The Book Club Review

Best Books of 2022 • Episode #134

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Episode notes

It's our best books of 2022, one of our favourite episodes to record as by this point we've done all the hard work of reading, now it's time to sit back and consider which, of all the books we read in 2022, were our very favourites. That might be a new release or it might be a backlist gem. We've also got the books that got us through difficult moments, the books that made us laugh or cry, and the ones we recommended and gave to friends. As we're nothing if not critical we've got some books that didn't quite live up to our expectations before we finally crown our top three books of 2022. 

As snow falls gently around the shed, the fairy lights twinkle, the mulled wine is warm, and we discuss our favourite reads of 2022 with regular special guest, journalist Phil Chaffee. Books mentioned are listed below, but if you want to be surprised look away now.

Book recommendations for Best Books of 2022

Favourite new release: Laura loved TRUST by Herman Diaz, Phil’s favourite (with also-rans The Marriage Portraitby Maggie O’Farrell and Love Marriage by Monica Ali) was THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES by Deesha Philyaw, while Kate loved SEVEN STEEPLES by Sara Baume (with honorable mentions Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard and Briefly: A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens)

Favourite backlist title: Phil picked THE BETROTHED by Alessandro Manzoni (with also-rans The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toíbín, and Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig). Kate loved The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield-Fisher but her favourite was O CALEDONIA by Elspeth Barker. Laura went for WIVES AND DAUGHTERS by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Favourite non-fiction reads: For Kate it was THE PALACE PAPERS, Tina Brown’s engaging examination of the British royal family and our collective fascination with (or indifference) to them. Kate’s also-rans were Fall by John Preston (did Robert Maxwell fall or was he pushed?), 4,000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman (if we did but have the time to discuss it) and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (book everyone says is great turns out to be great). Laura only reads non-fiction when her book club forces her too, but luckily she did end up reading CASTE by Isabel Wilkerson, a book that changed her view of the world within the first fifty pages. Phil loved Putin’s People by Catherine Belton and Not One Inch by M.E. Sarotte, but his overall favourite was THE RED PRINCE by Timothy Snyder.

Favourite Book Club reads. Top of the pile for Laura was MICHEL THE GIANT by Tété-Michel Kpomassie while Phil preferred EIGHT MONTHS ON GHAZZAH STREET by Hilary Mantel. Kate loved The Heart is a Lonely Hunterby Carson McCullers but her ultimate choice was LIGHT PERPETUAL by Francis Spufford

Favourite comfort reads: For Phil it was EITHER/OR by Elif Batuman; he now only wants to read books narrated by her protagonist Selin. Laura escaped to a creepy Swiss hotel with THE SANATORIUM by Sarah Pearse while Kate sank into the arms of old friend E.M. Delafield with THE DIARY OF A PROVINCIAL LADY.

A book that made us laugh or cry: For Kate it was A HEART THAT WORKS by Rob Delaney. Phil enjoyed THREE MEN IN A BOAT by Jerome K. Jerome (in audiobook form read by Hugh Laurie). Laura loved Small by Claire Lynch and The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, but her final choice was THE BREAD THE DEVIL KNEAD by Lisa Allen-Agostini

A book we pressed on a friend: Runner-up for Phil was We Don’t Know Ourselves by Fintan O’Toole but his favourite was THE FREE WORLD by Louis Menand. Laura’s pick was THE SIXTEEN TREES OF THE SOMME by Lars Mytting

Books we read that didn’t quite live up to our expectations: THE ABSOLUTE BOOK by Elizabeth Knox promised much for Laura but ultimately didn’t deliver. Phil really didn’t get on with A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanigahara (and has *really* thought about why) and for Kate LIBERATION DAY by George Saunders didn’t quite meet the soaring heights of his other books.

Overall Book of the Year: Laura’s standout was THE TREES by Percival Everett. Kate loved After Sappho by Selby Wyn Schwartz and The Door by Magda Szabó but her overall favourite read was LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. Phil meanwhile loved the Elena Ferrante Neopolitan quartet, but his overall book of the year is, as mentioned earlier, THE FREE WORLD by Louis Menand.

A few other books we mention in passing:

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Babel by R. F. Kuang

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt

The Little Library Parties and The Little Library Christmas by Kate Young

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