10 Best Books I Read in 2022

The year 2022 was a good reading year for me, but not brilliant. As you can see from my list below, I am no longer reading new releases because, well – they disappoint me (for example, Orhan Pamuk and Hanya Yanagihara, who are among my favourite authors, released their new books this year – Nights of Plague and To Paradise respectively, but, unfortunately, I ended up disliking both, and the same thing happened with Kazuo Ishiguro’s “relatively weak” book last year). So, below are ten best books I read in 2022. This list is in no particular order (click on the book titles to see the full reviews), and I am excluding non-fiction, poetry, plays and short stories (otherwise the list would have been much longer).

I. The Magic Mountain [1924/27]

by Thomas Mann – ★★★★★

Time drowns in the unmeasured monotony of space. Where uniformity reigns, movement from point to point is no longer movement; and where movement is no longer movement, there is no time” [Mann/Woods, 1924/27: 312].

When Hans Castorp checked into one luxurious international sanatorium high up in the Swiss Alps for just a few weeks, he never imagined that he would stay there for years, contemplating the most unfathomable questions, including the meaning of life and death. This masterpiece of a novel from the Nobel Laureate Thomas Mann is an astute philosophical examination of many things, among which are human spirit, time, knowledge, an institution and the nature of illness.

II. How Green Was My Valley [1939]

by Richard Llewellyn – ★★★★★

The quiet troubling of the river, and the clean, washed stones, and the green all about, and the trees trying to drown their shadows, and the mountain going up and up behind, there is beautiful it was” [Llewellyn, Penguin Books, 1939/2001: 42].

This book is undoubtedly my most “heart-felt” read of 2022. This is a poetic, nostalgic exploration of the life of one coal-mining community in Wales during the late Victorian era through the eyes of Hew Morgan, an intelligent boy in one large, close-knit family. The changes that he observes being made to the place and people he loves pain him as they also open his eyes to the machinations of the cruel world. Llewellyn wrote a touching tribute to a place and a way of life that are forever gone.

III. How Do You Live? [1937/2021]

by Genzaburo Yoshino – ★★★★★

“We have to work to nurture that which is good and beautiful in our own hearts” [Yoshino/Navasky, Rider Publications, 1937/2021: 227].

This is a coming-of-age story of one inquisitive high-school student Junichi Honda (“Copper”) who comes to terms with growing up, learning many things about both the importance of friendship and acceptance, and the wrongs of bullying, cowardice and discrimination. The plot is gentle and episodic, with its messages being simple, and yet so profound. The Studio Ghibli adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki already has a release date – 14 July 2023.

IV. The Gift [1938/61]

by Vladimir Nabokov – ★★★★★

The triple formula of human existence: irrevocability, unrealizability, inevitability—was well known to him” [Nabokov/Scammell, Penguin Books,1938/61/2017: 99].

This is Nabokov’s final “Russian” novel. It is a kaleidoscopic and erudite dive into the nature of literary talent, poetry and literature as it focuses on Fyodor Cherdyntsev, a Russian émigré living in Berlin in the 1920s. Fyodor has just published a collection of poems revolving around the theme of childhood, as well as recently moved into a boarding-house. His meetings with prominent figures in Berlin’s literary circle, as well as with girlfriend Zina, set him off on many internal musings, where knowledge, belief, memory and hope all intermingle, feeding his talent and desire for literary recognition.

V. Laura [1942]

by Vera Caspary – ★★★★★

“There is no better key to a man’s character than his use of the written word. Read enough of any man’s writing and you’ll have his Number One Secret” [Caspary, Vintage/Random House, 1942/2012: 166].

A beautiful aspiring socialite is found murdered in her apartment in New York, and the suspects are her fiancé Shelby Carpenter and her literary friend Waldo Lydecker. Detective Mark McPherson starts to investigate, but soon runs into a wall as the unthinkable starts to happen. I love thriller/detective fiction that does something very unusual, and Laura does. This thriller-noir has one unforeseen twist, and I am already looking forward to reading other books by Caspary in the new year, including her novel Bedelia [1945].

VI. The Last Day of a Condemned Man [1829/2002]

by Victor Hugo – ★★★★★

..what about this six-week death agony and this day-long death rattle? What about the mental torment endured through this fateful day that passes so slowly and so fast? And what about the rising scale of tortures ending with the scaffold? This is not suffering, apparently. Whether blood runs out drop by drop, or the intellect dies thought by thought, are they not the same final spasms?” [Hugo, Hesperus Press, 1829/2002: 77].

I would like to thank Roger at Roger’s Gleanings for recommending this book when I wrote my post on Victor Hugo. This story concerns a narrator who tells us about his final days prior to his execution for an unnamed crime. Victor Hugo, who was himself a fierce opponent of the guillotine, puts us in the shoes of this narrator who endures the unimaginable mental suffering as his time on this earth runs out so very slowly and torturously. The “compassionate” novella is powerful and thought-provoking, and the same topic of prisoners waiting for their death has also since been covered by such writers as Nabokov (Invitation to a Beheading [1935]), Sartre (The Wall [1939], Camus (The Stranger [1942]), and Bufalino (Lies of the Night [1988]).

VII. The City and The Mountains [1901/2008]

by Eça de Queirós – ★★★★★

Only a narrow, lustrous caste enjoys the special pleasures the city can provide. The others, the rest, dark populace find only the pain and suffering peculiar to the city…the wealth of the city…is built on the labour and tears of the poor” [de Queirós/Costa, Dedalus, 1901/2008: 88].

This wonderful Portuguese classic from the author behind The Crime of Father Amaro [1875] and The Maias [1888] contrasts the hectic, technology-driven life in Paris at the turn of the century with the quiet, homely life in Portuguese countryside, while focusing on the personality and psychology of one rich man Jacinto de Tormes. This tale of fin de siècle societal eccentricities and touching friendship is not to be missed.

VIII. Havoc [1930/2018]

by Tom Kristensen – ★★★★1/2

I turn out to be a simple, ordinary man who has made a slight attempt to plumb the depths of the soul and find the meaning of absolute freedom” [Kristensen/Malmberg, Gyldendal, 1930/68: 460].

This book is now considered a classic of Danish literature. It tells the story of Jastrau, a thirty-something disillusioned literary critic living with his wife and a small child in Copenhagen, Denmark. Though he has an envied career and a family, Jastrau slowly starts to succumb to the two things that start to make any sense in his life – the rhetoric of his eccentric friends (politics), and alcohol. Despite the novel’s length, it is still a heart-palpitating read, a dark, existential journey to the edge of human abyss.

IX. The Luzhin Defense [1929/12]

by Vladimir Nabokov – ★★★★★

The secret for which he strove was simplicityharmonious simplicity, which can amaze one far more than the most intricate magic…” [Nabokov/Scammell, 1929/2012: 39].

This novel is a tender, funny, ironic and tragic character study of a chess genius, from his childhood to his marriage and old age. Alexander Luzhin is a child chess prodigy and then an eccentric man “living and breathing” the chess world. Nabokov was definitely interested in the workings of an extraordinary and unusual “chess” mind and how it may or may not adjust to the ordinary society and its expectations. The book is beautifully-written, fusing subtlety and frankness, human warmth and cold “mathematical” detachment.

X. The Jungle [1905/2018]

by Upton Sinclair & Kristina Gehrmann – ★★★★★

For how many millions of such poor deluded wretches there were whose lives had been stunted by Capitalism that they no longer knew what freedom was!” [Sinclair, See Sharp Press, 1905/2003: 291].

This is a graphic novel adaptation of a classic novel by Upton Sinclair The Jungle [1906]. Impactful and unfortunately still relevant in our 21st century, the story focuses on the Rudkus family who come from Lithuania to Chicago, US in search of a better life. However, they soon discover that their resilience and desire to work at whatever cost are no match for the sheer ruthlessness and inhumanity of a capitalistic machine already in place. Kristina Gehrmann’s artwork brings this heart-wrenching story vividly to life.

What are the best books you read in 2022?

27 thoughts on “10 Best Books I Read in 2022

  1. I have read and enjoyed a lot of Eca de Queiros, but have not gotten to ‘The City and the Mountain’ yet.
    ‘The Magic Mountain’ is a masterpiece but so is Mann’s ‘Buddenbrooks’.
    I have also read ‘Laura’, ‘The Jungle’, and both of the Nabokovs.
    For whatever reasons, I have never considered reading ‘How Green was my Valley’.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am looking forward to reading Buddenbrooks next year, I can’t wait. I see how some may compare The City and The Mountains rather unfavourably to de Queiroz’s more complex books, but I personally loved its simplicity, and found it so soulful and understated that it completely won be over. How Green Was My Valley also impressed me to no end, becoming my instant favourite, so I highly recommend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh, sounds like some gems here! Some I’ve never heard of, too. I do remember enjoying the movie version of Laura a couple of years ago; maybe I should pick up the book. I think I’d like to read How Do You Live? too…. this year, my sister and I watched a lot of Studio Ghibli films and I was so very impressed by many of the stories. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve gotten away from reading classic fiction lately, and gravitated to nonfiction … but maybe that will shift in the near future. I do really want to read Mann, and your praise motivates me. Maybe I’ll climb that mountain next year?

    Thanks for sharing your top reads with us, and I wish you happy reading in the New Year.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. An interesting list! I’m also finding I’m reading fewer new releases and indulging in more of the classics at present. Laura is on my TBR so I’m glad to see you thought so highly of it, and I think it may have been your review of How Green Was My Valley that prompted me to put it on my wishlist.

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  5. Nice choices. I need to read How Green Was My Valley. It’s horrible when new releases disappoint: I remember the year I didn’t rate the new Douglas Coupland and someone else I thought was reliable, very sad times!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have had mixed luck with new releases as well, but I hope it’s a coincidence and haven’t given up on them. Thanks for bringing Laura to my attention. Like you, I like thrillers and detective fiction, which does something unusual (and the more you read of that genre, the more difficult it is to find such books).

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Another very interesting list. I have 3 in my best books read in 2022: Travelling with Djinns by Jamal Mahjoub (2003); Oh William by Elizabeth Strout (2021) and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, an amazing graphic novel first published (2003). I too have been disappointed in many books recently, but I can recommend these!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Wow, what a gorgeous list! I’m quite inspired. I tried Magic Mountain, but abandoned it halfway through. I should try it again, as long books do not “scare” me. I’m not sure why I abandoned it?

    Also, I am quite interested in How Do You Live? which I had not heard of. I wonder if it is like Heaven, with youths coming to age…

    Lovely to blog with you, Diana, and read your insightful posts and comments.

    Liked by 2 people

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