The wait is over…here are my favorite books of 2022! These books aren’t necessarily all 5-star reads for me, but they are the books that have stuck with me the most…and the longest. They made me think, they challenged me, and they helped make this reading year memorable. After perusing this list, it looks like BIG books really worked for me this year! Complicated families also seems to be a big theme for me – so not much has changed over the years! 😂
I’d LOVE to hear what your book of the year is…drop me a comment below!
My Absolute Favorite Book of the Year:
The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Lydia broke my heart, and Ailey warmed my heart. Uncle Root and Dear Pearl were comforts and reminded me that family is everything. Life is a journey with many ups and downs, but the lucky ones are always able to find their way back home to get love and advice for navigating all the things that inevitably get thrown at you. It was an epic journey, but in the end, one I would have spent another 800 pages taking. It sounds like a lot, but it didn’t feel like a lot. It was mesmorizing and engrossing and I already miss these characters. I literally feel like I can get in my car and drive on down the road a ways to pull into the drive of Uncle Root’s home to catch up on this family’s lives. Honorée Fanonne Jeffers created a masterpiece and I’m thankful I finally threw caution to the wind and read it. Please, please, please make this THE ONE book you prioritize from this list!
The Biggest Surprise:
Greenwood by Michael Christie
Wow! Wow! Wow! I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews of this one, but I absolutely wasn’t expecting to be blown away like I was. I was hesitant to pick it up because nature, woods, forests, trees, climate dystopia aren’t really my thing. I was afraid of being bored and that the 500 pages would really drag on for me. AND I WAS SO WRONG! This story is layered and complex, full of ambiguity and nuance. It had my head spinning in the first couple of pages and I knew this one would chew me up and spit me – so much a better human for having read it. I loved the characters (especially Everett) and how their stories unfurled to reveal a multi-layered, multi-generational saga that I won’t soon forget.
The Most Heartbreaking:
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
The opiod crisis has hit the Appalachian territory hard, and that’s the inspiration behind this story. How the drug has broken families up; and oftentimes, leaving children parentless and stuck in a failing foster care system. Demon Copperhead is one of those children – born on the floor of their rented trailer house. He figures out real quick how tough life is and has no choice but to be resilient from the beginning. This book is magical in so many ways – the writing, the story, the attention it brings to a real issue that will have generational affects on Americans. For someone who hasn’t always been able to get into Kingsolver’s last books, this one grabbed me from the first pages and I just had to know how things turned out for this kid. Also, the audiobook for this one is amazing!!! I kind of went between the two formats but would absolutely recommend listening to it! It made the story stand out that much more to have a real voice behind Demon.
The Best Book Club Choice:
The Measure by Nikki Erlick
Easily one of the best books I read this year, The Measure is propulsive and thought provoking. It felt a little gimicky to me when I first heard the synopsis, but the reviews from trusted sources compelled me to pick it up. I’m so glad I did as it would have been a shame to miss out on this masterpiece! Imagine being able to know when your life is going to end. How would you live your life differently? What choices would you make – or not make? It’s questions that we’ve all asked ourselves rhetorically but Erlick took those thoughts and made them into a story with twists and turns I hadn’t thought of. With each new ponderance, I had to stop the audiobook and just sit with my own thoughts before continuing on to see how Erlick parsed it out.
The One I Changed My Mind About:
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
When I first finished this one, I wasn’t crazy about it. I enjoyed many aspects of it, but thought it took awhile to get to the meat of the story and I had almost DNF’d it. But somewhere along the way, I became invested in these characters, and more than anything, their friendship. They experienced many ups and downs over the course of their relationships, but they kept coming back from every setback stronger and better. It was a beautiful exploration of the mundanity of life. Most importantly, it’s a book that has totally stuck with me and I think about it all the time.
The One That Has Stuck With Me the Longest:
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
I knew from the first ten pages that this book was going to blow me away. It had the perfect “I-wanna-read-it-as-fast-as-I-can” and “slow-down-and-enjoy-this-incredible-writing” angst! I also knew it was a book that I can’t wait to return to because I believe its nuance will be more deeply revealed the more one interacts with it. Franny, the main character, is nothing like me – she is a free-spirit, anxious to roam this world as much as possible, and to float in the sea at every opportunity she gets. She is haunted by her past and trying to make amends with her future. She is unsettled. But she is also deep and thoughtful and searching. It is probably because she is everything I am not that made me so intrigued with her. McConaghy’s writing connected me to Franny and all of her missions – from the grief and desparation she feels towards her mother, to the undying commitment to the Arctic terns and climate change.
The Most Impressive Debut:
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
Kiara is one of those characters that will stick with me for a long time. Because she has been forced into circumstances she doesn’t deserve, she has built a layer of protection around herself that allows her to simply survive. With the weight of the world on her shoulders, she cares for everyone around her: Marcus, her older brother that refuses to sacrfice his selfish dreams to help pay the rent, and Trevor, the nine-year-old boy next door whose mother is too drug-addicted to take care of him herself. She gives and gives and gives while everyone else around her takes. With new eviction notices posted on her door every week, she is forced to give herself up to the streets where abusive men and dirty cops use her body and then quickly disregard her. This story is dark and gritty – just the way I love my novels! It was hard to read at times, but the writing is so fantasic that I really almost read this book twice by the time I finished! Mottley is talented – like, talented talented – and considering she’s just nineteen years old (NINETEEN!) and this is her debut novel, we’re all in for some good reading in our collective futures.
The Most Nuanced:
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
I’ve been waiting for a book like this for awhile: a book that’s so epic in its scope that it’s sweeps you off your feet, a book that I can get fully immersed in and forget about reality for awhile. Black Cake was so well executed that I was almost a little afraid to finish it because I know it’ll be awhile before I’ll feel this happy about a book again. Books that deal with secrets and resentments and forgiveness and healing are some of my all-time favorites, and I was impressed with how Wilkerson weaved this tale. The layers were so deep and the underlying mysteriousness of how we got to the present day kept me turning the pages. There were some plot points that felt a little too “convenient”; however, I was so in love with the characters and stories I was easily able to forgive any annoyances I felt about it.
The Most Thought-Provoking:
Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro
After reading the opening pages, I was hooked. I appreciated what Shapiro was trying to do – a sort of stream-of-consciousness, meandering thought-provoking paragraphs to help the reader contemplate the complexities of life. There were some nuanced and profound ideas that came up for me that I would happily ruminate within a book club. While I’m not sure I picked up on everything Shapiro was trying to convey, I loved the slow, unexpected ways it sunk under my skin. I love the idea Shapiro painted that we are all connected and that we’re just one circumstance/choice/decision away from a completely different life.
The Most Unique Storyline:
Trust by Hernan Diaz
Probably the most unique storyline I’ve ever read, this is an interesting book to try to describe. It’s primarily about one man who singlehandedly influenced the stock market crash of 1929. Told in four parts, each part switches perspectives to give the reader another layer of the story. The more I read, the more invested I became. It’s a slow build that ends with a big impact! Truth be told, I’m almost more in awe of the author’s abilty to pull this whole thing off than the actual story itself! There’s a lot to digest and dissect here; this would make a really good book club discussion as there are so many different themes and layers to analyze. Some of the book certainly felt over my head, but I also thought this was a well done story that I’m glad I read before the year ended.