Now that we are well into February, I am sure exactly what you are looking for is another “best of 2022” list. No? Too bad. There are so many amazing books that came out in the last year, and while I make no claim that these are the absolute top five, these are some of the best. I have a limited word count, so let’s get to it.
- “Babel, or the Necessity of Violence” by R. F. Kuang: “Babel” is an adult fantasy novel which I can only describe as a masterpiece. Set in a world similar to ours, but in which the combination of silver and language can create magic, “Babel” grapples with colonialism, racism and the dark side of academia. Clocking in at 544 pages, it is neither an easy nor a quick read, but it is well worth it. I was hooked from the first chapter, and I hope you will be too. Content notes for “Babel”: violence, racism (anti-Asian and anti-Black), death, murder, gun violence, child abuse, mentions of slavery, colonialism and colonization, sexism, suicide, classism.
- “Book Lovers” by Emily Henry: If you are looking for something shorter and more on the fun side, “Book Lovers” is an excellent choice. But make no mistake: although the romance in this book is delectable, there are also very real discussions of family, grief and sacrifice. Conceptualized around flipping a Hallmark-style small-town romance on its head, “Book Lovers” is definitely a romance for all the Wendys out there. Content notes for “Book Lovers”: death of a parent, illness of a parent, grief.
- “Sea of Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel: “Sea of Tranquility” is a book you cannot stop thinking about, even long after it is finished. It is relatively short and easy to read, but its characters and ideas are incredibly compelling. If you have ever been interested in time travel, simulation theory, the craft of writing or pandemics, or if you just want to read a thoughtful look at humanity’s capacity for love and wonder, then this book is for you. Content notes for “Sea of Tranquility”: pandemics, illness, death.
- “I Kissed Shara Wheeler” by Casey McQuiston: This is for all of the gays who love unlikable characters. “I Kissed Shara Wheeler” is McQuiston’s young adult debut, and it offered all the chaotic and joyful queerness of their other books. Shara Wheeler is the golden girl, and Chloe Green considers herself to be Shara’s foremost rival. But when Shara kisses Chloe at the prom and then promptly disappears, Chloe takes it upon herself to find out where Shara really is. Content warnings for “I Kissed Shara Wheeler”: queerphobia, bullying.
- “Black Cake” by Charmaine Wilkerson: After Byron and Benny’s mother dies, they are summoned back to their childhood home. Their mother’s lawyer reveals that one of her last wishes was for the two of them to listen to a voice recording about her life, before sharing a black cake she made for them. “Black Cake” is a multigenerational family saga filled with everything from mystery to love, and is sure to draw you in. Content warnings for “Black Cake”: death, death of a parent, murder, gambling, queerphobia, biphobia, grief, mentions of car crash, racism, sexual assault.