This ‘lil blog post brings together stellar recommendations from Team Booksweet, representing their favorite reads of 2022. Who is Team Booksweet?
We’ve also got a crew of wonderful volunteer ARC Readers (ARC = Advance Reader Copy), who help us pick through hundreds of books each month to find gems that we know our readers will love. Our ARC readers are: Heather, Jess, Latitude, Lynzie, Ryan, and Surabhi.
Each of these individuals help make Booksweet a really special place, filled with reads that feel personal and hand-picked (because they are!).
We hope you enjoy Team Booksweet’s list of favorite reads of 2022. We sure did!
Aricka is a member of Team Booksweet and an undergraduate student at U-M. Check out Aricka’s recent blog post on BookTok picks for more great recs!
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
I enjoyed the details and development of the characters and I was never bored while reading the book. The writing was beautiful and I loved how O’Farrell used the little details about her protagonist Lucrezia to create an entire flowing story.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I love books where the narrator is unreliable and manipulative and this book delivers.
Jess has 11 2022 reads that she just couldn’t stop thinking about, organized by genre. Get more great recs from Jess @jessicaletaw on Instagram!
Jess’ Memoir Picks //
Looking at the memoirs I sought out last year, it seems I was reaching for stories from bold women with complicated lives and clear voices. Hannah Gadsby’s Ten Steps to Nanette was as thoughtful and deliberate as her show of the same name; and her reading of her audiobook was as funny, and as painful, as you’d think. Gadsby has that rare skill of being able to weave her own story into the threads of larger histories, making her unique story also uniquely intimate. It was 2022 before I learned (and maybe you’ll be learning it now for the first time, too) that statistically the highest rates of partner violence by gender and sexuality are in women’s same-sex relationships. I wish I’d known that a long time ago; it would have helped me make sense of my own experiences a lot sooner.
Machado reaches that awareness much earlier than I did in part by letting her retelling of her story through her format-challenging memoir In the Dream House be as fractured as the experiences themselves were. This difficult read is not for everyone; it almost wasn’t for me, either, but I found myself feeling a little more whole on the other side of it.
I’m almost afraid to talk about Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Thick and Other Essays, because I simply cannot do justice to prose this devastating, funny and piercing. I guess I’ll start by saying that the “In the Name of Beauty” essay changed how I think about myself; and end by saying that if you have been waiting to hear a Black woman sociologist with specialties in information science and cultural criticism opine on Americana and blackness, Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus, and the inexorability of the academy and the family, then reader, you have found your book.
Jess’ Science Fiction Picks //
In The Echo Wife, Sarah Gailey gives me everything I want out of science fiction: skillful elision of what exists now and what could; deeply challenging moral quandaries that the book refuses to make comfortable or tidy; complicated women; and a masterful sense of pacing that keeps tension building and falling back and building again right up to the last page. I was exhausted by the end of it and couldn’t stop thinking about the ethical and identity questions it provoked for weeks afterwards. And then I read another story which is all of the above! and the women are…space pirates! and the science being fictionalized is…accounting somehow!
Bone Silence is the third in Alastair Reynolds’ Revenger trilogy. All three books are worth the reader’s time, in my opinion; but this last one holds storylines so epic while also so personal, in a universe that is very nearly (but not quite) unrecognizable, that you stay in a state of enjoyable uncertainty all the way to the last word.
Jess’ Nonfiction Picks //
Nonfiction is my biblio bread and butter. I love nothing more than listening to people who know what they’re talking about, talking about that thing. This year, a common theme I see in the books that continued to resonate with me long after I finished them are the ones that show by example how to tell a clear story about a complicated part of the human experience. Jenny Schuetz’s Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems is an accessible, practical how-to on housing policy. One of the densest (and most dysfunctional) political problems in our country, Schuetz deftly breaks down the systems at play, how they contribute to the mess we’re in now, and then offers clear policy approaches for how to make things better no matter where you live. It’s a clear blueprint for change around the issue I care about the most, and I’ve recommended it to everyone I know.
Dr. Rebecca Hall’s WAKE: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts and Clint Smith’s How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America both use unconventional formats (WAKE as a comic, Word as a series of personal-historical reflections) to illuminate parts of our history that up to now have been very hard to learn about. Comic artist Hugo Martinez’s drawings tell the story just as vividly as Hall’s words do; and in his audiobook, Clint’s voice carries the heaviness, lightness, humor, and intensity of the histories he’s sharing. Both books are arresting, unforgettable, energizing, and empowering.
In understanding what it means to be human and more human with other humans, I couldn’t have found better manuals than Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart and Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ An Abolitionist’s Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World. Both use plain language and vivid stories to illuminate universal truths; Brown in the form of defining emotions, Khan-Cullors in the form of guiding readers to understand how to be in right relationship with one’s self, one’s people, and one’s community in order to be able to effect and sustain change. Both books left me different, and better, after reading.
Jess’ Poetry Picks //
I initially dipped into Camonghne Felix’s Build Yourself a Boat because I thought it was so cool that the director of strategic communications on Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign had written a book on poetry. What I quickly realized is that the same things that must have made her good at that job – clarity of thought, intensity of feeling, and inextricable connections between her personal story, the stories of others, and the world around her – are all the same characteristics that make her poetry so vivid and compelling. I originally got this as an audio book (which I recommend), and loved it so much I bought a bunch more printed copies (which I also recommend) as holiday gifts for activist and wonky friends.
Lat is an EMU student, a future librarian, and a Booksweet ARC Team reader. They couldn’t resist sharing their top three recs in categories: adult fiction, YA, and middlegrade. Get more great recs on their bog and follow them on Instagram @geographconcept.
Lat’s Adult Picks //
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D Li
The Thing About Me is that I love art heists and also, girls. Portrait of a Thief draws you in, promising to be about art heists and as you are reading it, you start to realize that it’s also about girls. It’s compelling litfic about transitioning into an adult, the American Dream, and about the effects of colonialism we still see in art today. One of my top five reads of the year.
Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell
I started reading this at 10am one day and then stayed up until 4am reading it until I Literally Passed Out, and then the first thing I did when I woke up was keep reading it. It’s a crunchy sci-fi novel with an incredible romance inside; romance readers will find it very crunchy and sci-fi readers will find it very romantic. It made me yell. It made me cry. If you loved Winter’s Orbit by Maxwell but wished it was more angsty, or if you want all the drama of The Bloodright Trilogy condensed into one book, Ocean’s Echo is for you.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel
This is a story that is a little about time travelers and a lot about choices we make and how they reverberate into the world around us. Which is also about time traveling, if you think about it. Which Sea of Tranquility does in fact proceed to do. It’s my favorite “timey-wimey” book since To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. I actually read this book for college in 2022, and it was my favorite assigned reading — it’s really good to read like half of it and then compare your thoughts and predictions with a friend. Book club, anyone?
Lat’s YA Picks //
Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White
Whenever I talk about this book in casual conversation, I say “It’s about a trans boy escaping the eco-fascist cult that raised him,” which is an oversimplification and also acceptable for polite company. It’s about a trans boy who has been turned into a bioweapon against his will in an apocalyptic future and he escapes and he gets to be himself and his love interest is autistic and nonverbal. It’s about a bad end where the anti-trans bills that we’re seeing today succeed and queer people win despite everything. This book was my #1 book of the year, my #2 book of all time. It’s so, so, so important to me, and for this time. Pick it up for a cathartic read in 2023.
NOTE FROM BOOKSWEET: Lat will be leading a FREE book club discussion on Hell Followed with Us on Friday, March 17, 2023. Save the date for now — more coming very soon!
Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore
Are you: a person who loved THE GREAT GATSBY? Are you: a person who was only interested in THE GREAT GATSBY when people were like “Nick and Gatsby were homoerotic together”? Both of you will like this book, which is about Nick and Gatsby kissing and also they are both trans men. What an incredible entry into the official Gatsby canon now that it’s in the public domain. I don’t even like historical fiction, but hot damn I sure did like this.
Cake Eater by Allyson Dahlin
This is a story set in 3070 about the French Revolution starring Marie Antoinette and it reads like Feed but way more interesting and up to date. This book honestly made me so mad the entire time and also I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks. I need everyone to read it.
Lat’s Middle Grade Picks //
Hazel Hill Is Gonna Win This One by Maggie Horne
Sixth grade was a disaster for Hazel Hill, but seventh grade is gonna be her year: she’s going to win the debate competition. Then Hazel discovers that her nemesis (winner of last year’s debate competition) is being harassed by a popular boy, and they need to team up to stop him. Empowering, full of heart, and very funny.
Ellen Outside the Lines by AJ Sass
Ellen is autistic, thirteen, Jewish, and only gets crushes on girls, and absolutely sure of herself. But seventh grade is going to throw a wrench into all of those things, especially when her school takes a trip to Barcelona and thinks don’t go exactly according to her plan. A nonbinary new classmate, a scavenger-hunt team project, and new friends might help her embrace that life doesn’t always follow her itinerary.
Freestyle by Gale Galligan
This is about Cory Tan, local b-boy who is maybe failing out of middle school, but it is also about Sunna Ahmed, local Weird Girl hired to tutor Cory through Not Failing out of middle school, but most interestingly, it’s about the power of yo-yo, the unbelievable of growing up, and how sometimes parents just don’t understand you and that’s okay. You’ll find friends who will.
Follow Lynzie @laustinbooks for more great recs!
Shady Hollow by Juneau Black
This three book series is about a reporter, fox, solving mysteries in Shady Hollow. With residents like a panda and her best friend the bookstore owner, a raven. It’s like a warm hug in a book. Except, you know the whole murder thing.
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
It’s like the Golden Girls if they were assassins. It’s a campy fun ride.
Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen
Pulpy crime noir, but LGBTQ with found family and soap making.
Follow Ryan @thefoldedcorners for more great recs!
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
This is a beautiful story about the deepest kind of love – friendship. While these characters navigate the world of video game creation, they are imperfectly navigating life’s obstacles with and against each other. But, you root for them every step of the way.
Don’t Cry for Me by Daniel Black This story broke my heart and honestly made me blubber like a baby by the end. Jacob, a Black father on his deathbed, writes a letter to his gay son. What unfolds is a story of a lifetime — it takes the reader through Jacob’s life, family traumas that never healed, and what led him to ultimately not being the perfect father to him.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus Believe the hype behind Lessons in Chemistry — it is moving and GREAT! Elizabeth Zott is a chemist who is forced out of a job because she is simply a woman. However, when she becomes a cooking show host, she uses this opportunity to teach women across America about science, food, and opportunities they never thought possible.
Follow Surabhi @surabhi.reading on Instagram for more great recs!
How to Read Now by Elaine Castillo
Castillo’s essays about reading responsibly are polemic, thoughtful, and absolutely necessary. With incisive wit and explorations of classic, obscure, and “problematic” texts, they outline the stakes of reading for making a better world.
Return Flight by Jennifer Huang
Recent U-M MFA graduate (and my friend!) Jennifer Huang’s debut is stunningly beautiful, thinking through family relationships and the environment with precisely rendered details of Taiwanese/American life.
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
This book is a crime thriller, an ethnobotany study, an unconventional romance, and a grief chronicle, somehow all immaculately executed and deeply embedded in the Native communities of Sault Ste. Marie. It’s a heavy and disturbing read, but never devolves into trauma porn, because Boulley processes everything fully. And bonus: it was recommended to me by Jennifer Huang!
Our shop manager Zoe has been a bookseller for a decade and has been with us at Booksweet since the beginning. As many of our readers know, she’s always eager to provide a wealth of great recs, including these great 2022 reads:
- Everything is Temporary: Illustrated Contemplations on How Death Shapes Our Lives by Iris Gottlieb
- Animal Joy: A Book of Laughter and Resuscitation by Nuar Alsadir
- Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro
- The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
- The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable by Oliver Jeffers
Still need more recs? The Booksweet Family’s Faves of 2022 has you covered. Happy reading in 2023!