It’s that time of year again: NPR brings you the full list of books we love for 2022, an original and highly personal collection of our staff and contributors’ favorite books of the year.
We’ve curated a range of reads from revivals of ever-diverse graphic novels to hair-raising thrillers and mysteries.
Of the 402 books that made the list, here are eight of the books our Books We Love readers have recommended the most.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
You know that feeling when you finally beat a video game? Emotional catharsis floods your mind and body and, exhausted, you put the controller down with a sigh. If you’re not a big gamer, but still crave that emotional release, Gabrielle Zevin’s brilliant novel about two friends’ journey to video game stardom is the perfect substitute. This story of love, loss and constant battle between art and commercial success took my breath away. This is one of those books you’ll be thinking about long after the “game is over”.
— Brandon Carter, Associate Producer, Washington Desk
Thistle-foot by Genna Rose Nethercott
For centuries, old Baba Yaga has been a figure in Slavic folklore – the kind of character who could lend you a magic candle or kill you and use your skull to decorate her house on chicken legs. In his first novel, Thistle-foot, author and folklorist GennaRose Nethercott reimagines Baba Yaga as a Jewish woman living in an Eastern European shtetl in 1919, during a time of civil war and pogroms. Through the old woman and her story, Nethercott explores the idea of folklore as an account of a memory that is too painful to talk about clearly.
— Mallory Yu, producer/editor, All things Considered
I’m glad my mother died by Jennette McCurdy
Ancient iCarly star Jennette McCurdy’s account of her tumultuous relationship with show business, eating disorders and her mother’s abuse is central to her early memoir, I’m glad my mother died. McCurdy’s storytelling is not only fantastic but intimate and raw, full of both pain and humor. Although it may be difficult to read, learning all that she went through in private while in the public eye, I’m glad my mother died is also hard to put down – and hard to forget.
— Aja Miller, Partner, Membership Partnership
If I survive you by Jonathan Escoffery
I might say something buttoned up, like “Jonathan Escoffery’s debut collection of short stories examines race, identity and class incisively.” And that would be true, but to put it that way betrays the lack of didacticism in his writing. Instead, the book – which follows generations of a Jamaican American family – focuses on the hunger (literal and figurative), grief, excitement and (perhaps?) hope that often goes from hand in hand with trying to succeed in this country.
— Andrew Limbong, correspondent, Culture Desk and host, Book of the Day
The Parisian apartment by Lucy Foley
Lucy Foley is back with her latest whodunit, this time in a weird Parisian apartment complex. Fleeing from her own troubles, Jess decides to visit Ben, her journalist brother. But when she arrives in Paris, Ben is nowhere to be found. None of his neighbors know where he is, but they all seem to know him – maybe a little too well. As she investigates, Jess learns more about her brother, his job, and those strange neighbors. With suspicious and unlovable characters in their own way and a fun twist, you’re in for a dark and brooding escape.
— Arielle Retting, Growth Editor, Digital News
The Hacienda by Isabel Canas
I’m a sucker for Gothic novels, and I loved the trend of Gothics taking place in an unexpected place (i.e. not Europe). The Hacienda is a story that takes us to, well, a hacienda – a remote Mexican town in the 1820s, shortly after the Revolutionary War. The protagonist, Beatriz, moves to her new husband’s sprawling estate, eager to escape the rejection, poverty, and tragedy she suffered in Mexico City. What she finds instead is a ridiculously haunted house inhabited by people who seem equally haunted – including those believed to be closest to her.
—Leah Donnella, Editor-in-Chief, code switch
How far do we go in the dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Sequoia Nagamatsu’s debut is beautiful and unforgiving in its depiction of a world reeling from a blight brought on by a climatic catastrophe. From the earliest days of a pandemic to impacts that linger centuries into the future, the plague forces humans to deal with immeasurable grief and loss. And the commercialization of death is unavoidable: there is a euthanasia amusement park for terminally ill children, a hotel for the dead. But despite the misfortune and sadness, these stories are endlessly imaginative and meaningful. Although the universe in which these stories are set is undeniably dark, Nagamatsu imbues his characters with a sense of cosmic hope and humanity.
— Summer Thomad, Production Assistant, code switch
Chemistry class by Bonnie Garmus
The 1950s weren’t just tough on women with aspirations outside the home — they were punitive. Example: Elizabeth Zott, chemist. She doesn’t have her doctorate. because she was assaulted by a teacher; she is belittled and harassed by the men she works with. She falls for a star scientist – and is dogged by rumors that she’s using him to get ahead. Her accidental death, surprise pregnancy, and new desperation as a single mother lead her to success in an unlikely place: a TV cooking show. But Zott teaches his audience radical lessons that go beyond cooking. This book is an often funny but infuriating read.
— Melissa Gray, Senior Producer, weekend edition