The Best Books of 2022 (According to the SAL Staff)
December 15, 2022
In this holiday edition of SAL Staff Reads, we asked nine of our staff the most difficult and pressing question of them all: what’s the best book you read in 2022? If you’re looking for which to books to cozy up with this winter, look no further than this list!
Rebecca Hoogs, Executive Director
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. I was a huge fan of Towles’ first books (The Rules of Civility and Gentleman in Moscow), so it’s no surprise that I loved The Lincoln Highway. This rollicking tale of post-WWII America is full of unforgettable characters, big heart, and great writing. I’m looking forward to hearing Amor’s tales of writing this new book. Having seen him speak about Gentleman in Moscow in 2019, I can attest that the author is as charming and funny in real life as he seems from his writing!
Woogee Bae, Events & Annual Giving Manager
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. This book has everything: Murder, astrology, animal revenge, quirky characters, odd names and oddballs, toes and what they say about us. Read it, and be surprised, delighted, enraged, embrace the unknowns!
Jenne Lobsenz, Youth Programs Director
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang. For its committed exploration—both inwards and outwards—of the self and the impact of the chronic, as well as its resistance to the linear.
Indira Dahlstrom, Youth Programs Coordinator
The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. I started reading this book in 2021, and carried it with me through the seasons of 2022 during a time of transition in my own life. I loved learning about the relationships between the matsutake mushroom to pine forests and fire. This book helped me look to other species for how we might face the climate crisis in a multi-species landscape.
Amanda Carrubba, Finance & Operations Director
Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts. The story he tells and the message and content is incredibly powerful and moving. And his use of language, word play, repetition, redaction, and just overall skill were beautiful to experience. As a “not-a-poetry person,” I was blown away by the poetry in this collection and have been thinking about it and going back to it ever since. I think everyone should read this book because of the experience it shares with the reader, as well as the artistry of its poems.
Piper Daugharty, WITS Program Manager
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. This book captivated me from the first paragraph with its lyrical, haunting prose and insistence on generational, mythic haunting between the messiness of life and death. Two twin sisters spend their lives haunted by one misremembered moment from their shared childhood, each of them longing for their sister in different ways throughout their mirrored lives. The book revels in food, generational power, and deep longing and loneliness—all of my favorite themes!
Grace Rajendran, Marketing Manager
The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires that Run the World by Oliver Milman. The Insect Crisis is both a celebration of the rich diversity of insect life as well as an urgent call to action. The abundance of research will bring to readers’ attention not only the plight of insects, but also how intertwined humanity’s survival is with theirs. Milman wants readers to know that, when it comes to insects, “we need them far more than they need us.” (Editor’s note: Grace reviewed this book and interviewed the author for Shelf Awareness—read it here.)
Alison Stagner, Director of Events & Outreach
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. There’s a weird assumption that people who play video games don’t like to read, and that readers don’t like to play video games—but to that idea, Zevin said “nuh-uh,” and decided to craft Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, a beautiful novel about the creative partnership of two video game designers that made me cry. This book contains stories within stories, love, longing, lying, and smart questions about cultural appropriation, originality, what the virtual world can offer us, and so much more.
Christina Gould, Patron Services Manager
I love reviewing the books I read throughout the year and choosing ten favorites: five fiction and five nonfiction. This year, at the top of the fiction list, is Percival Everett’s The Trees, shortlisted for the Booker Prize by an author I had never read. After reading The Trees, and then Erasure, it is clear that Everett is one of the most important social satire voices writing today. The story opens with a series of brutal murders in Money, Mississippi, site of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. The Trees is fast-paced, bold and provocative, a horror story with humor, a mystery that a pair of black detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation need to solve, all the while taking aim at racism and police violence and a country’s history with lynching that refuses to be buried. It was hard to put down and impossible to forget.
Coincidentally, my favorite nonfiction book of 2022 is Imani Perry’s South to America: A Journey Below the Mason Dixon Line to Understand the Soul of a Nation. Perry weaves historical events with personal anecdotes and takes the reader on a journey to the past and present of the region, from the Deep South and the Black Belt, to the Gulf Coast and the Sea Islands. This journey explains and helps us understand the importance of the role of the South; it tells the story true, without denying parts of who we are, that set the stage for what the nation would become. As a born New Englander, this book helped me understand more deeply the importance of knowing our country’s past and how dramatically it continues to impact current issues of today.