2022: The Best Of

(All links on book titles will take you directly to the Goodreads page for that title. I love keeping track of what I’ve read on Goodreads, but if you want a full synopsis (without spoilers) you can also find that there. If you chose to purchase selected book, Goodreads will have an Amazon link available, but I would also encourage you to search instead for the book from your favorite local, indie, thrifted bookseller option if that is something you want to do!)

Last year, I started my yearly recap post with a full paragraph cataloging the many ways I’d been considering my best reads of the year and how I wanted to limit myself to 10 of them. I talked about how I’d started considering those books in the beginning of the month and how I had battled against myself to get them narrowed down to ten picks.

But this year has been different; I almost didn’t consider them at all.

See, this year I had a new baby. A girl. A girl baby. She’s beautiful and wonderful and wholly consuming. And in the prep for this new baby, I had little time for the rest. And after she was here? Pssh. No. I was squeezing reading time in between packing my days with bonding moments for my son (our firstborn), between registering and researching new things, between trying to figure out HOW ON EARTH we were going to fit a new human into our home. I was busy preparing eight weeks of lesson plans for a new position at the very beginning of a school year with students, and honestly? Somedays, I was just surviving the chaos until bedtime. So, my reading (while still existent) just looked completely different. It looked secondary. It looked like a “want to” and not like a “have to”. And I think, maybe, for now that’s okay. It’s not ideal, maybe, but it’s the way things in this moment. In light of all the beauty of the year and the things it brought to me, I can accept that my reading life in 2022 wasn’t everything I wanted it to be, but I can appreciate the things I read that stuck with me in the whirlwind of this life phase. 

Instead of a post listing the things I read, let’s recognize it as a post glorifying those books that made a mark this year.

Here we go.

Here’s the full list of 5-star books I read in 2022: 
  • Queen of Shadows, Sarah J. Maas
  • Beartown, Fredrik Backman*
  • The Inheritance Games, Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton*
  • The Crossover, Kwame Alexander
  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn
  • Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
  • Before the Ever After, Jacqueline Woodson*
  • The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History, Andy Greene
  • Freak the Mighty, Rodman Phillbrick*
  • Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech*
  • Holes, Louis Sachar*
  • Empire of Storms, Sarah J. Maas
  • The Unsinkable Greta James, Jennifer E. Smith
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed, John Green
  • Daisy Jones and the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid*
  • Book Lovers, Emily Henry
  • One Italian Summer, Rebecca Serle
  • Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery*
  • This Time Tomorrow, Emma Straub
  • Carrie Soto is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
  • The Christie Affair, Nina de Gramont
  • Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck*
  • When We Left Cuba, Chanel Cleeton
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald*
  • Perestroika in Paris, Jane Smiley
  • God Speaks Through Wombs, Drew Jackson
  • Funny You Should Ask, Elissa Sussman

(*indicates a reread)

In a shocking turn of events (or not so shocking, if you’re a mom and get the chaos that is parenting), this was a fantastic year for audio reading! Many of my favorite books this year came in the form of audiobooks, like A Monster Calls, Carrie Soto is Back, Daisy Jones and the Six, and Andy Greene’s The Office. Briefly, I’d like to recognize a couple great audiobooks that aren’t going to make the top list: A Ghost in the Throat and I’m Glad My Mom Died are two great reads on audio (4 stars for me, but I’m certain they’re 5 stars for many others) that I enjoyed this year and highly recommend to those who don’t mind reading in this platform.

This year, I read 108 books* (my goal was 100, so woohoo on that count). Of those, 30 were 5-star reads, which makes 27.7%. Like I’ve said in the past, I’m pretty generous with my ratings; if I end the book and it feels like a five, then it’s a five. Overwhelmingly, there are more 4/5-star reads on my end-of-year reflections than I ever expect.

*Use this link to access my Goodreads 2022 Reading Challenge info.

Also, before we begin, I think it’s important to note that for the purposes of this post I won’t be including rereads in my Top Ten. They’ve already gotten their moment in the sun; it’s time to shine a light on a few new picks. HOWEVER, if I were including them, Beartown and Daisy Jones would definitely both be back on this list. Lol. I’ve still not found a book to override those on my ALL-TIME list.

The Best Books I Read in 2022 are as follows (and in order, to boot):

  1. Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus
  2. The Unsinkable Greta James, Jennifer E. Smith
  3. Empire of Storms, Sarah J. Maas
  4. Carrie Soto is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid
  5. Queen of Shadows, Sarah J. Maas
  6. This Time Tomorrow, Emma Straub
  7. Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
  8. Funny You Should Ask, Elissa Sussman
  9. One Italian Summer, Rebecca Serle
  10. The Anthropocene Reviewed, John Green

Wow, what a year for the women, am I right? Only 20% of my top reads for the year were written by male authors (and both were return reads for me [by which I mean, I had read these authors before and liked them enough to return for more]). The new inside joke between my husband and I is that I blame everything on the patriarchy, so this kind of fits the tone of the year? Surprisingly?

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND

Without a doubt, no question whatsoever, Lessons in Chemistry was the best book I read this year. It has so many of my favorite things: historical fiction, strong (AND LIKABLE) female leads, witty snark, special side characters, FOOD. I mean, this book completely and totally pulled off a dog’s perspective without me rolling my eyes once. It’s a miracle. It has a distinctly Gilmore Girls/Marvelous Mrs. Maisel vibe to it, and I promise that it’ll be difficult to escape this novel without falling in love with at least ONE of the characters. Gah, it’s so good. I want to reread it right now just talking about it. Honestly, I can’t believe that I got this as an ARC without having any idea what it was about past the basic plot description; BOOKISH BLESSINGS ABOUND. I loved this one so much that I even bought a published, completely finished copy after it came out. I can’t say enough good things about it. If you find yourself on the brink of giving any of these books a chance, I hope it’s this one.

WEIRDLY GRIEF-ADJACENT LOVEY READS

Don’t even ask why this category was trending in my best reads of the year because I simply do not know. All I know is that I checked back over my best books and realized there’s a lot of family death present in them, and I loved them in spite of it. So, if that’s not a huge trigger warning for you, I’d suggest checking these out.

  • The Unsinkable Greta James, Jennifer E. Smith
    • I know that I started this category by saying that these are books about grief (and they are, I promise) but I loved them in spite of that; this particular book is wonderful for its layers and depth. When the main character loses her mother, she finds herself on an Alaskan cruise with her father. There are a lot of complicated things at work for the main character in this book, like why she (a professional musician) isn’t singing anymore and why she can’t seem to connect to her father in the absence of her mother. Additionally, she’s going through kind of a weird phase romantically, and this trip allows her to create some distance from that. I loved this book; I felt like it was able to encapsulate so many major themes in what I’d really deem to be a slim package.
  • This Time Tomorrow, Emma Straub
    • Not many books in modern fiction highlight the relationship between father and daughter. For whatever reason, The Unsinkable Greta James and This Time Tomorrow both approach and handle this relationship well (but totally differently). Are you even vaguely interested in time travel? Because this one will scratch that itch, too. It’s full of pop culture caveats and has a lighter tone than Greta James, as well. I think most people could find something to like in this story.
  • One Italian Summer, Rebecca Serle
    • Oddly, time travel is present in this book, as well. Who’d of thought? Unlike the books above, this book focuses almost exclusively on marriage and the bond between mothers and daughters. The main character finds herself completely lost and adrift after the loss of her mother; in her grief, she takes a trip to a location in Italy where her mother had traveled years before. She loses her husband and then finds him all over again; she gets lost in time but finds her way back. The unexpected escapist feel of the novel made it really interesting, too. I liked this a lot; it’s short, yes, but still really strong. Plus, the setting completely reminded me of Mamma Mia in the best way.

THE S. J. MAAS-AISSANCE

Still reading S.J., still loving every minute of it. This year, I included two of the books from the Throne of Glass series in my Top Ten. I also read the new Crescent City book*, but since it took me an entire month to finish it I’m slightly holding a grudge.

*(It’s so freaking long, that’s why it didn’t get 5 stars. Also, the apparent crossover element at the end? I’m not here for that. Keep my universes separate, please.)

  • Queen of Shadows, Sarah J. Maas
    • In this book, the action is totally amped up. The series has SO MUCH world-building and plot-building, but it really takes off here. I completely loved this book; it was the first book I read this year, and I was totally enraptured the entire time I read it. This one also solidified my belief that Manon is the greatest female character Maas has ever written; she is Queen of My Heart, that’s for sure.
  • Empire of Storms, Sarah J. Maas
    • All I want to tell you about this book is that if you’ve reached this part of the series, prepare yourself for heartbreak because WOW, this is a doozy. I had to take a break literally because I couldn’t see the words on the page through my tears. It’s good, though, so good. Totally worth the knife through the heart.

WAIT, YOU PUT NONFICTION IN YOUR TOP TEN?

Only one. I’m still me, after all.

  • The Anthropocene Reviewed, John Greene
    • This is an essay collection that I listened to and loved on audio. It’s one of those pieces that addresses the pandemic without making me hate everything, and John Greene has such a specific tone and writing style. I really loved it, and I think it would appeal to a wide variety of readers. Another great thing about an essay collection is that if there’s one you don’t super love, there’s always a chance that the next one will be a hit. I’m a fan.

THE OUTLIERS

  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
    • So, I’m not really a sci-fi type of person. I like it from time to time, but in general, it’s just not my thing. There are too many unknowns out there in space, too much mystery for this know-it-all to be comfortable with. ANYWAY, what a tangent, I really like Andy Weir. I like the way he writes, and I think his characters are funny and sharp. Notoriously, I can’t stand robots or aliens or anything weird like that, but there’s a character fitting that category in this one and I didn’t even hate it. I will say, this wasn’t my favorite ending; still, I did love the book. Clearly. It’s in my Top Ten. I do think The Martian is better, but not by much.
  • Funny You Should Ask, Elissa Sussman
    • Despite the fact that I do read a lot of Romanic Comedies/Contemporary Romances, they don’t often make 5-star ratings, and they surely don’t make it onto my Top Ten lists that often. I thought this book was so clever, and I loved the fact that the author mixed in articles and emails and interviews. I thought it was such an intriguing premise (probably because it’s influenced very vaguely by reality). This will have a wide appeal, I think.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE, TAYLOR JENKINS REID IS HERE TO STAY.

  • Carrie Soto is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid
    • I love TJR . I do. She’s a genius in our time, I think. Additionally, I’m a big fan of books that cover sports. Mostly, I’ll attribute this to the fact that I find athletes to be really compelling characters, and I love a good competition element in anything fiction I read. For this novel, you’re mixing that with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s stellar writing style. It’s a no-brainer. AND I READ THIS WHOLE THING ON AUDIO AND STILL LOVED IT THIS MUCH. Like her other recent works, it’s incorporating characters that have been briefly (or majorly, depending on the book) presented in previous works. I just love that Taylor Swift-y Easter Egg nonsense.

COACH LOWREY READS

One of my proudest accomplishments is getting Coach Lowrey to start reading; he didn’t think he liked books because he’d only ever read in a traditional way (you know, holding a physical copy), but once he started listening to audiobooks he became a fully-fledged convert. Here are some of his best recommendations from the year:

  • The Stormlight Archive Series, Brandon Sanderson
    • He’s enjoying these but know this: they are looong. Maybe he didn’t want you to know that, but I definitely feel like you deserve the warning. Lol. Fantasy, lots of action, world-building. Multiple plot lines.
  • Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman
    • I’m pretty sure he burned through this one; most of the stories were fun and familiar. If you’re at all a fan of the Norse mythology characters that appear in pop culture (primarily Loki and Thor), I think it’s worth your time to read this.
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
    • This was his best book of the year. He loved it because it grabbed his attention from the get-go and he thought about it even when he wasn’t listening. Also, he felt like Weir described the setting and the particular scenario in such a way that he could clearly picture everything that was happening. In his words, “The other books I read this year were really good, but I wasn’t chomping at the bit to get back to them. That’s the difference.” You’ll notice, that’s a strong recommendation and 5-star rating from the both of us.

OTHER WINNERS AND MENTIONABLES

Like I mentioned above, I read 108 books this year; that’s a lot of books, really! There are quite a few that I think would be well-liked by most readers (but didn’t make my 5-star list), so I thought I’d give you a second to peruse those, as well. These are all books that I gave 4-stars but think many of you’d enjoy.

ROMANCE-ISH

  • Very Sincerely Yours, Kerry Winfrey: Toy store, Mr. Rogers, sweet romance
  • The Love Hypothesis, Ali Hazelwood: Science, grumpy protagonist, fake relationship, misogyny
  • After I Do, Taylor Jenkins Reid: Will they/won’t they, dog lovers
  • The Happy Every After Playlist, Abby Jimenez: Grief, celebrity, music
  • Bringing Down the Duke, Evie Dunmore: Regency romance with witty banter and a little snark, early Suffragists

HISTORICAL FICTION

  • What the Wind Knows, Amy Harmon: Star-crossed lovers, incredible setting
  • Florence Adler Swims Forever, Rachel Beanland: Loss and love and swimming

FANTASY

  • Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare: Steampunk vibes in the best way
  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (could also be considered YA): An Arthurian story that didn’t totally bore me, modernized American version for sure
  • House of Sky and Breath, Sarah J. Maas (this is a sequel; read House of Earth and Blood first)

THRILLER

  • No Exit, Taylor Adams: Twists abound. I actually really loved this.
Talking about books is honestly my favorite thing to do. If you’re looking for recommendations heading into the new year, PLEASE hit me up. Nothing would bring me more joy.

That’s it! That’s 2022 in the books, as the kids say. Do we have any favorites in common? Drop them in the comments if we do!

Until we meet again, happy reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s