "candy house" permeates the book. It is an "exhilarating, deeply pleasurable" novel, says Prospect , while The New York Times calls it "a spectacular palace built out of rabbit holes". (LB)

Either/Or by Elif Batuman

A sequel to her 2017 Pulitzer-Prize nominated debut, The Idiot, Batuman's semi-autobiographical second novel continues the adventures of Selin Karadag, a Russian literature student in her sophomore year at Harvard University in 1996. Using Kierkegaard's classic philosophical work as a starting point, Soren ponders the meaning of life through the Danish philosopher's theory of the choice between morality and hedonism, using her literature syllabus as her guide. "Either/Or is a sequel that amplifies the meaning of its predecessor while expanding its philosophical ambit," writes Charles Arrowsmith in The Washington Post , while Sophie Haigney in The New Republic  praises Batuman's "brilliant, funny observations." (RL)

(Credit: Penguin Random House)

(Credit: Penguin Random House)

Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson

In her follow-up to 2015's Negroland, Margo Jefferson blends criticism and memoir, recalling personal experiences and family members she has lost, as well as jazz luminaries, artists and writers she admires. The veteran critic draws on a rich life full of cultural experience, as well as new thinking about the part race has played in her life, and addresses the core theme of black female identity. "Her approach is an almost poetic presentation of fragments of her experiences as they ricocheted off artists whose work and lives she has found meaningful," says The Washington Post . "It's an extraordinary reading experience - the first book I recall wanting to reread immediately after reaching the end." Or, as The Observer puts it : "It is impossible not to be stirred by her odes to fellow black American strivers of excellence." (LB)

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom

Described by Hephzibah Anderson in The Guardian as "a courageous howl of a memoir" In Love… is the story of novelist and psychotherapist Bloom's journey to aid her husband to end his life, after a 2019 diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's. The narrative jumps back and forth, documenting the frustrations and administrative red tape Bloom encounters and the ethical considerations involved with assisted suicide, while drawing a vivid picture of her husband, the architect Brian Ameche, with wit, compassion and dark humour. The memoir acts as a powerful testament to the couple's "stickily close" and tender relationship, as Bloom, writes Salley Vickers, also in The Guardian : "has written about him [Brian] with all the brave-spirited, undaunted love to which the book bears stupendous witness." (RL)

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

The tragicomic novel Love Marriage tells the story of Yasmin, junior doctor and dutiful daughter, who, as her wedding day draws closer, begins to dismantle her own assumptions about the people around her. Both her and her fiance's family face an unravelling of secrets, lies and infidelities, and Yasmin must ask herself what a "love marriage" really means. Monica Ali's 2003 novel Brick Lane was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and this is her most acclaimed book since then. It is a "rich, sensitive and gloriously entertaining novel – her fifth, and possibly her best," says the TLS , and "juggles so many questions and plot lines that we keep expecting one of them to break free and become detached… yet everything remains utterly coherent and convincing." The Spectator praises the novel too: "It dares to be deliberately funny," it says, and is "absolutely terrific… genuinely touching." (LB)

(Credit: Hachette)

(Credit: Hachette)

Tiepolo Blue by James Cahill

Don Lamb is a repressed 40-something Cambridge art historian working on a monograph about the the paintings of the eponymous 18th-Century Venetian master. It's 1994, the contemporary art world is rapidly changing, and after an embarrassing faux pas, Lamb is removed from Cambridge to manage a South London gallery, where he encounters Ben, a young artist who introduces him to the capital's hedonistic nightlife and a reckoning with his sexuality. Tiepolo Blue combines "formal elegance with gripping storytelling," writes the FT . "[Its] delicious unease and pervasive threat give this assured first novel great singularity and a kind of gothic edge," writes Michael Donkor in The Guardian . (RL)

Fire Island: Love, Loss and Liberation in an American Paradise by Jack Parlett

In his meditative look back at the famous queer party island in New York, Jack Parlett adds his own autobiographical asides. The result is a place-based memoir about hedonism, reinvention and liberation that has been widely acclaimed. The New York Times says : "[Parlett's] concise, meticulously researched, century-spanning chronicle of queer life on Fire Island captures, with a plain-spoken yet lyric touch, the locale's power to stun and shame, to give pleasure and symbolise evanescence." Populated by the mid-century literati – WH Auden, James Baldwin, Patricia Highsmith all make appearances – the book explores the culture and hierarchies of Fire Island's communities. "Utopias tend to be flawed in revealing ways," says the TLS , and this "sets the tone for an island history that's deeply felt and keenly judged." (LB)

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti

A follow-up to her 2018 novel Motherhood, Sheila Heti's Pure Colour is billed as "a book about the shape of life, from beginning to end," and combines the real with the abstract and surreal in its story of Mira. An aspiring art critic, she meets and falls in love with Annie, who opens up Mira's chest to a portal with her enormous power. Later, when her father dies, Mira transforms into a leaf for a long section. Pure Colour is "simultaneously wise and silly, moving and inscrutable" writes Lily Meyer in NPR . "The apocalypse written as trance, a sleepwalker's song about the end of all things… Pure Colour is an original, a book that says something new for our difficult times",  writes Anne Enright in The Guardian . (RL)

Sea of Tranquillity by Emily St John Mandel

The prescient 2014 novel Station Eleven – a dystopian story of a devastating pandemic – was a hit for Emily St John Mandel, winning the Arthur C Clarke award, and also spawning a TV series. Her new book, the time-travelling story Sea of Tranquillity, begins in 1912, with a listless young British immigrant starting a new life in Canada who, when wandering in the woods, experiences an incomprehensible paranormal event. The narrative moves forward to the present day, and then to two futuristic time zones, weaving together disparate threads. The novel has "intellectual heft", says The Scotsman , and "St John Mandel is an intelligent, acute and sympathetic writer". Sea of Tranquillity is, says the Guardian , "hugely ambitious in scope, yet also intimate and written with a graceful and beguiling fluency." (LB)

(Credit: Penguin Random House)

Memphis by Tara M Stringfellow

"A rhapsodic hymn to black women," writes Kia Corthron in the New York Times , of poet, storyteller and former lawyer Stringfellow's first novel, which spans 70 years and three generations: Hazel, daughters Miriam and August and granddaughter Joan. Memphis is, Stringfellow says, "an ode to my city and the black women living here in it... full of mystery and magic and humour and grit." The Irish Times praises Stringfellow : "Her women are vivid, formidable and funny, exposing the legacy of racial violence not just within the microcosm of family or the titular city, but nationally," while The Washington Post writes : "With her richly impressionistic style, Stringfellow captures the changes transforming Memphis in the latter half of the 20th Century.” (RL)

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

In his second poetry collection, written in the aftermath of his mother's death, Ocean Vuong contemplates personal loss, the meaning of family, and tenderness in the face of violence. The episodic poem Dear Rose addresses his dead mother about her journey as an immigrant from Vietnam to the US. "Because Vuong plays with time by the millisecond – slowing down or speeding up old memories or conversations – he uncovers new enlightening details that have a life of their own," says The Guardian . Artfuse describes Time is a Mother as a "dazzling investigation of love and loss, inspiring both nostalgia and release", and says the poet's language, "recognises the trauma of death, but also revels in the glory of life". (LB)

(Credit: Bloomsbury)

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Much of Nagamatsu's debut novel was completed before 2020, and its themes will strike readers with their prescience. Set in the near-future, a team of scientists in Siberia discover a mummified pre-historic female corpse they name "Annie", which holds a disease that sets off a catastrophic pandemic named "the Arctic Plague". Nagamatsu focuses on the human side of the crisis, leaping forward 6,000 years to reveal a society that has commercialised death, and the long-reaching legacy of past decisions. Expansive and genre-defying, it is told through discrete stories that slowly coalesce. "Like a Polaroid photograph, How High We Go in the Dark takes time to show its true colours. When they finally appear, the effect is all the more dazzling," writes the Guardian . It is, writes the New York Times , "a book of sorrow for the destruction we're bringing on ourselves. Yet the novel reminds us there's still hope in human connections, despite our sadness." (RL)

Burning Questions by Margaret Atwood

Now in the seventh decade of her remarkable literary career, Margaret Atwood has written her third collection of essays that, says the i newspaper , "brims with enthusiasm and verve". Broadly looking at events of the past two decades, the range of subjects is wide – from censorship and Obama, to #MeToo and zombies. And there are insights into her own craft and the function of fiction. As the i puts it: "Atwood always makes the idea of big questions a little more digestible. You find yourself asking: what can fiction do? What can we do, generally?" The essays are full of a "droll, deadpan humour and an instinct for self-deprecation" says the Guardian . "Atwood remains frank, honest and good company." (LB)

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire

This is Warsan Shire's long-awaited, first full-length poetry collection, after two pamphlets, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (2011) and Her Blue Body (2015). It arrives nearly six years after the Somali-British poet shot to world-wide fame collaborating with Beyoncé on the latter's ground-breaking visual albums, Lemonade (2016) and Black is King (2020). The poems in Bless the Daughter… draw from Shire's own experiences, bringing to vivid life black women's lives, motherhood and migration. "Shire's strikingly beautiful imagery leverages the specificity of her own womanhood, love life, tussles with mental health, grief, family history, and stories from the Somali diaspora, to make them reverberate universally," writes Dfiza Benson in The Telegraph . (RL)

(Credit: Europa Editions)

(Credit: Europa Editions)

In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing by Elena Ferrante

In the Margins is a collection of four essays in which the best-selling, pseudonymous author of the Neapolitan Quartet articulates how and why she writes – and her inspiration, struggles and evolution as both a writer and reader. Ranging from philosophical to practical, the essays give the reader an insight into the enigmatic author's mind, and include an exploration of what a writer is – less an embodied entity, she says, than a stream of "pure sensibility that feeds on the alphabet". As the New York Times puts it: "For those who wish to burrow gopher-like into the author's mind, Ferrante has prepared a tunnel." (LB)

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

The Booker Prize-winning novelist returns with part two of his Dark Star fantasy trilogy, after 2019's Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which the author initially described as the "African Game of Thrones" (he later insisted this was a joke). A female-centric counternarrative to the first novel, Moon Witch, Spider King follows Sogolon, the 177-year-old antihero, and Moon Witch of the title, on an epic and characteristically violent journey. "Like an ancient African Lisbeth Salander," writes the FT , "she dedicates her lonesomeness to meting out lethal rough justice to men who harm women." Praising the novel in The New York Times, Eowyn Ivey writes , "the Moon Witch lit my path and showed me how a woman might navigate this dangerous, remarkable world". (RL)

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

Identity, elites, race and capitalism are the areas explored in this multi-layered novel, the first by Xochitl Gonzalez. This "impressive debut", says the Observer , is "deeply satisfying and nuanced… a tender exploration of love in its many forms". Set in New York City in the months around a devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico, Olga Dies Dreaming follows the story of wedding planner Olga and her congressman brother Prieto. Family strife, political corruption and the notion of the American dream all feature in this "irresistibly warm yet entirely uncompromising" novel, says The Skinny . (LB)

(Credit: Penguin Books)

(Credit: Penguin Books)

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

NoViolet Bulawayo became the first black African woman – and first Zimbabwean – to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, for her 2013 debut, We Need New Names. Nine years later, Glory is an Orwell-inspired fable set in the animal kingdom of Jidada, which satirises the 2017 coup that toppled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (Bulawayo has explained that Glory began its life as a non-fiction account of this history). As a fierce but comedic allegory, Glory can be seen as a companion piece to Wole Soyinka's 2021 satire of Nigerian society, Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth . "By aiming the long, piercing gaze of this metaphor at the aftereffects of European imperialism in Africa, Bulawayo is really out-Orwelling Orwell," writes the New York Times . "Glory," writes the Guardian , "with a flicker of hope at its end, is allegory, satire and fairytale rolled into one mighty punch". (RL)

French Braid by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler's 24th novel is "an extraordinarily rich portrait of a family in flux," according to the Evening Standard . "Tyler's set pieces seem undramatic, but her rhythms are masterly." The novel tells the story of the Garrett family across six decades, and like most of Tyler's works, is an ensemble piece that spans the generations, set in Baltimore. The story starts with a lakeside family holiday, where rifts emerge that are largely unvoiced, and that unravel in the lives of each family member as the years progress. It is "thoroughly enjoyable,"  says the Guardian , "and at this point any Tyler book is a gift". French Braid is "funny, poignant, generous… it suggests there's always new light to be shed, whatever the situation, with just another turn of the prism." (LB)

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Yanagihara's highly-anticipated third novel follows her bestselling, Booker Prize-shortlisted 2015 breakthrough, A Little Life. To Paradise, which was released in January to both rapturous acclaim and cries of dissent, is, like its predecessor, lengthy (at 720 pages) and dwells on deep suffering rather than joy, which has drawn criticism in some parts. Multi-form, and spanning three centuries, it is a compelling and wildly ambitious work, offering no less than an alternate retelling of the US, through 1890s New York, Hawaii and a dystopian, late-21st Century. "Resolution is not available here, but some of the most poignant feelings that literature can elicit certainly are," writes Vogue , while the Boston Globe calls it "a rich, emotional, and thought-provoking read." (RL)

(Credit: Doubleday)

(Credit: Doubleday)

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Frida Liu is a working single mother in a near future who makes the mistake of leaving her child alone at home for a couple of hours one afternoon. Authorities are summoned by the neighbours, and her daughter Harriet is taken from her. Frida is given the choice to either lose her child permanently, or to spend a year at a state-run re-education camp for mothers where inmates must care for eerily lifelike robot children, equipped with surveillance cameras. Calling this novel "dystopian" doesn't feel quite right, says Wired . "Near-dystopian, maybe? Ever-so-slightly speculative? This closeness to reality is what turns the book's emotional gut punch into a full knockout wallop." The School for Good Mothers is, says the New York Times , "a chilling debut". (LB)

The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson

The Hanrahan family gather for a weekend as the patriarch Ray – artist and notorious egoist – prepares for a new exhibition of his art. Ray's three grown-up children and steadfast wife, Lucia, all have their own choices to make. This fifth novel by Mendelson has been longlisted for the Women's Prize, and has been highly praised. The Guardian points to the author's "succinct specificity of detail," and "a precision of observation that made me laugh frequently and smile when I wasn't laughing". According to the Spectator , Mendelson excels at "vivid, drily hilarious tales about messy families". The Exhibitionist is "a glorious ride. Mendelson observes the minutiae of human behaviour like a comic anthropologist." (LB) 

Free Love by Tessa Hadley

Described by The Guardian in 2015 as "one of this country's great contemporary novelists," British writer and academic Hadley has been quietly producing works of subtly powerful prose for two decades. Like her recent novels, The Past (2015) and Late in the Day (2019), Free Love – Hadley's eighth – explores intimate relationships, sexuality, memory and grief, through an apparently ordinary-looking suburban family. But, Hadley writes, "under the placid surface of suburbia, something was unhinged." Set amid the culture clash of the late 1960s, the novel interrogates the counterculture's idealistic vision of sexual freedom, in, writes the i newspaper , "a complex tale of personal awakening and a snapshot of a moment in time when the survivors of war were suddenly painted as relics by a new generation determined not to live under their dour and hesitant shadow." NPR writes , "Free Love is a fresh, moving evocation of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius." (RL)

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

A debut novel, Black Cake tells the backstory of an African-American family of Caribbean origin, and two siblings who are reunited after eight years of estrangement at their mother's funeral where they discover their unusual inheritance. The plot is driven by an omniscient narrator, dialogue and flashbacks. It is, says the New York Times , full of "family secrets, big lies, great loves, bright colours and strong smells". The themes of race , identity and family love are all incorporated, says the Independent , "but the fun is in the reading… Black Cake is a satisfying literary meal, heralding the arrival of a new novelist to watch." (LB)

Auē  by Becky Manawatu

Told through several viewpoints, Auē  tells the story of Māori siblings who have lost their parents, with each sibling telling their tale, and later their mother, Aroha, also telling hers from the afterlife. The novel has already won two awards in New Zealand, and is now gaining wider praise. "The plot reveals are masterful," says The Guardian . "Auē has done well because it is expertly crafted, but also because it has something indefinable: enthralling, puzzling, gripping and familiar, yet otherworldly." (LB)

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author and books 2022

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Best fiction of 2022

Dazzling invention from Jennifer Egan, a state-of-the nation tale from Jonathan Coe and impressive debut novels and short stories are among this year’s highlights

The best books of 2022

S ome of the year’s biggest books were the most divisive. In her follow-up to A Little Life, To Paradise (Picador), Hanya Yanagihara split the critics with an epic if inconclusive saga of privilege and suffering in three alternative Americas: a genderqueered late 19th century, the Aids-blasted 1980s, and a totalitarian future degraded by waves of pandemics. I was impressed by its vast canvas and portrayal of individual psychic damage set against seismic historical change.

There were mixed reactions, too, to Cormac McCarthy’s jet-black brace of novels The Passenger and Stella Maris (Picador), his first in 16 years; and to Ian McEwan’s Lessons (Cape), seen as both baggily self-indulgent and richly humane. Setting the protagonist’s life against the arc of postwar politics from the cold war to Brexit, and grappling with issues from the nature of creativity to the legacy of sexual abuse, it can be read as an indictment of the boomer generation who “ate all the cream”.

Also asking how we got here is Bournville by Jonathan Coe (Viking). With his third novel in four years, Coe is on a roll; he tracks the fortunes of a family through snapshots of communal experiences, from the Queen’s coronation through the 1966 World Cup to pandemic lockdown, in a moving, compassionate portrait of individual and national change.

Ali Smith Companion Piece

Ali Smith’s response to lockdown was typically playful and profound; Companion Piece (Hamish Hamilton) sees the outside world impinge on one woman’s careful isolation, in a novel about the importance of making connections between words, eras and people. Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House (Corsair), meanwhile, harnesses a near-future technological advance – the ability to upload and share memories – to reflect on current concerns around surveillance and privacy with dazzling inventiveness. Mohsin Hamid’s fable The Last White Man (Hamish Hamilton) interrogates race, community and the meaning of the other in a society where skin colour is changing. And I loved Joy Williams’s menacing and madcap Harrow (Tuskar Rock), set in a surreal future of environmental breakdown and human exhaustion, a kind of Alice in Wonderland of the apocalypse.

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

Radical invention characterises Percival Everett’s devastatingly absurdist The Trees (Influx): focusing on a string of gruesome murders in Mississippi, it weaponises the genres of horror, comedy and detective fiction to lay open the history of lynching. In her rambunctious satire of Robert Mugabe’s fall, Glory (Chatto), NoViolet Bulawayo braids the allegory of Animal Farm with an oral storytelling tradition and a social media chorus decrying dictatorship and repression around the world. Selby Wynn Schwartz’s After Sappho (Galley Beggar) is another novel that plays with form, reclaiming hidden lesbian stories by tumbling together biography, scholarship and poetic flights of fancy in sketches of modernist artists and writers from Virginia Woolf to Colette and Josephine Baker. This one-of-a-kind book channels a spirit of righteous anger as well as lyrical freedom and joy.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

Other standout novels illuminating the past include Louise Kennedy’s Trespasses (Bloomsbury), set in Northern Ireland during the 70s. Based around a dangerous affair between a young Catholic woman and an older Protestant man, it combines gorgeously direct and acute prose with an incisive eye for social detail. Shehan Karunatilaka won the Booker prize with The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida (Sort Of), a blistering murder-mystery-cum-ghost-story set amid the carnage of Sri Lanka’s civil war that similarly focuses on the effort to preserve ordinary life in the face of sectarian violence. Catherine Chidgey’s Remote Sympathy (Europa) is an excellent investigation of communal guilt and obliviousness to Nazi atrocities, while in Trust (Picador) Hernan Diaz deconstructs capitalist excess and the illusion of money through different perspectives on the story of a New York financier. Maggie O’Farrell’s follow-up to Hamnet, The Marriage Portrait (Tinder), is a glittering Renaissance fable of a girl caught up in Italian aristocratic intrigue, and Kate Atkinson is on deliciously acerbic form in Shrines of Gaiety (Doubleday), exposing the underbelly of London nightlife in the roaring 20s. Georgi Gospodinov’s Time Shelter (W&N, translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel), in which a “clinic for the past” treats Alzheimer’s patients, plays with ideas of history and nostalgia to explore Europe’s 20th century and current confusion with wit and warmth.

It was a good year for unhappy families. Charlotte Mendelson skewers narcissistic control in The Exhibitionist (Mantle), a darkly witty portrait of an artist on the slide who has spent decades squashing the life and creative energies out of his wife and children. Rebecca Wait’s I’m Sorry You Feel That Way (Riverrun) is a very funny, emotionally wise story of sibling rivalry and difficult mothers. There are no laughs, however, in Sarah Manguso’s chilling Very Cold People (Picador), an uncomfortable, deeply impressive account of how silence, snobbery and repression in a New England town allow the poison of abuse to trickle down the decades.

The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

Ross Raisin has quietly become one of Britain’s most interesting novelists: A Hunger (Cape) explores the conflict between ambition and duty as a chef takes on a caring role when her husband develops dementia. Namwali Serpell’s second novel, The Furrows (Hogarth), brilliantly dramatises the psychic dislocations of grief over a lifetime through the story of a woman haunted by the memory of her younger brother, who died under her care in childhood. Douglas Stuart followed Booker winner Shuggie Bain with a tough and tender story of family dysfunction and first love in Young Mungo (Picador). And in Amy & Lan (Chatto), set on a ramshackle farm commune, Sadie Jones gives us a wonderfully achieved child’s-eye view of messy family interactions and the up-close life-and-death drama of the natural world.

Three hard-hitting debut novels shone out. An Olive Grove in Ends by Moses McKenzie (Wildfire) portrays a young Black man’s struggle to define what success might look like in a Bristol neighbourhood in the grip of gentrification. The book delves deep into faith, violence, addiction, ambition and love with power and grace. Jon Ransom’s The Whale Tattoo (Muswell), focusing on a gay working-class man in watery rural Norfolk, is lyrical, atmospheric and brutal by turns. And Sheena Patel’s I’m a Fan (Rough Trade Books) punctures the bubbles of social media in a fierce tale of obsession and power dynamics.

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When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Sola

Set in the Pyrenees and giving voice to everything from mountains to storms, mushrooms to dogs, English-language debut When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solà (Granta, translated from Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem) is a playful, polyphonic triumph. Closer to home, poet Clare Pollard’s fiction debut, Delphi (Penguin), is an ingenious response to Covid, combining ancient Greek prophecy with the daily frustrations of lockdown to face up to our fears for the future. Vladimir by Julia May Jonas (Picador), a provocative post-MeToo morality tale about a female professor’s crush on a younger man, is sharp and deliciously readable; as is the huge hit Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday), which brings bite as well as charm to the tale of a super-rational scientist navigating sexism in early 60s America.

Send Nudes by Saba Sams Send Nudes: stories Hardcover – 20 Jan. 2022 by Saba Sams (Author)

Three notable debut short-story collections introduced fresh, contemporary new voices. Saba Sams’s unsettling, full-throated Send Nudes (Bloomsbury) captures girls and young women on the brink of change; Jem Calder’s Reward System (Faber) smartly anatomises contemporary life in the relentless glare of the smartphone; and Gurnaik Johal’s We Move (Serpent’s Tail) delicately traces relationships and disconnections across a British-Punjabi community. Short-story virtuoso George Saunders returned to the form with Liberation Day (Bloomsbury), tragicomic allegories of try-hard regular folk caught up in hells beyond their understanding.

Emmanuel Carrère continues to spin his fascinating web of social observation and self-inquiry in Yoga (Cape, translated from French by John Lambert), charting personal and psychic upheaval in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. Yiyun Li’s richly mysterious The Book of Goose (4th Estate) marks a departure from her recent autofiction; but this tale of a passionate friendship between two young peasant girls in postwar France, and how they parse their shared will to create and to act upon the world, seems to hold many layers of truth about art, love and self-creation. Lastly, a small miracle from another genre-hopper: in Marigold and Rose (Carcanet), Nobel-winning poet Louise Glück presents the first year in the life of twin baby girls with formal and philosophical sleight of hand. This wry, read-in-a-sitting delight channels the myriad possibilities of fiction with a huge sense of fun.

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The 10 Best Fiction Books of 2022

T he best fiction released this year reminded us to value our relationships with one another, no matter what form they take. These books emphasized how we are shaped by the people who surround us, as well as those who are no longer physically present but whose memories we continue to carry. They are stories about friendship and love, growing up and growing older, loss and living, all centered on characters reckoning with how their people do and do not show up for them. There’s a bruising portrait of grief told through an adult daughter remembering her mother, a gritty account of a young woman who forms a community at the depths of her loneliness, a celebration of friendship between two creative geniuses, and more. Here, the top 10 fiction books of 2022.

10. Signal Fires , Dani Shapiro

author and books 2022

Signal Fires , Dani Shapiro ’s first novel in 15 years, begins with a horrible ending. It’s 1985 and three intoxicated teenagers go for a car ride that proves fatal. The details of the accident are kept secret—and will haunt one family forever. Decades later, the doctor who ran to the scene of the accident befriends his 11-year-old neighbor, right near the spot where it happened. As Shapiro draws connections between seemingly disparate threads, she creates a moving portrait of guilt, grief, and fate. And she shows, in aching terms, how life is made up of random moments—missed opportunities and curious circumstances—and that it only takes a second for everything to change.

Buy Now : Signal Fires on Bookshop | Amazon

9. Trust , Hernan Diaz

author and books 2022

In 1920s New York, everyone who’s anyone knows Benjamin and Helen Rask, the wealthy couple sitting pretty at the top of the financial world. But how exactly did they accumulate so much power and wealth? That question is the driving force of the immensely popular 1937 novel Bonds —one of four distinct texts within Hernan Diaz’s Trust . The story of the Rasks (or the Bevels, depending which book-within-the-book you’re reading) contains mysterious multitudes. Their relationship and their privilege are undermined, examined, and rewritten as Diaz spins a dazzling story about subjectivity and greed.

Buy Now : Trust on Bookshop | Amazon

8. Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century , Kim Fu

author and books 2022

The 12 stories that make up Kim Fu’s bold collection feature characters dealing with scenarios that border between reality and fantasy. In the spaces where lines blur, Fu reveals quietly profound commentary on the intersections of technology, love, and loss. In one narrative, a girl mysteriously sprouts wings, a development that forces her friend group to consider their ever-changing adolescent bodies. In another, an insomniac grows dependent on sporadic visits from a strange man made of sand who might be the secret to her finally falling asleep. And in a wildly twisted tale, a couple kills each other, over and over again, to keep their relationship alive. These stories, surreal and clever, all point to crises that sit below the surface. Fu brings magical realism to exciting heights, positioning her characters’ relatable emotional battles within wonderfully constructed worlds.

Buy Now : Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century on Bookshop | Amazon

7. Young Mungo , Douglas Stuart

author and books 2022

Douglas Stuart’s follow-up to his 2020 Booker Prize-winning debut Shuggie Bain is every bit as crushing as his first novel. Young Mungo is another visceral depiction of 20th-century working class Glasgow, this time centered on the impossible first love between two teenage boys. Homophobia and violence surround them, and the sensitivity that the young men possess is not welcome in their world of hostile masculinity. Through rich dialogue and rhythmic prose, Stuart brings to life a captivating portrayal of 1990s Scotland and the struggles faced by queer men who are learning how to live in the face of it all.

Buy Now : Young Mungo on Bookshop | Amazon

6. If I Survive You , Jonathan Escoffery

author and books 2022

The first entry in Jonathan Escoffery’s lyrical and kaleidoscopic debut If I Survive You introduces the character at the short story collection’s center: Trelawny, the sole American-born member of a Jamaican family. In the seven linked narratives that follow, Escoffery follows Trelawny as he grapples with his identity as the son of Black immigrants living in Miami, where he never feels Black enough. Escoffery writes with urgency and heart as he illustrates his protagonist’s struggles to fit in, especially as his family falls apart in the wake of a devastating hurricane and recession. If I Survive You , longlisted for a 2022 National Book Award, is a timeless story of a young person wrestling with big questions about race and class, captured in intricately drawn scenes of everyday life.

Buy Now : If I Survive You on Bookshop | Amazon

5. Vladimir , Julia May Jonas

author and books 2022

The protagonist of Julia May Jonas’ electric debut novel , an unnamed English professor, is grappling with the public fallout of her husband’s past affairs with students at the college where they both teach. The narrator is more annoyed than anything else—she and her husband had an open marriage—and she is quite preoccupied with an extramarital activity of her own: crushing hard on her department’s latest recruit. As the professor grows closer to her young new colleague, her desire festers into gnawing obsession. Jonas’s explosive novel asks timely questions about power and campus politics.

Buy Now : Vladimir on Bookshop | Amazon

4. All This Could Be Different , Sarah Thankam Mathews

author and books 2022

In Sarah Thankam Mathews’ tender debut novel All This Could Be Different , a finalist for a 2022 National Book Award, recent college graduate Sneha has just moved to Milwaukee and started an awful job as a corporate consultant. Though the work is soul-crushing, there’s a recession swirling and the money keeps Sneha afloat. Plus, she can send some of it to her parents in India. But Mathews’ contemplative protagonist is desperately lonely in this new life, despite a burgeoning romance with an older ballet dancer named Marina. As Sneha questions why she finds it so difficult to open up to others, she is forced to confront the inescapable trauma that she’s buried deep inside. Mathews explores this tension, and the community that Sneha builds for herself in the Midwest, in an incisive and surprising coming-of-age narrative.

Buy Now : All This Could Be Different on Bookshop | Amazon

3. The Book of Goose , Yiyun Li

author and books 2022

Agnès has just heard the news that her childhood best friend, Fabienne, is dead. Now an adult living in America, Agnès reflects on growing up in France with Fabienne by her side and a decision Fabienne made that changed both their lives: when they were kids in the war-ravaged countryside, Fabienne wrote a fictional account of their experiences, and published it under Agnès’ name. The move catapulted Agnès to literary fame—and to a London finishing school where she suffered tremendously without Fabienne nearby—and now, she’s finally ready to tell her version of the events that defined her adolescence. Yiyun Li dissects the girls’ achingly intimate and, at times, unsettling friendship, and asks if Agnès ever really knew the person she was so devoted to. In detailing the answer, she unveils a cutting portrait of girlhood.

Buy Now : The Book of Goose on Bookshop | Amazon

2. The Hero of This Book , Elizabeth McCracken

author and books 2022

An unnamed writer arrives in London for a trip. She feels her recently deceased mother’s absence—and presence—everywhere she goes. As she walks around the city, she’s reminded of her mother’s complicated life, the memories they shared, and the curious, ever-evolving relationship between child and parent. But, the unnamed writer repeats, even though she’s constructing a deeply felt tribute to her mother, this is, in no way, a memoir. Her mother hated those. And so goes Elizabeth McCracken’s latest work of fiction, poking holes in the very idea of fiction itself as the story unfolds. The prolific author, whose own mother shared many similarities with the one described in the book, delivers a potent meditation on processing loss. Along the way, she makes startling revelations about what it really means to write, and how fiction can help us understand the most challenging parts of life.

Buy Now : The Hero of This Book on Bookshop | Amazon

1. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow , Gabrielle Zevin

author and books 2022

In his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur runs into Sadie Green on a subway platform. They’ve known each other since childhood, when they first bonded over a shared love of video games, but a rift set them apart. In Gabrielle Zevin’s inventive and sweeping novel, the estranged friends reconnect and rebuild their relationship, becoming creative partners on a video game that shoots them to fame before they turn 25. As Sam and Sadie wrestle with their growing ambitions over the years, they cultivate a friendship much more meaningful than any romance. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a celebration of the narratives, in video games and in life, that reinforce just how important connection really is. In following Sam and Sadie’s journey from Massachusetts to California and into the imagined worlds of their games, Zevin writes the most precious kind of love story.

Buy Now : Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow on Bookshop | Amazon

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Write to Annabel Gutterman at [email protected]

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10 Best Novels of 2022 (So Far), According to Goodreads

Read any good books lately?

2022 is shaping up to be a good year for fiction. Literary heavyweights Mohsin Hamid and Hanya Yanagihara have published new novels, while Polish author Olga Tokarczuk 's acclaimed The Books of Jacob has been translated into English for the first time. Booker Prize-winner Julian Barnes is also set to release his latest work Elizabeth Finch in August.

RELATED: 10 Best Books To Read Before Watching Their Adaptations

Now is as good a time as any to look back at the most beloved novels of the year so far. The year's most popular books on Goodreads span a variety of genres, from crime and sci-fi to historical epics and intimate family dramas. They are sure to include some great selections for even the pickiest readers.

'The Candy House' by Jennifer Egan ( 3.74 /5)

Jennifer Egan won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for her sprawling novel A Visit From the Goon Squad . Like that book, her latest work follows a host of characters as they navigate life and relationships. Most of it takes place in the near future, where new technology allows people to record and re-experience their memories. Users can even enter the memories of others. Egan succeeds in making this concept seem believable, even inevitable, as if we'll find ourselves in this world sooner than we expect.

RELATED: 10 Bestselling Fantasy Novels of the Last 10 Years

Few novels explore technology's impact on modern life and relationships with such precision. Where shows like Black Mirror explore similar dystopian themes, The Candy House is a thoughtful exploration of aging, memory, and loss that ranks among her very best work.

'Olga Dies Dreaming' by Xochitl Gonzalez ( 4.02 /5)

This debut novel tells the story of a Puerto Rican-American brother and sister living in Brooklyn in 2017. Olga is a wedding planner for the Manhattan elite, and Prieto is a rising congressman. But their lives are turned upside down when their mother, who abandoned them as children to pursue a political cause, re-enters their lives.

RELATED: 30 Movies That Are Way Better Than the Book

The plot unfolds against the backdrop of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico that year. In the process, the book examines issues of identity and corruption, as well as politics. In particular, It takes shots at Puerto Rico's limited representation in Washington, despite being an American territory for more than a century.

'The Golden Couple' by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen ( 4.03 /5)

The Golden Couple is the story of a marriage falling apart. On the surface, Marissa and Matthew appear to have it all. They are rich, popular, and successful. But after Marissa cheats, they start couples counseling in the hopes of salvaging the relationship. Their therapist Avery has an unconventional method (and has recently lost her license). Soon, secrets and lies bubble to the surface.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are the bestselling authors of You Are Not Alone and The Wife Between Us , among others. Their latest is a fast-paced domestic thriller that'll appeal to fans of Gone Girl and Big Little Lies .

'Violeta' by Isabel Allende ( 4.06 /5)

Isabel Allende is the award-winning Chilean-American author behind novels like City of the Beasts and The House of the Spirits . Her last novel A Long Petal of the Sea , set during the Spanish Civil War, was one of the most acclaimed books of 2019. Her latest, Violeta , follows the life of a woman in an unnamed South American country as she lives through some of the defining moments of the 20th century.

She recounts her life under a dictatorship, implied to be the government of Augosto Pinochet . She also interrogates her own complicity in the regime. Like the rest of Allende's work, Violeta boasts rich prose and complex, well-drawn characters. Her fans include Barack Obama , who awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.

'The War of Two Queens' by Jennifer L. Armentrout ( 4.06 /5)

The War of Two Queens is the fourth installment in Jennifer L. Armentrout 's fantasy series, Blood and Ash . It continues the story of heroine Poppy in her battle against the cruel Blood Queen. While it might not have the most original premise, the series has become very popular. The first three books have already sold almost a million copies .

Armentrout has described her series as "if A Game of Thrones had vampires." But the George RR Martin comparison isn't quite right. Blood and Ash is more of a romantic fantasy saga along the lines of Sarah J. Maas and Laura Thalassa . While it features genre tropes aplenty, many readers will enjoy the likable main character and brisk plot.

'Black Cake' by Charmaine Wilkerson ( 4.18 /5)

After the death of their mother Eleanor, Byron and Benny seeks to unravel the mysteries Eleanor left behind, which seem to involve a family recipe for a black cake. Their quest leads them into parts of their mother's life they never knew about and raises questions about their own identities. A long-lost child further complicates the situation.

Black Cake is the debut novel of former journalist Charmaine Wilkerson . The story spans multiple continents and decades, exploring historical events like the transatlantic slave trade and the Windrush migration to the United Kingdom. Along the way, it ponders pertinent questions about family and inheritance.

'The Daughter of the Moon Goddess' by Sue Lynne Tan ( 4.19 /5)

The Daughter of the Moon Goddess is the first entry in a fantasy series by Sue Lynn Tan . It follows heroine Xingyin as she seeks to rescue her mother from the cruel Celestial Emperor. In the process, she learns archery and magic and falls in love with the Emperor's son.

It's an epic saga of court intrigue, magical beasts, and doomed romance. The book also draws on Chinese mythology, which sets it apart from most English-language fantasy. Fans of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang and The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winters should enjoy Tan's work.

'Sea of Tranquility' by Emily St. John Mandel ( 4.21 /5)

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of the hit thriller The Glass Hotel , as well as the post-apocalyptic Station Eleven , which HBO adapted into a series last year. The latter won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015. Her latest, Sea of Tranquility , is a sci-fi novel about time travel that spans multiple centuries. It's similar to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas in that it features a large cast of characters whose stories intersect in unexpected ways.

Sea of Tranquility also engages with the simulation hypothesis, which claims that the reality we inhabit is actually an elaborate computer simulation; a theory which has been endorsed by tech billionaire Elon Musk . Critics have praised Mandel's work for its high-concept premises and its lyrical prose. Few writers so successfully combine genre plots with emotional depth.

'Either/Or' by Elif Batuman ( 4.26 /5)

Either/Or is the long-anticipated sequel to Turkish American author Elif Batuman 's acclaimed novel The Idiot . That book introduced Selin Karadağ, a young woman of Turkish heritage studying linguistics at Harvard in 1995. The bulk of the novel revolves around her relationship with mysterious Hungarian maths student Ivan.

The Idiot is exceptionally well-written and observant. The book is in love with language, but also brutally honest about its limitations. Despite their endless talking, the two main characters never seem to connect. Batuman's depiction of the early years of the Internet is also spot-on. It sheds an interesting light on our current moment. The Idiot was one of the sharpest coming-of-age novels in years, so Either/Or is unlikely to disappoint.

'Young Mungo' by Douglas Stuart ( 4.43 /5)

The biggest literary hit of 2020 was the Booker-Prize-winning Shuggie Bain , which portrayed the life of a young gay man in a working-class district of Glasgow in the 1980s. Author Douglas Stuart is back this year with Young Mungo , which explores similar themes. It follows Protestant teenager Mungo who begins a relationship with James, a Catholic boy.

Shuggie Bain was an unflinching look at alcoholism, sexuality, and an industrial society in decay. Young Mungo has largely been praised for examining these issues from a fresh angle. Such a bleak setting might put some readers off, but Stuart makes up for it with entertaining dialogue and complex characters.

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The Award-Winning Novels of 2022

The books that took home this year's biggest literary prizes.

Awards ceremonies are back, baby.

Yes, for the first time since 2019, your favorite writers actually got to dress up and attend a fancy party or two this year. From the Pulitzer to the Booker, the Nebula to the Edgar, here are the winners of the biggest book prizes of 2022.

Congratulations to all!


Awarded for distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.

Prize money: $15,000

The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family by Joshua Cohen (New York Review of Books)

“Cohen has performed a literary miracle of sorts, transforming the shadowy, dour figure of Benzion Netanyahu into the protagonist of an uproariously funny book. In its skewering of the small-mindedness of academic culture, The Netanyahus conjures up the hilarity of David Lodge, and in its piercing gaze and over-the-top, transgressive moves, it evokes the late Philip Roth, who ripped open the soul of the American Jewish parvenu—and that figure’s grinding quest for respectability—like no one else …

It is striking how much Cohen gets right about Netanyahu’s scholarship, the historiographical traditions against which he pushed, and the milieux in which he was formed, particularly the distinctive academic culture of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem … Cohen’s narrator captures something essential about the actual Netanyahu … Cohen lays out the twists and consequences of Netanyahu’s argument with exceptional acuity. But he is equally exceptional in tacking back to the comic.”

–David N. Myers ( The Los Angeles Review of Books )

Finalists: Francisco Goldman, Monkey Boy (Grove) · Gayl Jones, Palmares (Beacon)


Recognizes an outstanding work of literary fiction by a United States citizen.

Prize money: $10,000

The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty (Knopf)

“The aspect of unreality—albeit carefully constructed unreality—is central to Ms. Gunty’s presentation of American malaise, which occupies an unstable realm between portraiture and allegory. It is never altogether clear whether her characters are in the grip of some transformative religious awakening or simply suffering from untreated mental illness. The ambiguity is the source of this novel’s remarkable nervous energy. A feeling of genuine crisis—unrooted but ferociously tangible—propels the narrative through its many twists to the catharsis of its bizarre ending …

The tension is not uniformly unflagging. An extended middle section recounting Blandine’s doomed love affair with her high-school music teacher is out of proportion in both length and tone, seeming to belong to a more realistic coming-of-age debut. But this does little to offset the unnerving vision and conviction of the most promising first novel I’ve read this year.”

–Sam Sacks ( The Wall Street Journal )

Finalists: Gayl Jones, The Birdcatcher (Beacon) · Jamil Jan Kochai, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories (Viking) · Sarah Thankam Mathews, All This Could Be Different (Viking) · Alejandro Varela, The Town of Babylon (Astra House)


Awarded for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the UK.

Prize money: £50,000

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (W. W. Norton & Company)

“By striking contrast, and even if the title promises book-club exotica, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is preternaturally irreverent about the manifold brutalities in Sri Lanka during its 26-year civil war … Karunatilaka’s novel breaks with conventional modes of storytelling to reveal humanness in a strange, sprawling, tragic situation … Karunatilaka’s book is supremely confident in its literary heterodoxy, and likewise in offering idiosyncratic particularities of ordinary Sri Lankan life well beyond the serious matters of politics, history, religion and mythology … But readers everywhere will find in such demanding specificity what we all seek from great books: the exciting if overwhelming fullness of an otherwise unknown world told on its own terms, and that frisson of unexpected identification and understanding that comes from working to stay in it.”

–Randy Boyagoda ( The New York Times Book Review )

Finalists: NoViolet Bulawayo, Glory (Viking) · Percival Everett, The Trees (Graywolf) · Alan Garner, Treacle Walker (HarperCollins) · Claire Keegan, Small Things Like These (Grove) · Elizabeth Strout, Oh William! (Random House)


Awarded for a single book in English translation published in the UK.

Prize money: £50,000, divided equally between the author and the translator

Tomb of Sand Geetanjali Shree

Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, tr. from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell  (HarperVia)

“There is no one quite like Ma in contemporary literature, which is perhaps one reason why Shree, along with her translator, Daisy Rockwell, won this year’s International Booker prize … Indeed, in its boldness and experimentation—and in its likelihood of influencing a new generation of authors—this breakthrough novel recalls Shree’s fellow Indian-born Booker laureates, Arundhati Roy in The God of Small Things (1997) and Salman Rushdie in Midnight’s Children (1981) … Geetanjali Shree’s novel—which thoroughly deserves its Booker triumph—also seeks to ask who India belongs to.”

–Sonia Faleiro ( Times Literary Supplement )

Finalists: Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, tr. from Korean by Anton Hur (Algonquin) · A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, tr. from Norwegian by Damion Searls (Transit) · Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, tr. from Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd (Europa Editions) · Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, tr. from Spanish by Frances Riddle (Charco Press) · The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. from Polish by Jennifer Croft (Knopf)


Given annually to honor outstanding writing and to foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. Judged by the volunteer directors of the NBCC who are 24 members serving rotating three-year terms, with eight elected annually by the voting members, namely “professional book review editors and book reviewers.”

The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers (Harper)

“[A] sweeping, masterly debut novel … Jeffers has deftly crafted a tale of a family whose heritage includes free Blacks, enslaved peoples and Scottish and other white colonialists … Jeffers is an award-winning poet, and she is never doing just one thing with her text … Class and colorism are constant tensions in the novel, and Jeffers expertly renders a world of elite African Americans … The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is quite simply the best book that I have read in a very, very long time. I will avoid the cliché of calling it ‘a great American novel.’ Maybe the truest thing I could say is that this is an epic tale of adventure that brings to mind characters you never forget …

The sign of a great novel is that the author creates a world and when she moves her hands away, the world is still in motion. The idea being that, in the very best novels, every important detail is so lovingly attended to that the novelist’s intention is as invisible and powerful as gravity. The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is such a world.”

–Veronica Chambers ( The New York Times Book Review )

Finalists: Colson Whitehead, Harlem Shuffle (Doubleday) · Joshua Cohen, The Netanyahus (New York Review of Books) · Rachel Cusk, Second Place (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) · Sarah Hall, Burntcoat (Custom House)


Chosen from books reviewed by  Kirkus Reviews that earned the Kirkus Star.

Prize money: $50,000

Trust by Hernan Diaz (Riverhead)

[An] enthralling tour de force … Each story talks to the others, and the conversation is both combative and revelatory … As an American epic, Trust gives The Great Gatsby a run for its money … Diaz’s debut, In the Distance , was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Trust fulfills that book’s promise, and then some … Wordplay is Trust ’s currency … In Diaz’s accomplished hands we circle ever closer to the black hole at the core of Trust … Trust is a glorious novel about empires and erasures, husbands and wives, staggering fortunes and unspeakable misery … He spins a larger parable, then, plumbing sex and power, causation and complicity. Mostly, though, Trust is a literary page-turner, with a wealth of puns and elegant prose, fun as hell to read.”

–Hamilton Cain ( Oprah Daily )

Finalists: Michelle de Kretser, Scary Monsters (Catapult) · Arinze Ifeakandu, God’s Children Are Little Broken Things (Public Space Books) · Susan Straight, Mecca (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) · Yoko Tawada, Scattered All Over the Earth (New Directions) · Olga Tokarczuk, The Books of Jacob (Riverhead)


Awarded to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom.

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki (Viking)

“… [an] ambitious and ingenious novel that presents a stinging exploration of grief, a reflection on our relationship to objects, a potent testament to the importance of reading, writing, and books … The most endearing aspect of Ozeki’s novel is its unabashed celebration of words, writing, and reading. A library is one of the novel’s most enchanted settings, at once a refuge from the cacophony of objects that overwhelms Benny at home and in school and a magical portal to a world of self-discovery and unexpected connections …

The Book of Form and Emptiness is charming and warm, dynamic and filled with love, but over-full and a bit undisciplined. It meanders and digresses … But its heart, its ardent, beating heart, is huge. Ozeki’s playfulness and zaniness, her compassion and boundless curiosity, prevent the novel from ever feeling stiff or pretentious. Clever without being arch, metafictional without being arcane, dark without being nihilistic, The Book of Form and Emptiness is an exuberant delight.”

–Pricilla Gilman ( The Boston Globe )

Finalists: Lisa Allen-Agostini, The Bread the Devil Knead (Myriad Editions) · Louise Erdrich, The Sentence (Harper) Meg Mason, Sorrow and Bliss (Harper Perennial) · Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees (Bloomsbury) · Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle (Knopf) · Morowa Yejidé, Creatures of Passage (Akashic)


Awarded to the author of the year’s best work of fiction by a living American citizen.

The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine (Grove)

“Alameddine’s spectacular novel is rendered through the refreshingly honest lens of Dr. Mina … Dr. Mina is the storyteller the refugees deserve: respected by the Europeans, but steeped in their traditions and history … This is the first novel I’ve read that gives ample room to the ugliness of certain camp volunteers (the bored, the coddled, those battling pangs of uselessness) and the many humiliations some inflict on the displaced. But calling out anyone who gave up a vacation to meet boats seems ungrateful, so the refugees smile for their rescuers’ camera-phones and keep quiet … Alameddine’s irreverent prose evokes the old master storytellers from my own Middle Eastern home, their observations toothy and full of wit, returning always to human absurdity …

Again and again, Dr. Mina cracks open the strange, funny and cruel social mores of East and West. She shows us that acceptance and rejection exist across borders and often manifest in surprising ways … Throughout the book, Dr. Mina addresses a blocked and disillusioned Lebanese writer who, having seen too much displacement and horror, finally breaks. I found this mysterious unnamed listener deeply poignant.”

–Dina Nayeri ( The New York Times Book Review )

Finalists: Nawaaz Ahmed, Radiant Fugitives · Carolyn Ferrell, Dear Miss Metropolitan · Imbolo Mbue, How Beautiful We Were · Carolina de Robertis, The President and the Frog


Awarded to an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.

Prize money: $25,000

Skinship by Yoon Choi (Knopf)

“The impossibility of fully knowing someone else, or indeed oneself (the inevitable lacunae!), is an eternal theme of fiction, framed in infinite ways. The immigrant experience, in which multicultural characters necessarily navigate these gaps, is one such frame, and Yoon Choi’s beautiful debut story collection Skinship (Knopf, $26) uses it to bring a rich and engaging new voice to contemporary American letters. With refreshing amplitude, patience, and (dare I say) wisdom, Choi’s stories explore the complexities of her characters’ diverse experiences … In each story, Choi evokes a world entire, an endeavor that extends beyond content into form.”

–Claire Messud ( Harper’s )

Finalists: Carribean Fragoza, Eat the Mouth That Feeds You (City Lights Books) · Dantiel W. Moniz, Milk Blood Heat (Grove Press) · Clare Sestanovich, Objects of Desire: Stories (Knopf) · Chris Stuck, Give My Love to the Savages: Stories (Amistad Press)


Awards established in 2012 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. in the previous year. Administered by the American Library Association.

Prize money: $5,000 (winner), $1,500 (finalists)

The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin (Little Brown and Company)

“… addictively gruesome … manages to enhance a wild, wild western with Odyssean devotion, magic realism and historical racism, to create quite the unlikely love story gone awry … Ming’s story of denial becomes Lin’s ingenious assertion of his own Chinese American heritage, his fiction a literal projection of the Chinese American experience onto the page. Lin cleverly reclaims the language as he marks each of the story’s three parts with untranslated Chinese characters … With dexterous agility, Lin showcases Ming’s multi-faceted identity as a native-born American, a builder of transcontinental railroads, a rebel against racist laws, a killer of injustice–and maybe even a hero who might finally get the girl.”

–Terry Hong ( Shelf-Awareness )

Finalists: Kirsten Valdez Quade, The Five Wounds (W. W. Norton & Company) · Lauren Groff, Matrix (Riverhead)

* International DUBLIN Literary Award

An international literary award presented each year for a novel written in English or translated into English.

Prize money: €100,000

The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

“Zeniter has used fiction to demystify the war, its evolution and its fallout through an enthralling saga of three generations of a family from Algeria’s mountainous Kabylia region who left the country in 1962 and moved to France … Ms. Zeniter’s extraordinary achievement is to transform a complicated conflict into a compelling family chronicle, rich in visual detail and lustrous in language. Her storytelling, splendidly translated by Frank Wynne, carries the reader through different generations, cities, cultures, and mindsets without breaking its spell … Ms. Zeniter shows fiction’s power as a hedge against loss of the past: the art of regaining.”

–Liesl Schillinger ( The Wall Street Journal )

Finalists: Catherine Chidgey, Remote Sympathy (Europa Editions) · David Diop, At Night All Blood Is Black (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) · Akwaeke Emezi, The Death of Vivek Oji (Riverhead) · Danielle McLaughlin, The Art of Falling (Random House) · Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies (University of Minnesota Press)


An annual award presented by The Center for Fiction, a non-profit organization in New York City, for the best debut novel.

The Five Wounds by Kirsten Valdez Quade (W. W. Norton & Company)

“In three parts that unfold over the course of a year in the aptly named New Mexico town of Las Penas, The Five Wounds is a knife-sharp study of what happens to a family when accountability to other people goes out the window. Quade’s characters are experts at pushing love away, especially when intimate connection is most necessary … As each member of the Padilla family battles their personal demons, hope shimmers like a mirage over everyday life, a sweet what-if that Quade expertly suspends above the text …

It is a treat to see the author’s exceptional command of pacing on display in a novel. Proof that what you say is just as important as how you say it, her precise lines are wanting in neither substance nor style, and her darkly hilarious, tender, gorgeous use of language is one of the crowning pleasures of the novel … an irreverent 21st-century meditation on the restorative powers of empathy.”

–Elena Britos ( BookPage )

Finalists: Priyanka Champaneri, The City of Good Death (Restless Books) · Linda Rui Feng, Swimming Back to Trout River (Simon & Schuster) · Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois (Harper) · Violet Kupersmith, Build Your House Around My Body (Random House) · Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This (Riverhead) · Jackie Polzin, Brood (Doubleday)

* Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Recognizes outstanding literary works as well as champions new writers.

Prize money: $1,000

(Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction)

Brood by Jackie Polzin (Doubleday)

“Shortly after I started reading Brood, the debut novel from St. Paul writer Jackie Polzin, I dashed off a note to a poet friend who used to keep a flock of Rhode Island Reds in her backyard. You will love this book, I told her, the voice is wry and rare and old-fashioned in a good way, reminds me of E.B. White’s essays about his farm. And so funny! … the sprightliness of the voice had me so snowed that it took a while to realize that Brood is actually a story of unremitting loss … Has anyone ever described chickens better than Jackie Polzin? It seems unlikely … This little book was acquired by Doubleday in a two-day, nine-house bidding war, which is saying a lot for a skinny debut novel about raising chickens. But as Polzin points out, ‘A chicken’s life is full of magic. Lo and behold.’”

–Marion Winik ( The Star Tribune )

Finalists: Natasha Brown, Assembly (Little Brown and Company) · Thomas Grattan, The Recent East (MCD) · Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, My Monticello (Henry Holt) · Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World (New York Review of Books)

In the Company of Men by Véronique Tadjo

In the Company of Men by Véronique Tadjo (Other Press)

“I was captivated by the book’s multiple points of view, though I may have approached the work more like a collection of stories than a novel. Each chapter presented a different account of the Ebola outbreak, so the chapters felt more like varying personal stories, occurring simultaneously in a time of ceaseless crisis. Formally, I found the mythos of the trees centered and grounded the true-to-life narrative work in and beyond pure fiction. Indeed, the mythical turn creates a stake in poetics …

The essayistic voice of each account is quite poetic … the sentence-level overturning of words all in all shows a commitment to language and interest in repetition; the recurring sentence patterns mimic how thoughts overturn in the mind and shift to progress a beating heart forward … Tadjo’s book…weaves poetry and music into the everyday experiences of healthcare workers, so its soul is rich.”

–Kara Laurene Pernicano ( Full Stop )

Finalists: Mariana Enriquez, The Dangers of Smoking In Bed (Hogarth) · Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, American Estrangement (W. W. Norton) · Claire Vaye Watkins, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness (Riverhead) · Joy Williams, Harrow (Knopf)

* Edgar Award

Presented by the Mystery Writers of America, honoring the best in crime and mystery fiction.

(Best Novel)

Five Decembers by James Kestrel (Hard Case Crime)

“Some of my favorite crime novels juxtapose individual murders against the backdrop of wartime mass carnage. This is tough to pull off; it takes a skilled writer to keep the horror of such crimes vivid and stark when they’re surrounded by so much other death. In Five Decembers , James Kestrel, a pseudonym for the horror and suspense novelist Jonathan Moore, does this very, very well … War, imprisonment, torture, romance, foreign language and culture are all explored with genuine feeling. The novel has an almost operatic symmetry, and Kestrel turns a beautiful phrase, too.”

–Sarah Weinman ( The New York Times Book Review )

Finalists: Rhys Bowen, The Venice Sketchbook (Lake Union) · S.A. Cosby, Razorblade Tears (Flatiron) · Will Leitch, How Lucky (Harper) · Kat Rosenfield, No One Will Miss Her (William Morrow)

* (Best First Novel)

Deer Season Erin Flanagan

Deer Season by Erin Flanagan (University of Nebraska Press)

“Flanagan balances the mystery and its surprising resolution with her emotionally rich character explorations. This is a standout novel of small-town life, powered by the characters’ consequential determination to protect their loved ones at any cost.”

–Publishers Weekly

Finalists: Vera Kurian, Never Saw Me Coming (Park Row) · Fabian Nicieza, Suburban Dicks (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) · JoAnn Tompkins, What Comes After (Riverhead) · Caitlin Wahrer, The Damage (Pamela Dorman Books)


Given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for the best science fiction or fantasy novel.

A Master of Djinn

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)

“Clark deftly explores colonialism and the history of Cairo with an immersive setting that acts as another character in this delightful combination of mystery, fantasy, and romance. Give this to alternate history enthusiasts and mystery readers who enjoy a dose of the magical. Fans of S. A. Chakraborty, Martha Wells, and Zen Cho should be particularly pleased.”

–Anna Mickelsen ( Booklist )

Finalists: C. L. Clark, The Unbroken (Orbit US) · S.B. Divya, Machinehood (Gallery / Saga) · Arkady Martine, A Desolation called Peace (Tor) · Jason Sanford, Plague Birds (Apex)


Awarded for the best science fiction or fantasy story of 40,000 words or more published in English or translated in the prior calendar year.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (Tor)

“… themes have evolved in complexity, diving deeper into an intrigue about the very nature of life and death. The central cast is as appealing as ever, and the cats..are a delightful addition … Martine’s debut showcased her consummate skill and perfect blend of narrative, humor and world-building; her second effort highlights her thematic ambition, and her abilities as a writer are more than equal to the task. Desolation is the kind of book that crouches in your mind, waiting for a quiet moment. It is hard to read slowly, but demands to be savored, lest you miss some of the cleverest and most elegant foreshadowing in modern science fiction … carries its own distinctive melody … Arkady Martine’s first book was a deserving Hugo winner. Her second might eclipse it.”

–Noah Fram ( BookPage )

Finalists: Becky Chambers, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Harper Voyager) · Ryka Aoki, Light From Uncommon Stars (Tor Books) · P. Djèlí Clark, A Master of Djinn (Tordotcom) · Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary (Ballantine) · Shelley Parker-Chan, She Who Became the Sun (Tor Books)


Presented by the Horror Writers Association for “superior achievement” in horror writing for novels.

My Heart is a Chainsaw Stephen Graha Jones

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (Gallery / Saga)

“Jones’s My Heart Is a Chainsaw is such an accomplishment; it makes me want to watch all the horror. This novel is a paean to slasher films, a devotional about an acolyte written by an obsessive. And it’s a lot of fun … Jade’s awkwardness and insecurities, her intractable obstinacy, her refusal to behave in a socially acceptable manner, all make her a believable nuisance to the adults in her life…She’s respectful and patient, with an irrepressible sense of humor to balance our her sense of horror. We’re so much on her side we find ourselves hoping for the worst … When things get going, they really go gonzo, and we’re scrabbling to hang on by our fingernails throughout the climax. Everything promised in the first act is gleefully delivered in the third with comedy, pathos and a machete clutched in the hands of an unforgettable character.”

–Ellen Morton ( The Washington Post )

Finalists: V. Castro, The Queen of the Cicadas (Flame Tree Press) · Grady Hendrix, The Final Girl Support Group (Berkley) · Cynthia Pelayo, Children of Chicago (Agora Books) · Chuck Wendig, The Book of Accidents (Del Rey)

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How Jasmine Guillory Plots Out Her Best-Selling Books

From messy first drafts to revision spreadsheets, the author shares tips and insights from her own writing life.

Previously in my author conversation series: Alejandro Varela , Ingrid Rojas Contreras , Megha Majumdar , Ada Limón , Chanda Prescod-Weinstein , Crystal Hana Kim and R. O. Kwon , Lydia Kiesling , and Bryan Washington .

This month, one week before her publication day—a time when many writers would be hard-pressed managing a million promotional tasks and trying not to crumble under the weight of pre-pub anxiety—the romance novelist Jasmine Guillory asked her Instagram followers: “Have a question for me? Need a pep talk?” One person turned to her for career advice, another for writing motivation, a third for insights into the publishing process. Others shared more personal stories and struggles, and I followed along as she responded to each one with her typical care and candor.

This is one of many reasons why I wanted to chat with Guillory for my newsletter. She is the New York Times best-selling author of eight books —including her debut, The Wedding Date ; the Reese’s Book Club pick The Proposal ; and her latest, the effervescent Drunk on Love , out tomorrow—and can frequently be seen recommending books on the Today Show . She is, in other words, one of the busiest and hardest-working authors I know—and I can think of no one who gives better advice or offers more generous encouragement to their fellow writers.

Guillory wrote her first couple of books in her scant free time, while working 60+ hours a week as a lawyer. “I had writer friends and I knew how hard it was to make a living at this. I thought I’d be juggling both jobs for a long time,” she said. She writes full-time now, and speaks honestly about the way inspiration can flag and then flare; the stress of deadlines and messy first drafts; and the cycles of brainstorming and hard work, frustration and epiphanies that make up a writing life. She doesn’t pretend that it’s easy. At the same time, it’s clear that she is doing what she chose to do, and what she loves: writing books that are a source of joy to her and her many readers.

“I think the time before you’re published is the best time for you to experiment,” she told me. “Listen to different types of writing advice, try it one way and then try it another way, and see what works for you.”

Nicole Chung: Jasmine, can you start by sharing a little about how you first started writing, and how you made time for it in the margins of a full-time working life?

Jasmine Guillory: A lot of people decide they want to be writers when they’re little, but that wasn’t me. I started writing relatively late, when I was in my 30s. I was a lawyer and realized that I needed a creative outlet in my life—I’d been out of school for a while and I missed the experience of learning something new. I’ve always loved reading, and I had some writer friends and had some tentative conversations with them and they were very encouraging, and I had a novel idea—so I just kind of dove in.

It helps to know what kind of a writer you are. I knew I was not going to be one of those writers who got up early to write. I’d bring my laptop to the Starbucks across the street from my job and write for 30 minutes at lunchtime, write for an hour at night after I got home from work, and write for longer stretches on the weekends. I don’t think you have to write every day if your life does not support that or it doesn’t work for you—but for me, it worked. If I don’t write every day, the next day it just feels a lot harder. Even if I only write a few hundred words, working on the draft every day keeps it alive in my brain; it helps me get new ideas and problem-solve and figure out how to fix things. I also track my word count every day, because it helps me to be able to look at the spreadsheet and see it add up—like, Oh, it’s been two weeks, and look at how much I’ve gotten done, even though it felt so slow and impossible at the time .

Chung: Do you think working as a lawyer had any impact on how you approached having a creative career?

Guillory: In some ways, it made me think about it as a business earlier than I might have otherwise. Early on, it was relatively easy for me to learn to separate the writing and publishing parts of the job. My background in law, I think, made me more organized and detail-oriented in terms of my approach to the publishing side—I remember being very analytical when I was trying to figure that out.

Chung: So, unlike me, you probably knew how to read your first book contract.

Guillory: Oh, absolutely not! That’s the thing: Publishing is an entirely different language you have to learn. I remember when I got my first book contract, I was like, I know what these words mean, but I don’t know what they mean in this context . I think because I’m familiar with the law, that meant I knew exactly how much I didn’t understand.

Chung: Tell me about your first drafts. You just said that they’re messy—what do you mean by that, and then how do you build on them?

Guillory: I always have an outline. I will have at least the first third or so in my mind, a general middle, and an ending. As I write and learn more about the story, I’ll keep going back and adding to the outline. For my last book, By the Book , I had a very detailed outline—and then I started writing and got a third of the way in and was like, Nope. I need to start over. I’d never had to start over on a book before, but I had figured out who the main character needed to be and knew what was wrong. For this new book, Drunk on Love , I had a looser outline. I knew the beginning, I knew the first third of the story, but didn’t quite know the rest. With this book, which is set in Napa, I knew the setting would be a family-owned winery, and that at least one of the main characters would work there. Since I live an hour away, I can go there often, and I started doing some research on those trips, asking more questions. I had to get a first draft done before I knew which questions to ask, though—to some degree, I don’t always know what I don’t know until I have the story down.

I usually start writing a book by hand, because I think a blank Word document is so intimidating, and then type it up and keep going on my laptop. With this book, I wrote the entire first draft by hand. In the process of typing up what I’d written, there was a lot I discovered about the book—I saw that one of the subplots wasn’t right, and how to fix it. When I figure something out midway through a draft, I never go back, I just keep writing as if I had already known that. So anyone who read my first drafts would be very lost, and that’s what I meant when I told you that they’re messy!

I have a big revision spreadsheet, an idea I got from my friend, author Amy Spalding. Each draft is in a different tab. I create a column for each chapter, and add notes about things I want to cut and change. By the time I get to the end of the first draft, I can visualize the entire book in the spreadsheet, and I have a record of a lot of the changes I want to make in the next one.

Chung: We can count on a happy ending in your books. Within that frame, you make room for a lot of nuance and evolution and surprise—I feel like one thing you consistently do so well is let your characters figure out what’s best for themselves, and often it’s not what they thought it would be. What are some things that help you figure out your characters and their arcs, and what are some of the themes you’re always trying to explore in your books?

Guillory: I love thinking about and developing the characters, figuring out what makes them who they are and how they reached a point where it is right for them to share this story. Family, including chosen family, is a huge theme for me—I’ve said that all of my romance novels are secretly family and friendship stories, because so often these are the relationships that shape you and make you who you are. And the relationship with work is always a big question for my characters—how do we think about our work, how does it make other people think of us, and what misperceptions might we have about work and our connection to it?

Chung: It’s true that your characters’ perspectives on their careers nearly always change, too, even if the jobs don’t.

Guillory: I think that’s something that is really hard for many of us—changing our perspective on or our relationship to our work, and finding new ways to do what we want to do. And as we’ve seen over the past few years, caring for ourselves is both very important and very difficult. We think of our responsibilities to other people and institutions as more important than our responsibilities to ourselves.

Chung: What responsibilities do you have to yourself and your writing—what have you learned about your own relationship to it, and what you need?

Guillory: I’m a people pleaser and would always say yes to things automatically. Last year, I made a decision matrix for myself. The first question is: “Do you want to do this? Be honest with yourself.” Sometimes the answer is yes, but I still might say no in the end, because I’ve gone through everything it would mean if I said yes, and I know that I can’t.

Now I don’t have so much regret around missing out on something, because I’ve taken the time to stop and really think about what I need to do. And when I do say yes to things, I can know that I’ve made a good decision—that this is something I want to do that is justified for all these reasons.

Chung: You started giving pep talks to people on Instagram during the pandemic. Why did you start, and why have you kept doing it?

Guillory: I was having one of those bad pandemic days when I felt stuck, like this would never end, and I thought, I need a pep talk. Maybe some other people do too . So I asked in an Instagram story, “Does anyone need a pep talk?” and so many people responded, telling me about the things they were going through. I felt so touched that they would trust me, and it made me feel better to be able to offer some encouragement.

As I’ve kept offering pep talks, people have come back and given me updates—I’ve met some of them at book events, and it really means a lot to me. The pep talks have helped me think more about what we have in common—and the importance of being kind to others, because you never know what they may be going through. It’s also interesting to see many people going through the same things. A few weeks ago, when I offered pep talks, I heard from all these people headed back to school—teachers, students, parents—and when I responded, even more people responded saying they were feeling the same worries. One person recently wrote saying that they felt like they were lagging behind all their friends, and I knew how they felt—most of us know what that feels like, right? And yet we often think that we’re all alone in what we’re going through. It helps to remember that we aren’t alone.

Chung: What’s your go-to advice for writers—especially those just starting out, trying to find a little space for a creative pursuit, the way you did once?

Guillory: Obviously, reading is just as important as writing. I read every single day, and it always helps me think about writing. I pay attention to structure and dialogue, notice beautiful sentences and descriptions that I love, think about what makes a story or characters compelling.

Every time I start a new book, the beginning is scary to me. So I set a deadline, start writing on this day, and make myself begin. After I dive in, it’s always easier. And I think the time before you’re published is the best time for you to experiment. Listen to different types of writing advice, try it one way and then try it another way, and see what works for you. And remember: You can’t compare your drafts to, say, the tenth draft of a book that is published and has been revised and edited and copy edited.

A lot of writers who come to me for pep talks ask questions like, “How do you find the courage to start?” “What if I write something bad?” Sometimes it’ll be bad. I always think my first drafts are bad! There’s going to be some good in there, too—try to figure out what that is, and figure out why the bad isn’t working. You’re the only one who’s going to read your first draft anyway, so give yourself permission to write it. As others have said, you can’t edit a blank page.

Some of my colleagues will be in conversation with several of today’s biggest names in business, culture, politics, and health this week at The Atlantic Festival. For a limited time, use the code TAFFRIEND for 50 percent off in-person registration. Learn more here .


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The Books Readers Loved in 2023

New York Times commenters share their favorite books of the year.

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Swatches of five book covers are separated by diagonal red lines.

By Joumana Khatib

Each year, as the staff of the Book Review chooses the year’s 100 notable books and 10 best books , we know we have to make some tough decisions. Invariably, some wonderful books don’t make the cut.

Enter you, dear readers.

Personally, I enjoy browsing the comments on these lists from fired-up book lovers, eager to share their favorites of the year. Consensus is an impossible goal for something so subjective, but it’s always interesting to see what books resonate with our readership.

A lot of you loved James McBride’s latest novel, “ The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store ,” and “ The Wager, ” a rollicking new nonfiction book by David Grann, this year. Same with “ Lessons in Chemistry ” and “ Demon Copperhead ” (though both those novels were published in 2022, making them ineligible for this year’s lists).

Here’s a selection of the books readers loved in 2023. Their comments have been edited and condensed.

Here are the books readers loved.

“I would have liked to see ‘Tom Lake' included. So beautiful and moving. ‘The Covenant of Water’ too is a unique and majestic book.” — Ellen Villa, Bethesda, Md.

“Why no love for ‘The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store’? A phenomenal read that’ll stay with me long after the year is over. James McBride is easily one of the best authors of his generation.” — Marc Stolove, Great Neck, N.Y.

“I’ll just be over here in the corner shouting about how Catherine Lacey’s ‘Biography of X’ was the best new novel I’ve read in years.” — Bo Lewis, Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Please do not miss ‘Girlfriend on Mars,’ by Deborah Willis. My personal favorite of the year. It’s profound, but also fantastically fun and entertaining. It’s about Amber, an ambitious, fiercely smart woman competing on a reality show to be the first person on Mars, and Kevin, the stoner/writer boyfriend she leaves behind.

Both Kevin and Amber are deeply conflicted, complicated characters, and the author takes such care exploring their embattled experiences with relationships, grief, faith, ambition, nihilism, celebrity, climate disaster … I can’t recommend it enough!” — Emily Saso, Toronto, Ontario

“For those born after the Vietnam War, ‘Absolution’ provides a concise history of the early days of the war and how the aftermath impacted families for the rest of their lives. For those of us who lived during it, we are reminded of the people who thought they were doing the right thing but got it so wrong.” — Sharon Sample, Des Moines, Iowa

“‘In Memoriam,’ by Alice Winn, was by far the best novel I read this year, and possibly in the past three years. I get books from the library, but ‘In Memoriam’ was so good I bought myself a copy so I could read it the week of my birthday every year — the best kind of gift to myself. It’s not on this list, but it really should be.” — Sabina FooFat, Squamish, B.C.

“Stephen King is a reliable author, and “Holly” has its charms, but as far as the page-turners go, 'Small Mercies’ was in another league this year. I don’t read all that many thrillers, but Lehane created something deeply atmospheric, and his central character is a gem.” — Felix Rieckmann, Singapore

“Congratulations, Chain-Gang All-Stars. My other top 2023 reads: Let Us Descend, Maame, and Moonrise Over New Jessup.

I was saddened by comments on the 100 notable books in which people criticized the NYT for being ‘politically correct’ as though authors of color are illegitimate. Good books come in all colors. Don’t miss out.” — Andre Barnett, Columbia, Md.

For some, the lists themselves make for good reading.

“I know that book lists are always controversial, but they’ve proven to be a revelation for me. For most of my life I’ve read nonfiction, mostly history, American history in particular, and scientific books. Reading fiction lists has been the answer to the question “where do I start or what should I read.” My most treasured find was “Middlesex,” by Jeffrey Eugenides. It was a total leap of faith that was wildly entertaining and informative. Try as I might, I couldn’t interest my golf buddies in picking up a copy.” — Timothy Daniels, Toronto, Ontario

“They say that nothing of lasting worth has ever been assembled by a committee (though this doesn’t apply to the King James Bible) — but this list is a reasonably solid one. Nothing important is missed, it seems, and all the main touchstones of our literary world are attended to.

And yet, something is missing — which is that very few books by small presses, university presses, or publishers abroad are mentioned. Why not a “ten most neglected books of the year” list?” — Russell Potter, Smithfield, R.I.

“Every year I look at the list but inhale the comment section. Invariably I find absolute gems. That’s all that matters: people talking about work that moved them in any given year. The rest is noise!” — Beverley Hatcher-Mbu, Washington, D.C.

“This is a mouthwatering list. I’ve admitted for several years now that I am a slow reader. Won’t be able to tackle all of them — but as soon as the soft covers are released, I’ll pick up a few of them. I plan to start with David Grann’s “The Wager” which is not on this list, but on nearly everyone else’s.” — Cathy Carroll, Detroit, Mich.

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

Memoirs by the rich have always been major publishing events. We looked back at 2023’s biggest contributions to the genre .

In an interview, the Nobel Prize-winning author Jon Fosse said that a brush with death during childhood influenced all his literary work : fiction, plays and poetry.

Nora Roberts, a titan of the romance world, discussed how she redefined a genre that was all too easy to dismiss .

Dhonielle Clayton is trying to make the book world more inclusive  by creating a pipeline for fiction that features protagonists with diverse backgrounds.

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

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Our 20 Favorite Books of 2023

By Keziah Weir

The 20 Best Books to Read in 2023

You know what they say: The only things one can be sure of are death, taxes, and a hoard of best-of lists clamoring for eyeballs come December. And so: the best books of 2023—whether one is searching for gift ideas or something to kick-start a New Year’s resolution (“read more!”)—with all the usual caveats. First, there are many brilliant books we have adored but about which we have already recently waxed poetic, from Hilary Leichter ’s Terrace Story and Zadie Smith ’s The Fraud , to Brett Forrest ’s Lost Son , to Aaliyah Bilal ’s Temple Folk . (Dig around in our archive of monthly staff favorites for more recommendations, from 2023 and otherwise.) Also, obviously, we have not read every book published this year. We’re not AI ! Ha ha… Still, here are a few of the books we loved best.

All products featured on Vanity Fair are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

author and books 2022

‘The Lookback Window’ by Kyle Dillon Hertz

I read this searing debut novel over the course of a few nights early this year, and still, it’s the one that’s stuck with me. At turns poetic and chilling—and wholly, unapologetically queer— The Lookback Window follows a young man who survived years as a victim of sex trafficking. Now existing in something of a glass house he’s built around his well-meaning fiancé, he finds himself unable to ignore the cracks that form when his past comes crashing into his present. Frankly, the story is brutally told. I had to look away, put the book down, take a deep breath often. But it proved impossible to ever stay away from. —Tyler Breitfeller, Audience Development Manager

author and books 2022

‘Biography of X’ by Catherine Lacey

Catherine Lacey ’s Biography of X is, in short, a story about a woman, the once celebrated fictional journalist C.M. Lucca, who is trying to piece together the life of her eccentric artist wife, X, after another writer’s attempt at a biography displeases her. Lacey’s book feels wholly original, which is funny because it’s made up of so much borrowed material, with lines of some of the great articles, criticism, songs, books, etc. lifted from the source, sometimes with tweaks and sometimes not. Biographies of familiar names—like Emma Goldman, Richard Serra, Connie Converse, Frank O’Hara, and more—are lifted too, often edited and rewritten. Phony citations intermingle with real ones from sources both living and dead. It’s a neat trick, and one that moved, delighted, and infuriated me as a reader.

The story is accomplished; the narrator is compelling, as is her subject. All the bookiness of the book is in good, maybe great, order. But the borrowed lines and histories had my mind working in a totally different way while reading. It was like doing the crossword while taking in a beautiful story. I was constantly checking what I thought I knew against what was on the page and worrying about that gap, an experience I don’t think I’ve ever had so sharply. All this on top of a counterfactual history of the United States that I would file into the dystopian genre if the fictional history didn’t so neatly parallel this country’s actual one.

The experimental quality of Lacey’s fiction might put off some readers, and to those I offer some solace: In the end, it’s an ordinary story about a woman who doesn’t know if she ever knew her spouse, the woman whom she probably loved and is now gone. It’s a tale of making the past and passed legible to oneself. —Kenzie Bryant, Staff Writer

author and books 2022

‘A “Working Life”’ by Eileen Myles

Eileen Myles, easily the most energetic and doggedly curious writer of our time, cements both superlatives with their newest poetry collection. In sparse, hypnotic lines, Myles relays the minutiae of life that turn cosmic under quarantine, and then bizarrely new upon reemergence. Past bumps into the present, dreams blur with reality, and the bounds of time and space are contorted into awkward Zoom rooms and nearly missed plane rides. The brutal legacy of America, prodded to new depths by the former president, wrestles with itself across the internet while a dog awaits breakfast, “her crunchy / chewy good morning.” Myles’s work underscores that old grief and new love are as close to you as your next cup of coffee, that home has never been four walls and a roof—it’s the abundance that fills the empty space. —Mark Alan Burger, Social Media Manager

author and books 2022

‘Sonic Life: A Memoir’ by Thurston Moore

Thurston Moore ’s passion for music was ignited by the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” and turbocharged by the Stooges. But his road map came from underground publications like Rock Scene, which was chronicling the burgeoning ’70s punk mecca at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, luring the Connecticut teenager “like a siren’s song.” He and a friend started driving back and forth from Bethel to check out the likes of Television and the Ramones before Moore moved to the East Village to live out his rock-and-roll dreams. It’s also where he met Kim Gordon, his future wife and founding member of Sonic Youth. The artsy pair, along with guitarist Lee Ranaldo and later drummer Steve Shelley, would push the boundaries of punk, creating modern masterpieces like Daydream Nation, inspire countless groups, and help usher in the “alternative” wave of the ’90s.

It’s hard to read Sonic Life and not be reminded of Gordon’s evocative 2015 memoir, Girl in the Band, which unflinchingly revisited her husband’s affair that led to the breakup of their marriage and the band; Moore, meanwhile, opts not to get into such “intensely personal” matters. In taking readers along his musical trajectory—from idolizing the likes of Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and Ron Asheton to sharing stages with them—Moore simultaneously charts rock’s decades-long evolution through punk and hardcore, new wave and no wave, indie and grunge. (He also was in New York for the birth of hip-hop and Madonna ’s Danceteria days.) In preparing to tell the story of his life, Moore spent time scrolling through The Village Voice on microfiche in a Fort Lauderdale library, and perused old issues of NME and Melody Maker at the British Library, studiously scouring downtown culture and music magazines, just as his noisy odyssey began. —Michael Calderone, Editor, The Hive

Meghan Markle Says Prince Archie Might Not Get His Christmas Wish

By Erin Vanderhoof

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By Eric Lutz

There Are No Winners in Wrestling Drama The Iron Claw

By Richard Lawson

author and books 2022

‘Idlewild’ by James Frankie Thomas

Set at the turn of the 21st century, Thomas’s debut novel follows Nell and Fay, teenage best friends so inseparable that a third of the book is narrated by a collective consciousness called the “F&N unit.” Fay and Nell are unabashed theater kids, and they’re also both slightly tortured: Nell is a lesbian who once harbored a hopeless crush on Fay, but Fay only has eyes for beautiful boys like Theo, a mysterious new sophomore. Not because Fay wants to sleep with Theo—or at least, not only for that reason—but because Fay wants to be Theo. Though the book is almost painfully relatable for stage lovers who happen to be in the same microgeneration as Thomas—picture me raising my hand—there’s also something universal in its careful excavation of complicated relationships, its compassionate understanding of how teenage friends can love and resent and envy and condescend to each other all at once. It’s the sort of book you finish, absorb for a few minutes, then flip right over and start reading a second time. —Hillary Busis, Hollywood Editor

author and books 2022

‘Blackouts’ by Justin Torres

How thrilling when an author follows up on a promising debut by upending any and all expectations—while still building on what came before. Justin Torres ’s Blackouts —a surreal, expansive, audacious excavation of queer history and identity—marks a stylistic leap from his celebrated first novel, We the Animals, while still showcasing his understanding of the fundamentals: playful dialogue, textured characterizations, narrative momentum. In this book’s case, entire worlds are contained in the conversations between a 20-something man known as Nene and the dying elderly man who’s called for him, Juan. We’re in a dreamy, stuffy mansion known as The Palace, the pair reuniting after meeting in a mental institution a decade earlier—both having been committed for their sexuality—in the effort to revive the authentic testimonies of queer people redacted from the (real-life) 1941 report Sex Variants. The construct, perhaps a bit unwieldy as a premise, results in satisfying, humane character portraits—the piecing together of a past that propels the present, of the emotional pain and erotic beauty inherent to LGBTQ+ history, and of the generational scars better unearthed than hidden. —David Canfield, Hollywood Staff Reporter

author and books 2022

‘Eastbound’ by Maylis De Kerangal

Virtually every moment of this slim, gripping, gorgeously translated novel takes place aboard a smoky, congested trans-Siberian train rushing east. Among the passengers are 100 Russian army conscripts in third class, one of whom is a scared, tragically innocent 20-year-old named Aliocha, who’s desperate to desert before the sickening train reaches its destination. (I’m no comp lit major, but I assume Aliocha is a hat tip to Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov ?) Eastbound is riveting whether or not you read it with the war in Ukraine in mind. What transpires may sound like a movie trope but feels absolutely genuine here: Aliocha meets an older French woman, Hélène, who’s got her own problems, to say the least. Though they can only communicate in gestures, Aliocha begs for Hélène’s help, and the lengths they eventually go—and the repercussions—will do a number on your heart. —Jeff Giles, Executive Hollywood Editor

author and books 2022

‘Our Secret Society: Mollie Moon and the Glamour, Money, and Power Behind the Civil Rights Movement’ by Tanisha Ford

This is the kind of story I would have loved to have read in high school—a close look at an intriguing, key figure of the Civil Rights Movement who hasn’t been widely talked about. Because of Ford’s research, we are now aware of Mollie Moon: an “It girl” and “influencer” before the terms were conceptualized, who founded the fundraising arm of the National Urban League, which funded youth educational programs, voter registrations, and more. Moon became famous for her ability to throw see-and-be-seen parties in such venues as Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom and the Astoria Hotel, with guest lists that included everyone from Billie Holiday to the Rockefellers. Her husband, Henry Lee, was the longtime publicist for the NAACP. The duo utilized their connections and influence for the greater good—a power couple par excellence. This is a story I will treasure for a lifetime. —Kia Goosby, Market Editor

author and books 2022

‘Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine,’ Written and Edited by Mark Davidson and Parker Fishel

Whether you go in for icons or relics, Mixing Up the Medicine, the first publication from the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, brings the reader closer to the Dylan godhead than perhaps any publication since Chronicles. It contains over 1,000 images by 135 photographers tracing the arc of Dylan’s shape-shifting image, along with letters, notebook pages, and a range of talismanic objects such as the namesake tambourine that inspired “Mr. Tambourine Man.” With an introductory essay by Sean Wilentz and epilogue by Douglas Brinkley, the book features a range of writers, artists, and musicians including Joy Harjo, Greil Marcus, Michael Ondaatje, Gregory Pardlo, Amanda Petrusich, Tom Piazza, Lee Ranaldo, Alex Ross, Ed Ruscha, Lucy Sante, Greg Tate, and many others. —Eric Miles, Visuals Editor

author and books 2022

‘The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever’ by Prudence Peiffer

The Slip is a collective biography of the community of artists that, for a brief and halcyon period between the late 1950s to the middle of the 1960s, occupied a collection of former sail-making lofts on Coenties Slip, a dead-end street near Manhattan’s downtown waterfront. In a narrative filled with anecdotes and (mostly non-salacious) gossip, Peiffer argues convincingly that for artistic luminaries Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, Jack Youngerman, and Youngerman’s wife, the French actor and filmmaker Delphine Seyrig, both the web of mutual influence, connectedness, and rivalry as well as the particularities of place and community were perhaps more formative than individual genius to their future artistic accomplishments. —EM

author and books 2022

‘The Men Can’t Be Saved’ by Ben Purkert

In his blistering, wry, and sometimes alienating debut novel, Ben Purkert paints a compelling portrait of the gallingly hubristic and increasingly frustrating Seth Taranoff, an amateur copywriter who treats his burgeoning career as though it were life and death. When he loses his job and his sometime lover and colleague, Josie, in one fell swoop, Seth’s life gets sent on a downward spiral which he’s unable—or perhaps more accurately, unwilling—to see that he’s complicit in. As Seth grapples with the wreckage of his life, he’s sent on a spiritual journey highlighted by flashbacks to a miserable birthright trip and an ill-begotten road trip to rural Pennsylvania that leads to a surprising relationship with an Orthodox rabbi and his family. In Purkert’s hands, Seth’s semi-delusional yet understandable quest to reclaim his old identity and discover a new part of himself is equal parts funny and pathetic, engendering sympathy and pity from the reader sometimes within the very same sentence. The Men Can’t Be Saved sits right at the intersection where Mad Men ambition meets an epic, existential meltdown. —Chris Murphy, Staff Writer

author and books 2022

‘Those We Thought We Knew’ by David Joy

About a mile from my home in Durham, North Carolina, protesters tore down a Confederate statue in 2017. When we drive to visit family, we pass two enormous Confederate flags flying beside the highway before arriving in Asheville, where an enormous concrete Confederate memorial was removed, at great expense, in 2021. All of these things are part of the modern South and at the heart of David Joy ’s bracing novel, which begins when a bold, young Black artist returns to her Western North Carolina hometown and sets a local Confederate memorial as her target. What emerges from there is both a murder mystery and a deeply intimate story of generational relationships and loss, taking the perspective both of the local Black community—so often ignored in stories of Appalachia—and the aging white sheriff forced to solve a crime that hits far too close to home. —Katey Rich, Awards Editor

author and books 2022

‘Omar Victor Diop & the Anonymous Project, Being There’ by Omar Victor Diop and Lee Shulman

Editions Textuel

In the most recent publication from the Anonymous Project (a collaborative series in which English filmmaker Lee Shulman provides artists with found photographs from the 1950s and ’60s so that they might give them a second life), Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop, best known for his self-portraits, has seamlessly inserted himself into the frame. The photographs he has chosen are lighthearted in nature—family celebrations, public pools in the summer, community barbecues—and comprise white middle-class Americans in a postwar, segregated country. While at a glance the spaces remain celebratory, with Diop often joining in on the original subjects’ laughter, it’s clear he’s laughing at a slightly different joke. It’s impossible not to be challenged by the stark fact that these all-white spaces may well have been, as they often still are, violent and entirely unwelcoming toward Black people. While the work is rooted very literally in history, Shulman and Diop give readers the opportunity to scrutinize not only American history, but contemporary day-to-day spaces, from those represented in media to what they encounter in their own lives. — Allison Schaller, Visuals Editor

author and books 2022

‘The Woman in Me’ by Britney Spears

Like many fans, I read Britney Spears ’s long-awaited memoir, The Woman in Me, in one sitting, completely gripped by her newfound freedom to tell all. After enduring a 13-year conservatorship, and a lifetime of unrelenting public scrutiny, she reveals the gentle but brave woman behind the pop star, exposing the truth behind the tabloid fodder I grew up reading. Britney employs the same confidence she has had onstage throughout her career. Her storytelling and voice are unwavering, from heartbreaking revelations to bittersweet anecdotes that bring you back to the Britney you know and love. Strip away the sold-out world tours and countless accolades and what you have is a story about generational trauma and survival. What’s most inspiring is despite all that she’s been through, and continues to battle, Britney ends on a note of hope, stronger than ever. —Daniela Tijerina, Executive Assistant to the Editor

author and books 2022

‘Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral’ by Ben Smith

One need not be infatuated with dashboards, have gotten drunk at the Magician, worked in media, nor be any degree of coastal elite to enjoy this accessible, jargon-less, character-driven tour of the New York media-tech-biz nexus from the mid-2000s—remember Silicon Alley?—to the late 2010s. Written by the former head of BuzzFeed News for a general audience, Traffic is undergirded by a hero’s quest to control the internet yet gift wrapped in a chronological listicle of “remember when” viral moments— Shirley Sherrod, dick pics, “Is the dress blue and black, or white and gold?”

The protagonist, Jonah Peretti, philosophizing founder of BuzzFeed, longs to bottle the magic of driving “traffic,” first defined as attention, but by the end, a stand-in for society at large. What makes something go viral? What makes people want to share? As the tail wags the dog and stories are written to chase eyeballs, he rises too close to the sun and falls, as does our antihero, Jonah’s “nemesis, archrival, and polar opposite” Nick Denton of Gawker Media. Following the dual origin stories, the book continues as a simplified yet satisfying behind-the-scenes look at the roller-coaster narratives of several onetime high-profile media start-ups—Gawker, Drudge, HuffPost, Jezebel, Breitbart, BuzzFeed, Upworthy—with digestible insights into the dynamics of a nascent industry, including Facebook’s maneuvers and The New York Times ’ struggles. (Given that the author plays a significant role in the scene, Smith’s thoughtful mea culpa and minor self-deprecations strike an ingratiatingly undersung tone, whether he’s lamenting his obsession with Twitter, regretting his hiring of far-right provocateur Benny Johnson, or agonizing over his decision to publish the infamous Steele dossier.) By 2019, our lightly flawed main characters are scarred and chastened: Jonah bails on a Disney buyout during the heady days of BuzzFeed’s ascent only to see his news division shuttered and his baby’s valuation halved. Nick’s Gawker Media is demolished by PayPal supervillain Peter Thiel vis à vis his bankrolling of Hulk Hogan ’s sex-tape civil suit against the company. But we were never too concerned with the outcomes for these rich, well-connected white men—we stayed for the viral nostalgia. —Michael Quiñones, Copy Manager

author and books 2022

‘Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs: A Journey Through the Deep State’ by Kerry Howley

When whistleblower Reality Winner was arrested in 2017 and later pleaded guilty to sending classified documents to The Intercept, it was a story with huge relevance to the group of activists and journalists with interests in the security state and its overreaches, but it didn’t easily translate to the broader public. In Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs, Kerry Howley draws an intimate portrait of the woman, her world, and her motivations with literary flair and a wry voice. Her approach allows her to draw out the connections between her prosecution, the recent history of leakers, dissidents, and accused traitors of the post-9/11 age. Most attempts to understand the war on terror leave a reader with more questions and moral confusion than they began with. In approaching that lack of stability with intellect and keen aesthetics, Howley’s book leaves a reader immeasurably enriched. —Erin Vanderhoof, Staff Writer

author and books 2022

‘Land of Milk and Honey’ by C Pam Zhang

During a weekend spent in a delightful Hudson Valley town (an organic farm; roses climbing the doorway of the Airbnb) I did not want to take long walks through creekside greenery, I did not want to forage for antiques, I did not want to sip vegan “lattes” devoid of espresso—all activities I typically enjoy. I wanted to stay in bed and read this sumptuous, spiky, brilliant book . In it, a fetid fog envelopes the globe, smothering agriculture in its wake; most food is replaced by a protein-dense mung bean flour. A chef connives her way into a job cooking for a billionaire at his mountain compound, where his daughter is cultivating a Noah’s ark of lost species and a grand plan for the future of humanity—or, at least, those with sufficient capital. —Keziah Weir, Senior Editor

author and books 2022

‘Let Us Descend’ by Jesmyn Ward

In a 2020 Vanity Fair essay on the death of her husband, Jesmyn Ward described her novel-in-progress that would become Let Us Descend as being “about a woman who is even more intimately acquainted with grief than I am, an enslaved woman whose mother is stolen from her and sold south to New Orleans, whose lover is stolen from her and sold south, who herself is sold south and descends into the hell of chattel slavery in the mid-1800s.” Early in the book, its narrator, Annis—whose mother was raped by the man who claims to own her—lingers outside the room where her white half-sisters are reading Dante’s Inferno . Her mother warns her against being caught learning, but Annis thinks, “How to apologize for wanting some word, some story, some beautiful thing for my own?” She acquires her own imperfect spirit guide who accompanies her on a hellish journey from the Carolinas to a Louisiana sugar cane plantation. I read the book over the summer but have been thinking about it a lot recently: how it contains death and cruelty and suffering, but also brims with Ward’s poetry about how humanity thrums even under violent oppression; the ways in which violence can control a body, but not a mind. “My loss was a tender second skin,” Ward wrote in that essay. “I shrugged against it as I wrote, haltingly, about this woman who speaks to spirits and fights her way across rivers.” —KW

author and books 2022

‘The Hive and the Honey’ by Paul Yoon

Oh, this collection. Seven stories that span some four decades and take place everywhere from upstate New York to the Russian Far East, linked by the Korean diaspora. (Full disclosure: I share an editor with Yoon and was in conversation with him on his book tour.) The book is 148 pages of exquisite, subtly interwoven narratives—a brief, evocative volume perfect for sinking into on a plane ride or a gray winter day. Sometimes I’ll read and love a book but over time its images slip away; those of The Hive and the Honey lodged fast and remain as vivid as those in a dream: A mother of a lost son screaming into the void. A soft-eared hunting dog in a 17th-century Japanese trading outpost. A carton of strawberries in a plastic bag dangling from a bike’s handlebar, the rider’s bloody knuckles bandaged with tape. Moonlight hitting stones on a valley floor. A couple mock-boxing in a rippling field before dawn. —KW

author and books 2022

‘Tom Lake’ by Ann Patchett

This is a real “how did she do it?!” book: How did Patchett alchemize the ingredients of a ’90s rom-com (mother of three grown daughters looks back on her summer romance, at age 24, with a now-megawatt movie star) with a complex double-timeline narrative structure, pulled off seamlessly and breezily, to create a beautiful page-turner that is cherry-pie sweet and sad and peopled with characters so real I wouldn’t be surprised if one showed up at my front door unannounced, as they are wont to do? It’s a family sheltering together at their orchard during the pandemic, it’s poolside Hollywood, it’s actors and dancers carousing at a festival. It is a delight, through and through. —KW

33 of the Biggest Celebrities Who Died in 2023

By Hillary Busis


  1. Must-Read Book Club Books for 2022

    author and books 2022

  2. 30 Best Books of 2022

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  3. New York Best Sellers List 2022

    author and books 2022

  4. January 2022 Most Anticipated New Book Releases

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    author and books 2022


  1. Judging YOUR Best Books of 2023 So Far

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  5. What Are Some Must-Read Books from 2022?

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  1. The Best Books of 2022

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    WINNER 90,971 votes. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. by. Gabrielle Zevin (Goodreads Author) Author Gabrielle Zevin brought a new kind of love story into the world with her universally admired novel about life, love, fame, failure, and video game design. Tomorrow was also selected as Amazon Books Editors' book of the year and it's going ...

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    -Sam Sacks ( The Wall Street Journal) Finalists: Gayl Jones, The Birdcatcher (Beacon) · Jamil Jan Kochai, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories (Viking) · Sarah Thankam Mathews, All This Could Be Different (Viking) · Alejandro Varela, The Town of Babylon (Astra House) * BOOKER PRIZE

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    From top left clockwise: Alexa Chung, Chioma Nnadi, Mitski, Law Roach, Sheynnis Palacios, and Ari Aster share their favorite read of 2023. It has been a busy year for bookworms. In 2023, literary ...

  28. 2023 Banned Books Update: Banned in the USA

    In taking a closer look at the effects on writers and other creative voices, book bans between July and December 2022 affected 848 individuals - 688 different authors, 155 illustrators, and 11 translators. It is likely that by the end of the 2022-2023 school year, book bans will exceed last year's total of over 1,500 creative people affected.

  29. The 20 Best Books to Read in 2023

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