For the past seven years, I’ve kept track of every book I read on Goodreads, a handy tool to keep track of authors and series that I’ve enjoyed so I can remember to grab the next installment. (It’s also where I park my enormous To Be Read list.) And of course there’s the stats: the books I enjoyed the most over the past year (and which ones I didn’t bother to finish).
Overall, I read 42 books this year (with 2 that I’m still working on) for a total of 15,203 pages. Wowza! Last year, I hit 48 books, a personal record, but it’s about the quality more than the quantity, right? In 2022, I gave 15 books 5-star ratings, which I only give to those that I think are amazingly wonderful. With that in mind, here are three of my top-rated books that came out in 2022, as well as three older books that have lingered in my imagination.
Pubbed in 2022
Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas. I love Marti’s work, and this new middle-grade book is no exception. Hasani is bright and smart and funny and creative even as she realizes how much responsibility comes with power. Add a mysterious school and kittens and complex and interesting friendships (and rivalries) and I could not put it down. I got such a kick out of the New Orleans and Louisiana setting, including gentle but important historical details, that I can only imagine how delighted kids will be upon recognizing themselves in this story, especially if they’re into YouTube, the creative possibilities of makeup, or black-girl hairstyles and culture. In fact, my YouTube-loving, New Orleans-based preteen son pronounced it “Really Good.” (High praise from a 12-year-old.) We are counting the days until Hasani’s adventures continue.
Amy Among the Serial Killers by Jincy Willett. If you loved Only Murders in the Building on Netflix, I highly recommend this funny, heartfelt mystery for adults. It features a mismatched pair of amateur sleuths, one at the beginning of her adult life and one nearing the end, and their wacky group of wanna-be writers (and a killer). It gets a little gruesome, but the humor is so perfectly balanced with genuine emotion that this was a quick, satisfying read. Amy isn’t quite Miss Marple, but she has sass and self-possession with just a touch of uncertainty–enough to open her heart to a bunch of earnest creatives to keep more of them from getting hurt. I didn’t see the killer coming, and so fully enjoyed the reveal and the aftermath. I have not read the previous books in this series, an oversight that I am about to correct.
Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman. Such a fun, sexy romance for grown-ups! I finished it in one night (yes I stayed up too late but still). Chani is an appealingly offbeat character struggling with imposter syndrome: has she achieved all she has through her own merits or because of one hazy weekend with a movie star? Her interactions with Gabe in the past and present explore what fame does to and for people: the glittery highs as well as the bottomless lows. In the end, it’s a delight to follow Chani and Gabe as they reckon with themselves, each other, and their public.
Older books I loved
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. Breathtaking. I loved everything about this book, from the poetic language to the delightfully odd characters to the twisted mystery that affects even the weather. As atmospheric and beautiful as it is wacky—the love interest is a dead boxer clad in underpants and a top hat—this novel weaves a spell that’s hard to explain and even harder to put down. Somewhere amid all the rich strangeness is a haunting story about abused girls who grow into women determined to shape the world around them, for good and for ill.
Gutter Mage by J.S. Kelley. There’s something so great about the combo of hard-boiled detective with a world of magic. And Roz is a fantastic character, funny and dry and bad-ass but with blind spots and an anger problem that get her into so much trouble. Some of the fun is guessing what’s going to happen before she does, but her reactions—and plenty of surprises—keep the plot moving in satisfying ways. The ending hints at more to come, and I sincerely hope so. I’d gladly follow Roz into whatever terrible fix she gets herself into next.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. Because I read and rated four books by Leigh Bardugo at five stars this year, I had to include at least one on this list. (The other three were installments in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, which I highly recommend either before or after watching the excellent Netflix series). Ninth House is Bardugo’s latest novel and her first specifically for adults, and I absolutely loved this beyond-the-Grishaverse series. Alex is a wonderfully unpredictable protagonist whose personal secrets prove a match to the wickedly secret societies she encounters at Yale. Not only was this a rollicking mystery, it also critiqued a culture of privilege and power taken at the expense of young women. Recommend for older teens & adults who appreciate an ass-kicking heroine who uncovers the slithery truths that those in power would rather hide.
Whew! For more of my favorite books, check out all of my reviews on Goodreads, and watch for my list of books I’m excited to read in 2023. Happy reading!