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2022 Most Memorable Reads

I hesitate to say "best" because that's all subjective, but here's the books I remember most from this year.


* A caveat: some of them may be 2021 releases. I read them in 2022.

I only occasionally read non-fiction, and when I do, it's usually history, politics or sociology. This book was none of those things, and probably isn't strictly classified as non-fiction even though it describes events that did occur. The New York Times describes it as "part memoir, part literary true crime."

Whatever you call it, Tell Me Everything by Erika Krouse is my Favorite True Story of 2022.


It begins: "I became a private investigator because of my face. It's an ordinary-looking face, but if I ask 'How are you?' sometimes people start crying. 'I'm getting a divorce,' they say 'He ended our marriage by text' Or 'I was just diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease.' Or a man grips a packet of peas in the frozen foods aisle, and asks, 'How do you cook these? My wife died last month'." With a beginning like that, it was impossible not to keep reading. And though it was about a very difficult subject (a culture of rape covered up at a university, all for the sake of football), it about more than that. It was also about a woman finding a higher purpose for a very specific and unusual skill—persuading people to tell her "everything."

The debut novels in 2022 were very strong so I'm going to cheat a little. I can't pick one, so I'm going to categorize them differently.

By far, my Favorite Literary Novel was Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley.

Like Tell Me Everything, it describes events that actually happened but in this case fictionalized. Written by Oakland's former poet laureate, it tackles issues and events that most of us would rather believe couldn't occur. Sadly, they did. But as salacious as the details of the story are, what was most impressive was how intelligently the writer (who was only 17 when she wrote it) handled it. She focused on the main character's interior--how she felt, what motivated her, how she saw the world. And it was kind of staggering how much insight she brought. I can tell you one thing, Leila Mottley is an old soul. Not to mention one of the most lyrical "new writers" I've ever read.

Hands down, my Favorite Mystery/Thriller of 2022 was Blacktop Wasteland by SA Cosby.

This guy ... lemme tell you. His plots are absorbing, but by far what makes him to all-around standout author of the year is his portrayal of people living on the fringes. The rural poor and working class, many of them misfits, making bad choices because good ones don't often present themselves. Behind all the breakneck speed action and colorful characters is an intimate knowledge of a world and people most of America have never met, and may not even know exist. And it isn't just that he writes about them, it's the way he does it—without judgment, and with a keen understanding of who they are. His work has undoubtedly set a new standard. I'm excited to read more of it.

Hmm. How to classify this one. It's literary for sure, but also magical realism. So let's go with that. My Favorite Magical Realism novel of 2022 is Hell of a Book by Jason Mott.

I love it when writers are not bound by anything other than their own imagination. When they produce something that defies comparison. Hell of a Book was that for me. I LOVED it. I started out reading it the way most of us start a book, trying to situate ourselves, and figure out what it's asking of us—will it be humorous? Poignant? Shocking? This one was all of those things, and very early on, demanded that I abandon all effort to categorize it as this, rather than that. It feels like THE book. You know that one an author produces that is a culmination of all the lessons they've learned about themselves and the world and their creativity. I finished it as an ARC and immediately bought it for my library at home. Definitely a keeper. And ... unsurprisingly, it won the National Book Award (2021).

Lat, but definitely not least. This was my Favorite Debut Novel of 2022—Post-Traumatic by Chantal Johnson.

In this one we meet Vivian, a high-functioning woman living with post-traumatic stress from a childhood that was marked by unpredictable, unreliable and abusive adults, and only one thing was certain: no one was going to protect her. No surprise then that Vivian is an anxious, unhappy young woman, who struggles with the various self-destructive impulses, including persisting in having a relationship with her thoroughly dysfunctional family. I'll be honest, you will definitely not like this book if internal monologue favored over external action isn't your thing. But it's my sweet spot in reading. What people do isn't nearly as interesting to me as decoding why they do it. This book offered that in spades, giving us insights into Vivian that even she didn't have. Stellar work. I hope this isn't a sudden and never-to-be-repeated flash of genius. I'd love to see more from Chantal Johnson.

So that's my Top 5 of 2022. Books that stuck with me and resonated for reasons I can't always eloquently explain. 2023's books are around the corner. Can't wait!

Happy Reading!

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5 Not-So-Cozy Mysteries to Read in Bed

'Like a Sister' by Kellye Garrett

A college student's estranged influencer sister is found dead in a sketchy part of town, apparently OD'ed. Except ... maybe not? This is a fast-paced read, not just about a possible murder, but about what's real and what's not in this social-media-obsessed world.


'You're Invited' by Amanda Jayatissa

You get an invitation to a former friend's wedding extravaganza. You get there, and guess who she's marrying ... your ex-boyfriend. Of course you want to kill her. Until she winds up dead.

'Things We Do in the Dark' by Jennifer Hillier

Despite how it looks--the razor in your hand, all that blood, and your husband dead nearby--a murder charge is not your biggest problem.

'Two Nights in Lisbon' by Chris Pavone

A romantic getaway with your new husband, a passionate night, and then you wake up alone. You know he's been abducted, except no one will believe you. What's your next move?


'I Know You' by Claire McGowan

You come across a body. Of course you had nothing to do with it. But it's your boyfriend's estranged wife ...oh, something like this has happened to you before.

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NEW BLACK WOMEN'S FICTION TO CHECK OUT THIS FALL

'Long Past Summer' by Noué Kirwan

Mikaela Marchand is living the polished life she always planned for: a successful New York lawyer, with a promotion in her sights and a devoted boyfriend by her side. She’s come a long way from the meek teen she was growing up in small town Georgia, but the memory of her adolescence isn’t far—in fact, it’s splashed across a massive billboard in Times Square. An old photograph of Mikaela and her former best friend, Julie, has landed on the cover of a high-profile fashion magazine advertised all over the city. And when Julie files a lawsuit, Mikaela is caught in the middle as defense lawyer for the magazine.
 
Not only will she have to face Julie for the first time in years, Mikaela’s forced to work closely with the photographer in question: the former love of her life--and Julie’s ex-husband--Cameron Murphy. Mikaela needs to win the case to get her promotion--and as a junior partner, she has no margin for error. But unresolved feelings still exist between Cam and Mikaela, and jealousy always made Julie play dirty…
 
With flashbacks to summers of first loves and fragile friendships, Long Past Summer looks at the delicate and powerful thread that binds and breaks friends and flames.

'Honey & Spice' by Bolu Babalola 

Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. As an expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell,” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show on the brink.

They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before, and a player like Malakai won’t be the one to change that, no matter how charming he is or how electric their connection feels. But surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate, late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions. Is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?

'Say Her Name' by Dreda Say Mitchell & Ryan Carter

It’s twenty years since Eva, a biracial woman, was adopted as an eight-year-old, and Cherry and Carlton ‘Sugar’ McNeil have always been the only parents she’s wanted or needed. But when she’s dealt the double blow of Cherry’s death and her own suspension from work, Eva decides it’s time to discover who she was before she was theirs.

Against Sugar’s advice, Eva joins a DNA database, desperate for a match that will unlock her identity. And when a positive hit comes, she’s excited to learn there are relations out there who might hold the key. But the closer Eva gets to uncovering her past, the more it appears someone is trying to stop her finally finding the truth…

As she continues to dig, Eva is drawn into a dark and merciless underside to society, where black women disappear without a word. Names erased from history, no search parties, no desperate pleas for their return. Once, someone tried to save Eva from all this. Someone wanted a better life for her. But now that she’s torn down the facade of her life, has she come too far to be spared again?

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3 Books That Make You Celebrate #OwnVoices Authors

Try to imagine these stories told by anyone other than those who've lived them ...

‘Good Intentions’ by Kasim Ali

Nur is dating a Black girl. It doesn’t matter to him that she’s Black, even though he’s Pakistani, and from a very traditional and close-knit family that would strongly prefer that he bring home a Pakistani girl. Still, he thinks it’s better to ... well, hide his girlfriend, Yasmina. Just for now. And just because his family won’t understand.  This is a love story, but more than that. Complicated questions about race, culture and identity, and individuality versus community are explored in this fast, entertaining read. 


‘Yinka, Where is Your Huzband’ by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

Yinka is a success in lots of ways. But she’s not married. That she find a husband is very, very important to her family. So important that she decides on a madcap plan to get them off her case. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, we follow Yinka’s attempts to live up to everyone’s expectations but her own.


‘In Every Mirror She’s Black’ by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom

Dating, emigrating, working. Completely routine aspects of life. Unless you’re Black. Then, you live your life wondering whether everything is infused with hidden meaning. That’s what life is like for Kemi, Brittany-Rae and Muna, three very different women whose lives intersect because of their very different relationships to one man.

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