I've Read A Lot Of Books So Far In 2022, But Not All Of Them Were Memorable — These 14, However, Were Exceptional In More Ways Than One

·13 min read

Hey, I'm Hannah and I really love to read. I've always been a bookworm, but I've recently made it more of a goal to pick up a book every single day, even if it's just for 20 minutes before bed. And now that it's summer, I find myself in peak reading mode 🤓📚.

A woman reading outdoors on a Kindle holding a glass of wine.
Hannah Loewentheil

This year, I've read some books I really didn't like, a bunch that were perfectly enjoyable, and a handful that blew me away and still stand out in my mind. For example, I definitely liked The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and I'm glad I read it, but it didn't leave such a lasting impression. Same goes for Emily Henry's recent hit, Book Lovers, and Emma Straub's This Time Tomorrow.

A book on a beach towel.
Hannah Loewentheil/Riverhead Books, Hannah Loewentheil/St. Martin's Publishing Group

The books I write about below were really special, IMO. I found them to be powerful, gripping, and unshakeable. They were all stories I finished and couldn't stop thinking about. In other words, these were the books I immediately wanted to tell all my friends about.

Of course, different things appeal to everyone, but here are some of my absolute favorite books I've read lately. I hope some might inspire your next read. I'd also really love to hear about some of your recent favorites in the comments!

1.Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

The cover of "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus on a Kindle.

I was very bad at chemistry as a student (and honestly no a huge science person in general), so I will admit I was sort of turned off by the title of this book. But after reading some reviews, I figured I'd give it a try. And I am SO glad I did.

WHY I LOVED IT: This is a perfect summer read, one that you can devour in a day or two, but at the same time there's substance to it. The writing is laugh-out-loud funny and clever, and the story is adorable. It's about a single mother (a remarkably bright, determined, and super quirky female chemist) who is unwilling to give in to the gender norms of her time. It reminded me a lot of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and it was highly entertaining from start to finish. Read this one if you're looking for something light and compelling but still interesting.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/PenguinRandomHouse.

2.Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka

The cover of "Notes on an Execution" on a kindle.

If I had to choose my favorite book of 2022 so far, this has got to be it. My best advice: block a day off in your calendar before you pick this one up because you will not be able to stop turning the pages until its over.

WHY I LOVED IT: The whole book takes place in the 12 hours before the execution of Ansel Packer, a man accused of multiple female murders. The chapters are made up of the hours leading up to his execution interspersed with others about the women in Ansel’s life — his mother, his wife, and her twin sister, and a female detective tasked with solving this whole case. What I loved most about this book though is that it isn’t violent or gory as most "serial killer" stories are. Rather, it's a striking psychological deep dive into the mind of a killer that brings up interesting questions about us as a society. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this one since I finished reading it. If you're a fan of Criminal Minds or Mindhunter or the like, don't miss this novel.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/HarperCollins Publishers

3.The People We Keep by Allison Larkin

A person holding "The People We Keep" by Allison Larkin.

I chose this book as one of my first Book of The Month picks. It was a total shot in the dark, but it ended up being one of my favorite novels I've read recently, particularly because of the characters we meet throughout the chapters.

WHY I LOVED IT: The People We Keep is the story of a young woman named April, a 16-year-old songwriter with a tough home life who doesn't feel like she belongs. She leaves her hometown and her life behind in search of something new, but the focus of the book is on the people she meets along the way and the family she builds for herself while trying to find her place in the world. It's a beautifully written coming-of-age story that will reel you in from the very beginning.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/Gallery Books

4.Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

The cover of "Sea of Tranquility" by Emily St. John Mandel

I will preface this by saying that when this book came out I had never watched nor read St. John’s other best-selling book in the same genre, Station Eleven. In fact, I almost immediately wrote off Sea of Tranquility because I don’t generally like science fiction. But this book changed my whole attitude (and I have since watched Station Eleven and loved it, TBH).

WHY I LOVED IT: Yes, there are elements of sci-fi here (space travel and life in 500 years when humans have populated distant moon colonies), there’s also an eerie supernatural event that can’t quite be explained, and of course, there's a backdrop of a global pandemic that totally alters society. But this story is really about the characters, survival, and human nature. You almost forget about the dystopian backdrop and the fact that the world may be ending and instead you focus on the beauty of the storytelling, the absorbing landscape, and the way these seemingly interconnected characters living in different time periods weave together.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

PenguinRandomHouse

5.Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

"Peach Blossom Spring" by Melissa Fu on a blanket.

I found this debut novel by Melissa Fu to be a bit intimidating at first because its quite a saga that spans generations, continents, and time. I also found myself struggling to keep track of all the names of the characters in the beginning. But just a few chapters in, I was totally hooked.

WHY I LOVED IT: Peach Blossom Spring is a work of historical fiction that follows a wealthy Chinese family (specifically a mother, Meilin, and her son, Renshu) who are forced to leave home during the Sino-Japanese war. They suddenly find themselves stripped of all their possessions on a quest to survive and establish a new life somewhere foreign. This is a story about the power of stories, identity, family, and the whole concept of the word "home."

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/Little, Brown and Company

6.Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad

"Between Two Kingdoms" by Suleika Jaouad and a dog on a blanket.

This memoir, written by Suleika Jaouad, is the story of a young woman who, almost straight out of college, is diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The book follows Jaouad's experience with illness and her journey toward recovery.

WHY I LOVED IT: This memoir is both incredibly heartbreaking and wildly inspiring. I felt so moved by this story, by the author's attitude toward life, her brutally honest account of illness and the road to recovery, and her ability to embrace the unknown. Of course, some of this book is about illness, but it's mostly about life. Even if you don't think you're a non-fiction person, I encourage you to read this book because it will change your mind.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/Random House Publishing Group

7.Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

The cover of "Once There Were Wolves" by Charlotte McConaghy on a kindle.

This book was truly a rollercoaster. When I first read the plot, I wasn't sure it would be my kind of book. That being said, I'm so glad I stuck with it. It's a bit of a darker and more intense read, but if that doesn't deter you, give it a try.

WHY I LOVED IT: Once There Were Wolves is about two twin sisters who move to the Scottish Highlands, one of whom is in charge of a group tasked with rewilding grey wolves. If that doesn't appeal to you, read the book anyway. It's ripe with memorable characters, scandal, suspense, surprises, and even a murder mystery. This novel was haunting, beautiful (yes, I was in tears for the last 50 pages), and a serious page-turner.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/Flatiron Books

8.Long Bright River by Liz Moore

"Long Bright River" by Liz Moore.

THIS BOOK! It's one of those novels I wish I could forget so that I could re-read it and experience the same emotions I felt the first time around.

WHY I LOVED IT: It's a mystery that takes place in a Philadelphia neighborhood at the heart of the opioid crisis about two, once-inseparable sisters from a broken home who end up taking two very different paths in life. Mickey is a single mother and a cop and Kaci is an addict who goes missing. As Mickey sets out on a private investigation to find her sister, we are privy to flashbacks from their childhood and scenes from the present-day search. This was a tough one to read at times, but overall it's an incredible, gripping, and highly emotional story ripe with plot twists and moments that will leave you speechless.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/Penguin Publishing Group

9.The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

A hand holding "The Girl with the Louding Voice" by Abi Daré.

This debut novel by Abi Daré is one of those books you don't want to miss. The story is beautiful from start to finish: at times it is heartbreaking, but it's also incredibly courageous and inspiring.

WHY I LOVED IT: Adunni is a teenager in a rural Nigerian village when she loses her mother and her father sells her off to be the third wife of an older man. She is eventually sold as a housemaid to a rich family in Lagos. Adunni wants to be a teacher, and she manages to educate herself and apply for a scholarship despite her unlikely circumstances. I especially adored Daré's writing style: she narrates from Adunni's perspective, and her language develops over the course of the story from smart yet broken English into elegant prose as she learns to read and finds her "louding voice."

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/E. P. Dutton

10.The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

"The Heart's Invisible Furies" by John Boyne on a beach towel.

This isn't an easy read, per se, but I've never plowed through 600 pages so quickly. It stands up as one of my favorite books of all time.

WHY I LOVED IT: The Heart's Invisible Furies traces the life of a man named Cyril Avery, born out of wedlock to a woman in Ireland in the 1940s and adopted by a wealthy family. The saga follows Cyril (who realizes as a child growing up in intolerant, Catholic Ireland that he is gay) as he travels from Dublin to Amsterdam, New York City, and finally back to Ireland. Throughout this touching coming-of-age story, the reader is waiting for Cyril to find his biological mother. Boyne has the unique ability to make you cry and then hysterically laugh on the very same page thanks to his witty and playful writing. It's the extremely rare kind of book that plays on every single one of your emotions.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/PenguinRandomHouse

11.The Push by Ashley Audrain

If you liked Defending Jacob, I have a feeling you'll love this novel. It's the kind of book that keeps you questioning until the very end, unsure whether or not you should believe the narrator in the first place. Also, it's wonderfully creepy.WHY I LOVED IT:  The story is told from the point of view of a mother (and an unreliable narrator throughout the book), who is grappling not only with the idea of motherhood itself but also whether or not her child is

If you liked Defending Jacob, I have a feeling you'll love this novel. It's the kind of book that keeps you questioning until the very end, unsure whether or not you should believe the narrator in the first place. Also, it's wonderfully creepy.

WHY I LOVED IT: The story is told from the point of view of a mother (and an unreliable narrator throughout the book), who is grappling not only with the idea of motherhood itself but also whether or not her child is "different" from most other children. It's eerie to the point where it gives you goosebumps, and it's basically impossible to stop reading until you get to the very end.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/Pamela Dorman Books

12.A Flicker In The Dark by Stacy Willingham

A hand holding "A Flicker In The Dark" by Stacy Willingham

I love thrillers, but a really good one — the kind of mystery that is laden with twists and turns and constantly makes you question your suspicions — is hard to come by. I think of books like The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn that made me grip the edge of my seat until the final pages.

WHY I LOVED IT: A Flicker In The Dark is one of those thrillers. It’s about a young woman who grows up in a small Louisiana town where a handful of young women went missing. She moves to Baton Rouge and becomes a detective, but her past comes creeping back and she finds herself investigating a series of disappearances that are eerily similar to the ones she ran from. This one is dark, bone-chilling, and exactly what you’ll want to recommend for your next book club meeting.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/Minotaur Books

13.What The Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris

A hardcover of "What The Fireflies Knew" by Kai Harris

I don't know about you, but I can't resist a good child narrator, and this book is no exception. I couldn't help but think of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees as I read Kai Harris's debut novel.

WHY I LOVED IT: The protagonist and narrator is eleven-year-old KB, whose father dies of a drug overdose and leaves her family in financial ruin. KB, her mother, and older teenage sister, Nia, leave Detroit, and the two sisters are left to live with their estranged grandfather in Lansing. Race is central to the book's plot, and it also touches upon the themes of identity and belonging that you might expect from a coming of age story. But this book is also teeming with an innocent and profound storytelling from the perspective of a young girl navigating adolescence and the confusing world around her. If you're anything like me, you'll shed a mixture of both happy and sad tears as you read.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/Penguin Publishing Group

14.The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Who doesn’t love a good Kristin Hannah book? I’ve read a whole bunch of them, but The Great Alone is still my absolute favorite. WHY I LOVED IT: After returning from the Vietnam War, Ernt Allbright decides to move his family — his wife Cora and daughter Leni — to a remote and totally wild part of Alaska where a friend from the war left him property. He decides they will escape society completely to live off the land. While her father seems “cured” at first, of course, the new landscape won’t fix anything and Leni finds herself trapped by a hostile land and an increasingly violent and controlling father. It’s a captivating story of survival where Alaska itself becomes a crucial character. And while I will admit it feels a tad bit soap opera-ish at some points, I really never wanted the story to end.Get it from Bookshop and Amazon. 

Who doesn’t love a good Kristin Hannah book? I’ve read a whole bunch of them, but The Great Alone is still my absolute favorite.

WHY I LOVED IT: After returning from the Vietnam War, Ernt Allbright decides to move his family — his wife Cora and daughter Leni — to a remote and totally wild part of Alaska where a friend from the war left him property. He decides they will escape society completely to live off the land. While her father seems “cured” at first, of course, the new landscape won’t fix anything and Leni finds herself trapped by a hostile land and an increasingly violent and controlling father. It’s a captivating story of survival where Alaska itself becomes a crucial character. And while I will admit it feels a tad bit soap opera-ish at some points, I really never wanted the story to end.

Get it from Bookshop and Amazon.

Hannah Loewentheil/St. Martin's Publishing Group

Next up on my list, I'm looking forward to reading In Love by Amy Bloom, Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, and To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara. But I want to hear about the best books you've read recently. Drop your recommendations in the comments below!