My 10 Favorite Reads of 2022
Well, here it is, another list nobody asked for. These are my favorite reads of 2022. I plowed through 120 books this past year. Granted, some of these are graphic novels, mostly read when I was laid up with a shattered big toe, but trust me, plenty of compelling stories can be found in that medium. I have a couple on this list, and my thought is, a great story is a great story, regardless of how it’s told, and it certainly deserves to be read. Anyway, without further ado, here’s my list for the year. All of these titles are highly recommended by me.
1. Piranesi – Susanna Clarke
Normally, when someone says the word “fantasy,” it conjures images of swords and sorcerers, kings and wizards, etc. We probably have J.R.R. to thank for that more than anyone (not that I’m complaining). But Clarke steps outside the box and proves that fantasy can be so much more than that. She builds a world, drops her protagonist, the amnesia-stricken Piranesi, into it, and then slowly unwraps the mystery of his existence. This is a fascinating page-turner that I couldn’t put down. It’s easily my favorite book I read this year.
2. A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
Ove, a cantankerous, anti-social widower just wants to die. With his wife gone, he feels life is done and just wants to move on. But new neighbors (and a pesky cat) keep getting in the way of his suicide attempts. This is a dark comedy with plenty of heart, the most “feel-good” story I read this year. While I loved this book, there is an annoyingly unnecessary epilogue at the end that can easily be skipped. Backman ended his story perfectly, then for some reason felt the need to tack on what amounts to, “they lived happily ever after.” But regardless, still a great read.
3. Parliament of Whores – P.J. O’Rourke
I’ve been aware of P.J. O’Rourke since the early 90s when I had a subscription to Rolling Stone but had never really read his stuff. Then he passed away earlier this year, and I saw a number of thinkers I respect recommending this as his best book. And they ain’t wrong. This book, a scathing look at how our corrupt, bloated federal government operates, is just as prescient now as it was back in the mid-90s when O’Rourke wrote it. If you look at our politicians on both sides of the aisle and shake your head in shame as I do, then this is a must-read for you.
4. How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home – Derek Thomas
All of God’s word is precious, but there’s just something extra special about the glorious, comforting hope of Romans 8. Derek Thomas has compiled his sermon series on this beautiful chapter into this book, and his insight is wonderful. If you’ve read and meditated on Romans 8 many times as I have, or if you’ve never really looked at it, this book will be a most helpful treasure to mining the depths of God’s truth expressed through the Apostle Paul here.
5. Borne – Jeff VanderMeer
Post-apocalyptic sci-fi? Yes, please! This is a strange book that breaks many conventions, and I love it for that. A giant (like, really giant) killer bear that roams the world, slaughtering any living thing it sees? Okay. People forced to scavenge their existence so they aren’t murdered by the killer bear? Okay. And then one of the scavengers finds a sentient blob that she names Borne. But what is he? A friend? Is he dangerous? Borne isn’t even sure himself about that. VanderMeer’s book is chock full of imagination and thought-provoking questions, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
6. The God of the Garden – Andrew Peterson
Andrew Peterson scores again with this lovely rumination on God’s love and sufficiency. It’s part memoir as he relates stories from his childhood, and he also talks about his deep struggles with depression and anxiety. It all culminates with Peterson working his way through Psalm 22, offering his thoughts as he goes, a section of the book that left me moved and teary-eyed. I always love how thoughtful and introspective he is, and this doesn’t disappoint.
7. Sweet Tooth, Vol. 1-3 – Jeff Lemire
Here’s one of my graphic novel reads. It’s a post-apocalyptic story about how a virus has ravaged the world population. At the same time, every baby being born is a human/animal hybrid, and our attention falls on Gus, a boy/deer hybrid who loves candy bars so much it earns him the nickname “Sweet Tooth” from his protector, Jepperd, AKA, the Big Man. Lemire wrote and drew this series himself, and he pulls no punches. The art is fast and raw and sometimes ugly and brutal as it depicts the self-serving violence one would expect at the end of the world. Some of the characters that cross Gus and Jepperd’s path are truly vile. At points, the story feels a bit nihilistic, but thanks to characters like Gus and his other hybrid friends like Wendy and Bobby, there’s also a sweetness to be found. And the story has a satisfying ending, despite some hard losses along the way.
8. Batman: Hush – Jeph Loeb
I love Batman, and I love a good Batman story. This book collects the issues from 20 years ago when DC Comics introduced the villain Hush. It’s not a perfect story, but it is compelling with lots of great cameos from Batman’s gallery of rogues, and the art (by Jim Lee) is gorgeous. And even though I already knew much of the mystery behind Hush, the book still managed to surprise me in the end.
9. Redshirts – John Scalzi
Drawing on one of Star Trek’s most noticeable tropes, John Scalzi has managed to write something that is not only a biting satire but also a love letter to classic science fiction. When the red-shirted, anonymous crew members aboard the ship Intrepid begin to connect the dots that their kind always dies while the officers always escape peril, they try to find a way to put an end to it, at first hiding when away team volunteers are needed, but then trying to work out the mystery of why it happens in the first place. A funny and thrilling read that also asks some thought-provoking existential questions.
10. Thank You For Smoking – Christopher Buckley
The last book I read this year was also one of the best. I love Buckley’s satires, and this is probably my favorite so far. Buckley introduces us to Nick Naylor, a congenital liar and spokesman for the tobacco lobby. At first, he comes off as a complete sociopath, dismissing and/or discrediting anyone with concerns about the dangers of cigarettes, but after he’s kidnapped and nearly murdered by anti-smoking zealots, you’ll find yourself rooting for him. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, and all through the ride, Buckley takes shots at everyone: lobbyists, politicians, the media, big business, Hollywood, etc. This is a very funny page-turner that will also get your mind’s wheels grinding on the points he makes. If you can make me laugh and think at the same time, then you’ve hooked me.