I’ve chosen my favorite 9 novels, 5 graphic novels and art books, and 6 non-fiction books that I read during 2022. Presented in no particular order. Links lead to my reviews.
Most of the fiction I read is romance, with some fantasy and sci-fi thrown in. I’ve chosen favorites based on enjoyment level, as well as how memorable they’ve proven and some judgment about whether I thought they were doing interesting things.
Sci-fi and Fantasy
Two men are forced into a telepathic connection and plunged into a treacherous, unexplained quest. One is plagued by self-loathing, the other driven by duty and honor. One is an agent of chaos, the other a master of regulations. The balance between them, and the trust they grow, lets them survive and accomplish more than anyone expected they could. I also liked how it explores familial love and obligation.
This is in the same universe as Winter’s Orbit (which is quite different tonally but also recommended), but is a standalone with no character or storyline overlap. It’s on the border between romance and sci-fi, though I think falls more on the side of sci-fi with a strong romantic element because it doesn’t quite follow the usual strictures of a romance story.
Read this if you liked Murderbot or Saga.
This novella reimagines fairy tales as a multiverse, and follows one Sleeping Beauty jumping from her own timeline into another’s. She wishes so badly she could change her own timeline that she’s determined to give another the happily ever after they both deserve. I enjoyed the meta level of storytelling incorporated here, and exploration of the roles we play in our lives and relationships. There’s a light secondary character romance.
The intense heroine takes zero shit and bows to no man. I found this challenging to read because I kept wanting her to play nice, but ultimately she forges her own path and draws others along with her. She’s a disruptor, refusing to bow to others’ expectations or diminish herself. The magic system is both interesting and infuriating, and the way the pairings of fighters connect to their mechas is cool.
This breaks the YA mold by making the seemingly mandatory love triangle a triad 😱 And they’re all awesome. Warning: it ends on a cliffhanger.
Read this if you enjoyed Peter Darling or Hench.
As always, T. Kingfisher’s heroine is down-to-earth and steadfast. I enjoyed the variety of magic described throughout, and the weight put on the cost of different magics. Pieces from this keep coming back to me months after I read it.
I found the beginning chapter a little confusing since it pulls a scene from midway through the book, but it quickly jumps back to a clearer start.
A tense slow-burn murder mystery romance on an alien planet peopled by sasquatches. The hero, a military leader, suffers from PTSD after being forced to shoot a civilian making an assassination attempt. He adopts an emotional support pet: the heroine, kidnapped from Earth and forced into silence to protect herself after witnessing a murder. Gradually, they learn to trust, value, and listen to each other as her life is threatened and clues line up.
Both must overcome histories of loss and trauma, so there are intense emotional elements, but the tone is tempered by situational humor and a classic sci-fi B-movie monster.
Read this if you enjoyed Winter’s Orbit or Shards of Honor.
A non-magical man is unceremoniously plunged into a new realm of magic when he’s appointed to what he assumes to be a dull bureaucratic position after his predecessor disappears suddenly. He’s inducted — and impressed — by a cynical magician who’s shunned by the rest of magical society for the way he practices magic. It quickly becomes clear that he’s in danger, and the two pair up to investigate what happened to the vanished man.
This is an intriguing world and magic system, but the way magic influences the relationships between characters is even more interesting. An outsider’s appearance reframes certain aspects of magician culture. The magic here is described enticingly and horrifyingly at turns, with true danger arising sometimes unexpectedly.
I found the prologue confusing, if you don’t like it skip to the first chapter and try it from there.
Read this if you enjoyed Half a Soul or Witchmark.
A gothic romance with a happy ending. A wealthy woman who’s escaped an abusive marriage buys a haunted home to remodel. The infectiously charming, obsessively enthusiastic inventor hero who courts her was the star of this book, and his family was an entertaining addition. There’s a lot of vibes, and not too much scary, more the creeping dread of anticipation.
Read this if you love a ghost story with gothic atmosphere but hate that the lady always goes crazy or dies at the end.
by Cat Sebastian
A self-aware gay cozy murder mystery set on the English coast in the 1940s. It’s got the classic reading of the will where anyone who doesn’t show up doesn’t get their share, a mysterious disappearance of a family member that no one talks about, a cast of standoffish characters trapped together by circumstance. The couple being forced to hide their relationship adds (a sadly historically accurate) tension to the story. I did not see the ending coming.
This is a sequel best enjoyed after the first in the series, Hither, Page, which I highly recommend.
Read this if you like Agatha Christie but think it would be even better with some romance.
While this centers on a budding friendship and then romance between the two POV characters, their relationships with their friends and families are also vital to the story. At the core, it’s about the desire to be understood and loved for who you are, which means being vulnerable and allowing yourself to love. The death culture is intriguing, as is the mythology — elements seemingly drawn from Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology — and the mail system is delightful.
I chose non-fiction based on how much I learned and how helpful or thought-provoking I found the information.
Almost everyone wishes their friends could be closer, or that they had more friends. Vellos identifies the four factors that allow acquaintances to become friends and presents ideas for making and deepening friendships. Importantly, she also approaches your role in the friendship: how can you be a better friend? She guides introspection about what you appreciate in and need from your friendships, and helps you recognize ways you might be making yourself unavailable.
Recommended for: anyone who wants to make their relationships stronger or wishes they had more friends
(Pair this with Seek You, below.)
How to Keep House While Drowning
Care tasks are morally neutral. A simple statement, but what relief it gives if you can accept it.
From many different angles, Davis digs into the shame that many feel about household cleanliness and personal care.
Recommended for: anyone who struggles with the guilt of not keeping up with housekeeping and other life administration
Arousal doesn’t work the way society thinks it does, and that makes a lot of people (especially women) disappointed with their sex lives but unsure how to fix it — so they think the fault is theirs. A sex educator, Nagoski shares the difference between how men and women become aroused, and digs into two factors of arousal for women: “the gas” and “the brakes.”
Recommended for: women* and anyone who’s sexually involved with women
*The case studies include a lesbian couple but no one trans, so I’m not sure how applicable it would be for gender non-conforming folks.
One-bowl easy cakes that don’t require creaming butter? Sign me up! There’s a good range of flavors in the recipes, with some classics and some exciting new concepts. Each recipe includes suggestions for variations, making this widely adjustable to your tastes and needs, and fun for re-bakes.
Recommended for: people who like baking desserts but don’t have a stand mixer or hate creaming butter (like me)
Artist Loish digs into her personal style, exploring what makes her art hers. She walks through a handful of themes she identified in her work, presenting works that exemplify those patterns. Her guidance helps readers define their own style.
This is complementary to the two other books in the series, which are both also excellent.
Recommended for: artists and people interested in learning about the artistic process
This short photography collection showcases heirloom apples from around the world. Each is boldly paired with a solid color background. Starkly lit, photographed with love, the distinctive apples nearly glow, proudly displaying their character.
You can see many of Mullan’s apple photos on his Instagram.
Recommended for: fans of minimalist photography, bright color, and heirloom fruit
Graphic Novels and Non-fiction
Olympos is recast as a modern society, with Hades a depressed, jaded CEO stuck in emotionally unhealthy patterns and Persephone a naive, passionate new arrival bound by what others want her to be.
The striking art is very stylized, and color is associated strongly with the characters: blue for Hades and pink for Persephone.
Recommended for: fans of modern mythology retellings like Katee Roberts’ Dark Olympus series, and people who like romance between two people who no one else sees are perfect for each other
Beautifully illustrated, this tight graphic novel follows an Indigenous woman who resists the invasion and takeover of her land by European settlers at the time of first contact. Brave and unbending, she battles for freedom of all, making new allies but also suffering loss. Vivid color illustrations showcase the splendor of the jungle.
Recommended for: fans of history retold with fantastic elements
An authoritarian government heavy on enforcement is on the rise. Two pilots, friends, are drawn to opposite sides as one is shaken from ennui by an idealistic young man out to help. This carries losses and pain without feeling too heavy.
Interestingly told in part through epistolary format, with the pilot’s logbook revealing the changes in perspective.
Recommended for: people who enjoy WWII and alternate history or anyone at risk of living under authoritarianism
(Pair this with On Tyranny, below.)
We made a mistake when we painted Hitler and Nazis as inhuman; they were all too human, and the seductive lure of authoritarianism all too appealing to too many people. This breaks down key lessons for recognizing and resisting the encroachment of fascism into society and government.
Recommended for: Americans and anyone else dealing with a government teetering on the edge of authoritarianism
Graphic non-fiction is one of my favorite formats for non-fiction books nowadays. The limitation on text forces authors to distill their message to the most essential, and the graphic component encourages visual representations and metaphors that add to the meaning of the text. This book is an excellent model of the form.
Part biography, part history, part commentary, Radtke digs into the failings of toxic American individualism.
Recommended for: Americans who are lonely or wish for more connection