The Best Books I Read in 2022

At this time of year, “Best of 2022” lists are everywhere. For books, movies, albums, food, trends –  you name it, there’s a list for it. I love making lists, but these are hard for me because “best” is so subjective.

I’ve previously ranted about my displeasure with “best of” awards and lists- it seems more fair to call it them “most popular” lists. And no, those two things do not always  mean the same thing.

I finished books this year

I read a lot of great books this year, so it’s hard for me to pick only a few that I think are the best. 

I’ve broken down the books I completed into genres, and give you a few titles from each genre that I found exceptional.

When you’re done reading this post, I’d love your feedback. Do you disagree with my assessment on some of these titles? Do you have a favorite from this year that doesn’t show up here?!

The Best Books I Read in 2022

Literary Fiction

Remarkable Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

This gorgeous novel is my favorite read of 2022. It’s a story about grief, yet it’s also hopeful and life affirming. There’s a large cast of characters, and the chapters give us their viewpoints, including that of a Giant Pacific Octopus named Marcelle. The writing is beautiful and poignant. I loved the descriptions of the sea creatures in the aquarium that is a frequent setting throughout the book. I also appreciated how these characters all showed up for each other in different ways.

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

It’s 1975 and Mary Jane is 14. She’s taken her first job as a summer nanny. The family is totally different from what she’s experienced in her own home and her eyes are opened to many other ways of being. This is a beautiful story and it’s super funny too!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This was my first five-star novel of the year! I was expecting this to be dry historical text, but it isn’t at all. It’s a beautifully told novelization of the story of Achilles and Patroclus. The story is told from Patroclus’ point of view and there’s a love story as well. The writing is stunning and flows well. It’s a compelling emotional read all the way through.

Mystery/Thriller

Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon

I avoided this book for a while because I thought it’d be too scary for me. I’m glad I finally took a chance on it. The audio book format was perfect, and the two narrators did great jobs bringing life to each character. I don’t want to give away the plot because experiencing it as it unfolds makes is best. This story is creepy AF. Just be warned that it moves pretty slowly, though it kept me engaged from start to finish.

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

I was excited yet nervous to read this one because I enjoyed the author’s previous novel so much. I’m thrilled to report this is a worthy follow up! This story follows two women, each bent on revenge for different reasons. The characters are compelling and believable. The story is intense, I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t guess what was happening next. This is a fast paced, twisty story that hops around in time yet is easy to follow, and the writing is strong.

Romance

I read far more romance than any other genre, so it was especially difficult to pick my top few!

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

This premise is unique, it’s about a couple who are getting married in three months but are having doubts. Whoever calls off the wedding has to foot the bill so they try to drive each other away. The result is hilarious! I loved that it wasn’t a romance about a new relationship, like so many of them are. Instead our couple has a lot of history and they know how to push each others’ buttons. Eventually, instead of pushing each other away, they come to remember why they loved each other in the first place. There are a lot of sweet moments along side all the evil deeds they do. I haven’t laughed out loud this much while reading in a long time.

Thanks For Listening by Julia Whelan

As a lover of both audiobooks and romance novels, it felt like this was written specifically for my enjoyment. It was fun to get a behind the scenes look at audiobook creation. The storyline is great, Sewanee is a former actress turned award winning narrator who only read romance to get into the genre and doesn’t believe in happily ever afters. But now she is considering returning to romance for a huge project. As she bonds with her co-narrator, she also considers returning to acting. It’s a romance with great humor but it also covers some heavy territory. Overall, this book is everything I want from a romance novel!

For the Love of April French by Penny Acmes

This was an absolute delight in every way. April is a trans woman who doesn’t believe she is worthy of love or a long term relationship. Dennis is smitten with her and determined to show her he’s in it for the long haul. Dennis hasn’t dated a trans woman before so he had to learn about Frankie’s body and what her life is like. I appreciated all the details and learned a lot along with Dennis. It’s a kinky book, with lots of sex, and it’s also sweet. It covers some heavy territory, so don’t expect a light read here but it’s very well done and was a wonderful reading experience all the way through.

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

I can’t get enough of this author! Here we have Alexis, a successful doctor who is a disappointment to her parents. When her car slides into a ditch, she meets Daniel and his charming small town. Though the two live in separate worlds, they begin spending time together and a one night stand turns into something more. The big question is whether either can compromise enough to live in the other’s world. While this is a fun story, it’s also heavy. It deals with domestic violence and familial troubles. Alexis’ life as a doctor is difficult and hard on her. I enjoyed her and Daniel as individuals and it was easy to root for them to be together.

Lizzy Blake’s Best Mistake by Mazey Eddings

This is an absolutely perfect romance novel. It has everything I want from the genre: witty banter between the love interests, sharp writing, enjoyable side characters, heaviness, and of course hot sex scenes. I appreciated getting glimpses of characters from the previous book, too. What I liked most about this story is the realistic portrayal of life with ADHD. I don’t have it but I love people who do, and I really felt Lizzie’s pain when she was misunderstood and it makes me want to be better in my life. Lizzie’s life is chaotic and she doesn’t spend more than one night with a man. Then she breaks her rule with Rake and they find themselves in a situation neither had ever imagined. While it’s funny and sexy, the book also tackles serious subjects such as infidelity and parental neglect.

Memoir

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeannette McCurdy

This is an incredibly compelling memoir, I couldn’t stop listening. McCurdy relates what happened in her life with a matter of fact tone, her voice is surprisingly unemotional for most of the book, which I usually wouldn’t like but it’s fitting here because she had no idea that she was being abused by her mother when she was young. This book is a portrait of a severely dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. While mine wasn’t quite like this, I related to McCurdy’s simple desire to please her mother. I also didn’t realize I was abused until I was in therapy as an adult, so I appreciated that she did eventually seek therapy. I’m impressed with McCurdy’s ability to infuse dark humor into such a bleak situation. Her writing is honest and straightforward.

Tough by Terry Crews

This is a beautiful memoir. Terry is honest and vulnerable when it comes to every facet of his life. He talks about his abusive traumatic childhood, his journey to the NFL and then to Hollywood, including his role in the #MeToo movement. While it definitely has tragedy and sadness, overall I found his story to be one o hope and inspiration. He is setting a stellar example of not only how to be a man, but how to be a compassionate human in the world we live in. I appreciate his candidness about his past and struggles.

The Ex Boyfriend Yardsale by Haley McGee

This is such a unique concept for a memoir. Haley is broke and trying to figure out how she can make some cash, when she decides to sell a bunch of gifts she has from old boyfriends. The question is, how much are these things worth? From here, Haley gets the idea to create a formula to figure out the worth of each item based on the particulars of each relationship. She partners with a mathematician and they put in a ton of work to create a formula. Along the way, she decides to turn this into a one woman show (which is what she does, she’s an actress.) The book chronicles her journey from idea to finished production. Her writing is honest and she is absolutely vulnerable as she looks into all the aspects of a relationship, there’s humor and sadness. Reading this made me think of my past relationships and realize that no amount of time was ever “wasted”, even if it felt that way at the time. The book explores what we gain from relationships and take with us into the rest of our lives.

Non-Fiction

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

This was my first five star read of 2022. It’s an absolutely delightful collection of essays. Patchett writes with honesty and vulnerability. The essays cover a wide range of topics, from dogs to family to cancer to the pandemic and of course books. All of them contain lots of emotion and humor. While some of the pieces are sad, overall this is a hopeful, life-affirming book.

Cultish by Amanda Montell

This book is so interesting, I didn’t want it to end. That’s saying something for a non-fiction read! Yes this book is about cults, but what it’s truly about is language. Montell explores the language cults use and why it works on getting members to stick around. It may seem far fetched to say Cross Fit or Mary Kay is a cult, but once you learn about the ways they use language, it makes sense. And of course, not all cults are created equal. This is something the author stresses from the start.

On the Trail of the Jackalope by Michael P. Branch

This book was an absolute delight! If you’re intrigued by jackalopes (like me) you’ll love it. The author investigated the jackalope’s history through three lenses: lore/mythology, taxidermy, and science. I learned so much and there are great photos too!

Audiobooks

Dial A For Aunties by Jessie Q. Sutanto

Oh this book is a treat! It reminds me of Finlay Donovan is Killing It. The narration is top notch, adding to the emotion and humor of the story. When Meddy accidentally kills her blind date, she turns to her mother for help, then her meddling aunts are recruited to the cause. What follows is a hilarious adventure as the women try to decide what’s the best way to deal with this dead body. At the same time, they must show up for a big wedding, which is the family business. There were many laugh out loud moments as well as suspense.

Mean Baby by Selma Blair

This is an absolutely beautiful audio book, one of the best memoirs I’ve listened to. If I had read a physical copy, I wouldn’t have been affected in quite the same way. Selma’s voice and emotion add so much to her story. As someone with a degenerative neurological disease, I am always eager for stories from others who are similarly ill and to hear about how they manage to thrive and struggle. Granted, this is a wealthy, privileged person so her journey won’t be the same as someone like me but I still appreciate hearing it. I especially valued her honesty in terms of her drinking and not so shining moments in her life. She didn’t shy away from anything.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Don’t let the cover fool you, this isn’t a fun, light book though it is truly unique, I loved it from start to finish. It’s impossible to put this book in just one category. I’d call it historical fiction but it has a strong dose of science, feminism, some smart humor, a love story, and family drama. Elizabeth Zott is a female chemist in the 1960’s. Her life is anything but common and she likes it that way, though she has fought against sexism her entire career. I absolutely loved Elizabeth. She is determined to live life her way. While the story is heavy at times, dealing with rape, harassment, and death of a loved one, it also manages to be hopeful.

2 Comments

  1. Saturday Miscellany—12/31/22 – The Irresponsible Reader

    December 31, 2022 at 10:26 am

    […] months of ’23 with what I’ve picked up from these lists lately): Ramona Mead’s The Best Books I Read in 2022 The Orangutan Librarian gave us Just Some of the Great Books I Read This Year and My Top Ten Books […]

  2. Tyffany

    January 8, 2023 at 6:46 pm

    Well, I’ve added almost every book on this list to my TBR. Thanks, I think. 🙂

Leave a Reply