The best books and stories I read in 2022

December 30, 2022

It’s that time of year again, where I revisit all the work I read in 2022. This is always a non-agnostic list: the works are across a wide range of genres and they’re not all from 2022 either. But what I do hope is that you find something interesting here, especially for genre fiction readers.

At the time of writing this post, I’d already passed my annual reading challenge of 52 books. My reading was up from 2021, mostly because I was in a better headspace after coming out of Melbourne’s Covid lockdowns.

This year I wanted to reinvigorate my reading practice and get inspired to write again, so I read a lot of old favourites to remind me why I loved them so much. While The Silence of the Lambs, The Nikopol Trilogy, and Interview With The Vampire are some of the best books I read this year, I won’t be highlighting them simply because you probably know they are classics!

I also read several newer books, because I’ve started reviewing for Interzone, with my first reviews out in the January edition of IZ #294.

So without further ado, the best books and stories I read in 2022.

Best fiction books

36 Streets by T.R. Napper

Book cover of 36 Streets by T.R. Napper featuring a cyberpunk city with a woman in a pink trench coat in front of it

36 Streets was easily the best science fiction book I read in 2022. Gritty, painful, and brilliantly written, Napper captured a futuristic Vietnam which made me feel like I was there. Lin ‘The Silent One’ Vu is caught between worlds: that of gang life and her family, that of Australian and Vietnam, that of the hard reality of Hanoi’s streets and the virtual world of video game “Fat Victory”. This multiplicity of conflicts makes 36 Streets a proper noir novel (none of this pastiche BS). Napper does not pull punches here.

He intersperses moments of pure poetry with violence, leaving the reader with the sense that they’re reading Graham Greene or one of the hard-boiled greats. The author brilliantly ties cyberpunk’s obsession with memory to Vietnam’s national identity, making 36 Streets one of the best cyberpunk novels since Altered Carbon.

The Black Maybe by Attila Veres

I won’t go into The Black Maybe too much here, because my review is yet to be published. But what I will say is that this weird-fiction short story collection by Hungarian author Attila Veres stayed with me long after I finished the book. I hope this collection gets serious consideration in the 2023 horror awards season.

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, narrated by Scott Brick

The Long Goodbye is one of Raymond Chandler’s most famous crime works, but I’m highlighting it here because I listened to the excellent audiobook narrated by Scott Brick.

Alongside Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, this is quite possibly the G.O.A.T. of crime novels. PI Marlowe gets drawn into a complex crime by simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a perfect L.A. noir full of post-war malaise. You could eat the writing with a spoon.

The problem with listening to such a good book on audiobook, is now I have to re-read the paperback to highlight all my favourite passages.

Honourable mentions: The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Most entertaining fiction

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

If you’re looking for a gentle holiday read, look no further than the delightful Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree. An orc hangs up her axe to start a new life as a barista in a small town, starting up a coffee shop and making friends along the way. Legends & Lattes is like the warm hug of a coffee mug, with low-key stakes, love, and lots and lots of delicious baked goods.

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Okay, so I might be biased here, as I get a small mention in the thank you section of this book. But I really enjoyed Vanessa’s young adult fantasy novel. It’s an exceedingly clever take on classic YA tropes of young love, monster killing, and being the chosen one.

In Only a Monster, Len turns genre expectations on their head. The book has lovable characters, complex relationships, and a surprising plot. I read this in a few hours and had a great time.

Best short stories and collections

  • Helpmeet by Naben Ruthnum (novella)
  • ‘Return to the Midnight School’ from The Black Maybe by Attila Veres
  • ‘Women and Women’ from Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki
  • ‘Your Own Aboriginie’ by Adam Thompson, ‘Snake of Light’ by Loki Liddle, and ‘Muyum: A Transgression’ by Evelyn Araluen from This All Come Back Now: an anthology of First Nations speculative fiction
  • Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan
  • ‘“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman’ by Harlan Ellison. Okay, so it’s a classic for a reason, but I read it for the first time this year!
  • ‘Blades for France’ from Sword Woman by Robert E. Howard
  • ‘The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber’ by Ernest Hemingway. Another classic. There’s a lot of machismo here, but Hemingway really knew how to structure a short story.

Best non-fiction books and essays

The Digital Republic by Jamie Susskind

In The Digital Republic, Jamie Susskind argues for a democratic system that’s abreast of the fast-moving pace of digital technology and the emergence of AI. While it covers familiar territory in some chapters (AI bias anyone?), it’s the structure of the argument and the recommendations he makes that elevate this above other offerings in the technology book space.

Susskind’s argument? That we need to look at the origins of democracy to remind ourselves how technology should be there to serve the people, and not the other way around. This informs how governments should respond to businesses and regulation, especially regarding competition law.

And it’s funny too. There are jokes about dinosaurs and dachshunds.

The Bin Fire of the Humanities by Judith Brett, The Monthly

This was my favourite essay in Judith Brett’s Doing Politics, which outlined the importance of studying arts (and what happens when it’s under-funded!). As a humanities student, you could feel my blood boiling as I read it. I loved Brett’s passion for the importance of studying history and philosophy to understand contemporary politics.

You can read it for free online at The Monthly

‘Plant a cherry tree over my grave’ by Kiyomi Appleton Gaines in Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women in Horror

My review for Unquiet Spirits will come out in the January 2023 edition of Interzone, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning this essay. As a childless woman, this essay destroyed me, linking horror and not being a mother to the genuine fears behind it. 10/10.

Conclusion

Those are my top reads from 2022. As always, I’d love to hear your favourite books from the year! I’m always looking for new recommendations for 2023.

What are my reading plans for the new year? To read through the giant pile of books in my office on my TBR trolley. And not buy any new books until it’s done… at least I’ll try.

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