Books

The best books of 2022

During 2022, we were treated to new novels from famous names like Jennifer Egan, Ian McEwan, Monica Ali and Cormac McCarthy. However, the real story is that the latest generation of authors continue to influence literature by writing from a greater number of viewpoints. This means that readers are encountering narratives – fiction and non-fiction – from more cultural backgrounds than ever before. In terms of sales, no-one came close to matching the achievements of Colleen Hoover, who filled the bestseller lists with multiple novels. When she released It Starts with Us, a sequel to her 2016 novel, It Ends with Us, she sold 800,000 copies on the first day.

Are these books better than the best of books of 2021? You decide.

The best fiction books of 2022

By Jennifer Egan
This is Egan’s sixth novel. She won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for A Visit from the Goon Squad. The Candy House is about Bix Bouton, a technology mogul and famous around the world. Aged 40 with four kids, he is restless, and desperate for a new idea. He stumbles across the concept of downloading memories. Within a decade, Bix's new technology allows you access to every memory you've ever had, and to share your memories in exchange for access to the memories of others. Signed copies available.
By Emily St. John Mandel
The author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel (one of Barack Obama’s top books of 2020) went from strength to strength in 2022. Sea of Tranquility is Emily St. John Mandel’s sixth novel and put her on the bestseller lists once again. It’s about time travel and metaphysics that precisely capture the realities of our current post-pandemic world. Three plots - set years apart - collide. There’s a detective, an 18-year-old steamship passenger, and an author who lives in a moon colony. Signed copies available.
By Charmaine Wilkerson
Charmaine Wilkerson's debut novel is a story of secrets and family history. In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett's death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. A heartbreaking tale unfolds.
By Shelby Van Pelt
Another debut novel. This one features an octopus. After Tova Sullivan's husband dies, she begins working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn't dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors - until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.
By Barbara Kingsolver
An Oprah book club pick. Demon Copperhead is set in the mountains of Appalachia. It’s the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a trailer, with nothing beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, and a talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, he braves the perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he deals with his own invisibility in a culture where people quit rural life for the cities.
By Hernan Diaz
Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, this is a novel about money, power, intimacy, and perception set in the 1920s. Benjamin and Helen Rask are the key characters. Benjamin is a legendary Wall Street tycoon and Helen is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Everyone knows them. The result is a novel that spans a century and becomes more exhilarating with each new revelation. It’s an immersive story and a literary puzzle about deceptions in personal relationships. Signed copies available.
By Tessa Hadley
A novel about one woman's sexual and intellectual awakening in 1960s London from the author of Late in the Day. Set in 1967, Phyllis is the dutiful homemaker in a traditional suburban family until she is kissed in the garden on a hot summer evening by a twentysomething. Phyllis makes a choice that defies all expectations of her as a wife and a mother. Free Love explores romantic love and sexual freedom. This is Tessa Hadley’s eighth novel. Signed copies available.
By Anne Tyler
This novel is a journey into the strange ways of one Baltimore family. The Garretts took their first and last family vacation in the summer of 1959. They hardly ever leave home. Mercy, Robin’s wife, wants to be a painter. The teenage daughters, steady Alice and boy-crazy Lily, have little in common. The youngest child, David, wants to escape the family. French Braid is classic Anne Tyler. With lots of humor and insight, this novel unwraps one particular American family. Signed copies available.
By Peng Shepherd
Acclaimed for The Book of M, Peng Shepherd’s 2022 book is a highly imaginative thriller about a young woman, Nell Young, who discovers that a strange map in her deceased father's belongings holds a deadly secret. It appears that a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every copy of the map. Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power of maps. Signed copies available.
By Kamila Shamsie
Kamila Shamsie won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018 for Home Fire. This novel covers 40 years of friendship between Maryam and Zahra. It starts in Karachi in 1988 when the girls are 14. As Pakistan's dictatorship falls and a woman comes to power, the world seems full of possibilities. Elated by the change in the air, they make a snap decision at a party. That night, everything goes wrong, and the two girls are powerless to change the outcome. This is an epic story that explores the ties of childhood friendship, the possibility of escape, and how politics can intrude on personal experiences. Signed copies available.
By Monica Ali
Monica Ali has been literary superstar since her debut novel, Brick Lane, was released in 2003. Love Marriage tells the story of Yasmin Ghorami, who has a loving family, a fledgling career in medicine, and a handsome fiancée, fellow doctor Joe Sangster. But as the wedding day draws closer and Yasmin's parents get to know Joe's firebrand feminist mother, both families must confront the unravelling of long-held secrets, lies and betrayals. Yasmin is forced to ask herself what she really wants in a relationship and what a 'love marriage' actually means. Signed copies available.
By William Boyd
Set in the 19th century, this novel follows the rollercoaster fortunes of a man as he tries to negotiate the random stages, adventures and vicissitudes of life. He is variously a soldier, a farmer, a pawnbroker, a bankruptee, a prisoner, a writer, a gigolo - and many other manifestations - and, finally, a minor diplomat, based in Trieste (where he sees out his final days). William Boyd has been rated as a novelist since the 1980s. He’s written 17 novels and is best known for Any Human Heart, released in 2003. Signed copies available.
By Morgan Talty
Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a debut collection of 12 stories about what it means to be Penobscot in the 21st century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy. This book provides an insight into life in an Indigenous community in the United States.
By Sheila Heti
What if this world is just a first draft, made by some great artist in order to be destroyed? In this first draft, a woman named Mira leaves home to study. There, she meets Annie, whose tremendous power opens Mira's chest like a portal - to what, she doesn't know. When Mira is older, her father dies, and she enters that strange and dizzying dimension that true loss opens up. Pure Colour tells the story of a life, from beginning to end. Sheila Heti, a Canadian author, has been writing novels, non-fiction, short stories and essays since 2001.
By Ian McEwan
Famous for Atonement, Amsterdam and Enduring Love among others, Ian McEwan remains in the top category of novelists. Lessons asks if we take full charge of the course of our lives without damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape our lives and our memories? And what can we really learn from past traumas? It begins when 11-year-old Roland Baines's life is turned upside down at boarding school and continues through to the pandemic and climate change. Signed copies available.
By Tony Birch
This novel from Australia's leading indigenous storyteller is set in the 1960s and explores the lengths we'll go to save the people we love. It’s the story of one native Australian family and the racist government that threatens to separate them. Odette Brown has lived her entire life on the fringes of Deane, a small country town. Dark secrets simmer beneath the surface of Deane - secrets that could explain why Odette's daughter, Lila, left her one-year-old daughter, Sissy, and never came back, or why Sissy has white skin when her family is Aboriginal.
By NoViolet Bulawayo
A tribute to Orwell’s Animal Farm? NoViolet Bulawayo's novel follows the fall of the Old Horse, the long-serving leader of a fictional country, and the drama that follows for a rumbustious nation of animals on the path to liberation. Inspired by the unexpected fall in November 2017 of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president for nearly four decades, Glory shows how a country implodes, narrated by a chorus of animal voices. At the center of this tumult is Destiny, a young goat.
By Oscar Hokeah
A debut novel. Told in a series of voices, Calling for a Blanket Dance guides us through the life of Ever Geimausaddle via the multigenerational perspectives of his family, who face numerous obstacles. His father is injured at the hands of corrupt police, his mother's struggles to stay employed and care for her husband, there’s constant resettlement of the family, and the legacy of centuries of injustice.
By Celeste Ng
From the author of Little Fires Everywhere, Our Missing Hearts is about a mother's unbreakable love in a world consumed by fear. Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in Harvard's library. He knows not to ask too many questions. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve 'American culture' in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic, including the work of Bird's mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when Bird was nine years old.
By Kate Atkinson
The author of Life after Life transports us to a restless world in the wake of the Great War. Shrines of Gaiety is set during the Jazz Age in London's Soho clubs where peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time. The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, who wants to advance her six children. Signed copies available.
By Maggie O’Farrell
In Florence in the 1560, Lucrezia, third daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, is free to wander the palazzo at will, wondering at its treasures and clandestine workings. But when her older sister dies on the eve of marriage to Alfonso d'Este, ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight. The duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father accepts on her behalf. Barely out of girlhood, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her husband. Signed copies available.
By Reema Patel
Rakhi is a 23-year-old former street child. Constantly reminded she doesn't belong, Rakhi lives alone in a Mumbai slum, working as a lowly office assistant at Justice for All, a struggling human rights law office headed by the renowned lawyer. Fiercely intelligent and in possession of a sharp wit and an even sharper tongue, Rakhi is nobody's fool, even if she is underestimated by everyone around her. Rakhi's life isn't much, but she's managing. That is until a fading former Bollywood starlet tries to edge her way back into the spotlight by becoming a celebrity ambassador for Justice for All.
By Erika T. Wurth
White Horse is a gritty debut novel about an Indigenous woman who must face her past when she discovers a bracelet haunted by her mother's spirit. Kari James, an urban native, has to step away from heavy metal, Stephen King novels, and dive bars when she begins her journey to the truth.
By Tara M. Stringfellow
A tribute to Black women. A debut novel tracing three generations of a Southern Black family and one daughter’s discovery that she has the power to change her family’s legacy. Summer 1995: 10-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee from her father’s explosive temper and seek refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. This is not the first time that violence has altered the course of the family’s trajectory. Half a century earlier, Joan’s grandfather built this house - only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in the city. Signed copies available.
By Geraldine Brooks
A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, Geraldine Brooks produces a sweeping story of spirit and injustice across American history. This novel combines an enslaved groom in 1850 Kentucky, a New York gallery owner in 1954 and a scientist and an historian from 2019 Washington D.C. Based on the true story of a record-breaking thoroughbred, Horse is a novel about art and science, love and obsession, and racism. Signed copies available.
By Leila Mottley
Nightcrawling tackles the injustices of poverty, racism, sexism, and policing. Leila Mottley shines a light on the dark forces that plague the city of Oakland in California. But the book is also a love letter to the city. In East Oakland, Kiara, a Black high school drop-out, is scraping by. Her mother is in jail, her dad has disappeared, her older brother is chasing a non-existent rapping career, and she’s also taken an abandoned nine-year-old boy under her wing. During a night out, she unknowingly steps into a world of prostitution - nightcrawling - and is forced into a far more sinister and abusive scheme by the very people who could arrest her for it. A notable debut novel.

The best non-fiction books of 2022

By Jarvis Cocker
When Jarvis Cocker - Pulp’s former singer - starts clearing out his loft, he finds a jumble of objects that tell his story and ask some awkward questions: Who do you think you are? Are clothes important? Why are there so many pairs of broken glasses? From a shirt to a pack of chewing gum, from his teenage attempts to write songs to a joke book, this is the evidence of Cocker’s unique life in pop culture, Brit Pop and stagecraft. This is not a life story. It's a loft story.
By Kathryn Schulz
Eighteen months before Kathryn Schulz's beloved father died, she met the woman she would marry. In Lost & Found, she weaves the stories of those relationships into an exploration of how all our lives are shaped by loss and discovery - from the maddening disappearance of everyday objects to the sweeping devastations of war, pandemic, and natural disaster, from finding new planets to falling in love. Three different American families exist at the heart of Lost & Found and we get an insight into each one.
By Greg Melville
Greg Melville has toured the United States visiting notable historic cemeteries from Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and Boothill in Tombstone, Arizona. Melville’s historical research covers the early colonists, graveyards of the enslaved, the American Civil War, religion, nature, celebrity, and architecture as we learn about the stories behind these cemeteries. Throw in Walt Disney’s humble grave and Johnny Ramone’s statue for good measure. Listen to our podcast interview with Greg Melville.
By Maggie Haberman
Few journalists have covered Donald Trump more extensively than Maggie Haberman. Interviews with hundreds of sources and Trump himself portray a complicated and often contradictory figure. Capable of kindness but relying on casual cruelty when it suits his purposes. Pugnacious. Insecure. Lonely. Vindictive. Menacing. Smarter than his critics think, and colder and more calculating than his allies believe. A man who embedded himself in popular culture for decades, laying the groundwork to galvanize support for a successful run for the White House. This book chronicles Trump's entire career.
By Geoff Dyer
This book only contains a little tennis. Geoff Dyer considers his own encounter with late middle age against the last days and last achievements of writers, painters, athletes and musicians who matter to him. With charm and intelligence, Dyer examines Friedrich Nietzsche's breakdown in Turin, Bob Dylan's reinventions of old songs, J.M.W. Turner's paintings of abstracted light, John Coltrane's melodies, and Beethoven's final quartets. He considers the experience that comes when the end is in sight. This book is about last things.
By Stephanie Cacioppo
At 37, Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo was content to be single. She was fulfilled by her work on the neuroscience of romantic love - how finding and growing with a partner literally reshapes our brains. That was, until she met the foremost neuroscientist of loneliness. A whirlwind romance led to marriage and to sharing an office at the University of Chicago. After seven years of being inseparable at work and at home, Stephanie lost her beloved husband, John, following his battle with cancer. In Wired for Love, Stephanie tells not just a science story but also a love story.
By David K. Randall
Two vastly different men have a mission to fill the empty halls of New York's struggling American Museum of Natural History - Henry Fairfield Osborn, a privileged socialite whose reputation rests on the museum's success, and intrepid Kansas-born fossil hunter Barnum Brown. When Brown unearths the first Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils in Montana, Osborn sees a path to save his museum from irrelevancy. With a cast of robber barons, eugenicists, and opportunistic cowboys, David K. Randall reveals how a monster of a bygone era ignited a new understanding of our planet.
By Viola Davis
The daughter of a civil rights activist, Viola Davis has won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards . This memoir describes her journey to becoming an actress and producer. From abject poverty in crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the stage in New York City and beyond, this book describes how Viola Davis reinvented herself.
By Chuck Klosterman
In The Nineties, Chuck Klosterman considers film, music, sports, TV, politics, the changes regarding race and class and sexuality, and the yin/yang of Oprah and Alan Greenspan. You will encounter sentences like this one… “The video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was not more consequential than the reunification of Germany.” He looks at the rise of the Internet, pre-9/11 politics, and the paradoxical belief that nothing was more humiliating than trying too hard.
By Sasha LaPointe
An Indigenous artist blends the aesthetics of punk rock with the traditional spiritual practices of the women in her lineage in this contemporary journey to reclaim her heritage and unleash her power and voice while searching for a permanent home in the Pacific Northwest.
By Courtney Maum
At 37, Courtney Maum finds herself in an arena in Connecticut, moments away from climbing back into the saddle. For her, this is not just a riding lesson, but a last-ditch attempt to pull herself back from the brink. She hasn't been on or near a horse in more than 30 years. When both therapy and medication fail to alleviate depression, Courtney returns to her childhood passion of horseback riding as a way to recover the joy and fearlessness she once had as a young girl.
By Siddhartha Mukherjee
Mukherjee begins this magnificent story in the late 1600s, when a distinguished English polymath, Robert Hooke, and an eccentric Dutch cloth-merchant, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, looked down their handmade microscopes. What they saw introduced a radical concept that swept through biology and medicine, touching virtually every aspect of the two sciences, and altering both forever. It was the fact that complex living organisms are assemblages of tiny, self-contained, self-regulating units. Our organs, our physiology, our selves - hearts, blood, brains - are built from these compartments. Hooke christened them “cells”.

Share

More essential reading lists

By Katie Yakovleva
June 15, 2021
At AbeBooks, we believe there is something special about reading. And we don’t just love to read books. We love to talk about them.
February 15, 2022
From Silent Spring to Gorillas in the Mist, this list features books published between 1911 and 1999 that highlighted environments and species in danger.
June 03, 2021
This list celebrates African American writers from both the past and present, from Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes to Colson Whitehead.
1 Min Read