Sunday, January 1, 2023

2022: The best books of the year

It's the end of 2022, so it's time to make a list of my favorite books this year!

I finished a total of 92 books this year, which approximately amounts to 18,200 pages. I actually read more than this, but I am only counting the books I finished because I tend to jump around a lot. Surprisingly, only 15 of this number were folktale collections; I read more stories than that for research, obviously, but this year I was giving the genre a bit of a break. Instead, I was reading a whole lot of nonfiction, and also comics and graphic novels (more than 30 of the latter).

So, here's the list of this year's favorites, in no particular order:


Theodora Goss: The collected enchantments

I managed to get my hands on an ARC copy of this one. It contains a large selection of Theodora Goss' short stories and poetry; some I have read before, but many of them are new. She writes fairy-tale adaptations in her unique style that blends magical realism, alternative history, and mythic fiction. I love her eloquent language, richly detailed descriptions, and the game of tracing the literary and foklore references she makes. She never spells them out too much, allowing the reader to make their own discoveries. It is an all-around lovely collection; worth reading little by little, savoring the stories.


Honestly, YA is a genre that has disappointed me many times before. I only opened two YA books this year - and both proved to be a hit.

Xiran Jay Zhao: Iron Widow

Chinese mythology meets the mecha genre. In a futuristic society humanity fights evil aliens with the use of giant robots piloted by a man and a woman. Women, however, basically just function as a battery, and are deemed expendable. Until one young woman decides that she will survive a battle... The book uses mythology and history in genius ways, and subverts a lot of YA tropes. For fans of Pacific Rim the good news is, the movie adaptation is already in the works.

Natasha Bowen: Skin of the Sea

Now this is how you write a Black Little Mermaid. (*cough*Disney*cough*). The author adapts the fairy tale to 15th century West Africa, blending Yoruba mythology and the history of the slave trade: the "prince" rescued by the mermaid is a young man thrown into the sea from a slave ship. It is a beautifully eloquent, colorfully detailed book with lots of (to my mind) vividly visual elements. Definitely one of the best of the genre I have read.


Poetry made a reappearance in my life this year, and yielded two memorable reads.

Joanna Lilley: Endlings

I am so happy I came across this book. It is thoughtful and enchanting. It might seem like a depressing idea to read an entire book of poems about extinct animals, and it does have its heartbreaking moments. But as a whole, it is more about how incredible nature is, and what we lose when we don't care for it. It also has several poems about dinosaurs and other long-extinct species, and the wonder they represent. The author has deep love for each of them, and a beautiful way with words. It is a collection that inspires us to try to do better.

Rebecca Elson: A responsibility to awe 

There is something enchanting about poetry written by a scientist. What she understands deeply through her work, she eloquently puts into an artistic form to inspire the rest of us. This is the "responsibility to awe" mentioned in the title that permeates the whole volume. The first part is a poetry collection, while the second is a selection of notes, poetry fragments, and memoirs from the author.


I found a lot of new favorites this year (next to old loves returning, such as Saga and Fables).

Simon Spurrier: Coda 

Post-apocalyptic fantasy. A world where magic is dying, a grumpy bard with a golden heart, a filthy-mouthed unicorn, romance, a lot of dark humor, and the fantastic visual work of Matías Bergara. Three volumes, finished story. I adored every page of it.

Noelle Stevenson - Grace Ellis - Shannon Watters: Lumberjanes

I'm late to the party, but a total fan now. It's the kind of random WTF humor, lovable cast of characters, and fun artwork that is near and dear to my heart. Scout camp with Greek gods, Velociraptors, inter-dimensional travel, and punny badges. What's not to love?

Emily McGovern: Bloodlust and Bonnets

If you love the Background Slytherin webcomics, you definitely want to get your hands on the author's full-length graphic novel, where a Regency era heroine battles vampires alongside an idiotic Lord Byron. It's like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but a lot funnier. It never ceases to amaze me how McGovern can deliver a punchline with two strokes of a pencil on a stylized face.

Hubert & Zanzim: A man's skin

A gorgeous graphic novel. It weighs like 3 pounds, but worth picking up. The story is about a girl in Renaissance Italy who inherits a man's skin from her aunt - and with it the ability to transform into a man and go around town experiencing life from a different point of view. And since it's a French book, it's not overly prudish about the consequences. Elegant, beautiful, funny, and thought-provoking.


Nicholas Jubber: The fairy tellers 

This is a book storytellers and fairy tale enthusiasts alike should definitely own. It puts "old stories" in a whole new perspective, illustrating the many ways their collectors and/or authors left their personal mark on texts that romantics like to label "universal." I have been deeply immersed in storytelling for almost two decades now, but this book could introduce me to new literary figures, and even told me a whole lot of fun new details about the lives of some whom I've read whole books about. The author dug deep into history, literature, primary sources, contemporary authors, modern experts, and even personal travel experience. The result is a book that gets the facts right, but presents them with the lively humor and twinkle-eyed excitement of personal telling. "You'll never guess what I just found out about Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve!" And I am ready to listen, every time.

I also participated this year in a (Hungarian) reading challenge called Polymath Training: every year, it appoints twelve topics you have to read nonfiction books about. I love this challenge, because it always brings a lot of fascinating reads into my life. Here are this year's highlights:

Alexandra Horowitz: On looking

The author took a walk around a city block with ten different experts, from geologist to typographer, and talked about the details they noticed - to prove that we all see the world through our own individual lens.

Anita Anand: Sophia

The biography of a Punjabi princess born and raised in Victorian England, and how she turned into an important member of the suffragist movement. The book also gives ample context about the history and colonization of the Punjab, through the story of Sophia Duleep Singh's family.

Joe Starita: A warrior of the people

The biography of Susan la Flesche Picotte, the first Native American woman who earned a western medical degree and became a practicing doctor, and a pillar of her community. Within the context of colonial history in the 19th century, and many important personalities in the indigenous rights movement.

Dan R. Lynch - Julie A. Kirsch: Crystal healing

A geologist and psychologist take on the concept of "crystal healing" - and basically pick it apart. A very enjoyable book that also taught me a lot about the international trade of minerals, the workings of the placebo effect, and geology in general.

Victoria Finlay: Jewels

The author delves into the stones of the Mohs scale, and presents a wealth of fascinating information about them. The book is a blend of history, folklore, geology and science, and personal travel journal - as she makes a point of visiting a site connected to each of the minerals, and talking to people whose lives are intertwined with the jewels.

Douglas Wolk: All of the Marvels

This dude read all of the Marvel comics (about 27,000 of them), and then wrote a book about the experience. It's a love letter to Marvel, and a fantastic adventure for more casual Marvel readers like myself.

Margaret Bourke-White: Portrait of myself

The autobiography of an incredible woman who was personally present at many important milestones of the 20th century, with camera in hand. I never thought someone could make the history of industrial photography exciting to me, but she did. She was also a war correspondent in WWII, world traveler, and all-around adventurer.

Eric Robbins - Donald Legge: Animal Dunkirk

The story of Operation Noah, a last-minute scrambling to save wild animals at the birth of Lake Kariba. Colonial authorities didn't realize that there would be a need for this until the water was already rising, so a small and ragtag group of rangers decided to go out and rescue elephants, honeybadgers, aardvarks, antelopes, monkeys, and even venomous snakes from the flood. Often by swimming in and dragging them to safety by the tail. Incredible read.

Note: in case you're interested, this year's Polymath topics are: Animation, Hungarian poetry, Baltic countries, Saints, Money, Dictatorships, Nature conservation, Solar system, Secrets and hoaxes, 20th century classical music, History of science. + 1 individual random topic from Wikipedia.

What did you enjoy reading in 2022? What are you looking forward to in 2023? :)


  1. Wow, that’s an impressive number of books! I have to admit, I quite often neglect new books in favour of a reread of a favourite, slowing me right down.

  2. I've nearly finished A Confederacy of Dunces, which I have meaning to read for years. My other standout book last year was Donna Tartt's The Little Friend. I really liked The Secret History & The Goldfinch as well. I reread Richard Condon's The Manchurian Candidate too.
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