The 10 best books of 2022

It’s been a terrific year for short stories. Two second collections by Irish writers, Wendy Erskine and Colin Barrett, left a strong impression on me, while George Saunders proved with his first collection in nearly a decade that, despite becoming a Booker Prize-winning writer, the short story is where it does its most vital job.

In nonfiction, Geoff Dyer has shown in his freewheeling meditation on endings that he has much more to say, while another writer who has previously excelled in essay form, Emilie Pine, has published the best first novel I’ve read this year: Ruth and Penna.

Elizabeth Strout has delivered the most compelling fictional representation of Covid-era weirdness with the fourth installment of her Lucy Barton series.

Japanese writer Mieko Kawakami has confirmed that she is one of the most original writers working today with an iridescent story of love and longing. And in different ways, Yiyun Li and Hernan Diaz both reminded readers of fiction’s ability to explore the mysteries of life.

My 2022 book was Percival Everett’s Booker Select Novel Trees, a ferocious black comedy from a unique voice that buzzed with laughter, depth, urgency and innovation from cover to cover. (Max Liu)

10. Yiyun Li’s Goose Book

(4th Properties, £16.99)

Thirteen-year-old Agnès, the narrator of Yiyun Li’s fifth novel, is growing up in rural France in the aftermath of World War II when her best friend Fabienne asks her, “How do you cultivate happiness?” It’s the kind of philosophical question that readers of Li, who began writing stories in English after moving from China to the United States to study immunology, expect to encounter in her narrative about her. This compelling study of friendship is fueled by Li’s vivid imagination of her and her unique perspective as a Chinese author living in the United States who writes in English about a French woman who tells the story of her youth in English. Everything is conveyed through layers of translation, subjectivity and invention. The impact is profound.

By Max Liu

Click here to read our review.

Click here to read our interview with Yiyun Li.

9. The Last Days of Roger Federer by Geoff Dyer

(Canongate, £20)

The last days of Roger Federer it’s not about tennis. Rather, it’s about endings and what happens to the creative spirit as you enter the autumn of your life. A moribund enough subject, then, but in Dyer’s hands it’s mischievous and funny and endlessly charming. He discusses the music of Jim Morrison and the paintings of JMW Turner; he appreciates the films of Powell and Pressburger and recalls how he once missed the last train home after a concert. Federer himself, a 40-year-old tennis player still admirably against the idea of ​​retirement, is present a bit, as is Bob Dylan. Dyer has long been one of our most eccentric and entertaining writers and this book is no exception.

By Nick Duerden

Click here to read our review.

8. Hernan Diaz trust

(Picador, £16.99)

Booker’s second novel by Hernan Diaz, Trust, is a book about money. It is also a book within a book, within a book within a book; four distinct sections that offer a different perspective on a New York financial tycoon and his wife in the years leading up to the Great Depression. Diaz, whose first book In the distance was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, writes exquisitely about the luminous unhappiness that money and power ultimately bring, and how it can diminish life. Currently being adapted for television by Kate Winslet, it has fully deserved its long Booker list: it’s an intelligent literary kaleidoscope that constantly challenges the realities it sets forth, requiring you to step back and look again. You may need to read it more than once.

By Nick Duerden

Click here to read our review.

Click here to read our interview with Hernan Diaz.

7. Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

(Viking, £14.99)

In Lucy at the sea, the fourth installment in her Lucy Barton series, Elizabeth Strout offers arguably the best fictional depiction of how the events of the past two and a half years have and have not changed us. The title refers to the coastal Maine area where Lucy and her ex-husband, William, moved from New York at the start of the pandemic. There they go on their daily walks, watch the news, drink wine, and find solace and annoyance in each other’s company. Their emotions fluctuate, in ways that many people will recognize from blocks. One of the things that sets Strout’s novel apart from other pandemic novels is that it makes the important political point that, for some, the hardships of recent years weren’t necessarily something new.

By Max Liu

Click here to read our review.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Elizabeth Strout, American author of Oh William! attends the 2022 Booker Prize photocall at the Shaw Theater on October 14, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Elizabeth Strout (Photo: David Levenson/Getty Images)

6. Ruth & Pen by Emilie Pine

(Hamish Hamilton, £14.99)

Emilie Pine’s first novel Ruth and Penna is set over the course of a single day in Dublin in 2019. In alternating chronological chapters, we follow two women who know themselves: Ruth, a counselor whose marriage is about to fall apart, and Pen, a sixteen-year-old who has autism . The book follows the wildly successful 2019 collection of essays by Pine Notes for themselves, in which she wrote about her experiences with menstruation, disordered eating, depression, and infertility with startling clarity. Many of these themes – which really describe the contemporary female condition – are at play here as well, particularly in Ruth’s storyline. Pine has taken a simple premise and spun it into a story of profound compassion.

By Ellen Peirson-Hagger

Click here to read our review.

5. Liberation Day by George Saunders

(Bloomsbury, £18.99)

In his first collection of stories for nine years, George Saunders proves he’s more committed than ever to innovation. The story of the title is set in a future where the places where people work and live have merged. Elsewhere, there are realistic depictions of the injustices of office politics, dystopian tales that allude to the divisions in contemporary America, and a story about a comically boring woman. It all adds up to a book that made me laugh out loud, marvel at Saunders’ willingness to keep experimenting with form, and think we’re lucky to have him.

By Max Liu

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4. Colin Barrett’s nostalgia

(Jonathan Capo, £14.99)

Homesickness may be the title of Irish writer Colin Barrett’s second short story collection, but with one exception, its protagonists live in the small towns and rural communities of County Mayo where they grew up. Is it possible to feel homesick even when you are at home? Is the house a time more than a place? Does a disaffection arise when you stay too long close to home? Such questions linger in the mind after reading these eight stories, which are written with vigor and elegance and more than deliver on the promise of Barrett’s acclaimed 2014 debut, Young skins.

By Max Liu

Click here to read our review.

3. Dance Move by Wendy Erskine

(Picador, £14.99)

Wendy Erskine’s second short story collection offers us more than the brilliant little tidbits that garnered acclaim in the Northern Irish author’s first collection, 2018 Sweet Home. His eleven strange and disjointed stories are both claustrophobic and filled with the insightful details that bring them to life. In “Mathematics,” a young woman who works as a cleaner meets an abandoned girl at one of the properties where she works. In “Golem,” a couple prepares to attend a birthday party while both privately entertain other, often sexual, thoughts to get through the night. In maintaining such a sense of enveloping pain, Erskine’s tone is nearly perfect and, as a chronicler of the human condition, he has the most penetrating gaze.

By Nick Duerden

Click here to read our review.

2. All Night Lovers by Mieko Kawakami translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd

(Picador, £14.99)

When the novel by Japanese writer Mieko Kawakami Breasts and eggs was released in English in 2020, it was praised for its unusual imagination, psychological acuity and political awareness. His latest novel All night loversabout an introverted proofreader in his thirties solidifies Kawakami’s reputation as a unique voice. Its protagonist Fuyoko leads the kind of isolated, precarious working life that seems increasingly common. Her only contact is with Hijiri, a sociable and independent female editor, until she meets Mr. Mitsutsuka, a mysterious teacher with whom she embarks on a tentative romance. A wonderfully lyrical read: Kawakami’s background in poetry and as a songwriter is evidently at play here.

By Max Liu

Click here to read our review.

1. Percival Everett’s trees

(Influx Press £9.99)

Percival Everett (Photo: Nacho Goberna)

This black comedy by Percival Everett, famous for his satires I’m not Sidney Poitier and Cancellation, begins with a spate of grisly murders in a Mississippi town where white people are killed and the same dead black man keeps appearing on the scene. Two black detectives from out of town come to investigate and encounter bigotry, fraud and other macabres. Trees is both hilarious and fiercely serious, dramatizing the line of genocide from slavery, through Jim Crow-era lynching, to the police killing of black men in the 21st century. It all comes wrapped up in a captivating and riotous storyline.

By Max Liu

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