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The following post was originally published on Medium.com on January 2, 2023.
Favorite Reads from 2022
This year has been filled with spectacular stories. Looking back at my To Be Read List, which is still far too long, there are a baker’s dozen of books that stood out as “loved” and worth recommending to others. Not all of them were published in 2022, again note the To Be Read list that is much too long, which is a great reminder that it’s never too late to pick up a book that came out a few years ago. You don’t always need to focus on new books that just came out.
All of these books are stories that I highly recommend. I just don’t have the heart of the time to write about books that I didn’t love. It’s also important to note that I purchased all of these book and most of them fall within the science fiction or fantasy genres with one notable exception. Also, looking back at this list of favorites, I realize that most of them are books that I listened to on Audible.
Transparency Statement: All links here go to Amazon, linking to my Amazon Associates account. This means that, if you purchase a book using one of these links below a cover image, I will receive some tiny credit from Amazon.
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune, read by Kirk Graves
A book about death, acceptance, and love. When Wallace, a rather rotten human being, finds himself suddenly dead he is welcomed to Charon’s Crossing for a hot cup of peppermint tea as he adjusts to what it means to be dead and talking with the ferryman who is supposed to him move on to the next stage. In the process, he learns more about life than he ever learned while he was alive. This book is touching and delightful. It is a positive story wrapped around some difficult topics. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great pick-me-up book.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, read by Daniel Henning
In a world where magic exists, what does society do with the children they are too afraid to love and raise? They send them to an orphanage for magical children, and that is where Linus Baker comes into the picture. He’s a by-the-book kind of case worker who always puts the interests of the children first. The problem is that he lives a very small and confined life, he doesn’t really have much going for him until he takes a highly classified assignment to evaluate a potentially problematic orphanage that is home to some very dangerous children. This book is absolutely made of magic, and it is wonderful beyond description as it introduces us to some truly fascinating kids. However, it is their connection to each other and the way they change the world around them that makes this a must-read novel for people of any age. The House in the Cerulean Sea is funny, exciting, loving, and full of wonder. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a positive story that will make them laugh, cry, and feel better about the world while twisting their heart just little.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, read by Chiwetel Ejiofor
Piranesi has always lived in the house. It is a magnificent house full of rooms of all sizes, corridors of varying lengths, and all manner of marble statues. In all the world, and the house is the world, there are just two living people: Piranesi and The Other…until other human beings begin finding their way into the structure, and that revelation sets off a fantastic unraveling of reality as forgotten memories and histories collide. This unique story is wrapped within layers of meaning, subterfuge, and imagination. There really isn’t anything like it, and it perfectly mashes together the fantastic with the academic in a way that feels absolutely normal. I highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys fantasy and who is looking for something that they have never experienced before. I promise, this is not the same ol’ same ol’ fantasy novel.
SERIES: The Cemeteries of Amalo
The Witness for the Dead, Book 1 and The Grief of Stones, Book 2 by Katherine Addison, read by Liam Gerrard
This series takes part in the world of The Goblin Emperor, which was a terrific novel that deserves its own place on a “best of” list. However, I put off reading The Witness for the Dead merely because of the title. Do not let yourself fall into that trap. (Pro Reading Tip: Do not judge a book by its title or by its cover.) Both books are fantastic. The world that they take place in is far removed from our human existence. In fact, there is not a human to be found, but there are a lot of carry over issues that range from job pressures to personal relationships and disruptive social issues. We see the day-to-day life of Celehar, the Witness for the Dead for the city of Amalo and the impact that his calling has on the living. These stories are special. There are a lot of new terms, names, and organizational structures to absorb (so, a bit of a learning curve), but it is worth the effort since these stories cast light in dark places and shake the cobwebs from your mind. They’ll make you smile, too. Celahar is an extraordinary character because he is so ordinary and down to earth as he performs his duties, unwrapping the secrets of the dead, and giving peace and justice to the living. There is an air of mystery and sleuthing that winds its way through these novels, lending a whole new level of exploration to this world of elves and goblins. I highly recommend both books. If you can, start with The Goblin Emperor, but it’s not necessary. These are wonderful books that open the imagination.
The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison, read by Imogen Church
A mystery unlike any other, unless you’re talking about Sherlock Holmes. I really enjoy Katherine Addison’s books, but I wasn’t fully prepared for how much I was going to enjoy this book. While I like mysteries with a Holmesian bent, I never anticipated how delightful a reimagined Sherlock Holmes could be in an alternate 1880s London where angels, demons, and all manner magical beings roam — not to mention several criminals who have no idea what they are up against when the Angel of the Crows and his new friend Dr. Doyle are on the case! It is a thoroughly enjoyable book, especially if you like retellings (or should I say reimagining?) of Sherlock Holmes. That said, I think the book description does a disservice to the book in that it really doesn’t address that fact that the Holmesian connection is strong and that many of the cases within the novel closely follow some of the best stories within Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s repertoire. It truly is an imaginative retelling of Sherlock Holmes that explores a variety of modern social issues through a fantastical lens. This is also a very positive book that elevates the power of friendship and trust. I also want to give a special shout out to Imogen Church’s performance in the audiobook, which was lovely.
SERIES: The Final Architecture
Shards of Earth, Book 1 and Eyes of the Void, Book 2 by Adrian Tchaikovsky, read by Sophie Aldred
These two books are part of The Final Architecture trilogy, which imagines a future universe in which humanity (along with several other species) have figured out how to travel vast distances in space. The only trouble is that traveling these special paths attracts unwanted attention from these strange beings called The Architects — beings who hunt down intelligent civilizations to reshape them into very beautiful (and very dead) objects, including entire planets, ships, people, etc. They are by far one of the cleverest antagonists in science fiction and the originality of these “villains” is immense. The ideas in this book are different from most of what’s available in the SF field today, which is what sets Adrian Tchaikovsky’s storytelling apart from his peers. This series is fantastic! However, you do need to give the story a little time to develop and to allow yourself to get familiar and comfortable with the ideas and science that drive the story forward. Once you do, it all comes together in an engaging and original story filled with some fascinating characters. I highly recommend this series to anyone who is tired of the same old science fictional fare.
This is How you Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, read by Cynthia Farrell and Emily Woo Zeller
Where did this story come from? This book is unlike anything I have ever read, and it completely gutted me at the end. (Pro Reading Tip: Have a Kleenex ready at the end.) The concept of the story is two warring groups that use time travel to fight their war, and they each have a leading agent on their side who begin looking forward to the contests with their greatest opponent — and as this tit for tat war goes on, a strange friendship builds through a series of letters that they have left for the other to read. This book is fascinating from the first page. All of the pieces of the story come together in a slow build that becomes increasingly poignant, and once you get to the halfway point in the novel, you will relish every new page, every new word, and every new moment. It’s a delightful read. The layers of story and the fine craftsmanship, and the result is nothing short of spectacular. This novel is as different as it is wonderful. I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for something different, for something that embraces all of the nuance that language can lend to a multi-layered story and a friendship that defies expectation.
Fairy Tale by Stephen King, read by Seth Numrich
Leave it to Stephen King to figure out where stories come from and then to write about it. I was expecting this story to be a bit darker, perhaps with a rough underbelly of horror, which is standard fare for King . While Fairy Tale does tap into some of the darker sides of fairytales, it is possibly one of the best and most original takes on modern fairy tales that has been published in years. When Charlie Reade makes an unexpected friend and then finds himself in a world that is literally straight out of Faire, there is no telling what is going to happen next, and King does a wonderful job of keeping the suspense tight and unpredictable. The characters are fascinating and the troubles they run into are unique. Whether or not you are a horror fan, a Stephen King fan, or a fairy tale fan, this story is sure to carry you away. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to escape from our ordinary world or to bring a little magic into their day.
The Law: A Dresden Files Novella (Dresden Files 17.5) by Jim Butcher, read by Jim Butcher
Dresden Files fans will love this novella. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. You’ll like it a lot. It’s so very Harry. When a tutor is being shaken down by a non-magical human, Harry Dresden considers sending the woman packing. After all, he’s processing a lot of “stuff” that just went down and he’s not quiet ready to go back to work. However, something about her strikes a chord in him and he takes the case, a prescient decision since the trail Harry must follow reconnects him to some of the most interesting and powerful characters in the Dresdenverse. It’s a fun badass story that oozes with magic and the mysteries of Chicago.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, ready by Harry Lloyd
A hundred years before A Game of Thrones the Seven Kingdoms were still full of intrigue, fighting, and Targaryens. They also had hedge knights, including one very special hedge knight named Dunk. (Dunk? What kind of name is Dunk? But I promise that you’ll love him.) While he has a strange name, Dunk is everything you would want in a knight and a hero. What’s special about the three novellas in this book is that they feel like the Westeros that we know and love, they telegraph “story” forward into the characters we’re invested in, and they introduce us to new Westeros stories that feel fresh and relevant. If you are looking for a great epic fantasy novel that feels like hanging out with an old friend, this is it. I really loved these stories and the characters who bring Westeros of yore to life.
Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder, read by George Newbern
Even if you already know how to craft a screenplay, Save the Cat! is a great roadmap for creating compelling stories. What’s most powerful about this book is how well Blake Snyder captures key storytelling concepts and then rolls them up into easy-to-understand bits that he serves in logical steps. Not only is his writing style light and easy to read, but the audiobook performance by George Newbern is terrific. Anyone who writes anything will get something out of this book.
These are my favorite reads of 2022. I hope you enjoy them too! I’m already onto my first book of 2023 (A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, and I can already tell that it’s going to be on my favorite reads list for the new year). Remember books are doorways to the future and they are full of fuel to expand your mind in ways you never thought possible.
We are made of stories. So, pick up a book and read.