Best Books of 2022 So Far
YouBooks can be comforting in a moment of uncertainty and chaos. They may also provide answers to some of the toughest questions we face when dealing with crises. These books are the best of 2018, and they explore how we grieve and love through loss. Ocean Vuong, in his new collection of poetry, picks up the pieces from his childhood after his mother’s death. Jessamine Chan’s debut novel examines how far a parent will go to support her child. Margo Jefferson, in her second memoir, explores art’s relationship to humanity. Their stories, along with several others, offer a comforting reminder that we all grapple with hardship—and that there is light, even in the darkest of situations. The best books from 2022 are listed here.
The Naked Don’t Fear the Water, Matthieu Aikins
Matthieu Aikins, a Canadian journalist, went undercover in 2016 and gave up his identity and passport to go with Omar, an Afghan friend fleeing war-torn Afghanistan. He also left behind the woman he had loved. Their harrowing experience is the basis for Aikins’ book The Naked Don’t Fear the Water, which chronicles the duo’s dangerous and emotional journey on the refugee trail from Afghanistan to Europe. Aikins is a compelling and empathic storyteller who confronts the reality of war with all its many dimensions.
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The first pages of Amy Bloom’s memoir set up the book’s devastating ending: It’s January 2020 and Bloom and her husband are traveling to Switzerland, but only Bloom will return home. He plans to die in Zurich through an assisted suicide program. He has Alzheimer’s and wants to die on his terms. Bloom introduces these facts swiftly and then packs an emotional punch: The next time she’s on an airplane, she’ll be flying alone. From there, Bloom details her husband’s wrenching decision and all that led up to their trip abroad. However Love is rooted in an impossibly sad situation, Bloom’s narrative is more than just an expertly crafted narrative on death and grief. It’s a beautiful love letter from a wife to her husband, rendered in the most delicate terms, about the life they shared together.
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The School for Good Mothers, Jessamine Chan
Frida Liu (a 30-year-old single mother) struggles with her job, raising her child (18 months), and keeping up with her household after her husband has left. In Jessamine Chan’s unsettling debut novel, we begin on Frida’s worst day, when her lack of sleep has caused a lapse in judgment and she leaves her baby at home alone for two hours. Soon, Frida is sent to a government run facility with other mothers deemed “failures” by the state. This is reminiscent of The Handmaid’s TaleThis eerie page turner depicts a dystopian future that seems possible. It’s not only the gripping story of Frida’s personal struggle, but also a thought-provoking work of commentary on American motherhood.
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Candy HouseJennifer Egan
The most anticipated book of the year Candy House is Jennifer Egan’s follow up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning 2010 novel A visit from the Goon Squad. That book was hailed for its innovative structure—one chapter was written as a Powerpoint presentation—and the new narrative follows suit in its impressive construction. Egan offers fresh insight on privacy, technology and memory through fourteen interconnected stories. In them, a machine called Own your Unconscious allows people to revisit any memories from their past whenever they want—if only they make those memories accessible to everyone else. It’s a thrilling concept brought together by Egan’s astute hand, offering a powerful look at how we live in an increasingly interconnected world.
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Olga Dies Dreaming, Xochitl Gonzalez
It’s the summer of 2017 and Olga Acevedo is seemingly thriving: She’s a wedding planner for the Manhattan elite and living in a posh (and rapidly gentrifying) Brooklyn neighborhood. The protagonist of Xochitl Gonzalez’s absorbing debut novel had humble origins as the daughter of Puerto Rican activists, raised by her grandmother in another part of the borough where she taught herself everything she needed to know to be where she is today. But there is more. Olga Dies Dreaming, the reality of Olga’s self-made success is more complicated. She struggles with the loneliness that has accompanied meeting her lofty goals, and she’s haunted by the absence of the mother who abandoned her family when Olga was just 12 years old. Olga is forced to confront her family’s secrets while she falls for the love of her life as hurricane season intensifies in Puerto Rico. What ensues is a thoughtfully depicted romantic comedy full of domestic strife, executed in Gonzalez’s vibrant prose.
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Jane and Fiona, Jean Chen Ho
Jean Chen Ho’s debut collection of short stories traces two decades of friendship between Taiwanese American ladies. Ho weaves interconnected stories in different voices to show what it is that makes female friendship special. She follows the characters through their teenage years and onwards. Fiona and Jane’s bond is constantly tested, particularly as they navigate loss, breakups, and betrayal, but they always find their way back to each other. Ho describes how their friendship is held together by a deep and complex love, no matter what life throws at them.
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How to Construct a Nervous Systems, Margo Jefferson
Margo Jefferson was a Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic who published her memoir in 2015 Negroland. Jefferson’s award-winning book is a retrospective of her life. It focuses on how she grew up in Chicago as a Black privileged person. The result was an intense examination of America’s race relations. Now, the author returns to us with an incisive second memoir. It blends criticism and autobiography. How to Construct a Nervous Systems is an exciting collection of Jefferson’s thoughts and musings on the world, from her love of Ella Fitzgerald and Bud Powell to her own writing process.
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Vladimir, Julia May Jonas
Julia May Jonas’ outrageously fun and discomfiting debut Vladimir This unexpected twist is a new take on the campus novel. Her narrator is a prickly English professor at a small liberal arts college who has developed a crush on her department’s latest recruit. At the same time, an investigation is underway into her husband who chairs the department. He’s been accused of having inappropriate relationships with former students, but our protagonist could care less. Jonas weaves an eloquent and powerful narrative about power and ambition as her feelings toward the new employee enter darker territory.
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The Life Between the Tides– Adam Nicolson
This book is a fascinating account of the history and perspectives that Adam Nicolson has on marine life. He makes stirring observations about humankind, crustaceans, and the environment in which they live. This book is available in English. The Life Between the TidesNicolson focuses his attention on the tidepools he makes in a Scottish beach. This is a story Nicolson writes in lyrical but engaging prose. Blending scientific research, philosophy, and moving commentary on what it means to live, Nicolson’s book defies genre categorization as the author, with the help of stunning illustrations, strives to tackle the biggest questions about humanity through investigating a sliver of the sea’s inhabitants.
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Young Mungo, Douglas Stuart
Douglas Stuart’s latest novel shares many similarities with the Booker Prize-winning first. Shuggie Bain. Both stories depict young men who live with their mother in Glasglow (working-class Glasglow) in the 20th century. Here, we focus on Mungo’s love story with James and the dangers surrounding their relationship. It’s a piercing examination of the violence inflicted upon queer people and a gripping portrayal of the lengths to which one will go to fight for love.
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Jacob’s Books Olga Tokarczuk
It’s been such a treat to read through Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk’s catalog as her books are being translated from Polish and released in English. The latest, translated by Jennifer Croft, is perhaps the author’s most ambitious. Jacob’s Books The sprawling tale of a self-proclaimed Messiah, who visits the Ottoman Empires and Hapsburg in 18th century is sprawling. At more than 900 pages, the novel is a gigantic undertaking, but Tokarczuk fills the chapters with delectable prose to paint a portrait of this complicated man—based on a real-life figure—through the perspectives of the people in his life. Tokarczuk presents a fascinating psychological portrait of a mysterious leader, which masterfully flits between tragedy and humor.
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Time is a motherOcean Vuong
Ocean Vuong’s second poetry collection finds the acclaimed writer wrestling with grief after he lost his mother to breast cancer in 2019. As his novel On Earth We’re Briefly GorgeousThe collection, which is an intimate exploration of loss and memory, contains 28 poems. Vuong presents his unique voice through 28 poems.
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