The best of 2022: the new books I’ve loved this year

Mountain Song book with cat
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This website started out as a celebration of my love for classic literature. Tolstoy is even in the name!

But that said, over the last decade, Tolstoy Therapy has evolved around what I’ve been reading – and lately, that’s included a lot more new fiction and non-fiction than classics.

So, what are the best new books I’ve read in 2022? Throughout the year, I’ve been updating this list with the best new books that I’ve been enjoying (and hope you will too).

Without further ado, here’s my current list of the best new books in 2022 to read. Pick these up over the Christmas period, read them to kick-start the new year, or add them to your last-minute Christmas wishlist. Enjoy!

The best new books I’ve read in 2022

1. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

The Marriage Portrait is a spellbinding book, as gorgeously crafted and infused with life as any of protagonist Lucrezia’s wonderfully imaginative paintings. I raced through it in just a few days.

Right from the start of the book, we know that less than a year after fifteen-year-old Lucrezia di Cosimo de’ Medici marries Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, she will be dead. The official cause of death was ‘putrid fever’, but it was rumoured that she had been murdered by her husband.

It’s historical fiction built on a foundation of reading between the lines; of wondering what might have been thought and felt, what might have caused certain events, and what might have happened behind closed doors.

O’Farrell has brought life to the book’s cast with such care and artistry and built a marvellous world – or rather worlds; one constrained and polished to a fine sheen on the surface, the other wild, feral, and uncaged. I loved it.

2. A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast by Dorthe Nors

Me, my notebook and my love of the wild and desolate. I wanted to do the opposite of what was expected of me. It’s a recurring pattern in my life. An instinct.

I wasn’t sure if I was in the right mood to read A Line in the World, but I decided to give the first few pages a chance – largely because I now live in Denmark, I know very little about Jutland, and I love nature writing. Maybe it would be a good fit for next year, I thought. But I soon realised that I had to keep reading.

A Line in the World is a stunning memoir; graceful and lyrical, but with a powerful roar in there too. Read it if you loved The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, or other quietly powerful and introspective memoirs rooted in wild nature.

3. The Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

The Sea of Tranquility is a difficult book to categorise in terms of the topics I usually write about. It’s neither a feel-good book nor a comforting book, really. And while it’s beautifully written, it’s a rather lopsided type of beauty. That said, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

From the best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, The Sea of Tranquility is a stunning novel of art, time travel, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

4. Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

I’ve stayed away from books about the pandemic until now; I wanted reading to be my escape from it, not a reason to think more about it. But I feel like there’s been sufficient distance now for me to read books like this one. And Lucy by the Sea just felt so… therapeutic.

In this third book of Strout’s Amgash series, which you can read as a standalone or start with My Name is Lucy Barton, it’s March 2020 and Lucy’s ex-husband William pleads with her to leave New York and escape to a coastal house he has rented in Maine. Lucy reluctantly agrees, leaving the washing-up in the sink and expecting to be back in a week or so.

As weeks turn into months, Lucy and William spend their long, quiet days thinking about their complex past together – and the connections that sustain us in the hardest moments.

5. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

The fantastically vibrant cover of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow has been popping up everywhere over the last few months.

Winner of the Goodreads Best Fiction Award 2022, it’s the wonderfully nerdy, imaginative, and creative story of Sam and Sadie, who first meet in a hospital in 1987 and develop a unique bond as two brainy kids with no other real friends.

However, that connection is forgotten as they return to their normal lives – until the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station.

When Sadie gives Sam a game she’s been developing, they immediately reignite that spark and find once-in-a-lifetime intimacy in the digital realm. It’s also the start of a collaboration that brings them money and fame – but also duplicity and tragedy.

6. The Bookseller at the End of the World by Ruth Shaw

The Bookseller at the End of the World is one of the best new memoirs of 2022. It’s Ruth Shaw’s immersive, heartbreaking yet charming story of running two wee bookshops in the remote village of Manapouri in Fiordland, in the deep south of New Zealand.

In this beautiful book for booklovers (that is sure to make you want to read even more books), Ruth weaves together stories of the characters who visit her bookshops and musings on the books that have shaped her life.

She also shares bittersweet stories from her full and varied life, including losses, enduring love, and adventures sailing through the Pacific, being held up by pirates, working with drug addicts and prostitutes, and campaigning to protect the environment.

7. Water, Wood & Wild Things: Learning Craft and Cultivation in a Japanese Mountain Town by Hannah Kirshner

“With this book, you feel you can stop time and savor the rituals of life,” shared Maira Kalman about Water, Wood & Wild Things. I came across this beautiful book in my local library recently and fell in love with it.

Water, Wood & Wild Things is artist and food writer Hannah Kirshner’s journey through the culture and cuisine of one misty Japanese mountain town, its evergreen forests, local water, and smoke-filled artisan workshops.

Part travelogue, part meditation on the meaning of work, and full of Hannah’s beautiful drawings and recipes inspired by her time in Yamanaka, this is a soothing and inspiring book about what it means to find purpose in cultivation and craft and sustain traditions.

From making a fine bowl to harvesting rice, this tender book is a celebration of craftsmanship, creativity, quiet dedication, and the simple beauty of life.

8. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

“Tender and healing… I’m prescribing a preorder to anyone who has ever felt lost. Stunning, kind, necessary,” writes author Sarah Gailey about this gentle and life-affirming book from the author at the forefront of hopeful science fiction.

A Prayer for the Crown Shy is the second book in Becky Chambers’ Monk & Robot series, weaving an intriguing world about the robots of Panga who long ago laid down their tools and disappeared into the wilderness after they gained self-awareness.

To start at the beginning of the Monk & Robot series, first read the equally uplifting A Psalm for the Wild-Built, in which a robot returns to civilisation to startle a tea monk with a very difficult question: “what do people need?”

9. City on Fire by Don Winslow

Don Winslow has been one of my guilty pleasure authors for a few years. I first read The Power of the Dog while on the Trans-Mongolian train across Russia, Mongolia and China a few years ago and was hooked. (So was my now-husband, who ended up reading most of it over my shoulder.)

This year, I flew through the audiobook of Don Winslow’s newest release and the first part of a new series, City on Fire. It’s a compulsively readable thriller that transforms the events at Troy and the founding of Rome into a riveting gangster tale as two criminal empires fight to control New England.

10. Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Carrie Soto is back cover

Taylor Jenkins Reid has written some of the best can’t-put-down books from the last few years.

I first read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and enjoyed how wonderfully flawed yet fantastic the characters were. I loved the strong family ties in Malibu Rising. I listened to the full-cast audiobook of Daisy Jones & the Six and immersed myself in a world of music, rocky relationships, and the even rockier road of self-discovery.

Now in 2022, Taylor Jenkins has published Carrie Soto is Back, her story of a tennis legend supposedly past her prime at thirty-seven, brought back to the tennis court for one more grand slam. Carrie Soto sacrificed everything to become the best, and now she needs to give everything she’s got to defend her record.

11. Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Mad Honey book

Another book I enjoyed as an audiobook in 2022 was Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. It’s an incredibly gripping book about what we choose to keep from our past and what we choose to leave behind.

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over, after leaving her picture-perfect life in Boston – married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, and raising a beautiful son, Asher— to return to the house she grew up in, taking over her father’s beekeeping business in a sleepy New Hampshire hometown.

This seems like the new start she needed… until Olivia receives a phone call that Lily, the new girl in town, is dead. When she hears that Asher is being questioned by the police, she wonders if she really understands her son at all. 

Looking for more books to read in 2022? You might also like my recommended books for when you don’t know what to read and the best can’t-put-down books to binge-read.


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