READERS TELL ALL.
Matthew's Favorite Books of 2022
I read a lot in 2022. I tried to read everything, but couldn't. Balancing a full-time job and reading are two very independent sorts of work, and both demanding. Reading can be taxing just as much as it can be a form of escapism, but boy is it rewarding. Here are my favorites, and I hope you'll consider picking them up if they seem like they might fit your tastes too!
Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark
This novel is massive in size and scope, but at the heart of it is this sprawling story of a best friendship that stretches decades, and connects so many wonderful mysteries (even if it's not a mystery novel). Fellowship Point is as thrilling and engrossing as it is demanding, and is the book I most compare to watching the best episodes of Gilmore Girls (yes, it's that good!). Dark is famous for her stories, but here she takes on a six hundred plus page novel about two octogenarians focused on a conflict over the land they have, in part, called home for years. It will make you cry as easily as it will make you smile, but Dark makes a point of showing that feeling any and all emotions is never really a bad thing. Pick it up and trust me, and trust Ms. Dark--please!
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
This is a beautiful novel that doubles as easily as a literary love story as it does a crime novel (maybe crime lite)! Set during the Troubles, this is the story of a young woman who begins a relationship with a married man (how juicy) with the expected tragic outcomes--only, here's the thing, Kennedy has a way of producing the most gut-wrenching, emotionally searing effects out of the most ordinary stories. That's also the best thing about the best literature: the ability to make the ordinary seem and feel extraordinary, just like how it does to anyone who experiences their own tragedies and accomplishments. Everything feels monumental to the individual, doesn't it?
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
GOD, THIS BOOK. PLEASE PICK UP THIS BOOK. Set during the 1980s in Romania, this follows a young man who is blackmailed into becoming an informer for his government, turning him against his people--and, from there, becoming aware that there is a traitor amongst his friends and family--only who? This will keep you guessing all the way to the sizzling climax, and boy if this isn't a novel that doesn't bother holding a single punch. I would read this book again and again in a heartbeat if I could. Please, pick it up.
The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz
I'd heard some mixed things about some of Korelitz's earlier books, so I was hesitant in checking her out. I'm so glad I picked up this book. It's convinced me to revisit her whole oeuvre. This is a sprawling literary novel about a family, about four siblings (including "the latecomer" in question, a young woman who is preserved in a fertility laboratory for years while her siblings go about living their own living, breathing, complicated lives). What a book. Another novel that will warrant countless rereads in the funeral. Such a fun, engrossing, beautiful read.
Seasonal Work by Laura Lippman
Very rarely are story collections as diverse, varied, and beautiful as this. These stories are engrossing, from the stories that stand alone (although usually tied in with other works of Lippman's) to the great tales featuring her famous PI Tess Monaghan. I've loved Lippman and her work for the longest time, and if you have a moment, I'm convinced this collection will convince you to love her too. She's extraordinary.
Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard
This is a great meta novel that features something more involved and propulsive than a typical novel within a novel--try movies within novels, scripts within stories, a whole mixture of modes of storytelling to engage you from beginning to finish. Howard is such a versatile writer, able to move between many modes of storytelling and versions of traditional stories (think: serial killer narratives, stories of loves gone wrong, etc), taking each tale and making it wholly her own. I'm in love with this writer, and if you haven't discovered her yet, you should.
Trust by Hernan Diaz
Diaz takes four different stories--four different novels--four different ways of telling the same story--and spins out a sort of postmodernist take on Citizen Kane, and whoa if it isn't extraordinary. I loved each of these stories, and how they each peeled apart like layers of an onion, revealing the truths of the characters over time. Diaz is remarkable in his elliptical storytelling skills, weaving in so many different characters (and versions of the same character!) to tell a whole truth (and what a truth)--and what an accomplishment.
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
Egan's stories have this effect, always: that feeling you get right before you're about to cry, when you're holding back tears and your eyes burn. Right before the endorphins release, right before healing begins. She is a master of taking any story--every story--and connecting it to the greater human experience. She continues her examinations/thought experiments about time (she's a big fan of Proust, and a worthy successor to boot) in a grand way: this time through speculative/science fiction. She proves herself yet again a master of the craft, of any craft, stretching her skills far beyond the boundaries of most writers and providing a new landscape to draw stories from.
Life's Work by David Milch
What a beautiful memoir, written while the writer--the creator of NYPD Blue and my favorite, Deadwood--suffers with Alzheimers. Told with the voice of a poet (and did you expect any less?) and the wisdom of a man who has seen and experienced a lot--this is a memoir that ranks among my favorite nonfiction works of all time, not to mention my favorite works of the year. It's worth reading for so many reasons, but the sheer enjoyment I got from it--that's something I don't think most writers could recapture, let alone summon to begin with.
The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang
This book about the death of the patriarch of an Asian-American family, the trial of one of his children that results (was it a murder? was it merely accidental/coincidental?) dives deep into the psyches of its characters, and produces a brave, sprawling, beautiful narrative, stretching across the parents and three sons in a novel that mixes Shakespeare with Dostoevsky, not to mention drawing a lot of comparisons to one of my favorite novels of all time, Miracle Creek by the remarkable Angie Kim (please read this as well, if you haven't) as well as the wonderful On Beauty by Zadie Smith, about the three children of an interracial British-American family. What a book! Chang is a writer to admire and return to as well.
Tell Me Everything by Erika Krouse
This memoir by writer Krouse returns to her time as a private investigator working a major sexual assault case. Krouse's story moves between the different worlds she inhabits, in a world where her welcoming face, somehow familiar to nearly anyone, allows her to move between suspects and victims, lovers and friends, writing and a darker kind of work. She bleeds the lines between the different realities she knows, creating a beautifully real world you can't look away from, even if it's hard to inhabit at times. Krouse's voice is as inviting as her face, as earnest as any fictional character she might create elsewhere. I can't imagine a memoir more intriguing than this story.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Finally, one of my favorite books: a reimagining of David Copperfield in Appalachia, set against the opioid crisis, and moving between a world as beautiful as it is startlingly scary. Kingsolver creates a startling real character all her own, and as fully realized as David was to Dickens. Her language is poetic, brutal, razor-sharp. Her stories, while, yes, mirroring Dickens to a t, fit so well in the story of modern Appalachia it might be hard to realize otherwise. This is one of the next Great American Novels.
12/22/2022 05:25:23 pm
Thank you so much, Matthew, I am honored to be chosen by you and included on such a stellar list.
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