Best books of 2022

I read 53 books in 2022. At least, that’s what Goodreads says. I admit sometimes I forget to review one, and sometimes I record them ages after I finished reading. But let’s just say, I read a lot!

I also give up on books a lot. I’m like Anton Ego, in Ratatouille: If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow. If my focus isn’t there, I simply send it back to the library or take it to the used bookstore with my thanks. Not every book is for every person, so I hope they find the reader for them. I don’t even always know why a book isn’t clicking for me!

The result is that most of the list consists of books I very much enjoyed. If I didn’t enjoy them, I didn’t finish them!

I also have 7 books outstanding that I’m in the middle of, according to Goodreads. The actual number is higher than that. That’s embarrassing. Sometimes I cycle among them like Prince Humperdinck switched between his four white horses. (See, if you’d read the book you’d get that reference.) Sometimes I leave one on my bedside table and it just hangs in my subconscious, making me guilty, till I either finish it or accept the inevitable and pass it along. I also have two ARCs I must finish before the end of the year or else. It’s bad enough to fail to finish a book I spent money on. It’s double shame to neglect an ARC. They are sweet babies who deserve to be finished and reviewed. But I will!

I read mostly science fiction, followed by fantasy. This year I read more romance than I ever have before, because I was preparing to write one and I have no intention of hopping into a genre with no sense of how it’s done. (*stares at literary authors who think they can jump into SFF like that*) I also read some historical fiction and a little horror. I hate horror, but I occasionally make an exception and I don’t regret any of the horror novels I read.

So! Time for the 2022 Awards of Stuff I’ve Read!

Best Overall

This was always going to have to be Nona the Ninth, right? I love the Locked Tomb series to an unwholesome degree and I obviously was going to dive into the next installment headfirst. I read it in a single day, putting off work to do it and letting the chores pile up. I had to take a break at one point to just breathe because the suspense was too much!

I cannot recommend this as a standalone. It will make very little sense without having read the first two, preferably twice each. (Honestly, it will make little enough sense as it is.) Locked Tomb books are a puzzle box, a challenge for you to unpick. If you prefer your fiction accessible, this is not it. The style, sure, is readable and easy. What the heck is going on in the larger plot is another question. A lot of the important information happens offstage; you have to pay close attention to catch it.

For previous Locked Tomb fans, this is an installment worthy of the series, even though it wasn’t initially written as a standalone. Like the first two, it has a whole new narrator and thus a whole new style–this one childlike and deceptively simple. Nona has only six months of memories. She’s essentially a child and her best friends are the kids from school. But while she’s puzzling over how to get into the gang of cool kids, the city is falling apart around her and the adults in her life are playing some very dangerous games. Another point of view, dropped in occasionally, gives us the backstory on God/the Emperor that we’ve been hankering for.

If you are confused at any part in the series, I heartily recommend r/TheNinthHouse for discussion. Spoilers are clearly tagged and hidden.

Best Romance

Chef’s Kiss, by TJ Alexander. I have been focusing on queer romance and this one was just what I wanted. Lots of delicious cooking scenes. Intolerant bosses and supportive coworkers. Trans rights. I especially liked the main character, who is a fussy chef with a major stick up her butt. I kinda love characters like that.

Best Historical

Longbourn, by Jo Baker. It’s not a new book, but this was the first I’ve read it. Basically, it’s Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the serving maid, Sarah.

My main complaint about Regency fiction is the way modern authors tend to ignore class realities and the entire existence of servants, except insofar as Austen included them–background, and occasional gossips. If you or I lived then, we’d be servants! 100 to 1, we wouldn’t be nobles. So obviously I’m way more interested in them. It’s especially cogent thinking of Lizzie’s feminism compared to Sarah’s experiences. Sarah thinks it’s a sweet deal to get a whole house just for putting up with Mr. Collins, and how privileged do you have to be not to see that? And I’m like … she has a point, Lizzie!

Best Horror

Leech, by Hiron Elles. I’m not going to try to sell this to you as “it’s not that bad, after all I handled it and I’m a big baby!” It had tons of medical grossness and parasites and stuff. But I still loved it. There’s a hivemind narrator! There’s a spooky Gothic house in the snow-covered mountains! The world is a weird combo of technical and primitive, for reasons that become clear as you read.

Still, read this with the lights on. TW for every kind of gross body stuff you can think of, CSA, possession, probably more stuff I forgot in light of everything else.

Best Space Hijinks

Really, where I’m most at home is space hijinks. Could be space opera, could be assorted science fiction, but I just want to see people have adventures in space. The Immortality Thief, by Taran Hunt, gave me just what I wanted. The main character is something of a genius, but constantly causing problems for himself with his rebellious personality. There are also aliens! And scary monsters on a space station abandoned for a thousand years!

Best from a Small Press

Arboreality, by Rebecca Campbell. Do you remember a short story a year or two ago, about making a special violin after climate change? This is that story expanded into a book, about generations of people living in British Columbia, weathering forest fires and other disasters, building generations-long projects using trees. Simultaneously a dirge for the things we are losing and a song of hope for what we might yet create.

Worst Book

Okay, usually I don’t do this, because I don’t finish books I’m not enjoying and I don’t like spreading negativity. This one gets a mention for being interesting throughout and then taking a hard left turn into horrific nihilism, made more revolting by the addition of religion.

The book is Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It’s about a missionary trip to another planet, headed up by a priest. Only the priest makes it back, a broken man, and we switch back and forth between his present and the recollections of the past.

The moral seems to be “see, contacting aliens with missionary intent would be a flaming disaster,” and I agree so far as that goes. But it was deeply disturbing to read about, and to hear “well, it was the will of God!” makes me want to knock over tables. A lot of people love this book. I, personally, would like to erase it from my memory. So take that as you will.

I enjoyed the vast majority of the books I read this year, so feel free to take a look at my year in review on Goodreads for more I enjoyed. I’d especially like to mention A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Elder Race, When Women Were Dragons, and One Last Stop. Mainly because I just realized I didn’t include them in this post. I am not good at picking favorites!

What were your favorite books this year?

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