The 7 Best Books I read in 2022
It’s the end of another year, a point when I, like many others, enjoy sharing the best books I’ve read this year for my fellow readers looking for some good book recommendations.
This year was a difficult one for me, with more than a little personal challenge and upheaval. I struggled with reading this year more than I think I ever have. Still, I managed to finish a respectable number of books, and I’ve decided to share my favorites despite a smaller-than-usual volume and a less diverse sampling from which to choose them.
In case it helps others who may find themselves in a reading slump, here’s what I did (and still am doing, honestly):
I kept my reading expectations low for myself, and any time I could bring myself to focus on a book, any book, I considered it a win and a bonus.
I gravitated toward short books, rereads, and comfort reads, so I indulged those desires and read such books without pressuring myself to tackle War and Peace, Ulysses, or any other lengthy or challenging piece of literature. There’s a time and a place, and this year was neither for me when it comes to books requiring prolonged focus.
I will also say that joining the Literary Book Club helped me get some of my reading mojo back, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t give them a little shoutout. Having beautifully curated and wrapped presents to open as I reached certain pages helped me finish more books than I otherwise would have had the motivation for this year. (I’m not a rep for them, and I don’t get any kickback for recommending them; I just want to share a really lovely small company I’ve enjoyed patronizing this year.)
As always, I've linked each book via both Amazon and Bookshop.org. When you shop from the links on this post, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you, all of which helps offset the costs of keeping this little blogging endeavor going. Shop as you like, but keep in mind that buying from Bookshop directly funds independent bookshops with the ease of Amazon.
Without further preamble, here are seven books I really enjoyed this year, in no particular order. And let’s keep it going; be sure to drop the best books you read this year in the comments so we can all come away with some great book recommendations.
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I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
I got this beautiful edition of I Capture the Castle in the summer box of the Literary Book Club. I’d never read it before, and it honestly wasn’t even on my TBR, but I can’t explain what a delightful surprise it was to read. I Capture the Castle was the first book I really tore through this year without having to exert a lot of effort.
This novel by Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmations, is told from the perspective of a 17-year-old girl, Cassandra Mortmain. Cassandra and her siblings have spent their lives isolated from the rest of the world, growing up in a crumbling old castle in England, interacting only with each other, their reclusive father and his new wife, and a couple of loyal servants.
I Capture the Castle is a book of ambience, lighthearted humor, colorful characters, and the innocence of first romance. The ending left me pleasantly outraged at the lack of a sequel, which is always a good sign if you ask me.
Read this book if: you want something cute and cozy and characters you can root for. I feel like this is a good book for those who love Little Women (but not exclusively… honestly, Little Women is a little too sentimental for my taste!)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I read Frankenstein either in high school or early on in college, and man was this a case of not being old or wise enough to truly appreciate it! I actually loved it so much on this re-read I’m working up an entire blog post dedicated to it. I won’t say too much here then, but the depths to this book are just phenomenal. What a work of philosophic literature!
I think it’s a shame that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has been reduced to the number of horror or comedy movies that have been inspired by it, because there’s so much more to it than that, and I think those aspects of it get overlooked. Stay tuned for more on this one in a future post.
And because I’m a Virgo and will take any opportunity to annoyingly correct people, friendly reminder that Frankenstein is the scientist, not the monster. Phew, always glad to get that out there.
Read this book if: you’ve only seen any of the infinite adaptations and think you know what Frankenstein is all about. Read it if you are in the mood to contemplate the meaning of life and the implications of creation, the relationship between creator and creation, and the origins and limits of morality.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
I savored (pun intended) every page of Like Water for Chocolate. It was recommended to me ages ago by a friend, but I’m so glad I waited to read it until I did.
Like Water for Chocolate is separated into twelve chapters, one for each month of the year, with a traditional recipe for each month. It takes place in Mexico at the turn of the century, during the Mexican Revolution. Tita, the youngest daughter of a wealthy rancher, is condemned by tradition to a life without love and marriage: as youngest daughter, it is her duty to never marry so she can care for her dictatorial mother, Mama Elena. Unable to marry the man she loves, Tita channels all of her passion, heartbreak, and frustration into her cooking, with startling and magical results.
I don’t want to give any more away, but I read this book in two sittings and just thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. It’s a beautifully unique journey of a novel.
Read this book if: you want a quick read that will draw you into a world that is colorful, sensual, and magical.
Beyond the Wand: the Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard by Tom Felton
Yes, Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton is unapologetically on my list of my favorite reads this year. Listening to Tom Felton read his memoir was an undeniably delightful experience and one I openly recommend to any Harry Potter fan.
Felton is a gem of a human: charming self-deprecation mixed with big puppy dog energy. Beyond the Wand includes plenty of anecdotes from his time filming the eight Harry Potter films while trying to be a normal kid and adolescent. Felton also dishes on many of his cast mates, including Dan, Rupert, and Emma, and adult actors including Jason Isaacs (who plays his father, Lucius Malfoy), Michael Gambon, and the late greats Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, and Alan Rickman. (All flattering portraits, by the way. Felton’s a lover, not a hater).
But Beyond the Wand is not just Harry Potter content. Tom talks about his childhood and his life pre- and post-Potter, including working as part of the cast of The King and I as a child and his struggles to find his place in the world in his post-Potter era.
Read this book if: you grew up loving the Harry Potter series and want a nostalgic, heartwarming read. But trust me: listen to the audiobook!
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
I have been slowly but surely making my way through a list of books that take place in Hawaii (stay tuned for a list of these to be posted someday… one day), and Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn was a standout for me. It’s gotten a bit of hype since its publication in 2020 (it even made it on one of Obama's famous book lists) and deservedly so.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors, like Like Water for Chocolate, also incorporates magical realism into the storytelling. Washburn tells the story of a local Hawaiian couple and their three children, Nainoa, Dean, and Kaui. From the beginning, Nainoa is singled out as special, blessed with mysterious abilities from the ancient Hawaiian gods, but to what purpose? What does this blessing mean, and what is he meant to do with it? As the siblings grow up, Nainoa's special abilities, and ones his brother and sister begin to find in themselves, shape their identities and their choices.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors brings traditional Hawaiian beliefs and gods into the modern world; Washburn endows his characters with ancient powers, then sets them free to make sense of what it means to be Hawaiian in the modern world.
Read this book if: you can suspend your disbelief and follow this family tale, with all its twists, turns, and, yes, tragedy. It's a taste of Hawaii beyond what you see in the posters or at the resorts.
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
The Storyteller is another memoir I listened to as an audiobook and just thoroughly enjoyed. There's something about listening to people tell stories about themselves in their own voice, with their own intonation. This is the perfect pick for that.
If you don’t know who Dave Grohl is, he’s the frontman for the Foo Fighters and former drummer for Nirvana. In his memoir, Grohl shares a collection of personal anecdotes that shaped who he is and the career he’s established as one of the most successful rock stars alive today.
Like the alternative music he has made a living on, Grohl's life choices have definitely not followed the norm, which makes for some great stories. In The Storyteller, he talks about teaching himself to play the drums and guitar; recording the first Foo Fighters album on his own, overdubbing vocals and each instrument as he went; and the time he notoriously broke his leg onstage during a concert and decided to finish out the set before going to the hospital.
For fans of Nirvana, he includes the good and the ugly of his experience in perhaps the most famous grunge band ever, and shares heartbreaking insight into what it was like losing his friend Kurt Cobain.
Read this book if: you love the Foo Fighters, or books about music and the people who make it. Read it if you want a compelling, well-written memoir from someone’s who’s got a lot of passion, a little crazy, and some damn good stories.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray was the first book I made it through this year, because I knew I could rely on Oscar Wilde’s wit to keep me entertained and reading. Boy, does he consistently deliver!
As a slightly tangential note, it’s a pet peeve of mine when people use a quote from a book, especially when it’s the dialogue or thoughts of a specific character, take it out of context and then share it simply attributed to the author. It's such a misleading practice, can we stop it please?
That said, I think it’s worth knowing that many of the quips and witticisms you’ll see around the internets attributed to Oscar Wilde are from this book, and most of them spoken by the ever so sassy Lord Henry Wotton. He's a character you hate to love, full of "wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories" and is at least somewhat responsible for inspiring Dorian Gray's obsession with hedonism.
"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."
Lord Henry Wotton, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
If you don't already know what it's about, go in knowing as little as possible, and enjoy the journey. The Picture of Dorian Gray is frequently amusing, but it’s also got depth and darkness to it. If you're lucky enough to not know the ending, do yourself a favor and lock yourself in a bedroom and read it before you accidentally find out.
Read this book if: you can appreciate that trademark Oscar Wilde wit and you’re down to read about the darker side of humanity and the pursuit of pleasure.
Those are my top 7 books I read in the last year. What were yours?
Don't forget to pin and share this post and drop your favorite reads in the comments!