This past year was a particularly difficult one to narrow down my favorite books of the year to just ten. There were so many good books!
I read 49 books this past year, plus parts of quite a few others, plus six more I read aloud with my husband. I could easily have gone on with more favorites than I list here.
I have quirky tastes. Still, I think most avid readers will find something to enjoy or edify them in this list, which includes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, both bestsellers and little-known gems.
Without further ado then, these are my favorites of the books I read in 2022. Most, if not all, of these were published in previous years, so you’ve likely heard of and read some, but not all, of them. I list them not in order of favorite-ness, but in the order I read them during the year.
This is an absolutely stunning, astonishing novel based on the story of two real men, a Palestinian and an Israeli Jew, both of whom have lost daughters to the violence between the two sides. They become friends, united in grief and in their shared purpose to raise awareness to end the conflict.
The form and style of the novel are as intricately orchestrated as a symphony. The telling is powerful and deeply affecting. And you will learn things you never knew about both sides of the conflict and the very real lives behind them.
On a far lighter note, deliberately so, Ross Gay, an African-American poet, set out to create a compendium of small daily delights, writing a short essay about one thing each day that delighted him for a year.
And it is a delightful read that does not pass over the hard things, but turns again and again to finding the little pleasures. A helpful book in these times. He has a sequel of sorts, Inciting Joy, which I haven’t read yet. If anyone wants to get this for me as a surprise gift, I’d be delighted!
Most of us know the great Ursula K. LeGuin as for her enormous reknown as a writer of science-fiction or what is now called speculative fiction. But this collection of linked short stories, which I stumbled upon in my local library (I love libraries!), is a master class in the art of the short story. And none of these stories are sci-fi or fantasy.
Instead, LeGuin creates a fictional seaside town in Oregon and peoples it with fascinating characters, leading more or less ordinary lives. The stories are riveting and exquisitely crafted. I wanted to know more about everyone and was sad when it was over.
This debut collection of poems is delicate, beautiful, startling, and fresh. Taking us through the process of a divorce and a move, the house becomes rich with metaphors while illuminating the bonds that tie us together and the disappointments that tear us apart. A deeply rewarding read.
Oh my gosh, what to say about this absolutely gorgeous, one-of-a-kind book that follows on their astonishing book, The Lost Words, but is smaller in format. Featuring exquisite watercolors and magical spell-poems about birds, animals, trees, and flowers, this book induces a state of wonder and delight.
Coming late to the party on this one, as I often do, I was quite taken by this much-acclaimed debut collection of poetry. In a moving, dream-like voice, Kaminsky praises and laments his native Ukraine and his exile from there, and evokes magic and wonder in the midst of the trials and joys of daily life. His poems read like listening to music and offer glimpses into another world.
I absolutely adored this novel. Delightfully witty but also deeply felt. The hapless protagonist is trying to create an anthology of poetry and write the foreword to it amidst his relationship, work, and life woes. I wound up learning things about poetry I didn’t know! But most of all, this book delivered the kind of absorbing and delicious experience I want from a novel. Deftly written.
Another thoroughly satisfying novel and a quick read. If you haven’t read Lily King’s Euphoria, start there. It’s extraordinary. But this story of a struggling young writer was filled with great characters, a compelling plot, and wonderful, lucid writing. A delight.
This is another one-of-a-kind book and truly exceptional. Not an easy read but a necessary one. Toni Morrison called it “required reading,” and I agree. I wish everyone would read this book. Certainly, I think every so-called white person should read this. The entire book is addressed as a series of letters to Coates’ teenage son and is written as a memoir. Coates details in incredibly powerful, clear, hard-hitting language his experience of being Black and male in America, coming to race consciousness in various different situations—both good and bad—and how he attempts to navigate that terrain for himself and his son.
I was blessed to read so many books this past year that are like no other. This one certainly is that. Inspired by a series of otherworldly paintings by Rima Staines, which are featured in the book, the author created magical and often heart-breaking stories of a post-apocalyptic world in which people and creatures with unusual powers learn to craft a better way of life. Big shout out to my favorite bookstore, the Point Reyes Bookstore, for having this book displayed, so that my husband and I could find it and read it aloud by firelight as we camped in the redwoods.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Stunning Books of 2021.