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recommended new books 2022

The 10 Best Books of 2022

The staff of The New York Times Book Review choose the year’s standout fiction and nonfiction.

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By The New York Times Books Staff

recommended new books 2022

The Candy House, by Jennifer Egan

You don’t need to have read Egan’s Pulitzer-winning “ A Visit From the Goon Squad ” to jump feet first into this much-anticipated sequel. But for lovers of the 2010 book’s prematurely nostalgic New Yorkers, cerebral beauty and laser-sharp take on modernity, “The Candy House” is like coming home — albeit to dystopia. This time around, Egan’s characters are variously the creators and prisoners of a universe in which, through the wonders of technology, people can access their entire memory banks and use the contents as social media currency. The result is a glorious, hideous fun house that feels more familiar than sci-fi, all rendered with Egan’s signature inventive confidence and — perhaps most impressive of all — heart. “The Candy House” is of its moment, with all that implies.

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Checkout 19, by Claire-Louise Bennett

Bennett, a British writer who makes her home in Ireland, first leaped onto the scene with her 2015 debut novel, “ Pond .” Her second book contains all of the first’s linguistic artistry and dark wit, but it is even more exhilarating. “Checkout 19,” ostensibly the story of a young woman falling in love with language in a working-class town outside London, has an unusual setting: the human mind — a brilliant, surprising, weird and very funny one. All the words one might use to describe this book — experimental, autofictional, surrealist — fail to convey the sheer pleasure of “Checkout 19.” You’ll come away dazed, delighted, reminded of just how much fun reading can be, eager to share it with people in your lives. It’s a love letter to books, and an argument for them, too.

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver

Kingsolver’s powerful new novel, a close retelling of Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield” set in contemporary Appalachia, gallops through issues including childhood poverty, opioid addiction and rural dispossession even as its larger focus remains squarely on the question of how an artist’s consciousness is formed. Like Dickens, Kingsolver is unblushingly political and works on a sprawling scale, animating her pages with an abundance of charm and the presence of seemingly every creeping thing that has ever crept upon the earth.

The Furrows, by Namwali Serpell

After losing her brother when she was 12, one of the narrators of Serpell ’s second novel keeps coming across men who resemble him as she works through her trauma long into adulthood. She enters an intimate relationship with one of them, who’s also haunted by his past. This richly layered book explores the nature of grief, how it can stretch or compress time, reshape memories and make us dream up alternate realities. “I don’t want to tell you what happened,” the narrator says. “I want to tell you how it felt.”

Trust, by Hernan Diaz

Diaz uncovers the secrets of an American fortune in the early 20th century, detailing the dizzying rise of a New York financier and the enigmatic talents of his wife. Each of the novel’s four parts, which are told from different perspectives, redirects the narrative (and upends readers’ expectations) while paying tribute to literary titans from Henry James to Jorge Luis Borges. Whose version of events can we trust? Diaz’s spotlight on stories behind stories seeks out the dark workings behind capitalism, as well as the uncredited figures behind the so-called Great Men of history. It’s an exhilarating pursuit.

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us, by Ed Yong

Yong certainly gave himself a formidable task with this book — getting humans to step outside their “sensory bubble” and consider how nonhuman animals experience the world. But the enormous difficulty of making sense of senses we do not have is a reminder that each one of us has a purchase on only a sliver of reality. Yong is a terrific storyteller, and there are plenty of surprising animal facts to keep this book moving toward its profound conclusion: The breadth of this immense world should make us recognize how small we really are.

Stay True: A Memoir, by Hua Hsu

In this quietly wrenching memoir, Hsu recalls starting out at Berkeley in the mid-1990s as a watchful music snob, fastidiously curating his tastes and mercilessly judging the tastes of others. Then he met Ken, a Japanese American frat boy. Their friendship was intense, but brief. Less than three years later, Ken would be killed in a carjacking. Hsu traces the course of their relationship — one that seemed improbable at first but eventually became a fixture in his life, a trellis along which both young men could stretch and grow.

Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us, by Rachel Aviv

In this rich and nuanced book, Aviv writes about people in extreme mental distress, beginning with her own experience of being told she had anorexia when she was 6 years old. That personal history made her especially attuned to how stories can clarify as well as distort what a person is going through. This isn’t an anti-psychiatry book — Aviv is too aware of the specifics of any situation to succumb to anything so sweeping. What she does is hold space for empathy and uncertainty, exploring a multiplicity of stories instead of jumping at the impulse to explain them away.

Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation, by Linda Villarosa

Through case histories as well as independent reporting, Villarosa’s remarkable third book elegantly traces the effects of the legacy of slavery — and the doctrine of anti-Blackness that sprang up to philosophically justify it — on Black health: reproductive, environmental, mental and more. Beginning with a long personal history of her awakening to these structural inequalities, the journalist repositions various narratives about race and medicine — the soaring Black maternal mortality rates; the rise of heart disease and hypertension; the oft-repeated dictum that Black people reject psychological therapy — as evidence not of Black inferiority, but of racism in the health care system.

We Don’t Know Ourselves, by Fintan O’Toole

O’Toole, a prolific essayist and critic, calls this inventive narrative “a personal history of modern Ireland” — an ambitious project, but one he pulls off with élan. Charting six decades of Irish history against his own life, O’Toole manages to both deftly illustrate a country in drastic flux, and include a sly, self-deprecating biography that infuses his sociology with humor and pathos. You’ll be educated, yes — about increasing secularism, the Celtic tiger, human rights — but you’ll also be wildly, uproariously entertained by a gifted raconteur at the height of his powers.

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Best Books of the Year

Browse the best books of 2022.

Standard Order

Barnes & Noble's Top 10 Books of 2022

Lessons in Chemistry (B&N Book of the Year)

The Best Fiction of 2022

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The Best Books of 2022

Yes, this list features more than one book set in a postapocalyptic world, but have you looked around lately.

recommended new books 2022

In a year when mega-best-selling authors and literary heavy hitters published new books (it’s okay — Cormac McCarthy won’t be reading this), how thrilling to see less familiar names and voices flourish. It’s a perfect time to pick up a book by a writer you’ve never read before. And, yes, this list features more than one book set in a postapocalyptic world, but have you checked social media lately?

10. X , by Davey Davis

recommended new books 2022

Davey Davis’s neo-noir novel reads like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Jean Genet. The book follows Lee, a sadist, through a near-future underground queer scene as they go on the lookout for X, a woman they met at a warehouse party and can’t stop thinking about. Rumor has it that the fascist government has served her export papers (an Orwellian term for what is essentially expulsion of undesirables), and if Lee doesn’t find her soon, they never will. Davis is an excellent stylist who skillfully blends the hard-boiled tone of classic detective novels with the ironic detachment of millennials raised on the internet. Equal parts funny, insightful, and ruthless, X is a sexy and paranoid thriller about the lengths we go to get what we want — and the toll obsession can take. —Isle McElroy

9. Seduced by Story , by Peter Brooks

recommended new books 2022

Society’s obsession with the résumé, and its use to construct an aura of credibility, is such a pervasive element of contemporary life that it inevitably implicates even the author and his own field of “literary humanities.” But that dynamic is exactly what Peter Brooks parses in his terrific critical survey: the essential differences between surface stories and the ways in which they’re constructed. It culminates in a postscript about how narratives impose themselves on the American judicial system that articulates a deeper parable about the ease of manipulating facts to one’s ends. The parameters of one’s story are personal; the onus of calling bullshit rests on us. —J. Howard Rosier

8. All This Could Be Different , by Sarah Thankam Mathews

recommended new books 2022

Set in the wake of the Great Recession, All This Could Be Different is primed for a long life as a canonical queer coming-of-age novel. It follows Sneha, a woman who moves to Milwaukee after college for a job she despises and who decides, in her words, to “be a slut.” Sneha is a perfectly imperfect narrator. Her mistakes are massive, her desires contagious, her lies unjugglable. Sarah Thankam Mathews’s debut, written in prose as sharp and bright as a sword in the sun, offers an honest portrait of how alluring it is to hide from yourself in the process of finding yourself. And though Mathews includes a gripping romantic thread in the novel, All This Could Be Different truly shines as a love letter to the role that friendships play in times of crisis, as Sneha must reluctantly accept how deeply she needs community to survive. —I.M.

7. 2 A.M. in Little America , by Ken Kalfus

recommended new books 2022

Ken Kalfus has spent his decades-long career mostly out of the mainstream — a writer’s writer with a blurb from David Foster Wallace to prove it — but 2 A.M. in Little America belongs among the year’s biggest hits. The speculative novel finds Ron Patterson, a humble security technician, in a world post–America’s fall. Avoiding specifics about what exactly happened to destroy the U.S. — does it really matter? — and how the rest of the world is responding, Kalfus follows Patterson as he moves from country to country, searching for asylum in a place that hasn’t closed its borders to U.S. citizens. Throughout, a sense of paranoia pervades, growing as Patterson is thrust unwillingly into the center of a conflict between factions that refuse to take advantage of their new ad hoc homes on the margins of a country that barely tolerates them. It’s bewildering and alarming and often darkly funny at the hapless Patterson’s expense, a scarily believable future. But it’s also a humbling glimpse of the circumstances millions of refugees are actually facing — a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God experience that shouldn’t be necessary to evoke empathy but certainly maximizes it. —Arianna Rebolini

6. The Furrows, by Namwali Serpell

recommended new books 2022

Namwali Serpell’s provocative second novel follows C, a young biracial girl in Baltimore who witnesses the death of her younger brother, Wayne. What seems like a simple premise quickly becomes dark and twisted through the author’s expert use of repetition: Every few chapters, the book resets and C is forced to watch Wayne die yet again. As the book progresses, C finds more ways to attempt to cope with her grief — from distancing herself from her mother’s delusions that Wayne will one day return to developing an intimate relationship with a man who deeply reminds her of Wayne — but in the end, C and her family are forced to face their sorrows head-on. Unflinching first-person narration and lyric prose make C’s grief feel visceral, allowing the reader to mourn along with her each time Wayne passes away. At once heartfelt and dizzying, The Furrows is a powerful meditation on riding out the waves of grief. —Mary Retta

5. Siren Queen , by Nghi Vo

recommended new books 2022

In an alternate version of pre-Code Hollywood, in which aspiring actors often meet their ends as fodder for the sinister ritual magic that powers the studio system, Luli Wei is determined to be a star. The odds, of course, are stacked against her as a gay Chinese American woman, but, driven by her ambition and willingness to play the studio heads’ dark game, she finds her breakout role — not as a heroine but as a monster. As she sinks further into the murk of the industry, risking her own soul in the process, Luli finds love (and a greater purpose, if she has the strength to see it through). Coming hot on the heels of last year’s The Chosen and the Beautiful , a queer, immigrant reimagining of The Great Gatsby , Siren Queen establishes Vo as an uncommonly talented new voice in fantasy, one who writes from a place of anger, insight, and deep compassion. — Emily Hughes

4. Strangers to Ourselves , by Rachel Aviv

recommended new books 2022

Rachel Aviv set herself a seemingly impossible task in her mindful debut: to write about people who occupy the “psychic hinterlands, the outer edges of human experience, where language tends to fail.” Her language assuredly does not fail. Strangers to Ourselves plaits personal narrative — it opens with Aviv being hospitalized at age 6 for anorexia — with stories of other tough cases, including a Brahman woman diagnosed with schizophrenia and a nephrologist who ran a successful dialysis business until he was institutionalized for depression (“a Horatio Alger story in reverse,” as he wryly puts it). Where conventional case studies might freeze erratic or socially deviant behaviors in the aspic of pathology, Aviv sensitively fills in what those narratives leave out. The result is a work of fierce moral intelligence: In withholding judgment and letting her subjects speak for themselves, Aviv grants them the dignity that society has so often denied. —Rhoda Feng

3. The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On , by Franny Choi

recommended new books 2022

The notion, so enthusiastically propagated by many news outlets, that our current moment is careering toward catastrophe may leave an audience on high alert. But to a certain reader — BIPOC/ALAANA, diasporic, marginalized — that’s old news. That position animates Franny Choi’s latest collection of poetry, which neutralizes the feeling of apocalyptic panic by showing that xenophobia and brutality within an unequal society are, indeed, nothing new. Compounding the weariness of the past several years with that of the ages flies rather close to despair, but World eludes cynicism to cast generational trauma as a paean to survival: “Every day, an extinction misfires, and I put it to work.” — J.H.R.

2. Easy Beauty , by Chloé Cooper Jones

recommended new books 2022

Pulitzer Prize finalist, doctor of philosophy, and general multi-hyphenate Chloé Cooper Jones’s debut shifted my understanding of a world I’ve experienced only while able-bodied. Easy Beauty follows Jones — who was born with a rare congenital condition known as sacral agenesis, a disability that visibly sets her apart from the general population and that has caused a lifetime of underlying pain — through a series of trips in pursuit of meaning, both personal and existential. This narrative propels the book while providing detours for the exploration of her life, and theories about beauty, a concept that has defined much of it. The through-line is the titular theory and its opposite — i.e., easy versus difficult beauty; i.e., beauty that is obvious versus beauty that makes you work for it — and the genius of Easy Beauty is in its functioning as the latter. It’s heady but accessible. Jones puts us through the wringer a bit, trusting us to keep up with her analyses and forcing us to stay close to her physical and emotional pain, but the result is extraordinary. —A.R.

1. Manhunt , by Gretchen Felker-Martin

recommended new books 2022

In an era of cultural remakes, remixes, knockoffs, and infinite bland variations on corporate IP, it’s all too rare to encounter a book like Manhunt — a true original that not only eviscerates an existing subgenre (gender-based apocalypse stories like Y: The Last Man , in this case) but also plants a flag in its steaming corpse and says, “This is the future of queer horror.”

Anger simmers underneath every word of Gretchen Felker-Martin’s prose as she tells a story of trans women and men fighting for survival after a plague transforms anyone with a certain amount of testosterone in their system into a feral monstrosity. In the world of Manhunt , the already life-or-death nature of transition is taken to new heights: Protagonists Beth and Fran have to scavenge enough estrogen to keep from succumbing to the virus, while Robbie tries to forge a life in a state of persistent dysphoria since taking testosterone is a death sentence. Their odyssey across a postapocalyptic New England showcases an array of threats, from feral men to militant TERFs, self-loathing chasers to rich-idiot survivalists. The book is timely, visceral, grotesque, unflinching, and unexpectedly fun, full of sex and gore and messy, beautiful humanity; think of it as The Road with a sense of humor and 110 percent more queer sex. —E.H.

Honorable Mentions

All books are listed by U.S. release date.

Fiona and Jane , by Jean Chen Ho

recommended new books 2022

Fiona and Jane , by Jean Chen HoIn the short stories of Jean Chen Ho’s Fiona and Jane , the author tracks the titular characters’ childhood friendship into adulthood through everything from romantic betrayal to grief to dropping out of law school. The pair reinforce one another’s foibles — oversharing and navel-gazing — by feeding on one another’s psychic supply: An interchangeable sister-mother-friend-annelid dynamic ripe for transference is constructed in alternating perspective shifts that are like jump scares in their abrupt changeover. The result is a confidently nonlinear debut collection that sluices through the interiority of its protagonists without diminishing the passion and powerfully mysterious intimacy of female friendship. — Safy-Hallan Farah

Last Resort , by Andrew Lipstein

recommended new books 2022

Last Resort tells the story of Caleb, a frustrated writer who, after being told a gripping, true story by a college friend, Avi, steals the tale to serve as the plot of his own novel. What follows, at first, is entertaining drama — industry hype builds around the manuscript, Avi angrily finds out about the theft, and in one memorable scene, a bizarre contract is made between the two to resolve the dispute. But Last Resort really starts flying once that Faustian bargain has been made, and we’re left with Caleb in the wreckage. Strip away the insider-y publishing references (readings at Greenlight, the novelist Rachel Cusk, day trips to Storm King), and this is really a brilliant morality tale about what happens when a person refuses to learn from their mistakes, all the way down to the final scene, which had me laughing out loud and punching the air, even if it was at Caleb’s expense. — Louis Cheslaw

Dilla Time , by Dan Charnas

recommended new books 2022

Dan Charnas’s biography of the late legendary producer J Dilla is both a meticulously compiled, compellingly illuminative retread of his long path to stardom and a manifesto on the beatmaker’s true legacy. (To wit: In dragging his kick drums ever so slightly behind the rest of the beat, Dilla helped recontextualize the entire idea of rhythm in hip-hop.) Charnas turns what might be your run-of-the-mill chronicle into an exploration of the history of the producer’s native Detroit, a thoroughly detailed analysis of music production and genre, and a rumination on how a voracious, unassuming kid from Conant Gardens went on to become his generation’s Beethoven. — Alex Suskind

Pure Colour , by Sheila Heti

recommended new books 2022

Sheila Heti’s last two novels, How Should a Person Be? and Motherhood , treated self-doubt as a formal project: What shape can a writer give her own indecisiveness? Then, just as some parents of newborns find purpose and clarity, she emerged with a book full of declarations. In Pure Colour , God is preparing to scrap the first draft of existence and replace it with something better — a state of being that’s more humane, more egalitarian, and perhaps less vain. In the meantime, Heti relates the life of Mira, an aesthete, a critic, and a seller of fine lamps, as she grieves her father, whose corpse she’s taken up residency with inside of a leaf. The directness of Heti’s writing renders even her most twee scenes into something affecting. Of Mira’s work in the lamp store, for example, she writes, “The red and green stones shed its light upon her dark face and the white walls. And she loved her meager little existence, which was entirely her own.” — Maddie Crum

Read Jennifer Wilson’s review of Pure Colour .

Vladimir , by Julia May Jonas

recommended new books 2022

Julia May Jonas’s debut novel is an intimate portrait of a failing marriage, yes, but it’s also a look at the reconstruction of a life meticulously built whose foundation begins to crack, then crumble. A middle-aged lit professor has to decide whether to stick beside her husband, also a middle-aged professor at the same liberal arts college, who is being investigated by the school for sexual misconduct with former students. Enter the titular Vladimir, an accomplished younger writer who’s the newest tenured professor. Suddenly, she’s bursting with desire — the kind that inspires her to write a book, masturbate, and ignore her increasingly needy husband. It’s self-conscious in the best way, sharp and observant without being didactic, something I’ve found to be increasingly rare. — Tembe Denton-Hurst

Then the War , by Carl Phillips

recommended new books 2022

In Then the War , Carl Phillips’s newest poetry collection, he continues his exploration of love’s power dynamics. Clearing, garden, backyard, forest, path: Transitive spaces of nature act as both shelter, in which Phillips can cultivate his feelings of shame, longing, and queer desire into the fruit of self-expression, and battlefield, where destruction of the self and the other fertilize the ground for new forms of interior life. Through concise lyricism — in “Blue-Winged Warbler,” he locates “a nest of swords” somewhere “deep in the interstices // where dream and waking dream and what, between the two, I’ve called a life” — this produce is as likely to be imbued with the bitter weight of regret as it is to have sweet evanescence, mirroring back at us ideals, desires, and other possible selves, lost to us or left behind the very moment they’re glimpsed. — Alex Watkins

The Employees , by Olga Ravn

recommended new books 2022

Aboard the Six-Thousand Ship, sometime in the 22nd century, employees are encouraged to be present-minded lest they lose themselves to memories of Earth and of their left-behind loved ones. Such nostalgia is not productive and is bound to interfere with their work performance. The Employees , translated from Danish by Martin Aitken, is made up of interviews with these workers, some of whom are human, others humanoid, although the distinction is at times made unclear. To stave off melancholy — another deterrent to work — they’re given child holograms and stimulating objects with which to interact. Unsurprisingly, labor peace eludes the ship, and a workplace novel devolves into a full-blown horror story, leaving behind few survivors. This is more than a clever reframing of sci-fi tropes, although it’s that, too; the employees’ voices themselves, some of them desperate, some of them meditative, form a touching, alienated chorus, narrating a tragedy that for many will ring eerily true. — M.C.

Checkout 19 , by Claire-Louise Bennett

recommended new books 2022

As in her first book, the exuberant and formally inventive Pond , Claire-Louise Bennett’s second novel is moving in its sentence-level, voice-driven rhythms that relate scenes from a British schoolgirl’s first and most formative encounters with books and with invention — silly, strange, and touching moments in their intimacy. The epigraph for one chapter is an excerpt from John Milton’s pamphlet Areopagitica on the vitality of books that are free to be expressive, confessional, heretical, even; they project “a potency of life” and “preserve as in a vial the efficacy … of that living intellect that bred them.” It’s a familiar premise, that reading and creativity are life-giving, but in her stylish künstlerroman, Bennett gives the premise new life. — M.C.

Run and Hide , by Pankaj Mishra

recommended new books 2022

Asian immigrant narratives in American fiction tend to follow a familiar script: Person arrives in the West wiped clean of caste tension, the relationships they had to money, class, and ambition in their home country subsumed by the fact of their recent arrival. In Pankaj Mishra’s second novel, Run and Hide , he reorients this narrative of escape to tell a stickier tale. His protagonist Arun is a poor young Indian man whose life becomes intertwined with two ladder-climbing university classmates and, eventually, a wealthy younger lover — the kind of expat for whom borders hold little transformative power. Mishra is a public intellectual and regular contributor to the London Review of Books as well as a rare and talented fiction writer: Here, he braids a headlong plot with commentary on what you lose while trying to make it big — and what you gain when you opt out. — Madeline Leung Coleman

Oedipus Tyrannos , by Sophocles

recommended new books 2022

Emily Wilson is one of my favorite working classicists; I’ve followed her since she wrote a deliciously biting review of a Hesiod translation for the New York Review of Books . The new Norton Library edition of her translation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos (also known by its Roman title, Oedipus Rex , which Wilson describes as a spoiler) is full of the historiographical precision and literary clarity I associate with Wilson’s other works, including her 2018 translation of The Odyssey . Wilson’s translation notes alone are a delight — translating Sophocles, she aims for an idiom that is “fluent, humane, natural, and also markedly artful; sometimes conversational, but never slangy … sometimes odd, but never stiff or unintentionally obscure.” Wilson’s verse captures the rich density of ancient poetry, and her notes also offer surprisingly funny insights into the play’s original context: An abundance of foot puns would sound less ridiculous to Athenian ears, and a final line she describes as “hokey” is characteristic of the “simplistic moralizing” that is “fairly common at the end of Athenian tragedy.” — Erin Schwartz 

The Doloriad , by Missouri Williams

recommended new books 2022

Missouri Williams’s debut novel begins after humanity has been destroyed by a natural catastrophe, the details of which we’re spared. Unlike in, say, Station Eleven , pre-apocalypse days aren’t the focus; instead, we spend our time with a struggling, sordid, incestuous family, possibly the last family left on earth. A woman — the Matriarch — and her brother take on the task of remaking humanity with a crew of their own children. Williams’s book bears resemblances to William Faulkner in its conceit, in its wending sentences, and in its images: Noses point “off to one side like a rudder.” At one point, the Matriarch disposes of a daughter’s body not in a casket but with a wheelbarrow. And what could be more Gothic, more suffocating and cloistered, than an apocalypse that left behind only you and your most overbearing family members? — M.C.

Glory, by NoViolet Bulawayo

recommended new books 2022

There is a long tradition in literary criticism of evaluating a new book by a writer from a marginalized community from the vantage point of an older book — usually by a white male writer. The supposed advantages of this approach are manifold: The older book might provide a point of entry for readers who are unwilling to do the work of understanding the newer book on its own terms, and the newer book can shine in the reflected glory of the older one as the wan moon to the older book’s sun. I mention this because just about every appraisal — including this one, unfortunately — you will read of NoViolet Bulawayo’s latest, brilliant novel, Glory , will reference Animal Farm by George Orwell. In this case, the comparison is warranted but also limiting. Bulawayo’s book traverses new territory on its own radically creative terms. This book, like Orwell’s, is made up of a cast of animals, but the comparisons grow weaker from there. My recommendation: Pick this up, leave any preconceptions aside, and dive right in. — Tope Folarin

The Candy House , by Jennifer Egan

recommended new books 2022

With The Candy House , Jennifer Egan accomplishes the rare feat of making a series of linked short stories feel like a complete, cohesive novel, one that imagines a parallel future where people are able to externalize their memories and upload them into a cloud. There are pluses: Murders are solved, the tragically separated are reunited, children get to truly know their parents. But there are downsides, too, mainly society’s collective immersion into a massive entangled web of constant surveillance. It feels like a slightly exaggerated version of our own current dilemma, down to shadowy countermovements desperate to dismantle the entire thing — if only we could all be so organized! Kaleidoscopic and epic and never boring, this sequel of sorts to 2010’s A Visit From the Goon Squad takes us from a country club to a tech start-up to a government operation on a remote island that we learn about through an instruction manual narrated in the second person. It’s a book unafraid of changing form because it’s married to this central cluster of ideas, and Egan thoroughly convinces us to come along for the ride. — T.D.H.

Read Mallika Rao’s review of The Candy House , by Jennifer Egan, and The Immortal King Rao, by Vauhini Vara.

Constructing a Nervous System , by Margo Jefferson

recommended new books 2022

If every foray into writing about one’s life constitutes a tense negotiation between the past and the present, Margo Jefferson’s latest, Constructing a Nervous System , refuses those terms . A sequel of sorts to her award-winning 2015 memoir,  Negroland , Jefferson takes the form and blows it up — in the smoldering debris, synapses of memory make new connections. Constructing blends autobiography and criticism to gift readers with reflections and ruminations on the place of music, aesthetics, and celebrity in one’s personal and shared racial history. The sweat of Ella Fitzgerald, the audacity of Ike Turner, the genius of Josephine Baker, the virtuosity of Bud Powell — interwoven here are the mystifying qualities and talents of those and many other artists, all of which come together to tell of a life that has been influenced by and in turn influenced so many others — Omari Weekes

Read Jasmine Sanders’s profile of Margo Jefferson.

A Tiny Upward Shove, by Melissa Chadburn

recommended new books 2022

On the first page of this startingly unconventional novel, we learn that the protagonist has been murdered and her body possessed by an avenging spirit called an aswang. This premise establishes the stakes of the story as an unflinching tale that privileges the brutal realities of its battered characters. The western impulse is to wave away or demystify anything that defies rational explanation, but this book advances a subtle, potent idea: The abuse that countless women — especially women of color — face is so extreme, so sadistic, that it cannot be classified as anything but supernatural, and so the response to this abuse must be supernatural as well. Melissa Chadburn’s is a harrowing and utterly unforgettable story.  — T.F.

Love Marriage , by Monica Ali

recommended new books 2022

When we meet 20-something Yasmin, her life appears to be approaching the precipice of perfection. She’s a doctor marrying a more senior, even-more-attractive doctor who worships the ground she walks on. Soon we meet her parents, Shaokat and Anisah, Indian immigrants who have managed to achieve their slice of the British dream. But when Yasmin introduces her family to his, their differences of class (and race — he and his family are white) are abundantly clear, and Yasmin, who goes through much of the book misunderstanding or being ashamed of her mother, is shocked to find that her husband’s accomplished feminist artist mother is completely taken with her son’s future mother-in-law. The book is always interrogating perfection, asking if everything peachy is as it seems. The answer is often no, but it doesn’t matter because there’s something so much more interesting in its place. — T.D.H.

The Women’s House of Detention , by Hugh Ryan

recommended new books 2022

Wild to think that within living memory, in the center of Greenwich Village’s present-day prettiness and wealth, stood one of the country’s most notorious prisons. The Women’s House of Detention, opened in 1932 at the foot of Greenwich Avenue and demolished in 1974, was grim, overcrowded, violent — and, in Hugh Ryan’s telling, a significant incubator of the Village’s queer history. Ryan has dredged social workers’ extensive documentation of life inside, and from their files, he has excavated horrifying stories of inmates’ abuse at the hands of the staff and other residents; he also reveals just how many of them awakened, while incarcerated, to their sexual identities. (A great many of those women were arrested for either sex work or public expressions of homosexuality, like cross-dressing.) Ryan argues that despite its miseries and dangers, the House of D, as it was often called, had the advantage of being a space where queer life could exist somewhat on its own terms. The building becomes a literary device, a vehicle for the recovered stories of its incarcerated as well as another affirmative point in the broader argument for prison abolition. — Christopher Bonanos

It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World that Made Him , by Justin Tinsely

recommended new books 2022

In all the barbershop arguments that shore up the Notorious B.I.G.’s deserved place as the greatest rapper of all time, it can be easy to lose sight of the human behind the lyrics. With It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him, Justin Tinsley goes to great lengths to provide an extensively well-researched and empathetic look at Christopher Wallace’s tremendous but brief career. The book gets at not just the trivia but the structural and cultural circumstances of his life, from growing up in Brooklyn’s public-housing projects during the Reagan era to living in America as a first-generation Caribbean man to entering the rap game during its innovative, lucrative 1990s heyday. Tinsley does as much as he can to get into Wallace’s dark exclamation mark, the fatal East Coast–West Coast rap beef — it’s still a hard narrative to crystallize, 25 years later — but throughout brings a journalist’s rigor to capturing the murky details of Biggie’s story, putting the legendary Brooklyn maestro in the proper context of the times he lived in. This is more than a biography, it’s a snapshot of both the record industry and America itself at crucial junctures for both. — Israel Daramola

DJ Screw: A Life in Slow Revolution , by Lance Scott Walker

recommended new books 2022

Robert Earl Davis Jr., better known as DJ Screw, helped define the ’90s and early aughts Texas rap sound with the advent of his warped, hypnotic cassette playlists, and this book is the ultimate word on both him and his seismic imprint — one that continues to linger in modern music, from the aesthetic of Travis Scott to the slowed-and-reverbed production behind the likes of Justin Bieber and Frank Ocean. His expertly curated playlists of the era’s best hip-hop and R&B tracks (with the occasional rock record thrown in) — tweaked with his namesake technique of slowing down and chopping them up — paired well with Houston’s drug and nightlife culture; Lance Scott Walker transubstantiates Screw’s lore into something more permanent and tangible, interviewing just about everyone that ever knew the DJ, along with a number of aficionados and famous fans of his that helped make the Screw tape the hip-hop fetish objects that they have become in the decades since Davis’s death. — I.D.

An Island , by Karen Jennings

recommended new books 2022

This slim, capacious novel, recently longlisted for the Booker Prize , is an allegorical meditation on colonialism and its enduring aftermath. As the novel opens, we meet Samuel, the lone inhabitant of and lighthouse keeper on a harbor island. His isolation is interrupted by an unexpected visitor — a man who washes ashore. This stranger’s sudden appearance prompts Samuel to consider the span of his life and reflect on the events that led him to the island. The wonder of this novel is how expansive it is despite its length; Samuel’s life doubles as beachhead for an intense examination of postcolonial African politics, xenophobia, family and its discontents, and, inevitably, the nature and meaning of love. Everything coheres because of Jennings’s immaculate understanding of craft. Each polished narrative piece perfectly complements the next. This is a novel of contrasts: understated and bold, spare and sweeping, slender and grand. — T.F.

Avalon , by Nell Zink

recommended new books 2022

Have you heard? The zoomers are anxious, savvy, and very online, circulating bits of out-of-context theory and cultural references: How can such a thing as an IRL love story — or a plot of any kind — emerge from this carnival? Nell Zink’s Avalon is a valiant attempt; her crew of young artists bicker confidently about Marx and their dystopian screenplays, and they exist offline, too, on their parents’ couches, on a road trip to the desert, and in the lean-to on a biker gang’s farm. The Dickensian heroine, Bran, is an orphan at the heart of a smart and funny künstlerroman. She may know that the word used to describe her story’s genre is having a moment, but she’s too busy falling in love and evading danger to dwell long on trends. Like The Wallcreeper , Zink’s first book , Avalon is both fast paced and overtly interested in its ideas, challenging the false dichotomy of plot versus depth. — M.C.

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, by Akwaeke Emezi

recommended new books 2022

Akwaeke Emezi’s novels tend to begin with a bang, and this one’s no different. The first sentence reads, “Milan was the first person Feyi fucked since the accident.” It immediately sends the mind spinning. Who is Milan? Who is Feyi? What accident? Was the sex any good? This explosive entrance to the book sets the tone for what follows: a not-so-traditional love story that asks: How does someone love after their world ends? Emezi takes us to an unnamed Caribbean island to find out, in a lush journey filled with beautiful paragraphs about art and so many vivid food descriptions it’s best to read on a full stomach. Like Emezi’s previous novels, Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji, the book isn’t just about one thing. Sure, there’s a pretty scandalous take on the forbidden love trope that pushes it firmly into the romance space (it also gets a bit steamy!), but it’s also a snapshot into grief many years after a life-changing incident. — T.D.H.

Fruiting Bodies , by Kathryn Harlan

recommended new books 2022

It is perhaps fitting that several of the short stories in Fruiting Bodies , science-fiction writer Kathryn Harlan’s debut, center on mushrooms: Much like the fungus, the characters in Harlan’s eight tales live among constant death and rot, and yet, somehow, they find surprisingly beautiful ways to keep growing. Harlan’s plots are impressively diverse: “Agal Bloom,” which follows two young girls daring each other to swim in a mysteriously contaminated lake against their families’ wishes, bleeds effortlessly into “Hunting the Viper King,” wherein a young girl and her father go on a yearslong search for a snake whose venom grants ultimate understanding of the universe. The worlds Harlan creates feel both expansively fantastical and palpably real. A stunning literary portrayal of the climate apocalypse, Fruiting Bodies provides a window into how we can make life out of decay. — Mary Retta 

Mothercare: On Obligation, Love, Death, and Ambivalence, by Lynne Tillman

recommended new books 2022

When Lynne Tillman’s mother, Sophie, was diagnosed with a brain disorder called normal-pressure hydrocephalus at age 86, the writer began a long journey through the complexities of elder care. The condition, which left Sophie forgetful and unsteady, required a series of invasive surgeries, and she lived for 11 years after its sudden, startling onset. Her tenacity was confounding to the many doctors she encountered who were unaccustomed to prioritizing the lives of the elderly, and much of this memoir is about the defiance required of caretakers like Tillman in the face of the medical Establishment. At the center of it all is Tillman’s relationship with her mother, whom she describes as a competitive, distant personality she must nonetheless fight for fiercely. Her honesty about their irreconcilable disconnect is electrifying. — Emma Alpern

Afterlives , by Abdulrazak Gurnah

recommended new books 2022

Abdulrazak Gurah, the most recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, has crafted a wide-ranging, orchestral novel. Afterlives is set in East Africa in the early 20th century after the European powers of the day carved up Africa according to their colonial ambitions. Gurnah’s narrative approach is to foreground how colonialism infects and undermines every aspect of society by training our attention on the intimate details of his characters’ lives — every action they take is consciously (and oftentimes unconsciously) influenced by their desire to escape its grasp. His scenes are polished, elegant, and masterfully constructed, each building effortlessly upon the last until the final pages, when his glittering narrative mosaic, glimpsed only in flashes throughout the story, is fully revealed. You will want to start over so you can experience it again. — T.F.

My Phantoms , by Gwendoline Riley

recommended new books 2022

Gwendoline Riley’s latest novel opens with Bridget’s childhood recollections of her blustering, dodgy father, but the character’s real fixation is her mother, Helen “Hen” Grant, a hopelessly naïve and needy figure. Bridget, now in her 40s, is hyperaware of all her mother’s little manipulations, and each of her verbal tics — the repeated “Mmm”s and “I don’t know”s, the botched jokes, the clumsy fake accents — are recorded in icy detail. Riley transcribes what other authors often skip , making her dialogue uncannily lifelike. The book is a study in irritation that unfolds with thrillerlike tension, except the central moments are less bank heist and more adversarial family dinner (a particularly memorable scene takes place in a vegetarian restaurant where Hen falls quiet while choking down a “detox salad”). By the end, the unjustness of the mother-daughter relationship takes on an unsettling new dimension. — E.A.

Read Rachel Connolly’s profile of author Gwendoline Riley .

Bright Unbearable Reality , by Anna Badkhen

recommended new books 2022

In the opening pages of Bright Unbearable Reality , the latest collection of essays by Anna Badkhen, the writer poses a question that she promptly answers: “What is place? A memory of our presence, a memory of our absence.” In these lines one can glimpse the narrative design of this book and its primary obsession. Each of these essays is animated by questions that inspire Badkhen to immerse herself in various global contexts — the book is set on four continents — to understand how the places she visits have been shaped by humans, and how humans have been altered by them. We follow along as she leaves behind a trail of precise, glistening prose, and each time we arrive somewhere else we consider, once again, humanity’s shifting, unstable, and essential relationship with place. We have planted flags and drawn maps, but — as Badkhen brilliantly demonstrates — the intersecting challenges of the 21st century (climate, economic, epidemic) might force us to reconsider our conclusions. — T.F.

Toad , by Katherine Dunn

recommended new books 2022

Before 1989’s Geek Love shot her to success, Katherine Dunn spent years trying to find a publisher for her third book, a semi-autobiographical novel following Sally Gunnar, a woman who spent her college years on the fringes of the 1960s counterculture scene in Portland, Oregon. In a state of middle-age isolation, Sally looks back bitterly at the unfocused idealism of her young friend group: “The hermit has an evil eye that chills the memory and upsets the digestion,” she says in her narration. The central event from her student years is an ill-fated pregnancy involving the object of Sally’s affection, bright-eyed, philosophy-quoting Sam, that is drawn out with savage humor. After extensive revisions to the manuscript of Toad , which the author began writing in 1971, Dunn received a final rejection letter in 1977: “I love TOAD as much as ever, more, actually,” her editor wrote, but she was overruled by her colleagues. Long consigned to a drawer, the book has finally been posthumously published ( Dunn died in 2016 ). The novel is frightfully lovable, a brutal and baroque treatise on loneliness that shares a grotesque core with Dunn’s most famous novel. — E.A.

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The Best Books of 2022

If you want to read about spaceships, talking pigs, or supervillains, you’ve come to the right place.

recommended new books 2022

Check back with us in the new year, when we'll start rounding up our favorite books of 2023. In the meantime, happy reading!

Didn't Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta, by James Hannaham

Hannaham’s buoyant sophomore novel introduces us to the unforgettable Carlotta Mercedes, an Afro-Latinx trans woman released from a men’s prison after serving two decades. Returning home to Brooklyn, she encounters a gentrified city she doesn’t recognize, as well as a host of new stressors; life on the outside soon involves an unforgiving parole process and a family that struggles to recognize her transition. Over the course of one zany Fourth of July weekend, Carlotta descends into Brooklyn’s roiling underbelly on a quest to stand in her truth. Angry, saucy, and joyful, Carlotta is a true survivor—one whose story shines a disinfecting light on the injustices of our world.

Harry Sylvester Bird, by Chinelo Okparanta

The title character of Okparanta’s gutsy new novel is a white teenager born to xenophobic parents, but everything changes for young Harry Sylvester Bird on a safari in Tanzania, when he develops an enduring fascination with Blackness. Harry soon escapes to college in Manhattan and begins to identify as Black, joining a “Transracial-Anon” support group and longing for “racial reassignment.” When he falls in love with Maryam, a student from Nigeria, a study-abroad trip to Ghana’s Gold Coast puts both their romance and his identity to the test. Outlandish and arresting, Harry’s miseducation is a deft satire of prejudice and allyship.

Young Mungo, by Douglas Stuart

When his Shuggie Bain took home the Booker Prize in 2020, readers were desperate to see what this astounding debut novelist would do next. It will come as no surprise that Stuart’s second effort soars—and socks you right in the belly. Set in the tenements of Glasgow during the 1990s, Young Mungo is the wrenching story of the doomed and forbidden love between two teenage boys, one Catholic and the other Protestant. Insecure, self-loathing Mungo is forever changed by the calming influence of tender-hearted James, but in a stratified society such as this one, their bond can’t be allowed to stand. When the adults in their lives intervene, James and Mungo learn heartbreaking lessons about how boys become men. In a world where hope and despair coexist, Young Mungo is both brutal and breathtaking.

Time Is a Mother, by Ocean Vuong

Vuong’s second collection of poetry is a bruising journey through the devastating aftershocks of his mother’s death. Like Orpheus descending into the underworld, Vuong takes us to the white-hot limits of his grief, writing with visionary fervor about love, agony, and time. Without his mother, Vuong must remake his understanding of the world: what is identity when its source is gone? What is language without the cultural memory of our elders? Aesthetically ambitious and ferociously original, Time Is A Mother interrogates these impossibilities. “Nobody’s free without breaking open,” Vuong writes in one searing poem. Here, he breaks open and rebuilds.

Trust, by Hernan Diaz

In 2018, Diaz came close to the Pulitzer Prize with In the Distance , a probing western honored as a finalist; now, with Trust , he may finally take home the gold. Trust is the story of a Wall Street tycoon and his brilliant wife, who become outlandishly wealthy in Prohibition-era New York. In this puzzle box of stories-within-a-story, the mystery of their affluence becomes the subject of a novel, a memoir, an unfinished manuscript, and finally, a diary. Each layer builds and recontextualizes Diaz's riveting story of class, capitalism, and greed. The result is a mesmerizing metafictional alchemy of grand scope and even grander accomplishment.

Liarmouth, by John Waters

Waters takes his first bow as a novelist with this "perfectly perverted feel-bad romance” about Marsha “Liarmouth” Sprinkle, a con woman caught up in a bad romance with Darryl, the degenerate loser with whom she steals suitcases from airport luggage carousels. Marsha has promised Darryl sex for his services after one year of employment, but when she skips out without paying up, Darryl is out for revenge. In the acknowledgments, Waters aptly describes this novel as “fictitious anarchy.” That’s as good a description as any for this campy, raunchy, surreal story, rife with ribald pleasures. Read an interview with Waters here at Esquire.

Butts: A Backstory, by Heather Radke

This crackling cultural history melds scholarship and pop culture to arrive at a comprehensive taxonomy of the female bottom. From 19th-century burlesque to the eighties aerobics craze to Kim Kardashian’s internet-breaking backside, Radke leaves no stone unturned. Her sources range from anthropological scholarship to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” making for a vivacious blend, but Butts isn’t all fun and games. Radke explores how women’s butts have been used “as a means to create and reinforce racial hierarchies,” acting as locuses of racism, control, and desire. Lively and thorough, Butts is the best kind of nonfiction—the kind that forces you to see something ordinary through completely new eyes. Read an interview with the author here at Esquire.

Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor, by Kim Kelly

With a galvanizing groundswell of unionization efforts rocking mega-corporations like Amazon and Starbucks, there’s never been a better time to learn about the history of the American labor movement. Fight Like Hell will be your indispensable guide to the past, present, and future of organized labor. Rather than structure this comprehensive history chronologically, Kelly organizes it into chapter-sized profiles of different labor sectors, from sex workers to incarcerated laborers to domestic workers. Each chapter contains capsule biographies of working-class heroes, along with a painstaking focus on those who were hidden or dismissed from the movement. So too do these chapters illuminate how many civil rights struggles, like women’s liberation and fair wages for disabled workers, are also, at their core, labor struggles. After reading Fight Like Hell , you’ll never look at American history the same way again—and you may just be inspired to organize your own workplace. Read an interview with Kelly here at Esquire.

Overdue: Reckoning with the Public Library, by Amanda Oliver

Library-goers have long labored under a romanticized portrait of libraries as sacred spaces. In Overdue , a former librarian explores the importance of demanding better from what we love. Through the lens of her time as a librarian in one of Washington D.C.’s most impoverished neighborhoods, Oliver illuminates how libraries have long been vectors for some of our biggest social ills, from segregation to racism to inequality. Now, as unhoused patrons take refuge in libraries and librarians are trained to administer Narcan, our overlapping mental healthcare and opioid crises come to a head in these spaces. At once a love letter and a call to action, Overdue dispels mythology and demands a better future. You’ll never see libraries the same way again.

Woman, Eating, by Claire Kohda

My Year of Rest and Relaxation meets Milk Fed in this slacker comedy about Lydia, a multiracial Gen Z vampire suffering an identity crisis. Fresh out of art school and eager to make a new life for herself in London, Lydia soon gets a harsh reality check: her gallery internship is unfulfilling, her crush is dating someone else, and her supply of pig's blood is running dangerously low. Ravenous and lonesome, she becomes addicted to watching #WhatIEatInADay videos, desperate for the embodied connection to food and life that humans experience. But for this yearning young vampire, self-acceptance won’t come until she finds something (or someone) to eat. Thoughtful and thrilling, Woman, Eating makes a meal of themes like cultural alienation, disordered eating, and the growing pains of adulthood.

The Passenger, by Cormac McCarthy

After sixteen years of characteristic seclusion, McCarthy returns with a one-two punch: The Passenger , out in October, and Stella Maris , a companion volume set to follow in November. In The Passenger , the stronger of the two works, we meet Bobby Western, a salvage diver and mathematical genius reckoning with his troubled personal history. Western is tormented by the legacy of his father, who worked on the atomic bomb, and the suicide of his sister, who suffered from schizophrenia. Told in meandering form, The Passenger is an elegiac meditation on guilt, grief, and spirituality. Packed with textbook McCarthy hallmarks, like transgressive behaviors and cascades of ecstatic language, it’s a welcome return from a legend who’s been gone too long.

Fen, Bog and Swamp, by Annie Proulx

The legendary author of “Brokeback Mountain” and The Shipping News delivers an enchanting history of our wetlands, a vitally important but criminally misunderstood landscape now imperiled by climate change. As Proulx explains, fens, bogs, swamps, and estuaries preserve our environment by storing carbon emissions. Roving through peatlands around the world, Proulx weaves a riveting history of their role in brewing diseases and fueling industrialization. Imbued with the same reverence for nature as Proulx’s fiction, Fen, Bog, and Swamp is both an enchanting work of nature writing and a rousing call to action. Read an exclusive interview with the author here at Esquire.

Because Our Fathers Lied, by Craig McNamara

How do we reckon with the sins of our parents? That’s the thorny question at the center of this moving and courageous memoir authored by the son of Robert S. McNamara, Kennedy’s architect of the Vietnam War. In this conflicted son’s telling, a complicated man comes into intimate view, as does the “mixture of love and rage” at the heart of their relationship. At once a loving and neglectful parent, the elder McNamara’s controversial lies about the war ultimately estranged him from his son, who hung Viet Cong flags in his childhood bedroom as a protest. The pursuit of a life unlike his father’s saw the younger McNamara drop out of Stanford and travel through South America on a motorcycle, leading him to ultimately become a sustainable walnut farmer. Through his own personal story of disappointment and disillusionment, McNamara captures an intergenerational conflict and a journey of moral identity.

A Ballet of Lepers, by Leonard Cohen

A Ballet of Lepers collects never-before-seen early works from beloved singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, including short stories, a novel, and a radio play. The titular novel, Cohen believed, was “probably a better novel” than his celebrated book The Favorite Game . These recovered gems traffic in the themes that would always obsess their author, like shame, desire, and longing. Cohen’s life and art have been dissected for years, but as this revealing volume proves, there are still new shades of him to discover.

Lost & Found, by Kathryn Schultz

Eighteen months before Schultz’s father died after a long battle with cancer, she met the love of her life. It’s this painful dichotomy that sets the foundation for Lost & Found , a poignant memoir about how love and loss often coexist. Braiding her personal experiences together with psychological, philosophical and scientific insight, Schultz weaves a taxonomy of our losses, which can “encompass both the trivial as well as the consequential, the abstract and the concrete, the merely misplaced and the permanently gone.” But so too does she celebrate the act of discovery, from finding what we’ve mislaid to lucking into lasting love. Penetrating and profound, Lost & Found captures the extraordinary joys and sorrows of ordinary life.

Less Is Lost, by Andrew Sean Greer

In 2018, Greer won the Pulitzer Prize for Less , an unforgettable comic novel about aging writer Arthur Less and his international misadventures. Less is back for more in this beguiling sequel, bursting with just as much absurdity, heartache, and laugh-out-loud joy as its predecessor. Dogged by financial crisis and the death of his former lover, Less sets out across the American landscape with nothing but a rusty camper van, a somber pug, and a zigzagging itinerary of literary gigs. Our reluctant hero blunders his way into a cascade of disasters, but the more lost Less gets, the closer he is to being found. Rambunctious and life-affirming, Less is Lost is a winsome reminder of all that fiction can do and be. As Greer writes of novelists, “Are we not that fraction of old magic that remains?” Read an exclusive interview with the author here at Esquire.

Fairy Tale, by Stephen King

The master of horror turns his talents to coming-of-age fantasy in this spellbinding tale about seventeen-year-old Charlie Reade, a resourceful teenager who inherits the keys to a parallel world. It all starts when Charlie meets Mr. Bowditch, a local recluse living in a spooky house with his lovable hound. When Mr. Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie the house, a massive stockpile of gold, and the keys to a locked shed containing a portal to another world. But as Charlie soon discovers, that parallel world is full of danger, dungeons, and time travel—and it has the power to imperil our own universe. Packed with glorious flights of imagination and characteristic tenderness about childhood, Fairy Tale is vintage King at his finest. Read an exclusive excerpt here at Esquire.

The Furrows, by Namwali Serpell

Fresh off the stratospheric achievement of The Old Drift , Serpell’s sophomore novel is a wrenching examination of grief, memory, and reality. When Cassandra Williams was twelve years old, her seven-year-old brother Wayne drowned off the Delaware coast. Or did he? While the first half of The Furrows examines the long half-life of Cassandra’s grief, the second half gets slippery, exploring the possibility that Wayne survived. As the blurry boundaries between what’s true and what’s possible collapse, Serpell resets her novel again and again, like a scratched record skipping back to the beginning. Old wounds never heal, and Cassandra can’t stop revisiting them. Let this breathtaking novel roll over you in waves.

The Book of Goose, by Yiyun Li

Time and time again, Li has proven herself a master storyteller obsessed with the nature of storytelling. In her latest novel, she takes that obsession to spectacular new heights. Set in the ruined countryside of post-WWII France, The Book of Goose centers on the friendship between shy Agnès and rebellious Fabienne. Fabienne devises a game: she will imagine a lurid story, and Agnès, with her perfect penmanship, will write it. When the book becomes a runaway bestseller credited to Agnès alone, it propels the girls on a trajectory of fame and fortune that threatens to sever their friendship. Fans of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels will love this gripping tale of art, power, and intimacy.

Liberation Day, by George Saunders

The godfather of the contemporary short story is back and better than ever in Liberation Day , his first collection of short fiction in nearly a decade. In one memorable story set in a near future police state, a grandfather explains how Americans lost their freedoms through small concessions to an authoritarian government. In another standout, vulnerable Americans are brainwashed and reprogrammed as political protestors, with their services available to the highest bidder. The rousing title novella sees the poor enslaved to entertain the rich, forced to recreate scenes from American history. In these powerful and perceptive stories, Saunders conjures a nation in moral and spiritual decline, where acts of kindness wink through like lights in the darkness.

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Adrienne Westenfeld is the Books and Fiction Editor at Esquire, where she oversees books coverage, edits fiction, and curates the Esquire Book Club. 

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Illustration of person laying on a couch and reading a book a stack of books and various multicolored textures and patterns

Kate Knibbs

The 12 Best Books of 2022

Chaos reigned this year. Russia invaded Ukraine, the US Supreme Court overturned  Roe v. Wade , Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, Elon Musk  remade Twitter in his erratic image, mass shooters continued to terrorize the United States, civil rights protests swept Iran, Queen Elizabeth died, Bolsanaro got the boot in Brazil,  boards were buttered ,  crypto crumbled , and overall, every single week felt like the entire chorus to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” 

Perhaps because of all this tumult, turmoil, and general mayhem, I gravitated toward complicated, thorny stories this year—strange, slippery, often unsettling fictions, and nuanced, searching non-fiction. This is an idiosyncratic, deeply incomplete, and totally subjective list, the result of one person’s avid but disorganized reading schedule. But these are the novels, short stories, and non-fiction books that stood out for me in 2022. Here’s hoping it helps you find your next great read. 

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more .

by Jessamine Chan

Book jacket The School for Good Mothers pink arched tunnel with blue green pathway

Jessamine Chan’s  debut novel is not a domestic manual on keeping house, nor is it the sort of slog that might make tidying look like an appealing alternative. Yet as I read it over the course of one snowy evening, I repeatedly put it down to complete household tasks normally ignored until morning. Dishes gleamed. Pillows got fluffed. Every last sock met its match.  The School for Good Mothers follows a single mom, Frida Liu, as she’s forced into a re-education center filled with robot children after making a parenting mistake. Frida does everything within her power to get her daughter back, but her behavior is constantly interpreted in the least generous ways possible. This book is a horror story so potent it will fill even the most diligent parent with an itchy impulse to panic-clean, straighten up, and act like someone’s watching. It’s inventive, gripping, and wholly devastating. 

by Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility book cover

A sequel of sorts to her surprise-blockbuster novel  Station Eleven and its follow-up The Glass Hotel , Emily St. John Mandel’s  Sea of Tranquility is  a discursive tale looped directly atop its predecessors, cutting them up and rearranging the pieces into a trippy, wistful story. If Mandel were a musician, it would be an album made from sampling earlier songs. The past isn’t just prologue—it’s the present and future, too, as the plot hopscotches across centuries, following a time-traveler named Gaspardy who’s trying to figure out whether the universe is a simulation. Although  Sea of Tranquility is set largely in the future and adorned with sci-fi flourishes, it raises old questions about how we can make meaning. It’s a beautiful book. 

by David Musgrave  

Lambda book cover

A novice police officer assigned to watch over a refugee group tries to figure out whether the refugees have been framed for terrorism—and where the real killers are lurking . Technically, this is an accurate description of the plot of  David Musgrave’s  Lambda . Sounds like a pretty straightforward potboiler, right? But from its first page,  Lambda is up to something weirder and more unwieldy, ditching a linear narrative and setting the story in an alternate-universe Britain where you can get in trouble with the cops for damaging a talking toothbrush. Meanwhile, the police test out an AI system that will both accuse someone of a crime and go ahead and assassinate them. It may sound like a Philip K. Dick pastiche, but Musgrave’s debut is more ambitious than the tropes it borrows, arranging them into original, arresting literary sci-fi.

by Rachel Aviv

Strangers to Ourselves cover

When Rachel Aviv was six years old, she stopped eating. Shortly after, she was hospitalized with anorexia. Her doctors were baffled. They’d never seen a child so young develop the eating disorder, yet there she was. While Aviv made a full, relatively speedy recovery, she developed a lifelong interest in the borderlands between sickness and health. In  Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us , Aviv wonders whether she ever truly had anorexia at all, or whether the episode was perhaps too hastily pathologized. By examining her own experience as well as four other people with unusual mental health issues, Aviv argues against any one grand unifying theory of the mind.  Strangers to Ourselves is a look into this vacuum of understanding—about what happens when there’s no easily digestible story to explain what’s happening inside your head, and when Freud and pharmaceuticals and everything else fails. It doesn’t offer easy answers, but provokes fascinating questions. 

by Adrienne Buller

The Value of a Whale cover

How much is a whale worth? It seems like a self-evidently ridiculous question, borderline obscene—whales are majestic creatures whose worth transcends the human impulse to quantify,  obviously ! Yet it is one that has been seriously considered by economists in an effort to convince governments and corporations to value wildlife. In  The Value of a Whale: On the Illusions of Green Capitalism , Adrienne Buller dissects the asinine logic of “green” capitalist thinking. The book takes a bracing look at how corporate interests are using the superficial trappings of climate activism to reinforce their own power. As one might imagine, it’s not the most uplifting read in the world. Buller sees market-based corporate “green” initiatives as distracting at best—and, at worst, actively destructive. But it’s a galvanizing, tough book, one that asks us to not accept a simulacrum of improvement for the real thing.

by Emma Healey

Best Young Woman Job Book cover

Who suspected a Canadian poet would write the best account of life in the gig economy? Emma Healey’s funny, rueful memoir documents her peripatetic employment history, including stints at an SEO farm operated out of a middle-aged man’s bedroom and a remarkably unsexy time technical writing at one of the world’s largest porn companies. Healey’s forthright treatment of the central role money plays in a creative life is enormously refreshing. Instead of hand-waving the financial details that have made her career possible, she molds into her art the work she had to do in order to do the work she wanted. It’s a neat trick.  Best Young Woman Job Book has only been released in Canada thus far; here’s hoping it finds the wider audience it deserves. 

by Olga Ravn

The Employees book cover

Although Olga Ravn’s  The Employees came out in 2020 in its original Danish, an English translation by Martin Aitken was published in the United States in 2022 … so I’m counting it, because this was the most entrancing reading experience I had all year. Ravn’s hypnotic, elliptical storytelling about a journey to an alien land gone wrong reminded me of Jeff van der Meer’s  Annihilation . (Heavy on foreboding, borderline-sinister atmosphere, light on exposition.)  The Employees is divided into short statements given by anonymous workers on the  Six Thousand Ship , a space shuttle on a vague corporate mission staffed by a mix of humans and humanoids. These transcribed statements are numbered, some running for pages, others stopping after a few sentences. After collecting a variety of objects on a distant planet called New Discovery, these workers find themselves increasingly at odds as they begin to obsess over said objects, which do not speak but can emit noises, smells, and vibrations. As the human workers pine for home, the humanoid workers increasingly pine to be more than what they’ve been programmed to be. 

by Bora Chung  

Cursed Bunny cover

Look, I’m not going to lie.  Cursed Bunny is the most relentlessly disgusting collection of short stories I’ve ever read. And I read a lot of Chuck Palahniuk in college. Korean writer Bora Chung’s first English publication (translated by Anton Hur) opens with a tale about a woman who gets confronted by a creature made of her poop and assorted viscera, insisting it’s her child. She attempts to destroy said toilet creature; success is elusive. In another story, a downtrodden farmer stumbles upon a fox who bleeds gold, and exploits this unexpected source of wealth until he’s both rich and disconcertingly comfortable with evils ranging from incest to cannibalism. Anyone with low tolerance for the gross and gory should avoid  Cursed Bunny at all costs. But if you want a spooky set of stories that will crawl under your skin and burrow into your marrow and stay there forever, Chung’s collection is a freaky, unforgettable outing. There’s a folkloric quality to this collection, like these are urban legends that have finally been put to paper. 

by Amit Katwala  

Tremors in the Blood cover

This rollicking true-crime tale about the invention and near-immediate corruption of the polygraph machine is so good—fast-paced and elegant and fun—I simply  had  to include it on my year-end list. (And yes, Amit works at WIRED. But this list is already on the record as a completely subjective exercise anyway, so why would I ban my colleague’s work?)  Tremors in the Blood is part courtroom thriller, part popular history, and always remarkably engaging. It follows ambitious Berkeley, California, police chief August Vollmer as he first encourages his intellectual employee John Larson to create the polygraph—and then as he ignores Larson’s concerns that the machine is getting adopted recklessly. Instead, Vollmer champions Larson’s slick-talking co-inventor, Leonarde Keeler, as he makes sure police departments across the country start using the machine. Anyone waiting for David Grann’s next book to come out would be wise to pick up  Tremors in the Blood .

by Dan Saladino  

Eating to Extinction cover

In a food rut, relying on the same dinner staples again and again? BBC journalist Dan Saladino’s alternately delightful and melancholic  Eating to Extinction is exactly the kind of reading material that’ll make someone try a new meal. The book makes a persuasive, passionate argument for increased biodiversity through a series of briskly narrated case studies from across the world, from Australia’s nearly-lost tuber murnong to the fermented mutton aged in huts on the Faroe Islands.  Eating to Extinction  is a travelogue infused with reverence for the sheer variety of foods found on this planet that is somehow never precious or cloying. Instead, it simply feels urgent. 

by Percival Everett  

Dr. No

Did the world need another James Bond spoof? I always assumed the answer was “no,” at least following the release of the final  Austin Powers  movie. But the prolific, exuberantly original novelist Percival Everett changed my mind with  Dr. No , a jaunty, idea-stuffed caper. The book follows a mathematics professor named Wala Kitu, who uses a tie as a belt and spends his days obsessing over the concept of nothing and feeding his one-legged dog. Wala’s world is upended when he meets a self-styled “supervillain” billionaire named John Sil, who plots to destroy the world by harnessing the power of nothingness. (This requires burglarizing Fort Knox, as Sill suspects the Army keeps a box full of nothing in its safe.) An heir to Kurt Vonnegut, Everett infuses his work with a contagious sense of playfulness, one that makes the act of reading hundreds of pages about nothing into a treat rather than a chore.  Dr. No is an unequivocal “yes.”

by Sabrina Imbler  

How Far the Light Reaches cover

I think I first became a fan of Sabrina Imbler when I read their science writing in The New York Times , in particular a story about eels with the  world’s greatest headline . I was thrilled when they moved to Defector, my favorite sports blog. So when I picked up their debut essay collection  How Far the Light Reaches , I expected lively prose about marine biology, maybe with a few puns thrown in. Instead, I got lively prose about marine biology mixed with an intimate, thoughtful, emotionally affecting memoir. In  How Far the Light Reaches , Imbler examines their own personal history, drawing connections between their struggles to adapt to and grow beyond life in California’s suburbs with the stories of creatures they love. 

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The Best Books of 2022 So Far

All products featured on Vogue are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

One of the best parts of working at a magazine? The piles of books that arrive months before the rest of the world gets to see them. But the influx can often be overwhelming, so when something rises to the top, we like to take note. We have been collecting and curating our favorite titles all year; here we present our selection of the best books that have been published in 2022.  

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan (January 4)

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The School for Good Mothers

Jessamine Chan’s debut—like all truly terrifying nightmares—starts off in a banal, familiar way: an utterly exhausted mother, in a moment of sleep-deprived despair, does the unthinkable (and yet understandable) and walks out of her apartment, leaving her baby behind. She doesn’t intend to be gone for long, but somehow time slips away, and before she realizes it, she’s been gone for hours. It’s a terrible thing to have done, and she knows it. But no degree of contrition will spare her from the authorities who descend, first removing her child and then transplanting her to an abandoned college campus turned dystopian re-education facility where she will, ostensibly, learn what it truly takes to be a good mother. The tool for her forensically monitored progress is an uncanny robot baby, meant to stimulate her, challenge her, and, crucially, record her every movement, from loving gestures to instants of inattention. The School for Good Mothers (Simon & Schuster) picks up the mantel of writers like Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro , with their skin-crawling themes of surveillance, control, and technology; but it also stands on its own as a remarkable, propulsive novel. — Chloe Schama

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez (January 4)

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Olga Dies Dreaming

Xochitl Gonzalez’s debut novel is a vivacious account of Olga Acevedo’s life as a premier party planner to Manhattan’s elite—a demanding job that opens with the ordering of luxurious embroidered linen napkins for an exorbitantly priced wedding, some which Olga will pocket to impress her own family. The contiguity of Olga’s career life and her familial roots in Puerto Rican Brooklyn creates a tension that ultimately underlines the sacrifices each world constantly asks Olga to upkeep. Gonzalez’s story may be that of a woman seeking career success, love, and happiness, but the dynamic story amounts to a slow-burn chronicle of the American Dream, with moments of humor and bare-bones honesty throughout. —Carolina Gonzalez

Lost and Found by Kathryn Schulz (January 11)

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Lost and Found

The first half of Kathryn Schulz’s new book, Lost and Found (Random House), a sensitive and timely meditation on loss and grief, is balanced by the celebration of love and joy in the second half. But rather than the spoonful-of-sugar structure that this division implies, the book is united—even in its darkest moments—as a lively exploration of some of the strongest emotions we humans have the luck to feel and a wondrous look at how they work in tandem. As Schulz puts it in the book: “What an astonishing thing to find someone. Loss may alter our sense of scale, reminding us that the world is overwhelmingly large while we are incredibly tiny. But finding does the same; the only difference is that it makes us marvel rather than despair.” The book grew out of a New Yorker meditation, “ Losing Streak ,” which chronicles the experience of misplacing the mundane and suffering the utmost loss, but it moves far beyond it—into the literary, historical, and philosophical roots of both poles of experience. It offers a sure- and light-footed wander through these heavy topics, though, written with grace and comedy as well as rigor. —C.S.

Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson (January 11)

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Mouth to Mouth

A chance run-in at an airport between our nameless narrator, a down-on-his-luck writer, and an acquaintance from college who has now become an art-world hotshot, Jeff Cook, sets the stage for Antoine Wilson’s taut, compulsive chamber piece of a novel, which you’ll struggle not to rip through in one sitting. (Thankfully it clocks in at a brisk 192 pages, allowing you to do just that.) After settling in an airport lounge, the enigmatic Jeff begins recounting a wild (and allegedly never-before-shared) tale that begins with him resuscitating a drowning man on a beach and discovering after the fact that the man he saved is a major art dealer. When Jeff pays a visit to his gallery and realizes the man doesn’t remember him, he slowly begins ingratiating himself into his life, climbing the ranks of his gallery and eventually even dating his daughter, in a story that carries distinct shades of Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt—but to tell any more would spoil the book’s thrilling surprises. It may not come with any sweeping messages or moral takeaways (although that ambivalence is surely the point), but Mouth to Mouth is an elegantly told and supremely gripping tale of serendipity and deception—and delivers a brilliant ending that will leave you guessing about everything that came before. —Liam Hess

I Came All This Way to Meet You by Jami Attenberg (January 11)

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I Came All This Way to Meet You

Jami Attenberg’s 2017 novel, All Grown Up , was a bit of a gateway drug. It felt like it was made for me, in that it reminded me of me: a 30-something Jewish woman looking for love in the big city. I assumed, as often is the case for many fine novels, that this was also Attenberg’s story. Her latest book (and first memoir), I Came All This Way to Meet You (Ecco), reveals that the New Orleans–based writer is even more layered and idiosyncratic than her fictional characters. Her newest is an episodic collection of Attenberg’s life—her cross-country travels, debilitating injuries, bad plane rides, bad boyfriends—which are all told through her signature intimate and humorous style. But it’s her writing on her own work I found particularly revealing. “I became a fiction writer in the first place because stories are a beautiful place to hide,” she writes. I Came All This Way details the highs and lows of finding yourself through your work and living a creative life—it’s a thrill for superfans and newcomers alike. —Jessie Heyman

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (January 11)

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To Paradise

The confounding, brilliant, intricate, beautiful, horrific To Paradise is—if this string of adjectives did not sufficiently convey it—an extraordinary book. Divided into three seemingly distinct sections, positioned 100 years apart, the book is one part historical fiction (set in 1893), part present-ish-day chronicle (1993), and part futuristic sci-fi story (2093). (That last chapter, which must have been informed by, if not fully drafted within, the pandemic, presents a dystopian future filled with “cooling suits” required to venture outside and “decontamination chambers” to ward off the ever-present possibility of infection.) Those who consumed Yanagihara’s most recent work, A Little Life , will not be surprised that this book, like its predecessor, is interested in pain and suffering more than joy and happiness. But it is also a book full of gloriously painted scenes and tantalizing connection—and despite all its gutting turns, one that maintains an abiding hope for the possibility and power of love. (That may just be the only paradise truly on offer.) In and of themselves, some sections feel in some ways quite conventional, but taken together—with all of their extreme cliffhangers and unanswered questions—the stories seem to be asking: What do we want from a novel? Resolution is not available here, but some of the most poignant feelings that literature can elicit certainly are. —C.S.

Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James (January 18)

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For years, the world of elite prep schools was thought of in only the most romanticized terms; lacrosse games, leaf-festooned campuses, and, of course, educational values that prepared America’s next generation of winners to ascend their thrones. Kendra James’s Admissions (Grand Central) is a thorough, necessary, and overdue repudiation of that trope. In the memoir, James—now an admissions officer specializing in diversity recruitment for independent prep schools—looks back at the three years she spent at Taft, a private boarding school in Connecticut, recalling the insidious yet not particularly subtle racism she faced as the first African-American legacy student at the predominantly white institution. Admissions is a tale in the mold of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep , but instead of relegating the racism that is so often found in “well-meaning liberal” space to a parenthetical, the book addresses it head-on, boldly naming the confusion, fear, and trauma that can so often come with being the only person who looks like you in any given room. —Emma Specter

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas (February 1)

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Vladimir: A Novel

The smartest take on campus culture comes by way of Julia May Jonas’s slyly hilarious Vladimir (Simon & Schuster). Don’t be dissuaded (or erroneously excited) by the romance-novel aesthetics of the cover. It’s the story of a somewhat lonely and embittered, and yet eminently appealing, English professor whose husband has been felled by a series of sexual assault allegations. But just how real were those allegations? It’s a question almost impossible to ask in real life, but deliciously explored here through our acerbic narrator, who has a quite pre-MeToo view of power, consent, and sexual politics. The titular Vladimir is a new professor in town and the subject of a crush on the part of the narrator that also veers off into deeply inappropriate territory. The novel works on several different registers at once, deftly layering comedy with subtle commentary in an entirely engrossing read. —C.S.

The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang (February 1)

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The Family Chao

For Asians in America, the perpetual foreigners, it’s the eternal question regardless of birthplace: How exactly does one become American ? This interrogation is keenly felt by immigrants and their children in particular, as Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, explores in-depth in The Family Chao (Norton), the story of the tyrannical proprietor of a small-town Wisconsin Chinese restaurant (The Fine Chao) and his three unhappy but obedient American-born sons (The brothers Karamahjong). When a scandal engulfs the Chaos, they’re forced to reconsider their place in the society they’ve toiled in and called home for decades, as well as their roles within the family itself. At times scathing and hilarious, the rollicking tale considers the thorny themes of assimilation, identity, pride, filial piety, transracial adoption, and interracial relationships. It’s a fine chaos indeed; you’ll never look at Chinese restaurant families the same. —L.W.M.

The Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen (February 8)

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In her debut novel, The Arc (St. Martin’s Press), Tory Henwood Hoen has woven a bracingly entertaining antidote to the hellscape of online dating. Thirty-five-year-old branding wiz Ursula Bryne is in the grip of a third-life crisis, ambivalent about her job and unable to sustain a lasting relationship with anybody other than her cat. That is, until she is tapped to visit the lab of The Arc, a mysterious place that promises lasting love to those lucky enough to spend a week at its unnervingly glossy lab. Ursula is paired with Rafael, an improbably modest and handsome Yale grad blessed with a sense of humor and killer dance moves. The book wears its sci-fi lightly, focusing instead on anatomizing a whirlwind romance that begins to fray around the edges. As the duo’s faith in the arc’s highly proprietary pairing methodologies begins to falter, they are left to determine if they still buy into each other. Set in a privileged slice of pre-pandemic New York, the story has a sunny feel and a rich supply of semi-satirical backdrops, making pit stops at bro-infested tech conferences and members-only temples to fourth-wave feminism. With its intelligent and unfussy bent, the novel is foremost a plucky city romance that recalls the work of Laurie Colwin . Beneath the dystopian veil lies a thoroughly modern love story with old-fashioned heart. —Lauren Mechling

A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp (February 8)

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A Very Nice Girl

Imogen Crimp’s A Very Nice Girl (Henry Holt) follows Anna, a talented young opera singer who is defying her provincial parents to carve out an artistic life for herself in London. That bohemian existence can prove, at times, a bit trying (she has to share a bed with her roommate and moves into a quasi-feminist commune where tampons are deemed a tool of the patriarchy), and so she takes refuge in the sterile quarters of her finance-professional boyfriend. The book eschews easy “tale of two cities” contrasts, however, and asks some serious if lightly deployed questions about the sacrifices, rewards, and worth of an artistic life (and how you pay for it). With some steamy sex scenes in the mix, Crimp feels like she’s channeling something of the Sally Rooney style: interior and complex, but also unafraid to incorporate corporeal forces among all the others that govern us. This is high-class romance at its best. —C.S.

Loss of Memory Is Only Temporary by Johanna Kaplan (February 15)

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Loss of Memory Is Only Temporary

A joy of discovery attends the publication of Johanna Kaplan’s Loss of Memory Is Only Temporary (Ecco)—a volume that gathers her cacophonous, mordantly funny stories from the 1960s and ’70s (and includes the contents of her prized debut, Other People’s Lives ). How had I never heard of Kaplan? You’ll wonder the same as you get swept up in the world of her slightly neurotic, status-aware postwar Jewish characters who mine humor from dislocation and anxiety. The bravura novella-length “Other People’s Lives” is the masterpiece here, a rollicking account of several days in the life of Louise Weil, a piercingly observant, mentally fragile young woman marooned in the ramshackle milieu of a Manhattan artistic couple who take a day trip to the country. It fizzes with the urbane energy of J.D. Salinger, Grace Paley, and Deborah Eisenberg—a restless delight. —Taylor Antrim

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka (February 22)

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The Swimmers

The Swimmers , by Julie Otsuka, begins at an underground pool in an unnamed city, where regulars find almost-sacred refuge in their favorite lanes and go-to strokes. (Others—like the “binge swimmers” who periodically rush the pool to melt off holiday pounds—are tolerated more than welcomed.) Yet as Otsuka’s elegant third novel wends on, its focus narrows to one swimmer in particular: an older woman for whom the water is a stabilizing, comfortingly familiar force. Even as dementia sets in, Alice knows exactly who she is at the pool—that is, until it closes, and she’s thrust headlong into the swirling memories, strained relationships, and ever-fracturing sense of self that await her on land. —Marley Marius

Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett (March 1)

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Checkout 19

The cryptic stream of consciousness that coursed through Claire-Louise Bennett’s 2015 debut short-story collection  Pond,  all told from the perspective of a single narrator who lives a solitary existence in a cottage on the west coast of Ireland, made her one of that year’s breakout new voices. Seven years later, Bennett returns with  Checkout 19,  a similarly impressionistic, and perhaps even more challenging, work of autofiction that further showcases her talents for blending the micro with the macro across a melting pot of genres, from seemingly autobiographical minutiae plumbed from her youth in Wiltshire to impressively erudite forays into literary criticism. While ostensibly it tells the story of a writer looking back on her formative years as a young woman, it’s easier to think about the book as a kind of tapestry. Once you allow yourself to get swept along by Bennett’s instinctive, synaptic abilities as a storyteller, the vivid textures of her sentences, and her subversive sense of humor,  Checkout 19  is a strange and delicious treat. —L.H.

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (March 1)

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Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice In Her Head

Warsan Shire is perhaps best known for having her work featured in Beyoncé Knowles’s 2016 feature-length film, Lemonade , but the British-Somali poet is charting a new course with her first full-length poetry collection, Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in her Head (Random House), which weaves together the themes of migration, womanhood, Black identity, and intergenerational collection that Shire is so singularly gifted at exploring. Shire frequently draws on her own life to create her art, and the end result is a collection of poems that will shine as a beacon for marginalized communities everywhere (and, perhaps, inspire those who have always taken their own belonging for granted to think beyond the confines of their individual experience). —Emma Spector

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O’Rourke (March 21)

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The Invisible Kingdom

Chronic illness has been relegated to the margins of public consciousness for far too long, a reality that has only become more painfully stark since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago. Tens of millions of Americans live with chronic, often “invisible” illnesses, and Yale Review editor Meghan O’Rourke’s book is a searing and thoroughly researched exploration of the pain and confusion that many of them go through in their quest to have their health issues taken seriously by the medical establishment—and, often, the world at large. —E.S.

Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou (March 22)

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Taiwanese American writer Elaine Hsieh Chou’s debut novel, Disorientation , however, manages to tell a deeply vital and insightful story about Asian experience and identity in post-Trump America while still being absurdist to the point of IRL laughter. In the book, 29-year-old PhD student Ingrid Yang experiences a rupture in her calm, orderly life of writing her dissertation on late canonical poet Xiao-Wen Chou (and coming home to her doting fiance, Stephen, a white literary translator with a penchant for mansplaining and Japanese-schoolgirl costumes) when she discovers that Chou is—wait for it—a total fiction, a character invented and embodied by one white man and propped up by another. Suddenly, Ingrid is thrust into a world of high-stakes espionage, book burnings, and campus protests and is forced to question the things most fundamental to her, including her field of study, her relationship, her friendships, and her identity as the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants living in the U.S. —E.S.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart (April 5)

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Young Mungo

Douglas Stuart’s new book bears a good deal of resemblance to his debut, Shuggie Bain , which was published quietly just before the pandemic to limited fanfare and then slowly became one of the most lauded novels of the year. (It was my personal favorite.) Young Mungo (Grove), like Shuggie , is told from the perspective of a young boy growing up in a Glasgow tenement with an alcoholic mother and little prospect of escape. But while Shuggie took the claustrophobia of that scenario and expanded it into a broad and treacherous emotional landscape, Young Mungo allows its protagonist to roam a bit wider, making it a more open and ambitious book. If Shuggie took after the great, detail-laden social realist novels of the late 19th century, Young Mungo feel more rooted in the 21st, with alternating settings, shifting time frames, and divergent plots that eventually converge to calamitous effect. Some early descriptions of the book, perhaps desiring to tamp down the inevitable bleakness of its premise, have emphasized a love affair that crosses religious and sectarian lines (and sheds new light on the divisions that plagued not just the more prominently troubled Ireland of the late 20th century but Scotland as well). And there is sporadic love (romantic and familial) to offer warmth and light within the novel’s terrifying expanse—but this is a book that sucks you into its darkness and makes you feel its profound, beating heart. —C.S.

Little Foxes Took Up Matches by Katya Kazbek (April 5)

recommended new books 2022

Little Foxes Took Up Matches

In  Little Foxes Took Up Matches —a notable debut from the writer, editor, and translator Katya Kazbek—a sense of enchantment animates dreary post-Soviet Moscow, where a beautiful boy named Mitya lives in a crowded apartment on a stately old street. As a baby, Mitya swallowed an embroidery needle—or so he and his family believe—and he’s certain it made him immortal, like the folktale figure Koschei the Deathless; he discovers another kind of deliverance, and no small amount of danger, dressing up in his mother’s clothes, using her makeup, and letting his hair grow long. (He calls this persona Devchonka, or “girl.”) A queer coming-of-age narrative in every sense of the words, Kazbek’s novel is twisty, tragic, and deeply charming—an endearing exploration of the stories we tell and the people we find in order to live. —M.M.

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong (April 5)

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Time Is a Mother

In 2019, mere weeks after publishing his celebrated novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and receiving a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Ocean Vuong’s mother died following a short battle with breast cancer. Yet if the title of Time Is a Mother, Vuong’s second poetry collection, appears to suggest this might be a circumscribed exploration of grief in the aftermath of this event, its approach is unusually wide angle. Stories of personal loss are woven into vignettes and memories that explore the most sweeping of subjects—addiction, racism, war, death, family—through Vuong’s gentle, modest voice and the occasional touch of wry humor. So, too, does he once again prove himself the rare writer in whose hands experiments with form can become a thing of beauty in and of themselves. With On Earth , Vuong used his experience as a poet to reshape the contours of the first-person novel into something more amorphous; here, his experience with prose feeds back into his poetry through cinematic poems like “Künstlerroman” and “Not Even,” where full, novelistic paragraphs are delicately strung together with single-word stanzas, open and closing like concertina windows into the lives of those whose stories they tell. (One of the few more overt tributes to his mother consists simply of an itemized list of her Amazon purchases, before delivering a gut punch in the form of a “warrior mom” breast cancer awareness T-shirt.) After all, despite its technical prowess, the most striking thing about Vuong’s writing will always be its warm, beating heart even in the face of life’s cruelties. The penultimate poem, “Dear Rose,” is written directly to his mother as a kind of sensorial biography of her journey as an immigrant from Vietnam to America—napalm on a schoolhouse, bullets in amber, churning fish sauce, dew-speckled roses—images both dazzling and devastating; in the end she simply leaves “a pink rose blazing in the middle of the hospital.” It’s a body of work as hauntingly beautiful as it is ultimately hopeful, and very possibly Vuong’s best yet. —L.H.

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan (April 5)

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The Candy House

Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House is something of a follow-up to her beloved A Visit From the Goon Squad . Composed of interconnected short pieces (featuring a few of the same characters that populated Goon Squad ), The Candy House is also united by the omnipresence of a sci-fi technology that doesn’t feel quite so far off from our current reality: a widely available memory download device that allows your consciousness (should you so desire) to live in an openly accessible cloud. The Candy House is a book that goes down deceptively easy. The writing is light and buoyant, the characters quite often a rollicking delight—energized by rock and roll; the countercultures of the ’60s and ’70s; high-wire acts of espionage; and technological subterfuge. But when you slow down and begin to parse the web that connects it all, the novel takes on increasing gravity. It’s a dazzling feat of literary construction that belies the profound questions at its core: Does technology aid our sense of narrative or obscure it? —C.S.

Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman (April 12)

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Nobody Gets Out Alive

The funny, earthy, and compulsively readable stories in Leigh Newman’s debut collection, Nobody Gets Out Alive (Scribner), are about wildness in all its forms. The author’s home state of Alaska is vividly rendered in its untamed, frontier beauty—but so too are its denizens, who are fierce Alaskans with questionable taste in home decor and hilariously unrefined personalities. Newman, the author of a 2013 memoir, Still Points North (excerpted in Vogue ), which was also set in Alaska, is especially unsentimental on women—on girls kicking free of their fathers (or not); desperate mothers doing the best they can; and, in the prizewinning lead-off story, “Howl Palace,” a mordant widow who is not going gracefully into the good Alaskan night. Newman’s fiction recalls the flinty humor of Annie Proulx, Ann Patchett, and Antonya Nelson—excellent company to be in. —T.A. 

Hello Molly: A Memoir (April 12)

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Hello, Molly!

Molly Shannon’s memoir is much more than a celebrity tell-all—it would have to be, since it starts with unimaginable tragedy: When she was four, her mother and baby sister died in a car accident while her father was driving them home from a party at which he’d been drinking. Hello, Molly! is a story of resilience and resourcefulness; her father cycled through various degrees of indulgence and sobriety for most of her life. (There are memorable scenes of him cleaning the house on speed.) But it sidesteps the trappings of addiction-adjacent memoirs, avoiding the easy stereotypes of suffering. Hello, Molly! is about one of the great comic actors of our era finding her footing, but it is also a loving portrait of a deeply unconventional parent, who launched his daughter (literally: when she still was just a child, he dared her to sneak onto a plane, and she succeeded) into the world. —C.S.

Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life by Delia Ephron (April 12)

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Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life

After the long illness and death of her older sister, Nora, and the long illness and death of her first husband, Jerry, Delia Ephron was stunned—if not entirely surprised—to learn in 2017 that she’d been diagnosed with leukemia. Her engaging, wise, and funny new memoir, Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life , chronicles her fierce reckoning with cancer, with grief (“I took the sun setting personally,” she writes of the loneliness of early widowhood), with the life-affirming power of friendship, and, at age 72, with a new love—Peter, a Jungian psychiatrist who wrote Ephron a friendly email after she published an op-ed in the Times about trying to disconnect Jerry’s landline. (Her record of their courtship, conducted initially over email, is as breathlessly romantic as anything she’s put into a screenplay—and this is a woman who co-wrote You’ve Got Mail .) —M.M.

The Trouble With Happiness by Tove Ditlevsen (April 19)

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The Trouble with Happiness: And Other Stories

One of the most (posthumously) lauded novelists of recent years, Tove Ditlevsen is known to most as the author of  The Copenhagen Trilogy,  a sprawling three-part memoir that chronicles both her interior life and major events of the 20th century. In this collection, the landscape is more compact, but the insight into human nature is no less poignant: A young girl watches her mother put on a costume, a temporary and tenuous escape threatened by the whims of the father; with calm remove, a woman imagines her married lover’s domestic life, a simmering, suppressed anger providing a more forceful undercurrent; a young pregnant couple looking to buy a house confronts the contraction of another family’s life at the moment they’re expanding theirs. These spare and sparkling stories summon deep wells of emotion without the slightest trace of sentimentality. —C.S.

The Palace Papers by Tina Brown (April 26)

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The Palace Papers

Whether or not you will tune in for the much-discussed Season 5 of The Crown , The Palace Papers deserves a read. Tina Brown does not seem to have researched her subjects so much as lived with them: Indeed, her own career as a young journalist, and then an editor (of many magazines, including several owned by Condé Nast) circled the royal family, and so she writes with the kind of familiarity earned through years of fine-tuned observation. There is definite bias here, but it is the kind that only sharpens her depictions; she’s not afraid to let you know which occupants of the royal palaces she thinks are up to snuff and which she thinks should fade into oblivion. In this year of royal transition (as well as entertainment), The Palace Papers is a supremely satisfying read. —C.S.

When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley (April 26)

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When We Fell Apart

A young Korean American man reeling from the recent suicide of his girlfriend sets out to learn more about the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in this powerful novel that delves unflinchingly into the deeply timely question of what it means to belong to more than one culture. Wiley’s protagonist’s experience of trying to find links between his California upbringing and his adult life in Seoul will resonate with anyone who has ever been asked, “Where are you  really  from?” —E.S.

The Last Days of Roger Federer, and Other Endings by Geoff Dyer (May 3)

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The Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other Endings

If you’re coming to this book expecting an extended meditation on the late career of the titular tennis legend, you might be—well,  disappointed  isn’t the word, really: The book is dotted with such thoughts throughout. It’s true joy, though, is its buck-wild discursiveness. The entire book is a brooding, a searching, and an investigation—in three parts, each composed of exactly 60 more-or-less brief thoughts, about Dylan, Camus, John Berger, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Redford, Gerard Manley Hopkins, D.H. Lawrence, Chuck Yeager, T.C. Boyle, Scorsese, J.M.W. Turner, Michelangelo, Boris Becker, Browning, Ruskin, the Battle of Britain, and yes, Roger Federer (that’s a wildly incomplete list from just the first 40 pages)—of what it means to come to the end of something: painting, writing, striving, playing, living. If you’ve read Dyer before, you know what you’re in for, and it’s in glorious abundance here: humor, memoir, wit, verve, pathos, and an arsenal of erudition. If this is your first immersion, simply be prepared to chase the wind. —Corey Seymour

Trust by Hernan Diaz (May 3)

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What begins as a Henry James–esque chronicle of a Wall Street tycoon’s breathtaking ascent to power at the beginning of the 20th century reveals itself to be so much more in Hernan Diaz’s second novel, Trust: a rip-roaring, razor-sharp dissection of capitalism, class, greed, and the meaning of money itself that also manages to be a dazzling feat of storytelling on its own terms. Trust is a matryoshka doll of a novel, in which the layers peel back to reveal four alternative takes on the same narrative of the financial titan Andrew Bevel and, just as importantly, his wife, Mildred, each as riveting and full of surprises as the next. Its central theme of wealth—what it actually means, who it should belong to, how its relationship with some of the central mythologies of American life developed, and its inextricable linkage with the patriarchy—may feel both important and timely. But the uniquely brilliant way in which Diaz tells that story, as meticulously researched as it is narratively exhilarating, makes it a novel not just for the present age but for the ages. —L.H.

Linea Nigra by Jazmina Barrera (May 3)

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Linea Nigra

For those unacquainted with the vocabulary that accompanies the childbearing process, the linea nigra refers to a dark vertical line that can appear to bisect a pregnant person’s abdomen. Essayist Jazmina Barrera takes that physical line and writes about and (metaphorically) beyond it, packing her narrative memoir full of carefully considered and exquisitely worded musings on motherhood. Barrera wrote throughout her first pregnancy and into the beginning of her journey as a mother, and the multilayered, deeply felt work that her life experience and obvious talent have combined to produce is eminently worthy of acclaim. —E.S.

A Hard Place to Leave: Stories From a Restless Life by Marcia DeSanctis (May 3)

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A Hard Place to Leave

Longtime  Vogue  contributor Marcia DeSanctis recounts a peripatetic life—and the episodes that were less so. DeSanctis had a career as a tour guide, a TV producer (who worked, among other things, on Eastern European stories after the fall of the Berlin Wall), a cosmopolitan writer who marched to “the city’s incessant, invigorating drumbeat.” And then she moved to the quiet countryside, where she had to come to terms with a sense of herself that wasn’t based on constant movement and the frictions of foreign encounters. The essays in this collection (which include a tale of marital infidelity that made a marriage stronger  originally published in  Vogue ) might be framed as travel writing, but they are just as much stories of self-definition that take place here, there, and everywhere. —C.S. 

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub (May 17)

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This Time Tomorrow

Known for her plucky voice and sweetly amusing ensemble comedies, Emma Straub returns with her most emotionally resonant work yet,  This Time Tomorrow.  On the night of her 40th birthday, a newly single and slightly intoxicated Alice drops by her father’s home, located on an Upper West Side alley that time and foot traffic forgot. She passes out and wakes up in 1996, transported back to a moment when her father was still her energetic 40-something roommate, not an ailing 73-year-old whom she faithfully visits at the hospital. Shuttling between her teenage and middle-aged lives, Alice attempts to engineer a new destiny for her father and experiments with a panoply of what-ifs, one of which lands her the guy that got away. All the while, she grapples with the headstrong and heartbreaking nature of time. Beneath the layers of ’90s nostalgia and sci-fi portals to the past lies something even more satisfying: a complicated tale that doesn’t feel the slightest bit complicated. —L.M.

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker (May 17)

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The Cherry Robbers

From the author of 2015 cult hit  Dietland  comes a more-than-worthy sophomore effort that follows Sylvia Wren—formerly known as Iris Chapel—the second youngest in a family of six heiress sisters, all seemingly cursed to live (and die) tragically. When Iris becomes Sylvia, she thinks she’s escaped her ominous familial fate, but has she? When we meet her in New Mexico in 2017, she’s an internationally famous yet reclusive artist ducking the attention of an overzealous journalist determined to track down the story of how Iris became Sylvia. Compelling, no? (Trust us, it is.) —E.S.

The Red Arrow by William Brewer (May 17)

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The Red Arrow

Something old is new again in William Brewer’s The Red Arrow , a rollicking bildungsroman meets wellness-through-hallucinogenics debut. Our hero has risen from the sticks of West Virginia to become a penniless painter and writer in New York who lucks into a gorgeous tech-employed fiancée and a hefty book contract. Trouble ensues. The advance is spent, the novel is not written (even as we’re given vivid glimpses of what it could be), and a suicidal depression descends. But our protagonist lucks out again—a ghostwriting gig for a star physicist seems to pull him out of his hole—until more trouble strikes. The Red Arrow is about how to survive a creative life in 21st-century America, and its answer will surprise you. Brewer’s earnest description of psilocybin therapy turns a bravura comic novel into something deeper and stranger: an account of unexpected, hard-won joy. —T.A.

Either/Or by Elif Batuman (May 24)

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Elif Batuman’s stupendous  Either/Or  is the hilarious follow-up to the author’s Pulitzer Prize–nominated  The Idiot , which introduced wannabe writer Selin during her first year at Harvard. Now a sophomore, Selin joins the literary magazine, attends campus costume parties, and visits a psychiatrist and Pilates classes, set pieces that dazzle with the author’s deadpan prose and superpowers of observation. “I thought humorlessness was the essence of stupidity,” Selin narrates, and by that metric Batuman is a genius, rendering human folly at its most colorful and borderline surreal. Readers of her essay collection,  The Possessed,  might notice stories that overlap with the author’s own life—and underscore that for lovers of literature, the line between life on and off the page is barely legible. –L.M.

Nevada by Imogen Binnie (June 7)

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Originally published by Topside Press in 2013, Binnie’s debut novel—which follows a young, punk-aspiring trans woman who heads west from New York City in her ex-girlfriend’s stolen car, attempting to play the fraught role of role model to a younger, not-yet-out acolyte she meets in Nevada—is a beautiful and occasionally disturbing complication of the oh-so-American trope of the cross-country road trip.  Detransition, Baby  author Torrey Peters is just one of a long list of trans women writers who name Binnie as an influence, and it’s long past time for the cis reader to form a bond with the brilliance of her work. —E.S.

The Lovers by Paolo Cognetti (June 7)

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In The Lovers , the celebrated Italian novelist Paolo Cognetti (author of 2018’s prize-winning debut The Eight Mountains ) has crafted a short novel of affecting elegance, set in and around the Italian Alpine town of Fontana Fredda. Our protagonist, Fausto, is a stalled writer who abandons his petit bourgeois life in Milan (and his former fiancée) for a rather more elemental existence in the mountains, where he finds work as a cook and begins an affair with Silvia, an alluring young waitress. There’s also Babette, the restaurant’s owner who “had also come from the city… though who knows when and how she got there,” and a flinty snow-cat driver called Santorso, a man forged—and eventually destroyed—by the wild surrounding landscape. Cognetti’s prose, translated into English by the poet Stash Luczkiw, knowingly calls Hemingway to mind (in one chapter, Fausto remembers teaching “In Another Country”), but the more important influence is Kent Haruf’s Plainsong . Here as there, a small community of simple people seems uncommonly beautiful. —M.M.

Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me by Ada Calhoun (June 14)

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Also a Poet: Frank O'Hara, My Father, and Me

It’s a complicated thing, the father-daughter relationship, particularly when the two share a profession. So it’s fitting that Ada Calhoun’s  Also a Poet  is a complicated, difficult-to-encapsulate book: Labeled a memoir, it’s also Calhoun’s attempt to finish a biography of the New York School poet Frank O’Hara abandoned by her father, the longtime  New Yorker  art critic Peter Schjeldahl. The book is composed of unpublished interview transcripts, domestic scenes from her childhood on the Lower East Side (see Calhoun’s masterly  St. Mark’s Is Dead  for an expanded disquisition on the site of her youth), and a sweetly personal reckoning with the anxiety of influence. All this sounds like a pretty heady brew, but Calhoun’s voice is clear and cogent, a winning and personable guide. —C.S.

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid (August 2)

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The Last White Man

An unlikely love story is the warming center of Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man (Riverhead)—unlikely because the novel presents as the kind of cool, elegant fable Hamid has become known for. (His most recent, 2017’s masterful Exit West , used a magical realist trick to lay bare the exigencies of the refugee crisis.) Here, the characters find themselves subjected to a mysterious force that shifts their skin from white to a deep, undeniable brown. At first the change seems to affect only a few, but as it spreads, so do the attendant disruptions and paranoias. The book is obviously about race—Hamid has said that he has been mulling this work for 20 years, ever since the events of September 11 made him acutely aware of his own skin color—but it is also about the burgeoning love and chemistry between its two unabashedly physical main characters, Anders, a trainer at a gym, and Oona, a yoga instructor. Even when corporeal form seems a mysterious and mutable thing, the bond between the two acts as a bulwark against the unpredictability of the world. —C.S.

All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews (August 2)

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All This Could Be Different

Sarah Thankam Mathews wrote All This Could Be Different (Viking) in the first year of the pandemic, when COVID produced a drastic loss of her income. As founder of the mutual-aid organization Bed-Stuy Strong, she was galvanized by witnessing not only the catastrophes and flaws of ordinary humans but also their glorious capacity. Equal parts incandescent love story and frank explorations of everything from sexuality to work to racism, this debut novel—focused on the struggles of a queer young Indian woman in Milwaukee—evokes the precariousness of life for so many in 21st-century America and the necessity of showing up and breaking free if we truly want all this to be different. —L.W.M.

Amy & Lan by Sadie Jones (August 16)

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Amy & Lan

Set deep in the bucolic fields of rural England, Sadie Jones’s new novel, Amy and Lan , charts five years in the lives of the two young children (and best friends) after whom the book is titled. Living in a commune of sorts, the duo are left largely to roam free, aside from the odd bit of fulfilling their duties on the farm, written with a particularly evocative eye for blood and muck. Things go south when entanglements between the adults start to draw their attention, and as Amy and Lan reach their early teenage years, these glimpses of grown-up life become an inescapable reality with devastating consequences. What at first reads as a deeply atmospheric bildungsroman (dung being the operative word here), Amy and Lan quietly builds to a cautionary tale of the good life turned sour. —L.H.

Touch by Olaf Olafsson (August 16)

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In the Icelandic author (and erstwhile media executive) Olaf Olafsson’s delicate, absorbing new novel Touch , COVID lockdowns serve as a backdrop to the gentle unfolding of reawakened desire in its lead character, a 75-year-old Icelandic man who sets off on a journey to track down the Japanese woman who was his first great love back in 1960s London. His story begins with an out-of-the-blue Facebook message on the same evening he shutters his restaurant of 20 years, and continues to weave through past and present in an addictive structure of short, unnumbered chapters that also reflect his fraying recollections due to dementia. Really, to call Touch a pandemic novel would be doing it a disservice. With Olafsson’s gorgeous, lyrical writing, it feels weighted with deeper questions about memory, intergenerational trauma, and the enduring forces of love that can bridge decades and cultures—all reaching a denouement as satisfying as it is profoundly moving. —L.H.

The Hundred Waters by Lauren Acampora (August 23)

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The Hundred Waters

In The Hundred Waters (Grove), Lauren Acampora’s quietly thrilling latest, a strange drama plays out between one Connecticut family and the 18-year-old son of their new neighbors. While Gabriel Steiger’s righteous anger about the climate crisis rivets 12-year-old Sylvie Rader, who lost a friend to cancer after toxic construction debris were buried in a nearby town, his dark features and compulsive creativity remind Sylvie’s mother, Louisa, of the man she loved before her husband, when she was a young photographer living in New York. The triangle that forms between mother, daughter, and the shifty boy next door is disquieting from the start, but as both relationships tip into disquieting new territory, the Raders’ lush, monied suburb stops feeling quite so staid. —M.M.

A Visible Man: A Memoir by Edward Enninful (September 6)

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A Visible Man: A Memoir

Charting Enninful’s earliest days in Ghana to his family’s emigration to London (where they settled under the “soggy skies” and repressive policies of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain), to his rise to the EIC seat and his wedding—punctuated by an 11th-hour arrival by Rihanna— A Visible Man (Penguin Press) is both a chronicle of a singular life and a universally inspiring portrait of ambition. As Enninful writes in his introduction of his dubious stance toward memoir: “Why look back when you can look forward?” It’s our good fortune that he does both. —Chloe Schama

Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us by Rachel Aviv (September 13)

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Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us

Combining the cool poise of Janet Malcolm and the confessional bravery of Joan Didion, journalist and New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv challenges the way we think about mental illness in her absorbing debut, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us (FSG). Through half a dozen vivid case studies–one being the story of her own hospitalization at age six—she unravels medical diagnoses and demonstrates how societal narratives around illness take hold. The result is a fascinating and empathetic look at the mysterious ways our minds can fail us. —Taylor Antrim 

Lessons by Ian McEwan (September 13)

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Ian McEwan’s new novel Lessons (Knopf) is rangingly ambitious, teasingly autobiographical, and unsettling in the manner of his best work, a story of monstrous behavior set against major tides of the last 70 years. Roland Baines, a kind of spectator to history, is our hero—the product of a quintessentially English boarding school, a frustrated poet, occasional tennis instructor, and better-than-average piano player. The episode that shapes his life occurs in the opening pages, during a piano lesson with Miriam Cornell, a young instructor at Roland’s school. While teaching him Bach, she pinches his bare leg, an act of sexual sadism that leads, eventually, to the real thing in her bed. Roland never quite recovers from this wildly predatory affair (he 14, she 25). And in adulthood, another villain awaits: his first wife, Alissa Baines, who leaves him and their newborn son so that she can pursue a soaring literary career unencumbered. How can a novel populated by such (notably female) cruelty feel so expansively humanist? Roland is both haunted by trauma and able to push away from it, toward love (a second marriage), parenthood, forgiveness, grace. Lessons is a luminous, beautifully written, and oddly gripping book about lives imperfectly lived. —T.A.

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma (September 13)

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Bliss Montage

We’re in the thick of a dystopian golden age, but the indisputable leader of the pandemic lit pack came out in 2018. Ling Ma’s Severance was half tongue-in-cheek critique of capitalism, half science fiction about a group of New Yorkers fleeing a fatal airborne epidemic believed to have originated in Shenzhen, China. In Bliss Montage (FSG), her panic-slicked and wildly inventive new short story collection, the author continues to mine anxieties particular to our time. The narrator of “Los Angeles” lives with her uncommunicative husband and her 100 ex-boyfriends. “G,” named after the recreational drug that two young women take together in order to become invisible, gives a new spin to the notion of “ghosting.” The awful term “geriatric pregnancy” becomes a literal horror story in “Tomorrow,” whose protagonist must conceal the arm that is developing on the outside of her body—a common aspect of high-risk pregnancies, her doctor crisply informs her. These eight tales don’t build up to traditional climaxes, but the tension between the familiar and the unfathomable pulses on every page. —Lauren Mechling

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (September 20)

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Lucy by the Sea

Elizabeth Strout has kept her readers well acquainted with the doings of Lucy Barton, a bestselling writer (like Strout herself) from a devastatingly poor background, twice married and now a widow with two adult daughters, who in last year’s diverting novel Oh, William forged a kind of chummy detente with her first husband, William, as he discovered a hidden past. In Strout’s poised and moving Lucy by the Sea (Random House), Lucy and William are fleeing Manhattan in the face of COVID and setting up a lockdown life in Maine. It is only in the steady hands of Strout, whose prose has an uncanny, plainspoken elegance, that you will want to relive those early months of wiping down groceries and social isolation. Here, the Maine landscape is gorgeously rendered in its COVID hush, and Strout balances the tension of viral spread with the complex minuet of Lucy and William coming to terms with their resentments and enduring love. This is a slim, beautifully controlled book that bursts with emotion. —T.A.

Stay True by Hua Hsu (September 27)  

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Hua Hsu’s steady, searching memoir, Stay True (Doubleday), brings a certain 1990s collegiate persona into clarion focus: the undergraduate who is highly cultivated in his interests (Pavement yes, Pearl Jam no; cigarettes yes, alcohol no; indie films yes, fraternity parties no), a young Gen Xer studiedly indifferent to mainstream culture, and rigorously obsessed with what’s cool. As an undergrad at Berkeley, Hsu was this person to a T and his memoir digs, in a lovely, low-key way beneath the surface of the pose. Hsu’s Taiwanese parents immigrated to the U.S. and harbored a kind of poignant enthusiasm for their new lives–especially his father who was interested in his son’s thoughts about everything and anything. Hsu is an intellectual slacker who studies rhetoric and political science, but is outwardly bored by most everything, a creator of Zines and a cultivator of misfit friends. One friend, named Ken, bucks the trend. Ken is handsome, into Dave Matthews, and likes (the horror!) swing dancing. Hua has a curious bond with him in spite of all that and then when Ken is killed in horrific circumstances, Hsu is unmoored. A moving portrait of a persona undone by tragedy. –T. A.

Foster by Claire Keegan (November 1)

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In Claire Keegan’s Foster (Grove) , first published by The New Yorker as a short story in 2010 and now expanded to a novella, the Irish writer traces the journey of a nameless girl who is palmed off to distant relatives in a bucolic corner of rural County Wexford for a summer while her poverty-stricken, neglectful parents prepare for the birth of their next child. What unspools from there is a deceptively complex coming-of-age tale, both intimate and richly expansive, as the girl’s foster family provides her with the room and space to blossom, before a heartbreaking secret threatens to shatter her newfound idyll. Balancing Keegan’s delicate, sparing prose and masterful ear for dialogue with a tale that is almost overwhelming in its tenderness, Foster is a heart-wrenching treasure of a book that only serves to confirm Keegan’s place as one of contemporary Irish literature’s leading lights. —Liam Hess

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono (November 1)

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Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story

Bono’s deeply personal memoir chronicles his earliest memories, the formation of his band, the meeting of his wife when he was still a teen (he joined the band the same week that he first asked her to go out with him). The book is also about his father, a figure that loomed over him, especially after the early death of his mother, with almost comic nonchalance regarding his son’s epically blossoming career. (It took a meeting with Princess Di, arranged by his son, to truly ruffle him.) It is about Ireland, the legacy of the violence that raged through much of the 20th century, and Africa, and also the promise of America. It is not a short or compact book. But do you want that from the man behind some of the most stirring and soaring ballads of all time? Sink into your plush chair of choice with this one in your lap and the stereo blasting. —C.S.

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The 10 Best Fiction Books of 2022

T he best fiction released this year reminded us to value our relationships with one another, no matter what form they take. These books emphasized how we are shaped by the people who surround us, as well as those who are no longer physically present but whose memories we continue to carry. They are stories about friendship and love, growing up and growing older, loss and living, all centered on characters reckoning with how their people do and do not show up for them. There’s a bruising portrait of grief told through an adult daughter remembering her mother, a gritty account of a young woman who forms a community at the depths of her loneliness, a celebration of friendship between two creative geniuses, and more. Here, the top 10 fiction books of 2022.

10. Signal Fires , Dani Shapiro

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Fire Island 's Joel Kim Booster Wants to Leave His 'Hot Idiot' Act Behind

By andrew r. chow, quinta brunson on abbott elementary, teachers, and comedy, by katie reilly, how amanda seyfried learned to dance like elizabeth holmes in hulu’s the dropout, by shannon carlin, jennette mccurdy discusses her stunning memoir, by sam lansky, jerrod carmichael revealed his secrets in rothaniel . now he's tackling new ground.

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39 Best Books of 2022

39 Best Books of 2022

By Keziah Weir and Vanity Fair

“Who is the greatest Italian painter?” the titular character of Muriel Spark’s  The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie  asks her students. “Leonardo da Vinci,” they tell her. “That is incorrect,” she says. “The answer is Giotto, he is my favorite.”

It is that time of year. The greatest time. The best time. Best movies, best podcasts, best television, best books. Best. Best! Sorry to do this, but let’s establish some ground rules with a definition: in the Webster’s International Dictionary, Second Edition (the largest dictionary I own, and therefore the best) it’s “having good qualities in the highest degree.” So, first, it should be said that this leaves some room for interpretation. And second, that some would argue that, like Valentine’s Day and very tight jeans, at worst the year-end best-of list exists solely to make most people feel bad—at another worst, it’s here for the clicks. When it comes to books and Italian painters, best is in the eye of the beholder. But at  best, the list is a discoverability tool, and in 2022, in a world brimming with content, we do like to help the crème de la crème rise. So, here it is, the Brodie-scale best books of 2022: a highly subjective list of some personal favorites—bestsellers worth the hype, titles that flew more under the radar than merited, and everything in between—from the staff of  Vanity Fair.

All products featured on Vanity Fair are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

recommended new books 2022

“The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man” by Paul Newman (Knopf)

Paul Newman sat for a series of no-holds-barred interviews with his longtime friend  Stewart Stern between 1986 and 1991—the transcripts of which were mined for Newman’s posthumous memoir, published this October. The book is an extraordinary glimpse into the psyche of one of Hollywood’s greatest icons—in large part because Newman was so unfiltered on subjects ranging from his complicated relationship with his looks and fame, his perceived failures as a father and husband to first wife Jackie Witte, and his fiery passion for second wife Joanne Woodward. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another star willing to share half as much. —Julie Miller, Senior Hollywood Correspondent

recommended new books 2022

“The Man Who Could Move Clouds” by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (Doubleday)

“This is a memoir of the ghostly,” writes  Ingrid Rojas Contreras in her author’s note to  The Man Who Could Move Clouds, “which celebrates cultural understandings of truth that are, at heart, Colombian.” The memoir, unusually, finds its center in acts of forgetting—two bouts of amnesia, one experienced by the author’s mother at age eight, having fallen (or perhaps been pushed) down a well, and Contreras’s at age 23, after a bike accident. Contreras comes from a lineage of curanderos, or healers. Her grandfather, called Nono, was a charming, philandering, illiterate man with a steel trap of a memory who once threatened his wife and newborn with a machete after one of his ominous premonitions. That newborn was Contreras’s mother, who from her accident and subsequent amnesia would gain and lose the ability to hear voices, but retain one to be in two places at once. In the wake of her own accident, 43 years later, Contreras writes, “I lost the impulse to hide that I was a brown woman born of a brown woman born of a poor man who said he had the power to move clouds”—but, she describes with some regret, “I cannot see ghosts like Mami could, I do not hear the dead, and the future is hidden from me as much as it ever was.” 

The family was driven by violence to leave Colombia in 1998, when Contreras was 14; the action of the memoir begins when three of Nono’s daughters—Mami, tía Perla, tía Nahía—dream that Nono wants his remains disinterred, and then Contreras dreams of Nono pointing to a river, saying “this is the scene,” which is enough for her mother to organize a trip back to Colombia to exhume his remains. Contreras’s book interweaves history of all magnitudes, from the atrocities perpetrated upon Native tribes by Spanish colonizers, to stories handed down through generations, to family lore—and in examining the past in this way, in bringing it back into the light, Contreras works an act of magic all her own. — Keziah Weir, Senior Editor

recommended new books 2022

“Aesthetica” by Allie Rowbottom (SoHo Press)

This brutal tale of a teenage Instagram model teases out the ugliness of influencer culture against our rather ancient tradition of performative femininity. Under  Allie Rowbottom ’s patiently literary hand, this novel’s true gem lies in its central mother-daughter relationship—a reminder that our obsession with youth is never too far removed from what binds us to our lineage.  —Delia Cai, Senior Vanities Correspondent

recommended new books 2022

“Less Is Lost” by Andrew Sean Greer (Little, Brown and Company)

More things are more important  now more than ever . Truth, we’re told. Accountability. Acceptance of historical and ongoing wrongs. Hard yes on all that. But also, humor. Humor is what I need now more than ever. Maybe it’s aging. Maybe it’s the last few years, all caught up. Maybe it’s just that it feels really good to laugh, and always does, but the present takes prominence.  Andrew Sean Greer ’s 2017 novel  Less, which follows bumbling, endearing, middle-aged, middling author Arthur Less through a grand tour of the world in the hopes of running far away from his ex’s wedding, made me laugh and laugh, and then it won the Pulitzer Prize. With the announcement of a sequel,  Less is Lost, I experienced both joy and dread; like the announcement of a film adaptation of a beloved book, a sequel can mean much more of a good thing, or a dark cloud over the whole endeavor. This book falls firmly in the first camp. On the off chance dear reader hasn’t yet experienced the first book, I’ll refrain from revealing the narrative sleight of hand that illuminates it, and which dwells out in the open in the second—but suffice to say that in  Lost  we find Less once again on the move, this time through our own vast country. It is sharp and smart and sad and sweet, and once again made me giggle aloud. More of Less, please. And well-earned happy endings. Would take more of those too. — K.W.

recommended new books 2022

“Stay True” by Hua Hsu (Doubleday)

In  Hua Hsu ’s  Stay True —a coming-of-age memoir exploring identity forged at the margins—time is measured by alternate means. A college-era drive to the grocery store is six songs long. Balcony conversations tick by at the pace of a cigarette. “A day felt like forever, a year was a geological era,” Hsu writes of his impatient teenage stretch: faxing math questions to his dad in Taiwan, combing for Nirvana’s spiritual successor at the record store, editing zines while at UC Berkeley. Part of what makes the book so transfixing is the specificity of detail: a high-definition panorama that includes mixtape highlights, dorm-room riffs, and influences ( La Jetée, Derrida,  The Last Dragon ) captured at their flashpoints. But it’s the impetus behind that diligent chronicling—a friend’s sudden death—that casts a shadow throughout, leaving Hsu, a New Yorker writer, to sensitively chart those depths. “I remember an unshakable humidity, standing in a hangar where you could hear too many of the sound systems at once, the psychedelic aura smothered by gray clouds, a drifting weariness,” Hsu writes, recalling the rave he attended while, across town, a life was cut short. It was a premonition: “For a flash, I no longer felt young.” But even where memory fails (the book’s title comes from a long-forgotten inside joke), there’s a sense of history forever being reknit into the present.  —Laura Regensdorf, Beauty Director

recommended new books 2022

By Maggie Coughlan

recommended new books 2022

By Vanity Fair

recommended new books 2022

“Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey” by Florence Williams (W.W. Norton and Co.)

Throughout her career, journalist  Florence Williams ’s work has focused on the environment, health and science, penning page-turners like  Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History. But when her 25-year marriage falls apart, Williams embarks on her most personal project yet: an investigation of heartbreak. While grappling with her own grieving (and, ultimately, healing) process, Williams’s research takes her from trying MDMA in a therapist’s living room to a solo quest deep into the mountains. By her own experience with her findings, this fascinating read will leave an indelible impression on your heart and mind.  —Maggie Coughlan, Senior Vanities Editor

recommended new books 2022

“Incredible Doom: Vol. 2” by Matthew Bogart and Jesse Holden (HarperAlley)

As Twitter begins to unravel, super users are left wondering what will happen to the community that the platform created. But long before Elon Musk, during the internet’s infancy, friendships were forged across message boards and servers, with strangers bonding over fandom, punk rock, movies, and more. In this graphic novel (the sequel to  Incredible Doom: Vol 1 ), EVOL House, a dilapidated Ohio home serves as a real-life refuge for those who became friends online—but can these relationships persist offline? With every ultra-absorbing panel, you’ll be eager to find out.  —M.C.

recommended new books 2022

“The Nineties: A Book” by Chuck Klosterman (Penguin Press)

The guide to explaining America’s Late Before Times to Gen Zers, this breezy, witty skip-hopping dissection of the decade’s defining events, personalities, pop culture, and Gen X stereotypes keeps overwrought phenomena from  Nevermind to the Clinton sex scandal fresh by interpreting them through the vagaries of looking back and our tendency toward sociocultural revisionism. When analyzing the nineties, “the central illusion is memory itself.” The veteran culture journalist’s take on the period’s hot topics and tropes are arranged in easily digestible, connectable theories, often based on the primacy of TV coupled with the lacuna of an instantly accessible repository of facts. Our last gasp of national monoculture was also “perhaps the last period in American history when personal and political engagement was still viewed as optional.” Tapping everything from  The X Files to steroidal baseball in order to posit truths about collective memory during America’s “good time,”  Chuck Klosterman rationalizes his own career’s avoidance of those more serious issues—and offers privileged Gen Xers a chance to put our complicity on hold for a couple hours.  —Michael Quinones, Copy Manager

recommended new books 2022

“How Far the Light Reaches a Life in Ten Sea Creatures” by Sabrina Imbler (Little, Brown)

It may be easy to find a simile in the depths of the soul and those of the sea; harder, for most, to go much further than that. In this collection of essays,  Sabrina Imbler (of the glorious “ When an Eel Climbs a Ramp to Eat Squid From a Clamp, That’s a Moray ” headline) has done a deep dive. “How to Draw a Sperm Whale” intersperses descriptions of whales and their deaths with a “necropsy report” of one of Imbler’s relationships. In “Hybrids,” an essay about, among other things, growing up with a white father and a Chinese mother, Imbler (conflicted about it) compares themself to a mixed-species butterfly fish. In “My Mother and the Starving Octopus” Imbler profiles a female octopus who brooded for more than four years, not eating, even actively refusing food: soft-bodied mollusk as hunger artist. In between these sections, Imbler writes about their mother, who is obsessed with being thin, and about Imbler’s own youthful disordered eating. It is once Imbler “begins dating people who are not cis men” that they learn to desire their own body, just as it is—though in “a wry twist of queerness,” they describe going on to wish again for other physical changes: “I predict I will always be in negotiation with my body, what it wants and what I want of it.”

Imbler is adept at capturing alien animals in succinct, often endearing descriptions. Giant isopods are “lavender pill bugs the size of casserole dishes”; a black-eyed squid “carries her thousands of eggs in her arms as she swims.” (Because some of these creatures die on the page, and often at the hands of a human, to fall in love with them can lead to devastation: An octopus captured for examination is “torn apart” in the process; a particularly protective and gregarious butterfly fish is shot with an explosive device and collected as a specimen.) It’s a world-expanding book, brimming with so much: life, pain, loss, wonder. — K.W.

recommended new books 2022

“Lincoln and the Fight for Peace” by John Avlon (Simon & Schuster)

In these dark times, it can be hard to even imagine what good, let alone great, national leadership looks like. That’s what makes  John Avlon ’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s plan to win the peace after winning the Civil War so important. Though the plan itself was tragically cut short by his assassination, Lincoln’s keen intellect and profound human decency set a precedent that reverberated in the century that followed, as Avlon astutely demonstrates. The book kicks off with a tour de force narration of the 16th president’s triumphant arrival in Richmond (excerpted  right here on VF.com) and positively brims with astonishing details plucked from the vast library of historical facts that, as Avlon’s pal, I happen to know he carries around in his head. If you ask me, this is the perfect holiday read for anyone who, in spite of it all, just can’t quit the American Dream.  —Michael Hogan, Executive Digital Director

recommended new books 2022

“Mr. B” by Jennifer Homans (Random House)

How on earth can anyone sum up the life of George Balanchine, the visionary, exacting choreographer behind New York City Ballet? To him, the art form existed on an otherworldly plane, with apotheosis springing from pure, unembroidered technique. “To dance this way, you have to take everything off. Expression, persona, personality—your very  self must go,” writes  Jennifer Homans  in  Mr. B, a decade-long project for which the scholar and former ballerina pored over archives across continents and interviewed nearly 200 dancers. (Stamina is a prerequisite for his work.) But this is not just a biography for balletomanes. Balanchine’s career, stretching from imperial Russia to 1980s New York, brims with 20th-century characters; collaborators include Igor Stravinsky, Katherine Dunham, Isamu Noguchi, and the powerhouse NYCB cofounder Lincoln Kirstein. Homans, an insightful magpie, braids together differing accounts—as with the opening gesture of  Serenade  (1934) , Balanchine’s first ballet on American soil, which some see as a commentary on the Nazi salute. (The choreographer managed several well-timed departures, leaving Russia ahead of Stalin, Europe before Hitler’s reign.) Balanchine’s revolving-door relationships with dancers—marriages, rumored abortions, roles bestowed and withheld—get a clear-eyed examination. “They were ‘dear,’ and he was ‘Mr. B,’” Homans writes of the complicated, if often treasured, symbiosis. Jealousy was common; weight, scrutinized. “He had an instinct, gently, for the jugular.” For a man who called himself a “cloud in trousers” (a line borrowed from poet Vladimir Mayakovsky), Homans captures many of those elusive contours within the fabric of her book, making special room for NYCB’s behind-the-scenes figures and lucid discussions of key ballets ( Agon, Firebird,  and others). Balanchine’s push for full-tilt momentum echoes still: “What are you saving it for, you might be dead tomorrow.” — L.R.

recommended new books 2022

“You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty” by Akwaeke Emezi (Atria)

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty takes grief and sadness and the frustration that comes with dating after losing love and turns it into the juiciest, messiest chaos. It’s been five years since Feyi’s husband was killed in a car crash. They were high school sweethearts, destined to be each other’s forevers, and she hasn’t been quite the same since. She meets some people, she falls in love. But…obviously, since, this is  Akwaeke Emezi we’re talking about, it gets more interesting, more nuanced. It’ll keep you turning pages all night if you’re not careful.  —Kathleen Creedon, Associate Web Producer

recommended new books 2022

“In the Mouth of the Wolf” by Katherine Corcoran (Bloomsbury)

Regina Martínez was a bold woman. An investigative journalist out of Veracruz, Mexico, her stories outlined corruption, greed, and abuse in Mexican politics—an anomaly in a place where gangs and shady politicians often ruled what was (and wasn’t) printed. It was her steadfast dedication to the truth that many believe is the reason she was murdered. In the Mouth of the Wolf isn’t your ordinary true-crime account. It’s a deep dive into the injustice and danger many Mexican journalists face to this day.  Katherine Corcoran explores the mystery of Martínez’s death and the risk many reporters take to keep the press free.  —K.C.

recommended new books 2022

“The Old Place” by Bobby Finger (G.P. Putnam & Sons)

I’m a longtime listener of  Bobby Finger ’s podcast  Who Weekly, which he tapes twice a week with cohost  Lindsey Weber, so I was excited to see what he could do with the generous space of a novel. An absolute ton, it turns out.  The Old Place, a story of a prickly, retired school teacher and the secrets at the heart of her most enduring relationships, gave me several gifts: a steady voice that handles pain and grief with as much humor and lightness as it does poignancy. Accounts of life in a small Southern town that feel well-studied, but never, ever clichéd. An emotionally devastating set piece involving large quantities of potato salad. I found myself thinking of each character’s complexities and their imperfect dynamics as much as I do those of lifelong friends, and know they’ll stay with me a long time.  —Kenzie Bryant, Staff Writer

recommended new books 2022

“The Candy House” by Jennifer Egan (Scribner)

After her fiercely spectacular  A Visit From the Goon Squad, the odds seemed slim  Jennifer Egan could do it again—and yet, she did. Her follow-up novel,  The Candy House, is an undeniable page-turner. Egan presents a dystopian future wherein technology has subsumed individuality as the practice of “externalizing” one’s memories in exchange for those of others becomes pervasive. By seamlessly shifting between seemingly disparate perspectives, Egan creates a troubling tapestry of what could come should we continue to rely on and give ourselves over to technology—namely, the loss of unique human experience. I couldn’t put it down. —Abigail Tracy, National Political Reporter

recommended new books 2022

“Trust” by Hernan Diaz (Riverhead)

What begins as an easily digestible tale of a Wall Street tycoon and his intellectual, well-bred wife—their successes and tragedies—against the backdrop of historic New York City twists into a masterpiece of competing perspectives that puts truth and its relativity front and center. Page by page,  Hernan Diaz introduces layers of complexity to his characters, all while dissecting wealth, greed, and love. As you follow the efforts of one woman to unravel fact from fiction, the reality that we are all editing our own narratives takes hold. — A.T.

recommended new books 2022

“Constructing a Nervous System” by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon)

In fewer than 200 pages,  Margo Jefferson unlocks the ways by which we are and she has been influenced and shaped by art. Shifting between tone and material—songs, poems, memories, among others—Jefferson somehow manages to construct a cogent reflection on the subtle and stark ways in which we are shaped by what we consume all while tackling the complexities and contradictions of identity. She captures the struggles of being human. — A.T.

recommended new books 2022

“Honey & Spice” by Bolu Babalola (William Morrow)

Amidst the typical stream of horror that social media offered in 2022, Twitter and TikTok also placed this sensual and thought-provoking romance into my lap.  Bolu Babalola ’s debut novel centers on Kiki Banjo, who would rather share frank and feminist romantic advice on her collegiate radio show,  Black Sugar, than delve into dating firsthand. Enter Malakai Korede, a smooth-talking aspiring filmmaker whom she promptly brands the “Wastemen of Whitewell” as warning to the female student body. Of course, their prickly dynamic gives way to a romantic comedy brimming with all of my favorite tropes: enemies-to-lovers, fake dating, and Brits bantering until you’re practically begging for them to  just snog already. Babalola expertly blends sex with societal discourse in ways that echo Jane Austen and Nora Ephron. Receiving updates on her follow-up is—for now—reason enough to keep Twitter activated.  —Savannah Walsh, Editorial Assistant

recommended new books 2022

“I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy (Simon & Schuster)

Each year, there are a few interviews that linger. Our conversation long ended, story filed, book released—my mind often flickers back to  Jennette McCurdy and her all-consuming debut memoir  I’m Glad My Mom Died. That incendiary title beckons even the most passive to turn an ear her way—and after an existence centered on her abusive mother, she’s more than earned a moment of our time. McCurdy doesn’t stray from any of it: her turbulent time as a child star on Nickelodeon, crippling eating disorders introduced by her mom, and the painful journey to saying those five words aloud for the first time. It’s not only McCurdy’s story that resonates—it’s her ability to tell it all. With total command and sardonic comedic timing earned in  spite  of her sitcom training, she winds through her darkest days and makes a compelling case for getting to the other side, scars and all. In promoting her memoir, McCurdy was forced to rip that Bandaid time and again,  including with me . Her gumption to do so is something I’ll be carrying with me into the next year.  —S.W.

recommended new books 2022

“Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records” by Jim Ruland (Hachette)

SST Records’ run in the 1980s was epic. Just flip to the end of  Jim Ruland ’s  Corporate Rock Sucks  and scan the catalog of groundbreaking albums from Hüsker Dü, Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and more. But the story begins with  Greg Ginn, a teenage ham-radio enthusiast who cofounded seminal hardcore band Black Flag and transformed his mail-order electronics business into the defining indie label of the era—and a harbinger of the alterna-rock and grunge explosion to come. (SST put out early records by Seattle’s Soundgarden and Screaming Trees, though Ginn passed on Nirvana.) Ruland digs into the drama, from SST’s clashes with police, the media, and the music business, to Ginn’s spats with everyone from bandmates like  Henry Rollins to his brother, the artist  Raymond Pettibon,  who came up with Black Flag’s name and iconic four-bar logo. That symbol, still a go-to tattoo for punks four decades later, speaks to the label’s imprint on underground culture.  —Michael Calderone, Editor of the Hive

recommended new books 2022

“Young Mungo” by Douglas Stuart (Grove)

Young Mungo  marked the bracing back half of my 2022 introduction to Douglas Stuart —having caught up with his prize-winning  Shuggie Bain from 2020 in time to race through this spiritual sequel immediately after. As I suspect is the case for many, it’s hard to separate the two novels; maybe my head will get a little more clarity between the two with a little more distance. But for now I can only describe what  Young Mungo  left me with after living in Stuart’s exquisitely textured, wrenchingly brutal dual portraits of queer youth in ’80s and ’90s Glasgow: the sense of lives lived and lost, of hearts crushed and opened then crushed again, of what it takes for many to simply live.

There’s a classical quality to Stuart’s writing in the way he knows his time and place so well, and yet it feels everywhere, endless.  Young Mungo  ostensibly takes the shape of a friendship tale, of what happened to two boys who fell in love against the world’s wishes. And it tells it beautifully—avoiding misery porn, understanding the limits and the wonders of joy. But it’s in the quiet that turns  Young Mungo  masterful: the moments around the ingeniously engineered suspense, the way people look and eat and smell and dream—the moments that make you care, before the plot kicks in and their fate feels like the fate of the whole world.  —David Canfield, Awards Reporter

recommended new books 2022

“Everything I Need I Get From You” by Kaitlyn Tiffany (MCD x FSG Originals)

My biggest takeaway from reading  Everything I Need I Get From You, is that one day, if you’re very lucky, hopefully you’ll love something or someone as much as teenage girls can love a boy band. Tiffany, a former One Direction fangirl turned  Atlantic  writer, bravely dives into the wild west of online fandom to give an in-depth account, both personal and reported, of “How Fan Girls Created the Internet as We Know It.” It’s an empathetic and entertaining analysis of the power and influence of the (mostly) young women who dedicate themselves to the stars they love. You’ll want to pass this book on to anyone who has ever cared deeply about anything at all. Come for the deep-fried memes, stay for the roadside shrine to Harry Styles’s puke. — Daniela Tijerina, Assistant to the Editor in Chief

recommended new books 2022

“Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai” by Matti Friedman (Spiegel & Grau)

Matti Friedman ’s concise and poetic book recounts Cohen’s highly improvised concert tour of the front lines of the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The little-known episode marks a resurrection of sorts in Cohen’s life. Holed up on the island of Hydra before the war, he was in a personal crisis: Dried up creatively, he had spoken of retirement.

The war deeply rattles his sensibilities and awakens his sense of purpose—within a few months of the war’s end, he releases one of his best albums,  New Skin for the Old Ceremony, and reenters the musical world, becoming over time the priestly elder statesman we’ve come to know, the focus of near religious devotion.  —Eric Miles, Visuals Editor

recommended new books 2022

“Picasso’s War: How Modern Art Came to America” by Hugh Eakin (Crown)

A fresh take on Picasso and Modernism? Impossible? Well, look no further. You’ll read the little-known saga of how a previously apolitical Picasso—then 54, love-harried and rather disengaged—rebooted, rebounded, and created one of the great antiwar statements in the history of art: his massive “Guernica,” which was initially reviled by critics. You’ll be riveted by the stories of Rousseau’s long-lost masterpiece, “The Sleeping Gypsy”; America’s Depression-era obsession with Van Gogh; and New York’s wartime ascendance as a Modernist stronghold. Hugh Eakin spins neglected yarns of art history into pure gold in this clear, sensitive, and deftly written narrative. — David Friend, Creative Development Editor

recommended new books 2022

“Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington” by James Kirchick (Holt)

James Kirchick ’s opus is the definitive book on the intersection of Washington politics and gay and lesbian history.  Secret City  presents the largely unknown backstories of the DC power brokers who helped shepherd or scuttle the careers—indeed, the lives—of their LGBTQ+ colleagues, friends, and enemies. Insightful, astute, and exhaustively researched through scores of interviews, archives, long-lost articles, and declassified documents, Kirchik’s doorstop of a book is an ingenious unicorn of scholarship: leviathan in length (848 pages!) but also a page-turner. — D.F.

recommended new books 2022

“Portrait of an Unknown Woman” by Daniel Silva (Harper)

Daniel Silva’s latest had to be one of  Vanity Fair ’s favorites this year. The novel not only braids together art forgery, murder, spycraft, sex, and a Baedeker of swank locales, but its climax is set in the  Vanity Fair offices at One World Trade Center, featuring a dogged investigative reporter inspired by  V.F. ’s own  Marie Brenner. Silva’s central character—as in many of his previous thrillers—is the spymaster/art-restorer Gabriel Allon, who, after his near-demise in Silva’s last tour de force,  The Cellist, manages (spoiler alert!) to evade yet another attempt on his life (this time by a cell phone-detonated bomb at a Paris art gallery). Long live Allon—and Hi Ho, Silva! — D.F.

recommended new books 2022

“Temples of Books: Magnificent Libraries Around the World” by Marianne Julia Strauss (Gestalten/Berlin)

No one who purports to own a proper home library should be without  Temple of Books. This sumptuous coffee-table tome showcases photograph after jaw-dropping photograph of the most well-designed and well-stocked libraries on earth. Most of the world’s grand shrines to books are featured, from the fabled (the Long Room of Dublin’s Trinity College Library) to the contemporary (Seattle Public Library) to the sublime (Rio’s Real Gabinete Portugués de Leitura). It’s a perfect companion volume to your dog-eared copy of Borges’s  Labyrinth s (with its seminal short story, “The Library of Babel”). — D.F.

recommended new books 2022

“All This Could Be Different” by Sarah Thankham Matthews (Viking)

“This is not a story about work or precarity,”  Sarah Thankham Matthews ’s narrator explains early on in  All This Could Be Different. “I am trying, late in the evening, to say something about love, which for many of us is not separable from the other shit.” Love all ways: familial, friend, romance. Sneha, 22 years old, lives in a Milwaukee apartment paid for by her employer, a corporate consulting firm for whose client she creates Gantt charts while sipping whiskey from a Nalgene. Sneha, according to her mother, is “cold,” and this is an affect she actively attempts to cultivate. She longs to let people in, but to do so makes her nervous. She sends far less than half-hearted attempts at pickups to women on a dating app:  sup, hey, hey gorgeous.  She makes a wonderful new friend, finds complications with old ones, and thinks about home. “To send my parents the transfer to replace the roof and the damp-rotted door,” she rationalizes, “was easier than saying, I think of you always. Than asking, why did you leave me.” (Matthews’s language is, across the board, so succinctly precise as to appear tossed off. A street lamp’s glow is “a dog cone for the night,” the feeling of taking hydrocodone akin to “the foamy white soap that machines into your palms at public bathrooms, without you having to touch a thing.”) And she falls in love. There’s something a little bit fated about the pair of them, the way they keep crossing paths—Matthews  has said that  Richard Linklater ’s  Before  trilogy was an inspiration, which tracks—and then fit together so well. But we all know, now, about the course of true love. I closed this book feeling frustrated that, because this is Mathews’s debut, I had no backlist to turn to for more—and equally elated that this is just her beginning. — K.W.

recommended new books 2022

“Just Passing Through: A Seven-Decade Roman Holiday—The Diaries and Photographs of Milton Gendel” edited by Cullen Murphy (FSG)

Everyone came to Milton’s. That is, the enchanted Roman palazzo of critic, aesthete, and social magnet Milton Gendel. Camera forever in tow, Gendel chronicled a coterie of 20th-century sophisticates, exposing 72,000 black-and-white frames and maintaining (until his death at 99, in 2018) voluminous diaries about his life amid this charmed circle. And what photographs! Here are intimate and sweetly forgiving images of everyone from Peggy Guggenheim to Salvador Dali, Gianni Agnelli to Babe Paley, André Leon Talley to Gore Vidal. A smiling Princess Margaret is photographed beaming in a bathtub. A slightly shleppy Queen Elizabeth II appears in a headscarf, tending her corgis. Expertly weaving Gendel’s pictures with his observational barbs, legendary editor  Cullen Murphy constructs a vivid fresco of an endangered world of art, fortune, and impeccable taste. — D.F.

recommended new books 2022

“The Ruin of All Witches” by Malcolm Gaskill (Knopf)

Did you know there was another witchcraft hysteria in 17th-century Massachusetts, a whole four decades before the madness in Salem?  Malcolm Gaskill ’s cinematic retelling of this earlier and lesser known witch panic is every bit as spellbinding as the Arthur Miller classic. Gaskill is a British academic whose specialities include witchcraft scholarship; with Ruin he demonstrates his skill at page-turning popular history as well. — Joe Pompeo, Senior Media Correspondent

recommended new books 2022

“Agent Josephine: American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy” by Damien Lewis (PublicAffairs)

Damien Lewis journeyed down the rabbit hole of arcane European archives to piece together the elusive tale of Josephine Baker’s French espionage service during World War II. The result, which evokes the sensuous glamour of Baker’s expatriate superstardom, is 400 pages of bravery and heroism that read like a spy novel you can’t put down. — J.P.

recommended new books 2022

“Last Call at Hotel Imperial” by Deborah Cohen (Random House)

Meet the talented, complex, and sometimes messy foreign correspondents who rose to stardom in the run-up to World War II—a larger-than-life posse of globe-trotting American reporters whose personalities leap off the page in  Deborah Cohen ’s rollicking postmortem of their careers. Set against the creeping menace of European fascism, it’s a story of love, loss, adventure, and, above all, the thrill of crusading journalism. — J.P.

recommended new books 2022

“Dele Weds Destiny” by Tomi Obaro (2022, Knopf)

It’s been 30 years and three women find themselves back together in the place where their story began, Lagos, Nigeria, by way of a wedding invitation—Funmi’s daughter is getting married!  They’ve lived lives, kept secrets, found love, have been scarred by loss, and given birth to new generations—one now to wed—but reuniting means the delicate balance of nostalgia and new beginnings. Tomi Obaro ’s immersive storytelling delves into the intricacies of female friendship and familial bonds and explores the emotions and complexities of passion, romance, and commitment or lack thereof with such care that you almost feel like you embody each woman as the point of view shifts throughout her novel while we trace their crossed paths through who they were, who they are, and who they are becoming. Obaro’s writing not only tells a story, it invites you into a world so masterly crafted that you, too, feel like you have arrived in Lagos for the weekend as these characters’ past, present, and future comes to life. — Kayla Holliday, Editorial Assistant  

recommended new books 2022

“Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems” by Warsan Shire (Random House Trade Paperbacks)

“No one would leave home unless home/chased you.” Warsan Shire  states in “Home” one of the poems included in her debut full-length poetry collection. Shire retraces familiar thematic paths of girlhood and womanhood, uncovering new trails through dissecting refugee and immigrant experiences as fuller, messier, and  more than just imagery of camps and the foreign Other all accomplished with reverence for the simple nobility of being. With this collection Shire takes on a task which would perhaps be cumbersome in other hands but hers. “Bless the Type 4 child,” she writes and, as one, it was a blessing to encounter the world through her perspective.  —Arimeta Diop, Editorial Assistant

recommended new books 2022

“Time Is a Mother” by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)

Poet, essayist, and novelist  Ocean Vuong mused in an Instagram Story on just how many more stories he had left in him to give. Amid a content saturation with titles in every medium and platform, pumped out at a dizzying pace it was an invitation to pause and consider a moment without any more of his work. Before that inevitable, if saddening (and selfishly, I hope long off) time comes, Vuong has provided readers a collection that is a perfect companion to grief, as he writes through the aftermath of losing his mother. Each included poem a dedication to himself, to the love that lives through grieving. Proving regardless of how many titles the writer produces he will be ever prolific in my eyes: even just one of his poems plentiful of heart, of meaning, of devastation.  —A.D.

recommended new books 2022

“I’ll Show Myself Out” by Jessi Klein (Harper)

Jessi Klein ’s  I’ll Show Myself Out is the only parenting book I need. Honestly, even if you don’t have kids, it’s also the only parenting book you need. It won’t give you tips on how to avoid little-kid tantrums, or how to get them to sleep through the night or whatever, but it will have you cry-laughing over tales of power struggles in a Starbucks bathroom where a kid is acting like a feral cat and the mom is determined to get potty training done and dusted, and then just straight up cry-crying and considering making yourself a Little Book to help ease through difficult life transitions, advice that Klein gets for her son that turns out to be useful for her too. Pro tip: Klein reads the audiobook of her own essays, and it’s well worth the listen.  —Kase Wickman, Contributing Editor

recommended new books 2022

“The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human” by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)

With  The Emperor of All Maladies and  The Gene,   Siddartha Mukergee  established himself as one of the most lucid, stylish, and downright exciting physician-writers working now. In  The Song of the Cell,  his breadth gets even wider, with an eye toward helping a reader understand how a living organism works and how doctors use their knowledge of cells to treat and innovate. — Erin Vanderhoof, Staff Writer

recommended new books 2022

“Lungfish” by Meghan Gilliss (Catapult)

Lungfish, the debut novel by  Meghan Gilliss, tells the story of a mother named Tuck who takes her daughter and husband to an abandoned island in a quest to live off the grid and scrape up money for the future. The novel has the sweep of an epic, and its juxtaposition of natural detail and the detritus of modern life in hardscrabble circumstances makes for an enjoyably uncategorizable reading experience. — E.V.

recommended new books 2022

“The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act” by Isaac Butler (Bloomsbury)

For anyone enamored with the silver screen, Isaac M. Butler ’s book  The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act became an immediate essential text this year. A fascinating history that chronicles the birth of “Method acting” from its roots in Moscow with Russian actor Konstantin Stanislavsky to flourishing in New York City under legendary acting coaches like Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, Butler’s  The Method provides an exhaustive yet never exhausting account of the system that would define the American stage and screen, all the while showing how the craft of acting—and our perception of that craft—has evolved over time.  —Chris Murphy, Staff Writer  

recommended new books 2022


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  1. The Best Books of 2022

    Find our essential reads of 2022 below, or check out our latest reviews. ... Book recommendations, fiction, poetry, and dispatches from the world of

  2. The 10 Best Books of 2022

    The 10 Best Books of 2022 · The Candy House, by Jennifer Egan · Checkout 19, by Claire-Louise Bennett · Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver.

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  4. The Best Books of 2022

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    The Best Books of 2022 ; 13. Because Our Fathers Lied, by Craig McNamara. <em>Because Our Fathers Lied</em>, by Craig McNamara ; 14. A Ballet of

  6. The 12 Best Books of 2022

    The 12 Best Books of 2022 ; Sea of Tranquility. by Emily St. John Mandel. Sea of Tranquility book cover ; Lambda. by David Musgrave. Lambda book

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    The Best Books of 2022 So Far ; The School for Good Mothers · Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez (January 4) ; Olga Dies Dreaming · Lost and

  8. The 100 Must-Read Books of 2022

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  10. 39 Best Books of 2022

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