Like I mentioned in my previous post, this has not been a good reading year for me; I only read about 50 books, which I realize isn’t exactly nothing, but it’s the least I’ve read since 2015, apparently. So I did not expect to be able to come up with a top 10, but I actually did so quite easily; apparently I managed to read quite a few bangers before I became illiterate partway through the year. So let’s get straight into it…
10. Broken Harbor by Tana French
I only started reading Tana French last year; I read the first three books in her Dublin Murder Squad series in 2021, and I read the next three this year. This was the highlight for me by a mile, and may actually be my favorite in the series overtaking The Likeness. I honestly didn’t expect a whole lot from this premise or choice of narrator, but the atmosphere in this book is eerie and terrifying and the mystery left me guessing until the end; I really adored it.
9. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Chelsea can rejoice; this was the year I finally started reading her favorite series. All I can is “started,” unfortunately; I had every intention in the world of continuing this series immediately after I finished the first book, but I think I read this in June which is about when I started struggling with reading, so unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for me to keep going, but I’m hoping I can return to it in the new year. But anyway, back to The Game of Kings: rumors of Dorothy Dunnett’s dense prose have not been exaggerated, but this tale of 1500s Scottish political intrigue is so intricately crafted that it’s such a rewarding and stimulating read, and oddly gripping once you really get into it.
8. The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
Finalmente ho letto un libro da Elena Ferrante. I still haven’t read her Neapolitan Novels quartet, which I fully intend to, but this ended up being a great place to start with her. This is one of the most oppressive, claustrophobic books I’ve read; it made me want to crawl out of my skin, which I suppose is a compliment because I loved it and never wanted it to end. I thought the character work was astonishingly good for such a short novel, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s able to do in her longer works.
7. Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber
This was my Project Book for the year: it’s a 1000-page long essay collection that has an essay on every single Shakespeare play. I received it as a gift for my birthday so I started reading it in April, reading one essay a week, so I didn’t finish until the fall. This is the one thing that managed to keep me hooked even when I couldn’t concentrate on reading anything else. If you’re new here, I really like Shakespeare, and this was a great way to continue to engage with his works without performing them on Zoom every week as I had been doing for a couple of years previously. I found myself disagreeing with Garber on occasion, but that just made things more interesting, and more often than not, I really resonated with her insights, and there were a couple of passages that left me breathless with the way they reframed a simple element of a play that I hadn’t considered before.
6. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
It’s pretty much a rule of thumb by now that if I read an Emily St. John Mandel book, it’ll make my favorites of the year list. Sea of Tranquility is a sort of companion novel to The Glass Hotel, which is my favorite book of hers, so I adored all of the Glass Hotel tie-ins, but I also really loved what this book was doing as its own project. I think I read this in a single sitting, it was just that engrossing and immersive, and I thought Mandel really succeeded in accomplishing a lot in such a short space. Something about her writing style is pure magic.
5. Either/Or by Elif Batuman
The Idiot is probably one of my top ten favorite books published in the last decade, so its sequel Either/Or had a lot to live up to, and it really succeeded. I loved getting to spend more time with Selin, who has one of my favorite narrative voices probably ever, and I found the continuation of her narrative arc to be so effortlessly natural and satisfactory. I’m usually very anti-sequel on principle, especially with works like this which were originally conceived as stand-alones, but in this case, I felt fortunate that Batuman allowed us to read the next chapter of Selin’s journey.
4. Nightshift by Kiare Ladner
My favorite book of 2022 that was published in 2022 was this hidden gem that I’d love for more people to read: Nightshift chronicles the obsession that a young woman living in London develops with one of her coworkers. This book was both brutal and tender and its ruminations on female sexuality were some of the most insightful that I’ve read. In an oversaturated sea of disaster woman novels, this is one that I’d really encourage everyone to reach for.
3. The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage
First and only male author on the list; I guess men deserve some rights. I watched the film adaptation of The Power of the Dog earlier this year and loved it so much that I felt compelled to pick up the book — kind of out of character since I’ve never seen a whole lot of appeal in westerns, but something about this story really got under my skin. The book cleared the high bar the film set; it deepens both the sense of creeping dread and the examination of power and masculinity and queerness. I really believe this is one of the lost masterpieces of 20th century American literature.
2. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
I’d been interested in reading Iris Murdoch for ages and I ended up being so glad that a bookclub finally gave me the push I needed to do so. I adored this. A common (understandable) bookclub complaint was that at around 500 densely-packed pages, this was too long, but I found myself in the minority in feeling like I could have spent another hundred pages with this narrator. This book was just so brilliantly crafted, so perfectly structured, that I felt the length suited this character with an over-inflated ego to a T. This book was both hysterical and sad and all of the Shakespeare references just made it even more of a delight. Just one of the most pleasant reading experiences I’ve had in a while. 2023 needs to be the year I read more Murdoch.
1. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
I guess my reading year peaked before it even began; this was the first book I read in 2022 and it also happened to be the best. I hadn’t had the most auspicious start to my Sarah Waters journey — I’d already read The Night Watch and The Little Stranger, both of which I thought were fine but I loved neither, so I am very grateful that I decided third time might be a charm with Fingersmith. Even though it’s around 600 pages, and nothing about it really screams page-turner, I absolutely tore through this: the twists were unexpected and delightful and the setting and characters both came to life for me like nothing else has all year. The film adaptation, Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, is also exceptional, but if you haven’t seen it already I’d really encourage you to read the book first. It’s worth it, I promise.
What was everyone’s favorite book they read in 2022? Also feel free to link me to your own best of 2022 blog posts! I will read them and reply to comments soon, either this afternoon or tomorrow. Hope everyone has a great New Year!