2022 was another great year of reading for DPL staff. Not all of our favorites were published in the past year, but these are (well, some of!) the books that most moved, thrilled, and enlightened us. What were the best books you read in 2022?
Tricia’s Best Books Read in 2022
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Finney Boylan
This was a fast-paced book with excellent dialogue, interesting facts about bees, and a suspenseful murder mystery that kept me guessing until the very end.
The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris
Another captivating historical fiction by McMorris. This book has magic tricks, gadgets, romance, and a gripping WWII storyline. The protagonist is a whip-smart, creative woman that you can’t help but invest in.
Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier
An average woman escaping her past by marrying a famous actor. What could go wrong? This thrilling murder mystery had me racing to the end.
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
This story is a new take on self-discovery. What social norms deserve to be lived by, and which ones are better off broken?
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
This is a delightful YA fantasy title about a young wizard who “only” has the ability to make magic bread. How could this ever be useful? It turns out, bread and pastry are useful in every way, and the wizard that holds the power holds the future of the kingdom in her hands.
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
A woman doing a job she was never meant to succeed at, let alone become the best in the biz. I loved the way this story crossed continents and brought this historical figure to life.
Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski
This memoir is a poignant reminder that you can’t pick your family, but you can change your circumstances. This book is full of heartbreak, survival, and love.
Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
An amazing story of a little girl whose life was turned upside down in a single night. How the choices of others helped her to survive, but her choices allowed her to thrive.
Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton
A witty, fun, and fast-paced memoir for anyone who remotely likes Harry Potter or the film biz. It was a fun opportunity to learn more about the actor behind the character.
Nick’s Best Books Read in 2022
The Desire Factor by Christy Whitman
Whitman shows us that there is no need to be ashamed of our desires. Our desires are what drive us, to be creative and to grow as human beings. The secret is to not cling to the result of the desire, but to allow things to flow through us. It’s the experiences that we achieve while we strive for one desire that spawns new desires, leading us to new growth.
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach
Dr. Tara Brach introduces us to radical acceptance, offering us a path to personal freedom. To accept what IS does not mean to give in to self-indulgence or passivity, and it does not mean to play a victim to others’ behaviors. Radical acceptance is simply releasing your own internal judgment of other people, situations, or even yourself, allowing meaningful change, action, or even inaction to flow through you.
The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy
In this power book, Murphy introduces readers to the power of the often-overlooked subconscious mind and its power to create and destroy habits, fears and phobias, and even to affect physical healing or your surrounding environment. He teaches us to harness that power to create well-being and happiness in our lives.
The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life by Simran Jeet Singh
This book is the personally-told story of Simran Jeet Singh, a Sikh Indian activist born and raised in Texas, who has learned to fall back on the Sikh teachings of interconnectedness, love, and mindful service to overcome hate, racism, physical threats, and so much more. Not only does Simran overcome, but he thrives and finds love in the connectedness of even those who would seek to harm him.
(A Handful of) Rachael’s Best Books Read in 2022
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker (available via Bridges)
If you are a person who hosts events, facilitates, teaches, or who is planning a party or big event, I would categorize this one as a must-read. Parker sets forth a purpose-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences.
Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller
Invisibilia podcaster and writer Lulu Miller explores the life of scientist David Starr Jordan, who lost everything—again and again (in very dramatic ways)—and somehow was never fazed. But her study in resilience takes an unexpected turn as she delves deeper into some of the darker parts of Jordan’s story. This page turner asks big important questions about when we should persist in the face of adversity and when we should step back and re-examine our own thinking.
What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo
What happens when a writer and podcaster turns the mic on herself? When Stephanie Foo is diagnosed with Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (a misunderstood condition that is still not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), she applies her journalistic rigor to researching C-PTSD and its treatments.
How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by KC Davis
Writer and therapist KC Davis talks to her readers with so much compassion and accommodation as she explores ideas such as seeing chores as kindnesses to your future self (rather than as a reflection of your worth), how to clean in quick bursts within your existing daily routine, and how to rest in your home even when there are dishes in the sink. This book preaches compassion and models empathy.
True Biz by Sara Novic
I loved Novic’s first book, Girl at War, and was so excited about this novel which explores Deaf culture through telling the stories of two high school students and one administrator at a boarding school for Deaf students. A story about sign language, disability and civil rights, isolation and injustice, rebellion and joy.
Great or Nothing by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, and Jessica Spotswood
A re-imagined Little Women that takes place in 1942 during World War II. While the US starts sending troops to the front, the March family of Concord, Massachusetts grieves their own enormous loss: the death of their daughter, Beth. Each March sister’s point of view is written by a separate author, three in prose and Beth’s in verse, as she watches her family struggle to come together from beyond the grave.
Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Muscogee Creek writer Cynthia Leitich Smith re-imagines Peter Pan. This book takes a thoughtful look at Neverland as a place—who populates it, how they got there, and how stories impact our perception of ourselves and others—while also packing a page-turning punch that will appeal to a wide range of ages.
Erin’s Best Books Read in 2022
Honorable mentions (alphabetical by title)
Blue-Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu
Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis
The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker
Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #3) by Tamsyn Muir
NSFW by Isabel Kaplan
Spear by Nicola Griffith
Thieves by Lucie Bryon
When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill
10. Shelterbelts by Jonathan Dyck
Jonathan Dyck paints a portrait of a Canadian Mennonite community in this gentle graphic novel. The stories of individual characters interlink and overlap when a megachurch opens nearby and begins siphoning congregants, and generational fractures form as residents reckon with LGBTQ+ rights and Indigenous land ownership. Non-genre graphic fiction is few and far between, but Dyck’s work steps comfortably into the big shoes left behind by Craig Thompson’s classic Blankets.
9. Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton
Cartoonist Beaton’s (of Hark! A Vagrant fame) penchant for humor peppers her sprawling graphic memoir, but this is not a funny story: determined to pay off her student loans after graduating in the mid-aughts, Beaton descends into the heart of darkness of Alberta’s oil sands, an isolated work environment in which men outnumber women fifty-to-one. What follows is a threnody to violence in its many forms—violence against the female body, against Indigenous land, against financial stability, and against the Earth itself. I think it’s safe to say that Ducks has already taken its place alongside works such as Bechdel’s Fun Home, Walls’ The Glass Castle, Machado’s In the Dream House, and McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died as a landmark memoir of the early 21st century.
8. Know My Name by Chanel Miller
This memoir from the woman who was assaulted by Brock Turner was so much more than I expected. Miller approaches every moment of her story from an unconventional angle; not only does she explore her trauma and the systems that reinforced it, but she highlights how the love and care she received in its aftermath—things she should have been receiving her whole life—were dependent on that trauma as a prerequisite. There is so much good in the world. Why then, she asks, have we constructed a society in which it emerges only as a response to evil?
7. Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
One of the few Circe-likes that actually manages to rival its predecessor in quality, Kaikeyi reframes the story of the villainous character from the Ramayana as that of a woman who is navigating a complicated (literal) web of courtly relationships and bettering the lives of women and men in a patriarchal society. At once both epic and intimate, Kaikeyi shines in its complex portrayals of gender, motherhood, and toxic masculinity. Madeline Miller better watch her back; I can’t wait to find out what Patel does next.
Additional thoughts here: https://www.decorahlibrary.org/reviews-essays/erin-larson-book-reviews-essays/2022/kaikeyi-by-vaishnavi-patel
6. The Poppy War + The Dragon Republic + The Burning God by R.F. Kuang
The Poppy War and its sequels—arguably the most culturally-significant series in the glorious new wave of Asian-inspired fantasy—were written by a talented amateur (Kuang, determined to make the rest of us look bad, was in her early twenties when they were published), and it shows in the clumsy prose and disjointed storytelling. But these books did a rare and welcome thing: they sunk their teeth into me and kept me up long after I should have gone to bed. These aren’t subtle or nuanced novels by any means, but Kuang herself has argued that when it comes to the themes she deals with here—war, racism, sexism, genocide, imperialism, colonization—subtlety and nuance aren’t always sufficient. Sometimes, to get a message across, you need to scream.
5. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is the book I didn’t know I needed this year: the sprawling story of an intense, intimate friendship between two young video game developers—a love story, but not a romance—that celebrates the importance of play and the importance of platonic relationships. Sam and Sadie are not always likeable, but they are complex, dynamic, and sympathetic; they feel fully human, for good and for ill, and I loved every page I spent with them. Zevin also handles subjects such as abuse, racism, sexism, and disability with grace and sensitivity. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a messy book in many ways, but it soars beyond its technical shortcomings by virtue of having so much heart.
Additional thoughts here: https://www.decorahlibrary.org/reviews-essays/erin-larson-book-reviews-essays/2022/tomorrow-and-tomorrow-and-tomorrow-by-gabrielle-zevin
4. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Sometimes you read a classic, genre-defining novel, and you think, “That was it?” Hyperion is not one of those books. Adopting the structure of The Canterbury Tales, Simmons’ 1989 science fiction barnstormer is built from the stories of six pilgrims who share their tales while traveling to the planet Hyperion, which is home to a mythic, monstrous time-travelling entity called the Shrike. Hijinks ensue. And by “hijinks,” I mean “some of the most mind-melting stuff you’ve ever read.” Join the DPL Speculative Fiction Book Group in February for a discussion of Hyperion!
3. Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin
What Gone Home is to video games, Elsewhere is to literature: it defies classification, dressing up at first as folk horror (“with elements of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’” the description said, and like a moth to the flame, I was lured in) before discarding that outfit and morphing into something else entirely. It flows from genre to genre like a river making its way from biome to biome on its way to the ocean. I don’t know how to describe it, but I do know that it is one of the best books of the year, an ineffable meditation on motherhood that I can’t stop thinking about.
Additional thoughts here: https://www.decorahlibrary.org/reviews-essays/erin-larson-book-reviews-essays/2022/elsewhere-by-alexis-schaitkin
2. The Idiot + Either/Or by Elif Batuman
The Idiot and its successor, Either/Or, are probably the two best works of literary fiction published this side of the 20th century (fight me). Set during the first and second years of protagonist Selin’s Harvard education, Batuman expertly demonstrates the ways in which we use stories to lift ourselves up and ascribe significance to the mundane, and the ways in which mundanity keeps us compassionate, keeps us grounded, keeps us human—and she delivers plenty of laughs along the way. Please, Batuman, I’m begging you: give us Selin’s junior and senior years.
Additional thoughts here: https://www.decorahlibrary.org/reviews-essays/erin-larson-book-reviews-essays/2022/either-or-by-elif-batuman
1. My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi
My Volcano is one of those rare books that reminds me why I fell in love with reading in the first place—an electrifying, invigorating literary fantasia that pinballs through time and space, My Volcano follows a phantasmagorical mosaic of characters in a world that becomes increasingly absurd, and it punctuates their stories with those of real victims of violence, which highlights the collective desensitization we have experienced in the first few decades of the 21st century.