Top Reads, January through June 2022

For the past few years, I’ve done year-end lists of my favorite reads. But, as my reading life has exploded over the past couple years, a single year-end list has been increasingly difficult to manage. So I thought this year, I’d try something different, and do semi-annual lists, followed by a ranked (!) Top 10 list to wrap things up.

So, without further ado, rigmarole, or fuss, here are, in alphabetical order, the favorite books I read in the first half of 2022:

Book Lovers (Emily Henry, 2022)

For each of the past three years now Emily Henry has come out with an impossibly popular Summer romance. For me, at least, she is now three for three with her latest, Book Lovers, following Beach Read (2020) and People You Meet on Vacation (2021). This story follows a woman from New York City whose love life has become the butt-end of a rom-com trope: All of her boyfriends leave her after falling for someone in a charming small town. But things start to change when her sister insists they have their own small town adventure and her big city rival happens to be there too. This was cute, charming, witty, and just worked. (Publishing, Romance, Family, Small Towns)

Don’t Cry for Me (Daniel Black, 2022)

According to this book’s preface, it was intended to be a fictional account of what the author wished his dad had been able to write to him before his death. It is a beautiful, deeply empathetic epistolary novel about a hard life, the Great Migration, Black fatherhood, love, social change, and the things that matter most. I loved this book and read it in a single afternoon. (LGBTQ2S+, Black Fatherhood, Historical, The Great Migration, Social Change)

Good Boy (Serena Bowen and Elle Kennedy, 2016)

This is a pretty straightforward male-female romantic comedy spun off from the terrific short series of Him and Us (together with the short story Epic), which told the story of two hockey players (Ryan and Jamie) who fall in love and deal with the consequences of that for their careers. Good Boy is the story first hinted at in Us, between Ryan’s teammate and neighbour Blake and Jamie’s sister Jess. It was absolutely wonderful to spend time with these sharp, fun, and charming characters again. Blake is a perfect ‘cinnamon roll’ of a romantic hero, and Jess is a strong and driven heroine. Both series set in this world are a delight, but this one stands out from the pack. It’s also a surprisingly good Toronto book (and I say this as someone who has lived in Toronto for the past eight and a half years) (Romance, Hockey, Family, Friends, Dogs, Toronto)

Hench (Natalie Zina Walschots, 2020)

I adored this story about a low-level staffer to a supervillain, who decides to take matters into her own hands following a traumatic encounter with a so-called superhero. To me, this is a picture-perfect story deconstructing superhero mythology, and a righteously angry tale for anyone who feels they have to sell their soul to make a way in today’s world. (Superheroes, Deconstruction, Demythologization, Capitalism, Gig Economy)

Home (Marilynne Robinson, 2008)

This was sitting on my shelf for a long time and I’m so glad I finally got around to picking it up. This follows the stories of Jack, the newly returned to town, estranged son of a midwestern pastor, and Glory, his sister who moved home to care for their father. The events of this story occur simultaneously to those of the main plot of Gilead, for which Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. As wonderful as Gilead is, to me this felt like an even richer story, filled with even more depth and grace. (Mid-Century America, Small Towns, the Midwest, Quiet Stories, Grace, Forgiveness, Race and Racism)

Joyland (Stephen King, 2013)

Not being a fan of the horror genre, I haven’t read a lot of Stephen King, but this was a wonderful surprise for me. Nursing a broken heart, a young man takes a Summer job at an amusement park, where his life is changed by encounters with two children and an urban legend about a murder committed on the park’s ‘Horror House’ ride. The book is less scary than it is eerie, and is a great Summer read. (Atmospheric, 1970s, Summer, Amusement Parks, Murder)

Mary Jane (Jessica Anya Blau, 2022)

This is a wonderful coming of age story set in the upper middle class of Baltimore in the mid-1970s. It is both delightfully specific in its setting and universal in its themes of learning how to differentiate one’s own values from one’s parents’ ideas about the world. The protagonist, Mary Jane, gets a summer job nannying for a family that does not resemble her own WASPy background at all, and in the process learns that the world is a more complicated place than her parents want her to believe. (1970s, Summer, Found Family, Coming of Age, Social Change)

Marrying the Ketchups (Jennifer Close, 2022)

This is a really wonderful book about family and the ties that bind. Over the course of three weeks in late 2016, three things happen to shake one surburban Chicago family: the death of the family patriarch, the Cubs winning the World Series, and the election of Donald Trump. Each of these events trickles down into the lives of the three cousins at the heart of this novel, who all find themselves back at the old family restaurant figuring out what comes next. The protagonists are far from perfect, but are all the more human for it. This book captures the anxieties and tensions of our present moment so well, with heart and a lot of humour. (Contemporary, Families, 2020s, Chicago, Political Polarization)

Oh, William! (Elizabeth Strout, 2021)

This Booker Prize long-listed title is a sequel to Strout’s wonderful 2016 book My Name is Lucy Barton. (While familiarity with the first book provides added depth to the reading experience, it is not required, as Strout fills in the necessary information.) Shortly after the death of her second husband, Lucy’s ex-husband William, himself reeling from a series of shocks, enlists her to accompany him on a road trip to Maine to investigate a family secret. This is a gentle story that offers a profound reflection on family, love, and how we can never really get rid of the people with whom have shared our lives. (Family, Love, Maine, Grief and Loss, Divorce)

Pony (R.C Palacio, 2021)

One of the things I love most about the reading life is when a book that is totally outside my wheelhouse becomes a favorite, and that’s exactly what happened with Pony, a middle grade Western with a supernatural edge. Twelve-year-old Silas Bird, accompanied by his pony ‘Pony’ and his ghost friend Mittenwool, goes on an adventure to try to save his father after his dad is taken away at gunpoint by a gang of counterfeiters. (Middle Grade, Adventure, Western)

The River of Silver (S.A. Chakraborty, 2022)

This is a wonderful book (available on audiobook only until October 2022) of short stories supplementing the magnificent Daevabad trilogy (The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold — all of which made my ‘best of’ lists in the years they were published). I loved the opportunity to spend more time in this world, to see some backstory that had only been hinted at, and most of all the additional time spent fleshing out Muntadhir and Jamshid’s relationship. (Djinn, Fantasy, Magical Beasts, Palace Intrigue, LGBTQ2S+)

The Thursday Murder Club (Richard Osman, 2020)

This first installment of a new mystery series proves that no one does ‘cozy mysteries’ like the British. Here we are introduced to a group of seniors in a retirement village who are keen on using their wealth of knowledge and diverse life experiences to see justice done — letter of the law be damned. The second in the series (The Man Who Died Twice) is also out and is just as delightful. (Retirement, Aging, Death and Dying, Seniors Having Adventures, Cozy Mystery, Kent)

A Town Called Solace (Mary Lawson, 2021)

Mary Lawson excels at telling small stories with big personal stakes in isolated Canadian towns, and A Town Called Solace is no exception to this, and does it all exceptionally well. It is told from three perspectives: A woman on her deathbed writing to her dead husband, who reflects on her beautiful but ultimately problematic relationship with a neighbour’s boy; that old neighbour boy now grown up, who inherits the woman’s house when she dies; and her (and not his) young neighbour who is looking after her cat while also concerned about the disappearance of her older sister. The pain here is real, but so is the empathy and compassion. (Small Towns, Canadian Literature, Grief and Loss)

6 responses to “Top Reads, January through June 2022”

  1. […] year I decided to break up my best-of-the-year post into two; I posted my favorite reads of the first half the year back in July. And today, I’ll do the second half of the year. Then, to spread the love even more, I’ll do […]


  2. […] in my reading life and not even doubling my ‘best of’ posts to reflect my favorite reads of the first and second halves of the year seemed ‘enough’ to truly honour all the wonderful books […]


  3. […] Top Reads, January – June 2022 […]


  4. […] Top Reads, January – June 2022 […]


  5. […] I read widely and enjoy a lot of different types of book. Of the twenty-eight books that made my two ‘best reads’ lists for 2022, for example, there were an equal number of ‘big city’ books […]


  6. […] Me, Daniel Black (2022): This was my top read of 2022 so I’ve written about it a couple of times before, but I still don’t hear much about it, so I’m going to highlight it again. It’s written as a […]


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