This post is supposed to be the top ten books I read this year but, look, it was a quality reading year for me. I was so lucky this year! Every other book I picked up was wonderful. To write this list, I took out my little notebook and jotted down every single book I gave five Goodreads stars to this year and there were twenty-one of them. To get it down to ten would’ve hurt my soul but twelve is close enough. Right?? Right.
Full disclosure: I reread four Anne Rice books this year that will not appear below because I’m only listing books I’d never read before but I fully endorse reading any and all of her books, especially the Vampire Chronicles and the Mayfair Witches series. I’ve read them all multiple times and they always delight me.
I’d also like to mention that I’m doing book reviews in my Instagram stories now and they’ll live forever on my highlights so if you’re ever stuck over what to read, I got you.
(If you need more book recommendations, check out my past posts from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 or -omg- 2012. Wow, I’ve been doing this for a decade! Best not to think about that too hard!)
Okay, let’s go! Here’s my dirty dozen:
- Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin: Out of all the novels I devoured this year, I think this was my favorite. Maybe because the characters are exactly my age, maybe because I adore coming-of-age novels, or maybe because it’s partly set in Los Angeles. Whatever the reason, I absolutely loved this charming, original book. On the surface it’s about two young gamers who become creators and co-owners in a video game company but it’s really about love, friendship, and ambition. You’re gonna want to read this one.
- Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: Two different friends gifted me this wonderful book (thanks, two different friends!) and I really did love it twice as much as most music memoirs. I absolutely lost myself in the intimate portrait of dealing with loss, a true love of food, and the strength we don’t know we have. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Crying in H Mart to anyone, even if they’d never heard of Japanese Breakfast. But, bestie? If you haven’t heard of Japanese Breakfast, you’re really gonna need to get on that.
- Normal People by Sally Rooney: My friend and I devoured all the Sally Rooney novels then had an epic conversation about them over beers and Winnie snuggles. Bliss! I like all of her books but this one was hands down my favorite. Rooney is such an enigma to me. She writes unlikeable characters, yes, but there’s something so infinitely compelling about her storytelling and in Normal People she is, in my opinion, at the height of her power. I know it’s a polarizing novel but I found it very relatable on multiple layers. It destroyed me and I LOVED IT, okay??
- Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel: Trauma and loss are the themes of this beautiful book. I’ve read all of her novels (three of them this year!) and -aside from Station Eleven, which lives rent-free in my heart forever- this is my favorite. The events and characters don’t feel of this world, it feels like you stepped into another universe, one that’s darker and even more unmoored than our own but vaguely resembles this one. Moody as hell which is so my shit but you might love it too!
- We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby: This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I didn’t want it to end! Somewhere between the essay about how much she hates her cat and the essay on panic attacks, I feel in love with Samantha Irby. I can’t wait to read the rest of her work.
- In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: Cried and gasped my way through this one. Carmen Maria Machado captures the horrifying layers of an abusive relationship and does it in such a deep, relatable way that it will leave you stunned and raw. Make sure you’re ready for this before you read it but, also, make sure you read it.
- The Candy House by Jennifer Egan: I’m in the camp of ‘You should read A Visit from the Goon Squad before you read this’ but it for sure stands alone. I absolutely love anything Jennifer Egan writes but this is my favorite vibe for her. It’s a plethora of interwoven characters and story lines but it’s ultimately about technology – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Doesn’t exactly make you feel great about being on social media but you will feel great about reading this book.
- Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches by Kate Scelsa: A contemporary magical lesbian romance between two witches, this book is charming and cute from the first page. The story is sweet, the coven is realistic, and there’s a theme of healing throughout that I loved. I read it at a time when I was very down and it for sure lifted my spirits. Would be a fantastic gift for a teen or an adult who still believes that life can be magic.
- Upgrade by Blake Crouch: Someone duplicate Blake Crouch so we can get two novels from him a year. His books are consistently ‘drop everything and read the entire thing TODAY’ compelling and they’re always genius. This one is a sci-fi thriller you’ll enjoy even if you don’t normally partake of sci-fi thrillers. It’s about genetic engineering and it is a RIDE. Simply put, it’s a fun, fast-paced novel you can buy for yourself, give to your dad/sister/coworker and then have a very interesting conversation about it afterwards. There’s also a climate change angle, which I, of course, loved.
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: I bought this book when it came out in 2018 and it patiently sat there waiting for me to read it for four years. I can’t believe it took me this long to pick it up; it is absolutely stunning and fully lives up to the hype! Yes, it’s sad, of course it’s sad, but there are so many bright spots in it too. The characters are lovely and show such depth you’ll feel like they’re family by the end of the book. Highly recommend!
- Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford: An intense, sometimes shocking memoir that gave me chills more than once. Ashley C. Ford really goes there with perspective and grace and ends up with an accurate portrait of circumstances lots of people understand, like what it was like to be a child in the 80s, and circumstances few people understand, like what it’s like to have a parent in jail for something unforgivable. It’s very, very good.
- Bewilderment by Richard Powers: This was a Christmas gift from 2021 so I read it very early this year and it’s still bouncing around my brain. There’s space, science, environmentalism, neurofeedback, and a precocious child, plus it’s absolutely shattering. I can see why my friend knew I’d love it. It’s hard to pinpoint genre with this book but I think if you tend to go for either literary books or science fiction, you’ll dig it. Moody and beautiful with a dash of hopelessness.
A few Honorable Mentions I read this year that also rock:
Another moody and perfect novel if you loved Last Night in Montreal: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel:
And one more absolute romp of an LGBTQ YA romance: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
And, that’s it for me! Hope the New Year brings you lots of love and lots of books. Happy reading!