January is the perfect time to set reading goals. Aside from setting books and pages goals, this year we are going to try and expand our reading tastes a bit. To get started, we are first diving into the top non-YA books in 2022 that readers have absolutely loved, from middle grade to adult fiction to non-fiction.
Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman
This title won the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year and has been praised as the Percy Jackson of this generation. The next installation in this series, Skandar and the Phantom Rider, comes out this April, so you have plenty of time to catch up and read the first book before then. Some might believe that we are too old for middle grade novels and thus find any MG lackluster. Some might also think that it is difficult to do new things to the Chosen One and magic school trope. However, do remember that Skandar does not need to go beyond Harry Potter or Percy Jackson; it just needs to have all the right ingredients. A.F. Steadman does an amazing job in world-building, and the Island where the unicorns reside has its own customs and rules.
The Miraculous Sweetmakers: The Frost Fair by Natasha Hastings
Set in a cold winter during the Great Frost of 1683, The Miraculous Sweetmakers follows Thomasina and Anne who are the best of friend; one running her father’s sweet shop and the other the apprentice at the family apothecary. Together they sell their goods on the frozen River Thames. When a family tragedy turns Thomasina’s world upside down, she is drawn to the mysterious Frost Fair and the legendary Father Winter who is said to grant any wish you have. Natasha Hastings did a wonderful job in creating the imageries of a winter wonderland, leaving no detail behind as she describes everything from the sights and sounds of the Frost Fair, to the smell of gingerbread cookies. She also weaved in themes of grief, friendship and family beautifully.
P.S. The UK cover looks so much better than the US cover in our opinion, sorry US friends.
The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
We start off our recommendation with Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s title. Kiran is of course one of our favourite children/YA authors, thus it makes sense to check out her adult title. The Dance Tree is her second adult title, and it is inspired by incidents of choreomania in Medieval times. Set in Strasbourg in the hot summer of 1518, The Dance Tree follows 4 women who resist men’s attempts to confine and crush them. Kiran Millwood Hargrave weaves in her own experience in pregnancy loss to tell this gorgeous tale depicting women’s struggles. And as we all know from her children and YA titles, the writing here is extremely elegant.
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
The Rabbit Hutch won the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize, and it’s a profound and mesmerizing debut. Set in a run-down apartment building on the edge of Indiana, here live four teenagers who have recently aged out of the state foster-care system. The story is spread across 3 days, featuring simultaneous descriptions from various apartments. However, the chaos in the narrative works wonder. Tess Gunty did a fantastic job in depicting the lives of people who are broken and desperate, and making readers be allured by their dreams and hopelessness.
P.S. Again, UK cover >>> US cover.
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
We also encourage all of you to read books set outside of US/UK. Thus, we are recommending The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, which won the 2022 Booker Prize. Set during the Sri Lankan civil war, the book follows Maali Almeida who has seven moons to figure out who has killed him. And being a war photographer, gambler, and closeted, the list is depressingly long. Shehan Karunatilaka weaves in political, historical, and cultural insights cleverly, in a way that is critical yet never too overwhelming.
Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors
Nominated for both Best Fiction and Best Debut Novel in the 2022 Goodreads Choice Award, Cleopatra and Frankenstien is certainly one that will divide readers. In fact, a quick scroll of Goodreads shows you that people either praise it as ” poignant and relatable” or “shallow and pretentious”. But as with many other great works in literature, film etc, this is almost expected. So don’t get alarmed by the 1-star reviews and take a chance at this great work as we certainly love the way Coco Mellors depicts the messiness and complexities of relationships, and the way she makes us hate the characters yet still feel sympathy for them all the same.
Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson
Shrines of Gaiety was nominated for Best Historical Fiction in the 2022 Goodreads Choice Award. Set in the roaring twenties when London is still recovering from the Great War, Shrines of Gaiety gives readers a glimpse into the nightlife of Soho where the chase of fame and fortune is tangled with drugs and mob wars. Based on the life of Kate Meyrick, “queen of Soho’s clubland”, the amount of research that Kate Atkinson has put in this work is apparent in every detail. She is also a magical writer who gifts each one of the huge cast of multilayered and unique characters a compelling storyline and witty dialogue.
Lessons in Chemistry
Bonnie Garmus won Waterstones Author of the Year in 2022 at the age of 64 with her debut Lessons in Chemistry. The book also went on to win the 2022 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Debut Novel and was nominated for Best Historical Fiction. With those accolades, it should not be hard to convince you to pick up Lessons in Chemistry. Nonetheless, let us explain why. Following Elizabeth Zott who is a chemist in the 1960s, who is never treated seriously by her male colleagues, and who finds herself the star of a cooking show a few years later, Lessons in Chemistry is a delight to read. The dialogue is excellent, the characters are wholesome, and the story is unforgettable.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jenette McCurdy
Even though we have watched basically all the clips of Jenette talking about her heart-wrenching book, such as this one with ABC News, it cannot compare to actually reading the book. Jenette McCurdy has a knack for manipulating our emotions impactfully, so that you can’t help but experience everything in her shoes. In fact, at times it became so real that we had to take breaks from reading. I’m Glad My Mom Died won the 2022 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Memoir & Autobiography.
Mean Baby by Selma Blair
We recently rewatched Legally Blonde after it was mentioned in Wednesday. And while we love Reese Weatherspoon’s performance in the movie, Selma Blair has also captured our hearts. In recent years, Selma has been struggling with multiple sclerosis. She has bravely shared her journey with MS in the documentary Introducing, Selma Blair and has since then managed to go on Dancing with the Stars before sadly having to withdraw from the competition due to complications from MS. It is deeply inspiring to watch her embrace life and hence we hope everyone gives Mean Baby some love as well. From her uneasy childhood and alcohol addiction, to motherhood and MS, Mean Baby is an unflinchingly honest and raw memoir. Mean Baby was nominated in the 2022 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Memoir & Autobiography.