all of my 2022 book recommendations

All year long, I’ve made a weekly book recommendation when kicking off the weekend open thread. These aren’t work-related books; they’re just books I like, mostly fiction. Sometimes they’re books that I’m in the middle of reading, and other times they’re just long-standing favorites.

Here’s the complete list of what I’ve recommended this year (maybe in time for holiday gift-shopping!). I’ve bolded my favorites of the favorites.

Dava Shastri’s Last Day, by Kirthana Ramisetti. A wealthy philanthropist brings her family to a private island to disclose her terminal illness and plans for her death. Emma Straub said, “If Succession were about a multicultural family who actually loved each other, it might look like this.” I really liked it.

Ghosts, by Dolly Alderton. It’s light but it’s dark. It’s a rom com but it’s more. It’s about ghosting but it’s also about aging parents and changing friendships and career angst and the general mess of life, and it’s funny.

The Maid, by Nita Prose. The narrator, a neurodivergent maid at a high-end hotel, finds a wealthy guest dead in his bed and is accused of his murder.

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, by Hilary Liftin. Clearly inspired by the marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, this is an account of an up-and-coming actor who marries a Hollywood A-lister and finds that life with him is not what she expected — and escape is not easy.

All This Could Be Yours, by Jami Attenberg. A family deals with the impending death of their very difficult patriarch.

My Italian Bulldozer, by Alexander McCall Smith. A Scottish food writer, reeling from a break-up, heads to Italy to finish his latest book. Mishaps abound (including a problem with his rental car, which leaves him renting a bulldozer instead).

The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont. This is the second novel I’m recommending about the time in 1926 when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days, claiming on her return to her faithless husband that she didn’t know where she had been. This one is better than the first, although they are both good and apparently I will read an endless quantity of novels about her disappearance.

Fall or Fly: The Strangely Hopeful Story of Foster Care and Adoption in Appalachia, by Wendy Welch. Fascinating and heart-breaking and frustrating and important.

Paula, by Isabel Allende. A mother’s memoir of family, as her daughter lays in a coma. Beautiful and haunting.

Yearbook, by Seth Rogen. It’s presented as a collection of personal essays, but it’s really more of a memoir about growing up Jewish in Canada in the 80s and 90s, doing a lot of drugs, and trying to figure out family, girls, and comedy. At the start I thought it might be A Bit Too Much, but it’s genuinely funny.

Olga Dies Dreaming, by Xochitl Gonzalez. A wedding planner and her politician brother, abandoned by their radicalized mother, struggle with relationships, political corruption, and family secrets.

The Lifeguards, by Amanda Eyre Ward. Three mothers try to protect their teenage sons when they might be involved in a woman’s suspicious death.

The Intangible, by C.J. Washington. It’s about a woman who’s not pregnant but is convinced she is, and what happens around her.

Secrets of Happiness, by Joan Silber. In a story told by six different narrators, a family finds out their father/husband has a second wife and two kids living across town. This is about what happens afterwards.

A Splendid Ruin, by Megan Chance. An orphan goes to live with rich relatives in 1906 San Francisco, and quickly realizes something is off about her flashy new family.

Old New York, by Edith Wharton. If you need to escape the current moment in time, these four novellas will let you instead worry about the morals of the mid-1800s.

Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel. I don’t know what to say about this! There’s a writer on a book tour and a detective using time travel, and a son exiled from his rich family, and it jumps between centuries. I did not like it quite as much as the author’s Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, but she writes beautifully and the experience of reading this is almost trance-like.

Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. A scientist in the 1960s fights sexism, becomes a cooking show star (insisting the whole time that she is a chemist, not a chef), raises a dog and a child, and fights more sexism. It’s darkly funny, quirky, and satisfying.

Happy for You, by Claire Stanford. Midway through her dissertation, a woman leaves grad school to study happiness at the world’s third largest tech company, while grappling with race, family, (possible) marriage, and (possible) motherhood.

Counterfeit, by Kirstin Chen. Rules-follower Ava Wong gets swept up into her college friend’s luxury handbag counterfeit scheme. It’s both a crime caper and an exploration of race, stereotypes, friendship, and who we believe.

The Latecomer, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. A marriage borne out of tragedy produces triplets who feel a strong disconnect from their parents and each other. I do love a dysfunctional family saga and this is one of them, although I think I still prefer Korelitz’s The Plot.

The Golden Couple, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. A woman confesses her infidelity to her husband and tries to repair her marriage with the help of an unorthodox therapist, but all is not as it seems. I picked this up intending to read for 10 minutes before bed and was still reading hours later. Not all of it is entirely plausible, but you’ll find yourself not caring about that because it’s so riveting.

Love Marriage, by Monica Ali. An engaged couple each struggle with their own demons, their families, and each other.

I’d Like to Play Alone, Please, by Tom Segura. I love his stand-up comedy and he’s just as funny in book form.

Any Other Family, by Eleanor Brown. Three different families adopt siblings, vowing to function as one big family to keep the kids connected. It turns out, though, that chosen family can be just as aggravating as the family you’re born into — and then the kids’ mom announces she’s pregnant again. I really loved this.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. After creating a wildly successful video game, two lifelong friends contend with fame, love, and their relationship with each other.

The Boys, by Katie Hafner. At the start of this book, the father of two boys receives a letter from a bike touring company, politely asking that he never use their service again. What follows is … a love story? A story of loneliness, connection, family, and grief. It is beautiful in ways that you don’t see coming, and I loved it.

The Startup Wife, by Tahmima Anam. A newlywed coder and her husband develops a wildly popular app with her husband, who soon becomes a messiah-like figure to users (the app creates customized spiritual experiences for the non-religious). Things go sideways.

The Foundling, by Ann Leary. A young woman in the 1920s gets a job at an asylum for women and begins to unravel the dark truth of what’s happening there.

Peter Darling, by Austin Chant. A transgender re-telling of Peter Pan, in which Peter returns to Neverland as an adult and forges a surprising connection with Hook.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna, about a nanny to three young witches who must question the witching rules she grew up with. Cozy in a way that reminded me of The House in the Cerulean Sea. Highly recommended.

Happy-Go-Lucky, by David Sedaris. As always, he’s both funny and dark while writing about his family, and this time the pandemic too.

Girls They Write Songs About, by Carlene Bauer. The story of two friends over decades. Beautifully written and perfectly captures the intensity of 20something friendship, as well as how time can change the thing you once made together.

The Lost Ticket, by Freya Sampson. Strangers unite to help an elderly man who is searching for a woman he met on a bus 60 years ago. Someone called this a “hug in book form” and that’s pretty much right.

How to Fall Out of Love Madly, by Jana Casale. Three 30something women try to navigate friendship, roommates, family, work, and love, while grappling with Bad Behavior from men. Gossipy and often relatable.

The Complicities, by Stacey D’Erasmo. After her husband is arrested for Madoff-like crimes, a woman tries to build a new life for herself.

Lucy By the Sea, by Elizabeth Strout. As Covid lockdowns begin, a woman and her ex-husband isolate together in Maine. It’s beautifully written.

Everything I Know About Love, by Dolly Alderton. That friend everyone has in their 20s who’s always slightly tipsy and a complete mess with men, but enormous fun? That is this book.

These Precious Days: Essays, by Ann Patchett. She is a beautiful writer and the title essay will make you cry, or at least it did me.

Little Children, by Tom Perrotta. Two suburban parents, both aimlessly drifting in unsatisfying marriages, are drawn into an affair against a backdrop of stultifying suburbia. Very John Cheever meets Madam Bovary.

Now Is Not the Time to Panic, by Kevin Wilson. Two teenagers cause panic in their small town with a mysterious poster, still reverberating 20 years later. I love everything Wilson writes.

My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings, edited by Zosia Mamet. Various people writing about food, including Danny Lavery on the food literary children take when running away, Jia Tolentino on acid chicken, Tony Hale (Gary from Veep!) on his love of chain restaurants, and more.

Diary of a Provincial Lady, by Em.M. Delafield. This is Bridget Jones if she were married and writing in 1929, and it is hilarious.

And if you’re looking for more, here are my lists of book recommendations from 2021from 2020from 2019from 2018from 2017from 2016 … and from 2015.

Also: Please note that the HarperCollins Union has been on strike for 21 days and members have been working without a contract for months. Striking workers in this very underpaid industry are asking for a contract that reflects diversity commitments, union protections, and wage adjustments.

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{ 63 comments… read them below }

    1. Avril Ludgateaux*

      Same! I rarely engage in the weekend threads so I always look forward to the book compilation at the end of the year.

      Thanks for the heads-up about the Harper-Collins strike, Alison. I’ll be patronizing my local library instead.

  1. Liselotte*

    Allison, what made you begin these weekly book recommendations? I am in awe of how many books you read!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Good question, and I’m not sure I even remember! I think I was just so into the book I’d just read the first time I did it that I wanted to share it with others. (I just went back and looked at what was first and it was The History of Love by Nicole Krauss so that makes sense — I loved that so much.)

  2. Falling Diphthong*

    Dava Shastri’s Last Day has really lingered for me, for the way the money is such an important part of the book’s landscape, warping the characters around it like a black hole. So often vast wealth in fiction is treated as a way to solve any awkward logistics problems–all upside, no other effect.

    Also for the descriptions of the house, which is beautiful and impressive in some ways, and awkward and poorly designed in others. It was meant to be a welcoming spot that would draw this family together, and deeply fails in that for reasons that seem immediately evident to an outsider. I’m interested in functional architecture (like our best AirBnBs have a central gathering space that everyone gravitates toward) and this book had one of the best architecture depictions I can remember.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This one got really personal for me this year, months after I read it — not the extreme wealth (unfortunately) but the terminally ill mother choosing to control the circumstances of her own death, which is now my family’s situation. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read it again as a result, but it’s excellent.

      1. Avril Ludgateaux*

        I’m sorry to hear about your mother. Wishing you and your family peace in such a trying time.

  3. Falling Diphthong*

    And a thanks to everyone who participates in the book threads: I’ve discovered a lot of great books here. This year I will particularly note the Scholomance series by Naomi Novik and Murderbot series by Martha Wells, both of which I’ve reread multiple times now.

    1. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

      Just to join in-I love those books so much and have also reread multiple times. They are soooo good.

    2. Mbarr*

      People keep raving about Murderbot – I’m in a book club and I want to introduce some sci-fi to the mix… Is the first book good enough as a standalone?

      (I’d love to recommend Project Hail Mary, but I’ve already read it and all of Andy Weir’s other novels.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, All Systems Red stands alone! And it’s a novella, so easy entry. Lots of great themes explored without getting in the way of a zippy adventure in which giant fauna might try to eat the survey team.

        The first four novellas form a connected longer story and I would recommend reading them in order if you like the first, but each closes in a satisfying way at a natural transition point, after resolving the main issues raised in that particular story.

    3. Tierrainney*

      oh I really enjoy the Murderbot series. If humans would just stop trying to get themselves killed its life would be so much easier!

  4. DivergentStitches*

    Thanks as always! I have a few more prompts to fill for my 52 Book 2023 challenge.

    are any of these set in Australia?
    would any have a body positive message?
    do any have chapters with cliffhangers?

  5. Marketing Lady*

    I’d LOVE to know what you thought of the end of Girls They Write Songs About!
    I read it and I was so excited about the first half and enamored with the writing, and the narrator’s attitude and Rose’s charisma and excitement.
    Toward the end, I found myself getting fed up with the narrator and her attitude towards everyone else growing up, and her immaturity.

  6. Sad Desk Salad*

    I’d encourage everyone to read all of the offerings by Hendricks and Pekkanen. There is an underlying theme (marital ennui, infidelity, nefarious therapists), but each one is incredibly well written. The titles do not do the contents justice. My favorite is You Are Not Alone, which is a pretty unique premise. I didn’t *love* The Golden Couple as much as their others, but it’s still really riveting and well done.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      My life was legitimately changed by an NPR story in which a guy explained how deciding to abandon books had really opened up his reading–since he was willing to drop a dull book after a chapter, he was also more willing to give things a try when he wasn’t sure they would be in his wheelhouse.

      1. GarlicMicrowaver*

        Excellent point. Forgot to mention that TTT is simply not my genre. I’d much rather watch a movie or TV show if I’m seeking a time-transcending, love-story plot. But, alas, NYT is the authority on everything so I felt compelled to at least try.

        1. Still+looking+for+a+name+I+like*

          I bailed on TTT with only about 50 pages left when it felt like it was yet another book about a problematic relationship and I realized it didn’t matter to me what they did at the end.

          People rave about it but it does not have universal appeal.

  7. chocolate lover*

    I had a really hard time getting into Dava Shastri, but I loved Lessons in Chemistry. I’m reading Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow now, it’s a little slow but I’m enjoying it. Though Sadie is a bit whiny.

    I loved The Change by Kirsten Miller, all about middle-aged women taking back their power. Literally in the case of this storyline.

    1. toonces*

      The Change was one of my top books of this year! Also This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub and The Latecomer. I have gotten so many recommendations from Allison – as a big reader I really appreciate her.

  8. Weekend Warrior*

    Great list!
    I’m always impressed by the succinct and effective book descriptions. They’re an art form in themselves!

  9. southwest*

    I read The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches last week and it was a DELIGHT. Glad to see it get a shout-out here! Cozy family romance with sparkles of magic.

    1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Yes! I read it right after Alison recommended it, it’s a pleasure and would be a perfect holiday read!

  10. HannahS*

    I enjoy your lists! I’m currently reading These Precious Days in little bites. I read more of your recommendations last year; I think the one that I had the strongest feelings about was Stranger Care. I found the book–and my own reaction to it–really informative.

  11. Richard Hershberger*

    I picked up Diary of a Provincial Lady on Alison’s recommendation. I heartily second it. This also solved this year’s “What to get Mom for Christmas?” problem.

    1. Tierrainney*

      I just picked up the Diary at the library yesterday. I’ve only read a few pages but I enjoy it so far.

  12. Pam Adams*

    I’ve sampled My First Popsicle, and it’s next on my to-buy list. (not to be confused with my to-be-read list, which is much taller)

    1. Miss Muffet*

      I was happy to (finally?) see something nonfiction on the list! But I get it – it’s Allison’s personal list of recs and she has no obligation to rec things she doesn’t enjoy reading (and nonfiction isn’t everyone’s jam). I did read the Theranos book after seeing her rec it here and man, that was some book. Batshit crazy, and it’s good to see juries agreeing lately!

  13. Unions4Ever*

    Hi all! Several of these titles are pubbed by HarperCollins (which is the 2nd largest US publisher and has numerous imprints including William Morrow, Avon, Mariner, and Harvest).

    Members of the HarperCollins Union (UAW Local 2110) have been on strike for 21 days and have been working without a contract since ~April/May 2022.

    If you are interested in learning more about the strike and the state of the publishing workforce, we are @hcpunion on Twitter and the link in our bio leads to our linktree with additional info.

    Note: the union is not asking for a boycott of Harper titles as that also hurts our authors but we have asked other creators of end of year book lists to note that the union is on strike and link to the union’s linktree for more info.

    1. Bluebell*

      Thanks for piping up about this! As a former publishing admin (not for HC, but we were distributed by them), I’m hoping these union workers get a fair deal. Unions4Ever – I have checked out their Twitter feed.

  14. NotAnotherManager!*

    I always greatly appreciate this list and have enjoyed so many of the recommendations over the years. Any time I am struggling to pick my next book, I pull up the Alison book list and run through until I find something that is available immediately through my public library.

  15. Roscoe da Cat*

    Hi Allison,

    I wasn’t sure if my last post got lost – but Delafield wrote a whole series of the provincial lady books and they are all delightful. They are:
    The Provincial Lady Goes Further
    The Provincial Lady in America
    The Provincial Lady in Wartime

  16. ProducerNYC*

    Allison, your book recommendations are easily one of my favorite features. I will, without hesitation, read Now Is Not the Time to Panic because I so loved Nothing to See Here, which you recommended a year or two ago, and I couldn’t believe how taken in I was by that story! Also, The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune was my first read of 2022 and I still think about it. The ending had me so emotional. The year before that, it was Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, which is still standing out as one of my favorite books in the past decade or more. Thank you so much for this bit of joy you’re spreading.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I will say, I did not love Now Is Not the Time to Panic as much as I loved Nothing to See Here. I liked it, but it’s a very different tone.

      If you liked The House in the Cerulean Sea, I recommend trying Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots. Totally different book, but they share some similarities. (And I loved both.)

      1. Mongrel*

        Seconded on Hench
        I picked it up after Alison mentioned it in the comments somewhere, it’s a very different take on the Superhero genre

      2. ProducerNYC*

        I read Hench on your rec and also loved it! Basically my queue in Libby is 90 percent AAM recommendations.

  17. Orit Olshansky*

    Thank you. I love your book recommendations. I’d like to add The Mutual Friend by Carter Bays who is also a co-creator of How I Met Your Mother.

  18. Elder Grad Student*

    I just finished The Complicities on Audible which I found on your recommendation and it was lovely. So, thanks!

  19. Warm Gooey Cheap Ass Rolls*

    Just a quick head’s up that Peter Darling has an ending that many people find transphobic and incredibly invalidating.

  20. Non-profiteer*

    You turned me on to The House in the Cerulean Sea – it was the book I read during stolen moments while my newborn was napping during maternity leave. Partly because of that association, I loved it so much! I’ve shared it with several friends and this one of the best book recommendations I’ve shared. Can’t wait to read the ones here you recommend as similar!

  21. GarlicMicrowaver*

    Allison, just curious, are you a fan of Murakami? I love him, but I find it’s either love or hate with him. An example of an author who isn’t my genre, but has sucked me in anyway.

  22. Bluebell*

    Thank you, Alison! Now I can go through the list and see which I’ve read, and add some to my wish list. One of my little moments of joy this year was sending Alison an email enthusiastically recommending Lessons in Chemistry, and hearing back that it was on her list!

  23. Reluctant Mezzo*

    I loved Victoria Goddard’s Hands of the Emperor. I am about halfway through the sequel, At the Feet of the Sun, and I am taking a short break; Kip is reaching Bella Swann levels of getting bogged down in his feelings, and is coming across to me (I hasten to say, your mileage may vary) more like a late teen than someone who is presumably in his fifties, at least. Now, there are some valid reasons for this–he’s been pushed into a mold for most of his life–but it’s dragging. Will go back to it after I’ve finished another Jane and the Whatever Bow Street adventure.

  24. BusinessReader*

    Given the topic of this blog, I would expect to see more nonfiction, leadership, and business related titles in your reading list. Gotta read the best in order to be the best!

    Do you have any leadership or business favorites this year?

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