2022 Reading Round-Up: Best Picks!


Happy New Year! This year marked my first almost full year of blogging, as well as a year of developing my Instagram page @trishtalksbooks. I'm discovering a wonderful community of avid readers and lovers of all bookish things on "Bookstagram." According my my Goodreads account, I read 139 books in 2022, but there's also a handful of advanced reader copies that I've read and not posted about, so I'd probably add about 5 to that list...so over 140 anyway. 

I'm reading more intentionally and picking my books with more care, so I've had more hits than misses with the books I've chosen. I've been mindful while reading, knowing that I plan to write a review when I'm done. I mine the prose for the good, and usually find something worthwhile that I can take away from a book. I also pick out the stinkers a bit more quickly, and I've honed my ability to DNF ("did not finish") a book. I've given up the mentality of needing to finish a book for finishing's sake, and allowed myself to realize that not all books need to be read by me. They'll likely land well with someone else, but there are too many super good books and too little time to be reading stuff I don't like. 

So at the end of this year, I had mild sense of lassitude for picking my best books of the year. Most books held something of value, and I genuinely didn't want to exclude so many wonderful reads. Is it even fair, I thought, to single some books out in a generally good playing field? 

But then I started looking over my Goodreads account, and got that old familiar feeling. It was clear, as I scanned, which books were merely ok...or quite good...or truly excellent. The books that made my best picks are ones that I still think about, that will stick with me. Links to my full reviews are provided if applicable. 

This book won the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022. I loved the characters in this book. Besides the beautifully drawn humans, The Book is a character too: wise and philosophical. Everything is a character here: scissors want to stab, bats want to hit, and boots are made for walking. The tone is exuberant! Even when sad things were happening, even when there was trauma on the page, one felt safe. I think it's because the message is to wake up to the fact that we are all connected, not isolated beings suffering on our own. Everyone and everything here, even the most minor characters, are held by Ozeki, and written by the Book, with great kindness.

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

This was my long overdue introduction to Canadian Noble Prize for Literature novelist Monro. Her prose is so rich that I felt unable to even approach a “review” of this. My words cannot do her words justice. When I began reading it, the sentences begged to be read aloud; I wanted to feel the words on my tongue. I read it slowly, savouring the phrases, paragraphs and ideas. Each long chapter could serve as a short story on its own, but together suggest a narrative of a girl’s growth from childhood to womanhood; men are the peripheral characters here, and women’s lives are centre. This is nostalgia with a harsh edge. The sense of a different time (rural Ontario in the 1940s and 50s) is palpable. The tone feels sepia-tinged but the themes are surprisingly relevant: anti-intellectualism, sexual politics, growing up different than others, and grappling with faith and belief. Indeed, the chapter Age of Faith was probably my favourite.

Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica 

I spent the first half of the book wondering if I should even be reading it, and the second half realising how brilliant it is. I can’t recommend this to everyone. It is difficult, awful, sad, horrific *and* thoughtful, impactful, and rife with timely messages. A virus has rendered all animals inedible, and the Transition has occurred to the legalised consumption of human meat. Like the literary equivalent of a car wreck, I wanted to look away, but couldn’t.

Starling by Kirsten Cram

Eerie and beautiful. When I closed this novel after reading the last page, I thought, “This is an awesome book.” It’s the story of the friendship between Alice and Remy, two kids in dire situations in the town of Starling. The best aesthetic that I can come up with is: Roald Dahl plus Grimms fairy tales meets modern-day rural small town. I loved the weirdness. It is over the top! Cram superbly contrasts this with a sense of beauty and wonder. The natural world is where magic is held in this grim fairy tale. For me the novel was about childhood, trauma and the small ways we are saved and healed by connection with the kindness of others and nature. 

How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

Odell is an artist, and concerns herself with the attention economy, and how it leads to our individual and collective distraction, in a time and place where we need as much focused attention as we can get to address global problems. I like that she brings her artist sensibility to this conundrum, and addresses not only the digital world, but the natural world. Her approach to this complex subject appealed to me, as the chapters were logically laid out, and one idea built beautifully onto the next. It spoke to my logical soul.
My favourite concept she presents is of manifest dismantling. I love this concept so much! Broadly, she discusses ways of undoing the the harms of "progress" in various ways.

This is Assisted Dying by Stephanie Green

Dr. Green is a Victoria BC-based physician and this book chronicles her first year of providing MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying). This is largely the story of her patients, and she writes eloquently about the profound privilege of engaging with the nature of suffering, meeting people at that point in their life journey, and supporting them with options, be it MAiD or, in the end, not. She finds great meaning in her work, and is open about how it has changed her. I found this book to be compassionate, realistic, and straightforward. There is no dancing around end of life issues; death and dying are discussed openly and realistically. Paradoxically, this book made me feel less uneasy about death: information is power, and gives each of us agency.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Kobabe, who uses the Spivak pronouns e/er/eir, has written er memoir as a graphic novel. I thought it was really good, thoughtful and also educational for me. It was an amazing example of an open, honest memoir. The art made the author’s struggle come alive on the page; the visuals were an integral part of the novel. Gender Queer was charged in Virginia for being “obscene for unrestricted viewing for minors” at a Barnes & Noble outlet, but the lawsuit was thrown out. 

How She Read by Chantal Gibson

How She Read is a powerful collection of poems by artist and writer Gibson that takes the text of old Canadian elementary readers and uses them a springboard to deconstruct language and our education about Black History. It moved and inspired me. I read it in two sittings, which works because the book is immersive and builds on itself.
Talking to My Body by Anna Swir

Engaging, vigorous, assertive, earthy, visceral poetry. I just want to quote all of the poetry I loved! It’d be a treat to sit in a poetry book club circle and take turns reading them aloud. There’s humour, frankness, unapologetic annoyance, bursts of sheer joy, happiness and suffering.

God Isn't Here Today by Francine Cunningham 

Sometimes touching but often horrific, these stories were like a sucker punch in the gut…and I loved it. In this book, sometimes Cunningham used a fine scalpel. Occasionally there was no blade at all, just a fine touch, a caress of a story. Then suddenly, in some stories, I was being chased with a figurative hacksaw by a literary monster who wanted to tear down barriers and expose the rot inside the facade of the normal. Murderous prose! It was brutal, but in the best possible way.

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

A deeply absorbing meditation on a boy’s life growing up in a rural Alabama town in the 60s, with horror elements. Some chapters could almost stand as short stories on their own. McCammon wrote events as episodes to be savoured. As in all good horror of this type, McCammon lets his young protagonist realize that the real terror in this world is not the monsters or the magic, it is real people and the evil that they do. This book shows racism and very racist language as a part of this horror. Please be warned. McCammon, though, writes with some hope and whimsy, and there is a certain gentle, positive tone to the novel, which made it a compelling read.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I listened to this on audiobook when I was isolating with COVID! It’s engaging enough to keep your interest, yet not overly complex, so the audio format works well. The mystery was fun and reasonably well-plotted. I liked the characters, and for a straightforward murder mystery, some of them were surprisingly well-developed. I loved that the sleuths are a group of seniors living in a retirement village. Osman was able to explore some relevant end of life issues, and it seemed natural, not forced. Our main characters endure quiet grief and loss, but also experience joy and meaning.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Ok, I also listened to this on audiobook when I was isolating with COVID. Perhaps due to my sense of acute dislocation, this book of “found family” was just what I needed. It provided a proxy sense of connection when I felt a bit adrift. It’s an odd duck of a book. It’s fantasy and reads a bit like middle-grade, but the protagonist is a solidly middle-aged man, which imparts an unusual tone. It’s about prejudice, injustice and making hard decisions to change your life, but all done in a cozy, gentle, friendly way. It’s also a queer love story on the very sweet romance spectrum. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there is absolutely no way this book isn’t going to have a happily ever after ending. So: Sweet, slightly bland, and simplistic messages? Probably all true. But: Warm, comforting, engaging, hopeful, and optimistic? Most assuredly, and sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a bit of optimism.


So there's my very gestalt overview of my top picks for 2022. I hope you've found something that you might add to your own reading list. I'd love to hear your comment below on what some of your favourite books of 2022 were!