I mentioned in my 2023 goals post that I was proud of how consistently I read over the last year. I think a large part of this is that I read books that I wanted to read, not books that I felt like I should read – and if I wasn’t into a book, I just wouldn’t finish it. This also meant that I really loved a lot of the books I read! So I’m sharing my 15 favorite books of 2022, because this is my blog, and I make the rules! These are not in order of favorite – they’re just in the order that I read them during 2022, starting with January.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Olga is a wedding planner – a bit of an outlier in a family where her parents were revolutionaries and her brother is a congressman. While she’s amazing at planning weddings for the ultra rich, she has struggles opening up in her own relationships. Olga’s mother left to continue to her work as a revolutionary, and that abandonment did a number on her, though she still desperately seeks her mother’s approval. I loved this book because it’s about so many things all at once – about culture and identity, about family, about politics, and even about love, too, when Olga meets Matteo and has to decide if it’s time to open up and let someone in.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
This story spans countries and generations and is so moving. Two siblings, Byron and Benny, are brought together by a strange request – to listen to a recording that their mother made, together, and to eat the black cake that she made for them “when the time is right.” Throughout the recordings, their mother Eleanor fills them in on her life – things that happened to her as a child and secrets that she’s kept hidden for a long time. It’s one of those stories where everything just comes together so nicely in the end, and it’s so powerful.
Violeta by Isabel Allende
This is such a beautiful book – Isabel Allende is my favorite author, and this one didn’t disappoint. It actually starts during the Spanish flu pandemic and ends with the current one, which is such an interesting way to bookend the story. Violeta’s family, at a young age, loses everything and they’re forced to move to a remote village and start their life over. The book continues to follow Violeta throughout her life, all written in the form of a (long!) letter to someone dear to her – I don’t want to spoil the reveal! There’s so much to it – the fight for women’s rights, love affairs, civil unrest. It’s just a really, really beautiful story.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
I always think that Emily Henry writes cute rom-coms, but this is, by far, my favorite of hers. Nora is a type A, her work is her life literary agent, who cares about nothing but her work and her younger sister Libby. Nora loves her sister so much that she agrees to take a month-long trip with her to Sunshine Falls, a tiny town that’s the setting for a popular romance book. Libby has plans for Nora to have a love story inspired by the book; instead, Nora keeps running into Charlie, a serious and brusque editor who she had a sort-of disastrous meeting with right before she left for her trip. But of course, there’s more to the story – more to the reason that Libby wanted to take this trip, and more to Charlie, who Nora ends up working with on a manuscript by one of the authors she represents. I love a rom-com set around books, and I’m adding Charlie to my list of fictional men who I wish were real!
Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
This was a perfect summer romance – it had me feeling so nostalgic for high school summers and how absolutely magical and infinite they felt. The story is split between the present and summers of the past. When Percy (Persephone) gets a phone call from her ex’s brother, she makes the decision to return back to the little town on the lake where she spent her summers growing up. She spent six summers at this little town, becoming friends with her next door neighbors Charlie and Sam… and eventually, become more than friends with Sam, until something major broke them up, and they haven’t spoken since. But now, years later, they’re brought together again. It’s such a sweet story of young love and second chances.
Mean Baby by Selma Blair
(Content warning: sexual assault, alcohol abuse.) I’ve been following Selma Blair more closely since she publicly shared her MS diagnosis a few years ago. Obviously, I’d seen her in movies before (Cruel Intentions, Legally Blonde), but I didn’t know much about her otherwise. Seeing her publicly and brazenly use mobility aids on the red carpet – and coordinating her outfits with them at times! – was just so cool to see. And this memoir is incredible – it’s hard to even put into words how amazing it was. Selma is so thoughtful about looking back at her life, and not shying away from the hard parts. She’s so bold, and honest, and funny!
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Awaeke Emezi
This is a beautiful romance novel, but not at all in the way that you expect. Feyi lost her husband five years ago, and isn’t sure how to start dating again. Her friend, Joy, encourages her to put herself out there but keep things casual and light. In a series of events, a casual hookup leads to her dating one of her hookup’s friends, Nasir. Feyi and Nasir are taking things slowly, really building a relationship as friends first. Nasir helps connect her to a gallery on the island where he grew up, and invites her to stay with him on the island at his family’s house while her work in shown. While they’re there, Feyi meets, and finds herself falling for, someone who is definitely off limits – and she has to decide how far she’s willing to go for what could be love.
Breathe and Count Back From Ten by Natalia Sylvester
I loved this YA book – it was the perfect reminder for me how much representation matters, and how poignant it is to feel seen in a book. In this book, Verónica is a Peruvian-American teen with hip dysplasia who dreams of working as a mermaid at the local Mermaid Cove amusement park. She seems like a shoo-in – she’s been swimming for years as physical therapy – but her parents definitely don’t approve. With the support of her sister, best friend, and new (cute!) neighbor, she has to decide if she wants to risk it all and audition anyway. There’s so much in this book about grappling with your choices, decisions, relationships, and autonomy while being disabled – it’s done so well, and I’m so happy that young disabled people will have this book to read. But it’s not something that only disabled people should read, either – I highly, highly recommend it.
Easy Beauty by Chloe Cooper Jones
This is an incredible memoir from a disabled woman about disability and identity, about motherhood, and basically about finding herself. There are SO many anecdotes from this book that will stick with me for a long time. Chloé studies and teaches philosophy, and starts the book by recounting a time she was out with two colleagues at a bar as they argued, basically, over the worth of her life as a disabled woman. From that moment on, I was sold, and there are so many other little stories recounted through the book that I felt so deeply. When she ended up, after a series of events, sitting on the corner of the stage itself at a Beyoncé concert in Milan, I was cheering her on. It’s such a poignant memoir, and I really loved it.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
Luli Wei is a young Chinese American girl who lives in Hungarian Hill but wants nothing more than to be a big-name actress in old-school Hollywood – and she’s willing to do anything to make her dreams come true. Her story is split between interjections from present-day Luli, and past Luli as we watch her life play out and see how she becomes a star. In Luli’s Hollywood, the “magic” of the silver screen is very real, and it’s ancient, and it often requires sacrifice – which Luli is more than willing to go along with when she’s young and starting out. It’s kind of hard for me to describe this book well – nothing I’m saying gets across how truly excellent this book is!
Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
This story has all the trappings of a perfect rom-com – Nora is a screenwriter for those stereotypical Hallmark Channel movies and knows how to write the perfect meet cute and storyline for falling in love. In her real life, though, she’s recently been left by her husband and turned her disaster of a marriage into a very different kind of screenplay. The movie based on her life comes to her house to film for a weekend, something she doesn’t love but can’t pass up because of the paycheck that comes along with the few days of filming. One of the actors starring in the film is a legitimate heartthrob, and when filming ends, he stays… offering an extra $1,000 if he can spend a week there. You might be able to guess where this is headed! But what I love is that the story deftly sidestepped a lot of the typical romance book tropes while still turning out to be a really satisfying love story. I finished this one in about a day, too, and it’s great if you want a sweet, quick read.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Mika is a witch who lives a very isolated life, spending most of her time hiding her magic because that’s what she’s told she has to do. But she also posts videos online of her doing magic, where she can get away with it since everyone thinks she’s pretending. Except… one person doesn’t think she’s pretending, and asks her to come teach magic to three young witch children who need to learn how to use – and control – their powers under a very tight timeline. She agrees, and slowly but surely learns what it’s like to have friends and people who care about you for the first time in a very long time. It’s so cozy and perfect, and I think you’ll enjoy it even if you’re not a fan of fantasy or magic.
Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn
This is another YA fantasy series that I’m completely obsessed with. It’s the sequel to Legendborn, which I read last year, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting it for months now. The series is really cool because it’s (loosely) based on the magic of King Arthur and Camelot – I am far from an expert, but it’s still fun to read and see the parallels. In Legendborn, Bree enrolls in a pre-college program at a university because it’s where her mother, who passed away recently, went to school. In an attempt to learn more about her mother’s life, she gets drawn into the Order… and learns that there was a lot about her mom she didn’t know. In Bloodmarked, Bree is embracing her power and her place in the Order, but has to fight against centuries of oppression and tradition and white supremacy culture. When her boyfriend Nick is kidnapped, Bree and her friends go against the Order’s wishes to try to get him back. But there’s a lot about the history of the Order, and about her powers themselves, that Bree still doesn’t understand – and she has to grapple with that, along with her attraction to Nick’s childhood best friend Selwyn. It’s such a captivating story, and I love how it adeptly combines issues of race with the legends of King Arthur.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Content warning: gun violence I flew through this book in about a day – It was incredibly good, both beautifully written and a super engaging story. Sam Masur and Sadie Green meet as kids in the hospital – Sam as a patient, Sadie visiting her sister – and the two bond over playing video games together while Sam recovers. They grow apart and meet again years later randomly at a subway station in Boston. The two reconnect and decide to work together to design and create a video game. Their lives go from there – sometimes as friends, sometimes as partners on a game, and sometimes not speaking, but always connected in some way. You don’t need to be a gamer to enjoy this book at all, because at it’s core, it’s really a book about love and human connection. Sam has a disability and uses different mobility aids throughout the book – I don’t know about the author’s own relationship to disability, but I thought it was handled really well.
Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese
This is a modern re-telling of Much Ado About Nothing, and I loved this romance with disabled/neurodivergent characters! Bea and Jamie are set up by their sister and best friend, respectively, and while they claim to have no interest in one another, agree to fake date to get their friends and family off their backs. But fake dating still requires you to spend a lot of time together, and unsurprisingly, Bea and Jamie start to find that maybe there is something there after all. There’s excellent disability / neurodivergent representation in the characters, and I especially loved this line, from Jamie to Bea after she explains that she’s Autistic: “I don’t see you differently. I see you better.”