LitReactor Staff Picks: The Best Books of 2022 - Part I
Another year has come and gone. You know what that means, don't you? Time for a bunch of strangers to tell you what was good! And why should you care what the LitReactor staff thinks are the best books of the year? Trick question! You shouldn't. But what they have to say might interest you nonetheless, because they are good-looking and knowledgeable and they read like the wind. So for those who care, we submit for your approval/derision some of LitReactor's favorite reads of 2022 (part 1).
*Not all of these books were published this year. We figured if someone read a book for the first time in 2022, they deserved the opportunity to crow about it.
Rob Hart — Class Director
"The Art of Prophecy" by Wes Chu
I'm not a big fantasy guy, but when it hits for me, it really hits. And this hit. Wes's epic novel translated the magic of wuxia films—think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, if you're unfamiliar with the genre—into stunning and gripping prose. This is going to be a trilogy and I will be showing up on the day of release to read the next two entries.
"Secret Identity" by Alex Segura
This is a huge level up for Alex, entwining his love for comic books with his love for a good mystery. Plus it's a nod back to 1970s New York and it includes actual comic book pages from the fictional series it features, which is the kind of meta-narrative flourish that just makes my brain happy.
"The Devil Takes You Home" by Gabino Iglesias
This book really stuck with me. Like, left a dark thumbprint on my soul days afterward. Gabino was always poised for great things and this is roaring proof of that. It's the kind of book I had to read during the day, or with all the lights on. Completely unexpected, uncompromising, and something no one else in the world but Gabino could write.
"Kismet" by Amina Akhtar
I'm a sucker for murder mysteries set in a unique location. The Sedona wellness community? Sign me up. Amina crafts a ripping mystery that kept me guessing throughout, while also delivering a fantastic story about identity and politics. Show up for the hippies, stay for the ravens.
"The Violence" by Delilah Dawson
Delilah wrote an all-timer here; the kind of book that ought to be taught in schools. It's fun and thrilling, but also smart and timely, about toxic masculinity and generational trauma. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, I finished it in two or three days—it was the kind of book where I was actively putting aside responsibilities to just read a little bit more.
Sadie Hartmann — Columnist
"The Hacienda" by Isabel Cañas
This debut captured my reader’s heart earlier this year and I’ve been recommending it to everyone ever since. I never wanted to leave the pages of this Gothic, historical, romantic, haunted house tale. I absolutely fell in love with Beatriz and Padre Andrés as they worked together to solve the haunting mystery of The Hacienda.
"White Horse" by Erika T. Wurth
I love a good crime thriller, murder mystery, supernatural horror mash-up. This checks all the boxes. Bonus points for dynamic, female protagonists with complicated character arcs too. I think I read this book in a weekend, it absolutely flew by. A couple of scenes were so tense/scary, I wouldn’t want to get caught reading this book at home alone or in the dark. Wurth is a new favorite storyteller.
"The Vessel" by Adam Nevill
I’ve been saying it all year, Adam Nevill is my go-to author when I want something scary. His horror is exactly what I want when I crave real terror. The Vessel is unrelenting tension that builds upon itself until the shocking climax. I loved investing in the main character, Jess, and hoping that she would eventually catch a break. Devoured this faster than I wanted to.
"Just Like Home" by Sarah Gailey
I get really possessive over certain books. That feeling like they were written just for me, to appeal to everything I love about reading, and this is one of those books. It has everything. It’s a psychological, haunted house, creepy, dark, horror-mystery that keeps readers hooked until the very end. And what a fucking ending.
"We Are Here To Hurt Each Other" by Paula D. Ashe
This short story collection is a masterclass in writing short horror story collections. All the tales vibe with one another in a way that gives readers a strong sense of this dark, pitch black, horrific landscape in which true horrors reside. I was deliciously disturbed, unsettled, and left wanting Ashe to tell me more insidious stories.
Get We Are Here To Hurt Each Other at Amazon
Stephanie M. Wytovich — Instructor
"Woman, Eating: A Novel" by Claire Kohda
Fans of Only Lovers Left Alive will adore this literary vampire novel that touches on themes of feminism, existentialism, starvation, and hunger. Beyond that, it also explores the mother-daughter dynamic in a toxic unfolding of female trauma, body shaming, and the fracturing of identity. A slow burn, but not one to be missed. Enjoy it with a red velvet cappuccino and a shot of pig’s blood.
"Just Like Mother" by Anne Heltzel
I’m a sucker for horror that focuses on cults, but this book subverted the trope by showcasing an all-female mother cult that positively shook me to my core. With themes that challenged autonomy, sisterhood, trauma responses, and will power, Heltzel takes readers on a timely psychological journey that explores women’s rights, pregnancy, and the long-lasting effects of patriarchal power and domesticity.
"Motherthing" by Ainslie Hogarth
This year, I just couldn’t get enough of domestic horror. In Hogarth’s case, we’re talking about the mother-in-law from hell, and I really had a good time with this book, and the ending—oh did it make me smile! It was unsettling, creepy, and I love that we got to see unfiltered rage and women behaving badly. It asked a lot of great questions, like what defines a good wife, how do you take care of someone who no longer cares about themselves, and most importantly, if you steal a ring off a corpse, aren’t you just asking for trouble?
"What Moves the Dead" by T. Kingfisher
Most of you know I’m a huge Edgar Allan Poe fan, so reading this book, which was a queer feminist retelling of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” was a nightmare come true. And if that wasn’t already enough, mushrooms featured heavily into this book, and you know your girl is all about a good eco-horror read. With that said, this had one of the best, most haunting endings I’ve read in a while, and I still find myself thinking about it quite often. An absolute must-read. Don’t sleep on this.
"Where the Drowned Girls Go" by Seanan McGuire
For the past seven years, I think I’ve started the new year off with a Seanan McGuire book. I am completely obsessed with her Wayward Children series, and it hits this deep, beautiful place of nostalgia for me because I was a kid who looked for doors constantly in the woods, the house, and the sky. I loved that this particular book explored underwater themes, breath, body size, and acceptance, and while these are the books I wish I had as a child, I’m still so happy to be reading them as an adult. They’re fantastical, dark, healing, and imaginative. If you haven’t dove into them yet, there’s no better time to start!
Sara Tantlinger — Columnist
"The Saint of Witches" by Avra Margariti
One of my new all-time favorite poetry collections. Avra Margariti has crafted a dark, sensual, and exciting experience. The immersive and lush descriptions drew me in so quickly, and I would happily follow Margariti anytime into this bloody coven where “hedge witches learn the hard way: how to unmake a person before they unmake you.”
"House of Pungsu" by K.P. Kulski
K.P. Kulski’s novella follows the Korean folk story of “A Tiger’s Whisker.” This poignant tale builds up a rich atmosphere that shows Kulski’s skill for weaving dark fairytales. The reflections on identity, feminism, and finding one’s power is crafted with such beautiful care.
"Elegies of Rotting Stars" by Tiffany Morris
A delightfully dark and melodic collection. Tiffany Morris takes readers from the sorrow of the earth up into the sky to dance with clouds and ghosts. She blends Mi’kmaq words and phrases into the verses, and it creates an enriching experience for readers to explore new depths. Every layer within these poems is to be appreciated.
Get Elegies of Rotting Stars at Amazon
"Lure" by Tim McGregor
Tim McGregor’s book combines some of my favorite subgenres within horror: oceanic, historical, mythological. I was entranced by the terror that had come to bring a small, forsaken fishing village to its ruin. The god-like mermaid found within these pages will easily seep into your nightmares.
"When Other People Saw Us, They Saw Us Dead" edited by Lauren T. Davila
An anthology of haunting and heartbreaking tales by contemporary BIPOC writers. Editor Lauren T. Davila has succeeded in putting together a sensational range of voices. Each story infuses Gothic elements in its own unique way. I’m excited to see what all of these authors do next.
Get When Other People Saw Us... at Haunt Publishing
Peter Derk — Columnist
"Book of Extraordinary Tragedies" by Joe Meno
Joe Meno is among a couple other writers (Kevin Wilson and Patrick DeWitt) who do a genre I'm going to call SadQuaint. It's a little Wes Anderson, a little morose, and a Joe Meno SadQuaint is always a pleaser.
"The Passenger" by Cormac McCarthy
McCarthy's long-awaited return to fiction shelves was worth the wait, and I think this one is going to age well, like that sophomore album from your favorite band that sounded too different at first, but grew to be a favorite.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin" by Kevin Eastman
This is fan pandering to a certain degree, and I waited in a line that went around the block to see the TMNT movie in 1990. I'm the core demographic for this shit, and I'll allow myself to be pandered to.
"The Nineties" by Chuck Klosterman
A book full of takes—none of them unreasonable, hot, takes meant to push book sales—was the breath of fresh Klosterman-y air among shelves of non-fiction. If you genuinely want to know how people felt in the 90s, this is your book.
"The Joy of Trash" by Nathan Rabin
Rabin is the king of trash entertainment. The dude wrote an entire book about Juggalos and Phish followers, he wrote the definitive bad movie column for years, and I'd call him a national hero if I was sure he wasn't an INTERnational hero.
Get The Joy of Trash at Amazon
Stay tuned for more picks...
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