Best Books of 2022 So Far

Despite doing a lot of research and keeping up with new and upcoming books, many of the books I read each year are backlisted. These are novels picked up at my library, especially on apps like Libby. I don’t always get the newest things right away. But the end of June marks the midway point through the year—so I took a look at my data on StoryGraph to see if this rang true for 2022.

And to my surprise, this year, several of my 2022 reads were actually published in 2022! There are some truly fantastic new books to dive into. So, here are my three favorite books that came out in 2022 (so far!).

Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades

Best Books of 2022 So Far
(Random House)

If this book looks familiar, it’s because it was the first feature on The Mary Sue Book Club’s January 2022 edition. After putting it off for a while, I finally buckled down so it could mark off a prompt four (Read a book by an Asian author that has a cover worthy of googly eyes) for Cindy Pham’s 2022 Asian Readathon. The novel, chapter by chapter, plays out shared moments of brown girls and their immigrant families from Queens, New York. Some of these include generally shared experiences like various “firsts” and hyper-specific fractures that happen entering adulthood. The story follows these brown girls from childhood to becoming their mothers to elder status.

Other than the beautiful writing, I loved the emphasis on names. They all had unique and different experiences, but between chapters, the “who” would often change. Generally, if a name was brought up in one particular chapter, it would be brought up again in that same chapter unless it was said in a list sort of way. These lists came every so often and felt meditative and homely to anyone who has a family (including found) or grew up in spaces where these names were more common. Names that would never make the “most popular girl names of the year” kind of lists.

Because I’m a biracial Black Texan who’s ambiguous enough not to stand out and have lived in a community with these women my whole life, this book felt like I was conversing with (but mostly listening to) a friend.

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga.  Image: Graywolf Press.
(Graywolf Press)

This short novel broke me. I read it and was like “I don’t know how to process my feelings so let me look at what else author Noor Naga has published.” Turns out, this novel is her debut, so I just had to sit with it alone. The story follows two main characters who meet and fall in love. The novel may have romantic elements, but it’s not a romance. I need to say that just in case somewhere, someone misclassifies it.

One of the characters is an Egyptian-American woman who is “returning” to a country she has never known, disillusioned with the state of her place in the US (post-2016 election) and the other, a man from Shobrakheit who’s even more severely distraught with the state of Egypt after the way the Arab Spring played out. In the first two parts, each chapter starts with a question and then its answer in one long poetic (but very clear) paragraph. Together with alternating POV between them, we get a glimpse into their dreams, worries, and more.

These chapters are internal thoughts, but sometimes it feels like they break the fourth wall. Readers are forced to examine their own biases, especially when the story takes a dark turn. “The gaze” is often discussed in the context of women and film, but this book utilizes these discussions in literary form in an uncomfortable (but necessary) way. This theme even plays out in the cover choice. The painting is French painters’ Jean-Léon Gérôme 1872 orientalist painting A Bischari Warrior.

Almost everything changes in part three aka the last thirty pages. I refuse to spoil part three but know that this section, while in a different format, place, time, and with different characters, will be very sobering to some, too.

Cover to Harley Quinn Eat Bang Kill
(Max Sarin/DC Comics)

So technically this series started in 2021, but it didn’t conclude until 2022 and the hardcover of the book comes out later this summer. Still, This fun ride started and continued as a girls’ trip, but gave both of them,—especially the very pragmatic Poison Ivy—time to breathe and process after the finale of season two. I say this even though Commonissor Gordon was breathing down their necks the whole run and there was a big bad.

In addition to the fun story, I loved the interactions with working-class people and the expressive art style. This was a fun adventure and I’ll definitely be rereading this once the show gets a release date. While I caution against picking it up if you haven’t finished season two of Harley Quinn: The Animated Seriesif you have no interest in continuing the show (or want a short mini-series) this could be read as a solo work.

(featured image: Jean-Léon Gérôme, now in public domain)

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