I have read some truly incredible books this year! I tried my best to narrow down this list to ten but it proved impossible. So here are my top 12 books of 2022!
Tuscany, 1944: As Allied troops advance and bombs fall around deserted villages, a young English soldier, Ulysses Temper, finds himself in the wine cellar of a deserted villa. There, he has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a middle-aged art historian who has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and recall long-forgotten memories of her own youth. In each other, Ulysses and Evelyn find a kindred spirit amongst the rubble of war-torn Italy, and set off on a course of events that will shape Ulysses’s life for the next four decades.
As Ulysses returns home to London, reimmersing himself in his crew at The Stoat and Parrot — a motley mix of pub crawlers and eccentrics — he carries his time in Italy with him. And when an unexpected inheritance brings him back to where it all began, Ulysses knows better than to tempt fate, and returns to the Tuscan hills.
With beautiful prose, extraordinary tenderness, and bursts of humor and light, Still Life is a sweeping portrait of unforgettable individuals who come together to make a family, and a richly drawn celebration of beauty and love in all its forms.
I should have known that Still Life would become my favourite book of the year! Sarah Winman never fails me- she has this way of creating characters that I connect with and will never forget. This was true with Tin Man but it was amplified in Still Life. I think I need to accept the fact that I love slow, historical fiction that unravels over many decades, especially when you see what my second favourite book of the year is! If you are a plot-driven reader, I would not recommend this book- it is 100% about the characters. These are flawed characters who have complicated relationships and it just felt so deeply human. I was moved to tears by the end and not because anything tragic happened but because it is such a true reflection of life and is tragic in the way that every life is tragic. Also, the found family was so charming and I learned a lot about Florence at this time that had me googling. There is so much more I could gush about, but the last thing I will highlight is that I appreciated the conversations surrounding art. You know I love books that focus on the power of art and there were so many quotes that I highlighted!
We like beauty, don’t we? Something good on the eye cheers us. Does something to us on a cellular level, makes us feel alive and enriched. Beautiful art opens our eyes to the beauty of the world, Ulysses. It repositions our sight and judgment. Captures forever that which is fleeting. A meager stain in the corridors of history, that’s all we are. A little mark of scuff.
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant — and that her lover is married — she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters — strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis — survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.
Pachinko was my favourite book of the year up until the moment I picked up Still Life! There are actually parallels between the two, though I think Pachinko was heavier in tone. There is something about a multi-generational family saga that just works for me. I loved that we followed four generations of this family but Sunja was the heart of this story. I felt such a deep attachment to her and I felt myself cheering her on. I read the majority of this book through tears and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. It is one of the stories that will consume you! I also learned a lot about the history of Koreans living in Japan and it was eye-opening, to say the least. This is ultimately a story about home and family and was bittersweet in every sense of the word.
You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.
In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall.
This place is shrouded in folklore—old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who was not quite a child.
Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.
Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something.
Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds—and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place.
As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew—and risk what she holds most dear.
This is the second year in a row that a book by C.J. Cooke has ended up on my best books of the year list! I think it is safe to say she is now an auto-buy author for me. The Ghost Woods is so atmospheric and has everything that I love about Gothic novels. I cannot believe that this book has less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads. That is a crime! I would classify this as a Gothic horror and I think that no one quite writes suspense in the way that C.J. Cooke does. She found the perfect balance between atmosphere, characters, and plot while effectively tackling themes of motherhood and queerness.
I think that the opening line tells you what to expect from this novel.
I have a ghost in my knee. There’s a small pocket just behind the kneecap and she’s hiding in there, all tucked up in the soft mattresses of cartilage. She is very small and terrified so I’m sitting with that leg straightened so I don’t disturb her. I’ve not set a word about this to anyone. They’d think I’m mad.
Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.
It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.
She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?
Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.
I knew when I read an ARC of You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty that it was going to be a divisive book and that has proven to be the case, but I happen to adore it! I love a messy romance and can recognize that this won’t sit right with everyone but I thought it was fantastic. To be fair, Akwaeke Emezi’s writing just works for me and I love that they write in a ton of different genres. This is one of those things where I think it is best to go into the book knowing nothing but also acknowledging that where the relationship goes is not for everyone. It is a difficult balance! While this is 100% a romance, it is also a commentary on grief and how we all grieve differently and how life is messy and no one is perfect. I loved it!
It was like a fork in the road has closed, shut off by an avalanche of grief, choked with rocks and a broken heart. It wasn’t supposed to open, and honestly, it still hadn’t, but somehow, an entirely new path had formed, green and creeping.
“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.
But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.
Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.
I think I loved Siren Queen mostly for the vibes and the atmosphere. I am definitely someone who appreciates a strong atmosphere, especially if you throw in a little magical realism and social commentary. I loved the critique on 1930s Hollywood and the use of literal monsters as a metaphor. There was something dreamlike in the writing that worked perfectly. I think that Luli Wei is my favourite character of 2022- she will do just about anything to become famous, except becoming submissive. This is also incredibly sapphic, which was a bonus! Are there other books out there that focus on a fantasy version of Hollywood? If so, I need to read them!
She was clever and determined. I could see it in her tigers, in the life she had built so far away from everything either of us had ever known. I needed a silver screen to give me a dream, but she had painted her own out of nothing at all.
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.
When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.
But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.
Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.
No one is more surprised than I am that a Naomi Novik is making my favourites list considering my strong feelings about Uprooted! I didn’t think I would ever read Spinning Silver, but I was assured that I would love it and everyone was 100% right. I forgot how much I loved the writing in Uprooted, it was the content I had an issue with. Spinning Silver had that stunning writing as well as characters I became invested in and a plot that had me turning the pages. I think that Novik is a talented storyteller and I am in awe of how she managed to weave all three perspectives together in a way that just worked for me. If you are looking for a book to cozy up with this winter, make Spinning Silver the one.
But the world I wanted wasn’t the world I lived in, and if I would do nothing until I could repair every terrible thing at once, I would do nothing forever.
Fourteen-year-old Mona isn’t like the wizards charged with defending the city. She can’t control lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter and her magic only works on bread. She has a comfortable life in her aunt’s bakery making gingerbread men dance.
But Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona’s city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. And in an embattled city suddenly bereft of wizards, the assassin may be the least of Mona’s worries…
2022 was the year of T. Kingfisher and I could have put so many of her books on this list, but in my heart, I know that A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is my favourite. I just loved the whimsical quality that it had and it appealed to my foodie-loving heart! What’s not to love about an army of gingerbread!? Though it may sound silly (and it is in the best way!), I do think that this book had a lot to say and is the perfect place to start if you want to get into T. Kingfisher.
You expect heroes to survive terrible things. If you give them a medal, then you don’t ever have to ask why the terrible thing happened in the first place. Or try to fix it.
When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation… Maddy did it.
An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.
After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.
But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret… one that will cost them all their lives.
It wouldn’t be my best books of the year list if there wasn’t a book from Tiffany D. Jackson included. The Weight of Blood is her second horror, and I think it is quite a bit stronger than her last. This is a Carrie retelling that takes that story to another level. If you are familiar with the original story, I think you will find what Jackson does with it quite refreshing. Also, there is a podcast element, which I know a lot of us love and was done really well. I want to listen to the audiobook at some point in 2023 since I don’t think Jackson has a book coming out next year, sadly.
Become so drunk on life and love that it blinds you to the hate threatening to drown you. Chew on grief for breakfast, devour aches for lunch, inhale life’s acid, let it burn the costume he has forced upon you.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic, created to be the wife of a man who dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free.
Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
There is something about Helene Wecker’s writing that I connect with and appreciate. I am sensing a theme here that atmosphere is really important to me, and The Golem and the Jinni is no exception. This almost read like a fairytale and I am in awe of the way that Wecker was able to weave this story together. I was just as invested in all of the side characters as I was in Chava and Ahmad. This is the kind of genre blend that I love- historical romance with a touch of fantasy. If you know of anything similar, let me know!
All of us are lonely at some point or another, no matter how any people surround us. And then, we meet someone who seems to understand. She smiles, and for a moment the loneliness disappears.
After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time.
The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success — not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is.
If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won’t be able to go it alone.
But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.
I have a feeling that Legends and Lattes will end up on a lot of favourites lists this year. It is the book that introduced many of us to cozy fantasy, which has quickly become one of my favourite subgenres. There was something so refreshing about ready a sweet and quiet fantasy about an orc opening a coffee shop. I would say that it is the book that brought me the most joy this year! I have always loved slice of life in contemporary/lit fic or historical fiction, so why not in fantasy?
The combined aromas of hot cinnamon, ground coffee, and sweet cardamom intoxicated her, and as she brewed and smiled and served and chatted, a deep contentment welled up. It was a glowing warmth she’d never experienced before, and she liked it. She liked it a great deal.
Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.
Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.
Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?
When I picked up This Vicious Grace, I never would have predicted that it would end up on this list! I was expecting it to be just a fun and light YA fantasy, but it has managed to stay with me and made me realize how much I enjoy the bodyguard trope. This also had the perfect balance between plot and romance and I was intrigued by the politics and the world that Emily Thiede managed to build. The found family was also adorable! I cannot wait for the sequel!
Keep your gods and goddesses on their pedestals if you want, but the rituals, the rules, the isolation? You know that isn’t really from them, right? That’s written by mortals. Men, mostly. We have a bad habit of locking up people who scare us, and the thing that scares men with power most is a woman with more of it.
Sweet like plantain, hot like pepper. They taste the best when together…
Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. As an expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell,” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show on the brink.
They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before, and a player like Malakai won’t be the one to change that, no matter how charming he is or how electric their connection feels. But surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate, late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions. Is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?
Honey & Spice was one of my favourite romances of the year and it was arguably my favourite audiobook. I appreciated Kiki as the main character and I loved that we got glimpses of her radio show. She comes off as a bit abrasive and self-assured, but there is a lot of depth to her. I also really appreciated the female friendship that blossomed throughout the story. The way that this fake relationship came together was unique and I felt the chemistry right away!
Sometimes beautiful things get messy. Mess is okay.
What was the best book you read in 2022?