The 5 best novels of 2022, according to Mark Athitakis

Illustration for best book choices by Mark Athitakis
Mark Athitakis' top picks for 2022. (Illustrations by Mel Cerri / For The Times. Book jackets from Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Hogarth Press; New Directions; Riverhead Books)
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It was a good year for veteran authors and rookies alike, for pop fiction and experimental work, memoirs and works of history. We asked four critics to name the top five books published in 2022. Here are Mark Athitakis' five favorite novels.

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By Hernan Diaz

Riverhead: 416 pages, $28

Diaz’s second novel is a layer-cake of storytelling, connecting four distinctive narrative styles to expose a supposedly brilliant businessman and critique the flimsiness of great-man mythologies. It’s a virtuoso showcase for the author’s talent and an affecting tale of partnership, betrayal and loss.

Very Cold People

By Sarah Manguso

Hogarth: 208 pages, $26

This unflinching first novel by poet and critic Manguso is a coming-of-age story set in a New England as icy as the title suggests. Her rendering of violence, abuse and secrecy within families and communities is clear-eyed and almost uncomfortably lyrical — the beauty of her writing makes the tragedies she describes feel all the more wrenching.

The Book of Goose

By Yiyun Li

FSG: 368 pages, $28

In rural France, two young girls do what children do: Tell each other stories and secrets. Li’s brilliant fifth novel reveals what happens when the larger world starts listening in. The author's precise style is crisp as ever but with a wider emotional reach, exploring teenage friendship, imagination, hoaxing, propriety and rebellion.


By Fernanda Melchor

Translated by Sophie Hughes

New Directions: 128 pages, $20

Melchor’s brilliant, sinewy, streetwise second novel turns on a couple of young men in a Mexican town whose lusts take a violent turn. Such narratives often become exercises in easy exploitation, but Melchor’s telling is psychologically revealing, finding ever deeper reservoirs of rage and dread in its characters.

The Furrows

By Namwali Serpell

Hogarth: 288 pages, $27

A woman facing her brother’s death — and her possible complicity in it — drives the plot of the Zambian American author’s bracing second novel (after the highly acclaimed “The Old Drift”). It’s a compelling setup, but Serpell’s delivery is truly innovative: Her shape-shifting approach to character and language captures the disassociation that often attends loss in brand-new ways.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.