According to Goodreads, I read 299 books in 2022, 6 short of my record the year before. The pandemic definitely helped me find more time to read than in years prior, tho 2022 was more difficult because I actually got sick, from COVID-19 itself in May, then with whatever obnoxious unnumbered viruses the kids brought back from in-person school once that started up again in September. I also 100% overcommitted to books for work, and need to learn to take it easy in 2023. Yes, I can read 5+ books a week, but that doesn’t mean that I need to or should, and with two successfully launched, run and completed Kickstarter campaigns for original roleplaying games eating up a huge amount of my time — from creation through fulfilment — on top of the usual business of running a household… well, this year I actually needed the two-week vacation the publishing industry typically takes at the end of December.
I also enjoyed several other nice industry perks, tho some had as much to do with roleplaying as with publishing. I got to go to the American Librarian Association’s Annual Conference as a contractor for Wizards Of The Coast, teaching librarians how to play Dungeons & Dragons while schmoozing with publishing industry contacts and picking up way, way too many free books and swag. I also got to attend the Kensington Cozy Club MiniCon and meet some of my favorite/most covered authors, again picking up a bunch of books and free swag. I feel that my familiarity with the industry also gave me a leg up in my efforts to independently publish my first two roleplaying books, to a modest profit (assuming I don’t pay myself a fair wage, lol.) Over here on The Frumious Consortium, I also branched out into reviewing games, puzzles and Tarot decks, all of which I greatly enjoyed covering.
But the downside of this year was that I simply didn’t fall in love with as many books as in years previous. I don’t know if it was because of the more indiscriminate nature of my review selections, but I only really loved 26 books this year, down from the 48 I adored the year before.
Like Doug, I really loved Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars, which gains an honorable mention. As with years prior, however, I will only choose my Year’s Top 12 from books that were actually published in 2022. Selections under the fold, by date of publication:
1 . The Appeal by Janice Hallett. This murder mystery of manners told in letters and other communiques does a terrific job of fracturing clues and obscuring the truth via its epistolary format. Revolving around the titular fundraising appeal organized by a theater troupe, the novel asks us to consider what it truly means to care about each other.
2 . The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont. I did not expect a reinterpretation of the real Dame Agatha Christie’s mysterious 11-day disappearance to result in a book so profoundly moving. It’s entirely fictional, but I deeply wish that it wasn’t.
3. I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin. This isn’t my favorite of Ms Capin’s works to date, but was still an incredibly moving novel that brought to mind another favorite, Diana Wynne Jones’ classic The Time Of The Ghost. I Am Margaret Moore partially inspired the summer camp RPG that I’m hoping to bring to Kickstarter later this year, with its tale of weird and tragic goings-on at a naval camp for young people on the banks of the Great Lakes.
4. Pennyblade by J. L. Worrad was bawdy and irreverent and wild, cheerfully subverting commonly accepted tropes of high fantasy and religion and sexuality while also breaking my heart with its ending. This was one of the most unusual, subversive fantasy novels I’ve ever read, and deserves to be more widely lauded.
5. After We Were Stolen by Brooke Beyfuss. The pain in this debut novel is so lived-in and palpable that it’s hard to believe it’s fiction and not a memoir. Our heroine Avery escapes the clutches of a cult only to find the outside world almost as fraught to live in. I ached for her as much as for any real person. Ms Beyfuss is a talent to watch!
6. You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa. Ms Jayatissa’s sophomore novel is an absolutely savage takedown of post-colonial Asian society, threaded through with intrigue, crime and murder. A young woman discovers that her ex-boyfriend is about to marry her ex-best friend, prompting her to fly to Sri Lanka, determined to stop at nothing to make sure the wedding doesn’t take place. It’s sort of a noir Crazy Rich Asians and I loved it.
7. My Dirty California by Jason Mosberg. As I wrote in my review for CriminalElement.com, this genre-bending novel “felt equal parts Joan Didion and Mark Z Danielewski (even before the clever shout-out in the text,) with strong Kate Atkinson vibes throughout.” Tender, bizarre and ultimately life-affirming, this is a literary thriller that is actually both literary and thriller, and not just pretentious MFA nonsense self-consciously slumming it in the crime section.
8. The Very Genius Notebooks #1: The Chronicles Of Deltovia by Olivia Jaimes. The mysterious Ms Jaimes provides one of the most moving graphic novels of the year with this excellent middle-grade mystery/fantasy/slice-of-life tale of three very different friends navigating middle school while attempting to write and illustrate a fantasy novel together. Surprisingly deep and almost effortlessly charming, it’s my favorite series debut of the year. Can’t wait to read more!
9. The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict. If you love word games and puzzles as much as I do, then you must grab a copy of this novel. The Christmas Murder Game flamboyantly incorporates ciphers and codes within the text of its manor house murder mystery, making for a read that thoroughly satisfied my love of all those puzzling pursuits. It admittedly doesn’t make for the smoothest reading experience, but that wasn’t what I was here for anyway.
10. Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty. I was completely blown away by this clever interrogation of the cozy mystery genre through a sci-fi lens. Who knew that my favorite mystery novel of the year would come in the form of a space opera? Original, whipsmart and hilarious, the pages of this thick novel just fly by, as Mallory Viridian, one-time girl detective, flees Earth in a vain attempt to stop being a death magnet.
11. No One Left To Come Looking For You by Sam Lipsyte. This odyssey of a young musician in 1990s New York City looking to recover his bass, his lead singer and, essentially, his band, while fighting the forces of corruption and greed, is a startling rallying cry for those of us who remember the fires of our artistic youth, no matter how many years or decades may have passed since.
12. Down To The Bone by Catherine Pioli. A memento mori as the year wound down, this painfully honest graphic novel memoir of a young woman diagnosed with leukemia and ultimately dying from it avoids cliche to get her remarkable story across. The art is accessibly gorgeous and the prose, translated from the French by J. T. Mahany, both elegant and effective.
You can check out the rest of my favorites of 2022 at the Bookshop link below. Here’s to another memorable year of reading for us all!