Top Reads, July through December 2022

This 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 two posts of my ‘bookish superlatives’ for the year before doing an actual, ranked, top ten list for the first time.

So, here are, in alphabetical order, the favorite books I read in the second half of 2022:

Calling for a Blanket Dance, Oscar Hokeah (2022)

This novel looks at the difficult life of one traumatized and troubled man from the perspectives of his Mexican, Kiowa, and Cherokee family members across the generations. It is not an easy journey, but it’s a powerful look at how family and culture can pull us through the worst life can throw at us. There is a lot of suffering here, but there is also a lot of joy and hope.

Dead-End Memories, Banana Yoshimoto (2003, translated into English in 2022)

If you aren’t familiar with the work of Banana Yoshimoto, I strongly encourage you to change that. Over her long and illustrious career, she has developed a wonderful, spare but delectable style. It’s very much in line with what we’ve come to expect from Japanese literature, but it’s a unique manifestation of those traits, and one that is particularly well-suited to the shorter fiction — short stories and novellas — in which Yoshimoto thrives. This volume of short stories is united around the themes of death, loss, and betrayal, but somehow manages to be supremely hopeful.

First Time for Everything, Henry Fry (2022)

This is a profound and empathetic, but also at times very satirical, examination of contemporary queer and urban life. When we meet our hero, Danny, he’s sleepwalking through life, but when in short order he experiences shocks in his relationship, his living situation, and his work, he begins to experience panic attacks and is forced to wake up and finally figure out what it is he really wants out of life — not what his parents want, not what his urbane straight friends or the gay subculture tell him he should want, but what he wants. I loved this book for its kindhearted critique of contemporary life, its humour, and its charming — if very imperfect — lead.

Hunting by Stars, Cherie Dimaline (2021)

In this powerful sequel to 2017’s dystopian hit, The Marrow Thieves, our hero Frenchie’s loyalties are tested when he’s captured by the authorities and the needs of his found and biological families come into conflict in ways he could never have imagined. Set in a post-apocalyptic Canada where Indigenous peoples are hunted down for their life-saving bone marrow, this is a wonderful, if harrowing, exploration of the meaning of family and lengths we’ll go to to save the people we love.

Husband Material, Alexis Hall (2022)

Set two years after the events of Boyfriend Material (2020), this sequel follows Lucien and Oliver as they continue to navigate their relationship and insecurities, while juggling the changing dynamics and relationship statuses of their friend group. While the first book was primarily about Lucien’s ‘swing up’ arc, we find him here in a much healthier and mature place — a fact that never ceases to surprise him. For his part, Oliver is still in the process of questioning the assumptions of his ‘polite’ upbringing, but remains unsure of where exactly he’ll settle about it all. All of this gives the important conversations in the book an air of credibility; they are in fact reminiscent of the real conversations I have with my friends about queer culture, ‘the community’, heteronormativity, and ‘rainbow capitalism.’ Add in Lucien’s hilarious and newly self-aware narrative voice, and you’ve got a truly fantastic book.

The Incandescent Threads, Richard Zimler (2022)

This novel tells the story of two cousins, their once-large family’s sole survivors of the Holocaust. Through the eyes of their loved ones, we witness the very different lives they build for themselves ‘after’ what can never be truly left behind. One lives as a free spirit in Montreal, while the other, a tailor in New York City, becomes increasingly drawn into the family’s Kabbalist heritage, but each secretly wonders if the other has found the true path of holiness and joy. I can’t say enough about this book.

The Kaiju Preservation Society, John Scalzi (2022)

The novel begins with its hero Jamie losing his marketing job and resorting to doing food deliveries in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. But his life takes a turn when he’s recruited to work for a mysterious non-profit dedicated to learning about and protecting a species of giant, dragon-like creatures on a parallel Earth. There is adventure, danger, and lots of banter — just a super fun story, well told.

The King of Infinite Space, Lyndsay Faye (2021)

This fascinating Hamlet retelling, set in the contemporary New York arts scene, takes us into the brilliant but unstable mind of its protagonist as he struggles to come to terms with his father’s death — and his mother’s quick marriage to his uncle — the latest in a long line of losses in his relationships. There’s philosophy and physics here, humour and Victorian flower language, plus visits from a few characters from elsewhere in the Shakespearean canon. It’s a strange but wonderful read with some of the most beautiful writing I’ve encountered.

Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese (2014)

In this wonderful novel, a sixteen year-old boy is summoned to the side of his dying father — a man he’s only known enough to be disappointed by. They undertake a journey so his father can be buried in accordance with their people’s customs, and over the course of the trip, his father tells him the story of his life. This is hard but heartfelt, and I really loved it.

My Government Means to Kill Me, Rasheed Newson (2022)

The scion of an upper class Indianapolis Black family arrives to start a new life in New York City in the early 1980s, just in time to see the hollowing out of Black neighbourhoods due to gentrification and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. This is an angry, powerful, novel.

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, Becky Chambers (2022)

I loved the first book in this solarpunk duology, 2021’s A Psalm for the Wild-Built, to the extent that the fact that it wasn’t on my best of 2021 list is shocking to me, and seems like an legitimate accident rather than reflective of a change of heart since then. It was nothing short of magical, and its sequel this year was just as great. Set on a post-dystopian moon where people have set aside destructive technologies and learned to live well with nature, these books follow a simple tea monk — who travels from town to town offering tea and a listening ear — who encounters an emissary from the community of robots, who long ago gained sentience, broke from their human overlords, and retreated into the wilderness. These are simultaneously philosophical and joyous, quiet and insightful, and realistic and hopeful books. I don’t have words for how good they are.

Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel (2022)

This was a late December read and I’m so glad I was able to sneak it in. This is the pandemic book I didn’t know I wanted or needed. It follows the lives of characters across time and space, all of whom are touched by pandemics and a strange sensory experience of being in two places at once. It’s at once a great character study, a reflection on pandemics and our human responses to them, and a great, time-bending, science fiction story. I loved it!

Small Angels, Lauren Owen (2022)

The last book of the year to make the cut is this wonderful, eerie gothic novel about a woods, long-thought haunted but recently quiet, near a small English town that comes back to life in the lead up to a wedding. This is so good — I cannot recommend it more highly.

We Are the Light, Matthew Quick (2022)

In this epistolary novel, a man writes letters to his retired Jungian analyst, unable to cope with the loss of both this therapeutic relationship and the death of his wife in a mass shooting. What set this book apart for me was the brilliant mixture of genuine insight and utter delusion of the protagonist. It is just so human. But it is also a book about connection, hope, transformation, and all of the ways — healthy and non — that we begin to make sense of and move on from tragedy.


4 responses to “Top Reads, July through December 2022”

  1. […] 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 I’ve read this […]


  2. […] Top Reads, July – December 2022 […]


  3. […] Top Reads, July – December 2022 […]


  4. […] 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 and ‘small […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: