Writing this article is both satisfying and painful, kind of like picking a scab you know you shouldn’t. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to giving low ratings or bad reviews, so the idea of placing books last on my list feels awful. I feel as guilty as when I ripped my sister’s shirt as a teenager and denied all knowledge of the crime. But even though these books are last on my list, that doesn’t mean they’re terrible, they just had a lot of competition.
But the joy in this article comes from ranking the top books, and remembering all of the excellent books I read this year. It was a close call, but after hours of reorganising (hello, procrastination, my old friend), I’m satisfied with my list.
Here are all the books I read in 2022, from best to worst.
I love Marian Keyes books. She has written some of my favourite books. Although you’ll see that some of her books found their way quite low on this list…
Releasing a sequel is unusual for Marian. She’s more of a one-book-wonder, connecting her novels only through characters. So it was surprising enough that she was releasing a sequel to one of her novels… 25 years after she released the first!
It was a risky move but it completely paid off. This is an amazing sequel as well as stand-alone novel. It is a heartfelt read, and I really wasn’t sure how it would end. I loved this novel and laugh-cried my way through it.
Rachel Walsh is back, no longer struggling but with addiction but rather helping others to overcome it. But when her ex-husband Luke returns to her life, everything that went down between them begins to come to the surface once more…
I read this book in one day. I am not usually that type of person, but I read this entire book by the pool on the hottest day of the year. I loved all of Emily Henry’s books and can’t wait for the next one, but People We Meet on Vacation really stood out! I found Poppy and Alex to be such fresh and complex characters.
Poppy and Alex have been friends for years and used to take a trip each summer, until the BIG ARGUMENT. Now Poppy is trying to get Alex back in her life with one more trip, a chance to fix things as they ignore the big truth in the way…
This novel is funny, erotic, heartbreaking, moving and seductive. It’s about hunger. That hunger for food, as it very clearly discusses eating disorders and fatphobia. But also the hunger for sex, love and belonging, as so often we try to fill ourselves with one or the other.
It’s quite a graphic read but incredibly well-written. I can’t wait to read more by Melissa.
Rachel, 24, is a lapsed Jew whose life revolves around her food intake and weight. Then she meets Miriam, and things get more complicated…
I would read Dolly’s grocery list or random post-it notes, she is one of my favourite writers. This book contains a collection of her favourite agony aunt letters, covering sex, breakups, friendship and more. It’s short, easy to read, hilarious and heartbreaking and everything in-between. You can’t go wrong with it!
I was so excited for Alex Light’s book and it was even better than i expected! It not only covers her own experiences with an eating disorder, but gives space to other voices and detailed research regarding our society’s fixation with thinness. This is exactly the book I needed in the height of my eating disorder, and I wish everyone could read it - whether or not you’ve had an eating disorder yourself.
One of my favourite Marian Keyes books that I seem to reread annually, this is a must-read! It follows a big, messy Irish family. Told through multiple perspectives, it shows how the lies can add up until they’re all revealed on one fateful evening… Funny, loveable, and real. The many narrators can be a little confusing at first but you get into it quickly.
This book depicts itself as a “celebration of love in all its forms”. It began as a weekly newsletter that evolved into a book dedicated to the thing that drives us, love. Through personal essays and interviews Natasha explores many themes of love: breakups, marriage, grief, parenthood, pregnancy, illness and more. It was beautiful to read, even the parts less relevant to myself. It featured some big names, including Dolly Alderton, Candice Carty-Williams and Roxanne Gay.
This memoir was difficult to read, as the abuse and subsequent struggles with mental illness are told plainly and honestly. But it was also an empowering book, as the manner in which Jennette holds nothing back allows you to really follow her journey with her. One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.
You follow Jennette as a child star, a teenage celebrity, and a deeply unhappy adult. She recounts the complicated relationship with her mother, including emotional abuse.
To say this book surprised me would be an understatement. I enjoyed ACOTAR enough to read the series, but then didn't feel the urge to read more of her work. I randomly decided to try another Sarah J Maas novel and I had no idea that this would be so much better than ACOTAR. This book held such valuable social commentary, and Sarah managed to weave a complex magical world that still made sense as a reader. While Bryce was in many ways the typical fantasy heroine, there was also more to the story. I read for 3 hours straight to finish the book as I couldn't wait to find out what happened. It was incredibly layered and so well-written, I'm immediately getting the next book in the series.
The sequel is my first read of 2023!
This book is comforting with a hint of sadness. It’s about unrequited love, not only for others but towards ourselves. It is made up of tiny universal experiences and how they collect to form our perspective.
Annie is in love with her boyfriend, who is reluctant to commit to her. Joy is in love with their new roommate, Theo, even when she meets his girlfriend, Celine. Celine lives in a cycle of her own shame, allowing Theo to be a distraction.
I don’t read many romance novels, but I love how Emily Henry balances romance with self-discovery. This novel was also about Nora’s grief and relationship with her sister. It was also deliciously meta, referencing those Hallmark small town movies, but from the perspective of the usual ‘villain’ of these films.
My only tiny frustration was Libby calling Nora "Sissy" throughout, but I think that's just a personal pet peeve. I can’t imagine ever calling my sister that.
Again, Emily balances romance with personal development. This novel explores January’s loss of her father and coming to terms with the double life he led, as well as the deal she makes with her neighbour Augustus…. It was fun to read, and sometimes books just need to be fun.
I love Greek mythology and adored Jennifer’s other novel, Ariadne, so I was excited to get my hands on this one! It was great to read about the slightly overdone Battle of Troy from a different perspective, or rather 3 different perspectives. The novel is told by Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon and sister of Helen; Cassandra, princess of Troy and cursed prophet; and Elektra, Clymenstra’s youngest daughter who eagerly await her father’s return.
This book was incredible. I thought it would take me a while to get into the style of prose but it went very quickly. The characters were so captivating and it was fascinating to see how their lives intertwined. They acted as excellent mirrors for each other, highlighting flaws and inconsistencies. I would recommend this book immediately, as it's like reading 12 stories in one. It is described as a “love song to modern Britain and black womanhood”.
I randomly found this novel in a bookshop and I’m so glad I bought it! This novel had me sobbing, and I found myself desperately turning the pages in search of a happy ending. The setting of Northern Ireland was both beautiful and harrowing, and the writing was almost poetic.
Mary Rattigan lives in the madness of troubled Northern Ireland and is desperate to escape. But things don’t go to plan and she finds her life slipping away in a direction she never hoped for…
I am not much of a sports gal, and yet I loved this book. Taylor managed to make pages of tennis match descriptions fascinating. She kept me hooked and believing I too loved tennis. The style differed a bit to her other books, with shorter chapters, but it was perfect for Carrie. While I did prefer ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’ and ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’, it was still an incredible book!
Any book that is part of the Walsh family collection is a delight to reread. I love the L.A. setting and glamorous scriptwriting lifestyle through the naive eyes of Maggie. It’s fun, outrageous and downright ridiculous at parts. Perfect for a rainy day read.
I discovered the Percy Jackson books two years ago and I am a big fan, to say the least. I think it’s my love of Greek mythology that has me so hooked on these young adult books. I reread them annually, and I would’ve put all five here except I technically read the first two at the end of 2021. It's got demi-gods, monsters, young love and more.
These are my comfort books, and I love the detailed Greek mythology in them.
This book was so heartwarming and frustrating in a way that shows you're really attached to the characters. Sometimes the character's actions really drove me mad but that's what makes them realistic, as we all do things we shouldn't and stay firmly in denial.
By the end, I was yelling at Tara to dump her dreadful boyfriend, Katherine to let loose a bit and Fintan to be more transparent with his friends.
This was definitely not what I expected! I loved Queenie and so one chapter in, when certain dramatic events started unfolding (no spoilers!), I was shocked. I checked the title to make sure I had the right book. As with Queenie, this novel had a focus on relationships and identity, two topics she covers immacutely. The different characters allowed us to see multiple perspectives and how differently people can grow up to be. The character conflicts were well-written and captivating, and I was hooked on the storyline.
I do feel like the main storyline got fixed a little too quickly, in the way that makes you wonder what all of it was leading up to? And I also think I didn't get the chance to explore some of the siblings as much as there was the huge focus on Dimple. So while I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it, I'd definitely say you should prioritise reading Queenie!
I loved the first book so much that I don't think anything could live up to it, and unfortunately, I felt this 'sequel' detracted from it. A lot of strings were neatly tied, and in particular, one of the character's journey felt forced.
But as always, Atwood is an incredible writer. Her imagery and prose are enough to keep you reading, and I look forward to reading more of her books!
The second series in the Percy Jackson universe is also amazing in my humble opinion, but not quite as good as the first. So they get this prime spot. A highlight of these books is the diversity and approach to different perspectives.
The first essay had me completely captivated, and from there, Emily weaved a beautiful tale of past, present and future. She had a knack for discussing people, honestly and plainly, while always remaining respectful. I did feel like some of the essays were a little less cohesive than others, where it felt almost disorganised. But throughout, her writing was beautiful, simple and honest, and I feel like I left this book with a lot to think about.
This book is intelligent and dynamic, perfect for fans of ‘Get Out’. It’s a thriller that approaches race in the literary industry and keeps you hooked. The writing is excellent, but the pacing was a little slow for me. If it had been edited a bit tighter, it definitely would’ve found a higher position on this list.
Nella Rogers is the only black employee at Wagner Books, until Hazel appears one day. Things start getting competitive, especially when threatening notes are left on her desk…
A friend asked me to try the ACOTAR series and I nervously agreed to try them. It’s not my usual genre of choice, but I am really glad she gave me the nudge to read them!
Sarah is amazing at world-building. I’m not as experienced with fantasy so I was little daunted at the start. I kept trying to memorise all the information thrown at me, but I’ve now learned to just be patient, a talented fantasy author will make things clear along the way.
I loved the twist, I loved the smut, I loved the escapism.
A very practical, no-nonsense guide to traditional publishing. I was initially concerned this book might overly promote the author's business, but the bias was acknowledged and handled very well. It broke down each step and gave a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the points. While I disagreed with certain things mentioned, it was helpful to have this book by someone who has been there themselves.
This is the first time I read Rick’s Apollo series, situated after Heroes of Olympus. They were definitely not as good as the originals, but strong in their own right. I was particularly impressed with how brutal Rick was, unafraid to kill off or hurt major characters. Rick really did not hold back and I respect him for it. I never expected to cry so much at a book for kids.
I read this book when I got Covid for the second time in 2022, and it was the perfect distraction. I was initially surprised that the long-awaited Hunger Games prequel was about Snow (and not dreamy Finnick) but this book was an excellent villain origin story. Suzanne is talented enough to make you sympathise with him. I was not sure where this would go and I’m excited to watch the upcoming film.
I liked this novel more than 'The Midnight Library' and enjoyed the core concept of it. The familiar faces mentioned was a fun touch although except for Shakespeare, they didn't add much to the story. I got really hooked for the last third, but until then it was a bit of a slow read. Matt Haig does have a very beautiful writing style, with simplistic yet touching prose throughout.
This book was a journey, not only through uncovering the plot but also in identity and trauma. Claire handled the discussion around trauma, mental health and emotional abuse phenomenally. She wove such complex characters that I can't stop thinking about them now. Claire created the perfect balance between plot and character development, as well as with a thought-led narrative.
I really like Taylor’s novels, but this was definitely my least favourite of her books. While I appreciated how it dealt with the difficult subject of grief, it kind of felt like it was waiting for something that didn’t quite come. But it was a beautiful examination of grief and how it can bring people together.
The novel switches between before the accident - following Ben and Elsie’s whirlwind romance- and after - when Elsie is grieving and connects with Ben’s mother.
I am a huge Marian Keyes fan, so I had sky-high expectations going in, and unfortunately this novel couldn't quite stand up to her other works. It was a fun read and I loved the character of Daniel vehemently, but it was also a bit slow and directionless. I found it hard to sympathise with the character at all, and I usually love unlikeable characters so this was new for me. I also wanted Lucy to tell Karen where to shove it far earlier in the novel.
It would not be the Marian Keyes novel I recommend to people.
The synopsis caught my eye as I love it when film is used in novels and it seemed a fascinating premise… your boyfriend writes a film about your breakup? Yikes!
This novel did not disappoint! Callie was a lovely yet realistic character, and I loved that throughout the novel you were both unravelling what happened all those years ago as well as working out what would happen. I was on the edge of my seat for the last third of the novel. I also loved how it wasn’t focused solely on romantic relationships (although there was some GORGEOUS FLIRTING), but really dealt with Callie’s identity and her relationship with her sister. As one of 3 sisters, I loved seeing the realistic love/hate portrayal.
I’m reading the Harry Potter novels in Dutch as practice. They’re ideal for working on another language, particularly if you know them well in English. Next year I plan to read the rest of them.
Not that much to say about them, I think once you get a bit older they’re not quite as impressive. But I do remember reading them for the first time with such exhilaration.
When it comes to mental illness, one of the biggest comforts is simply knowing we’re not alone in it. This memoir by Matt Haig doesn’t have the answer to depression, it won’t tell you how to get better, but it reminds us that other people feel this way, even successful authors. It’s a bit of a slow read, and more of a personal experience rather than self-help book.
This was the first Colleen Hoover book and I think the hype around them made me go in with too high expectations. I liked how Colleen approached the story (no spoilers!) and it was a gripping read, but it also didn’t leave me with a ‘wow’ feeling. I didn’t even feel compelled to read the sequel that just came out.
I’m sure if I was a teenager reading these books I would’ve put them a lot higher on the list. But I’m twenty-six and I read these books because I liked the series adaptation. The books were cute but a little straightforward, even for young readers. I think my biggest issue is the third book, as the entire premise is just so unbelievable. I also felt like she built up characters throughout the first two books and then completely changed them in book 3 for an easy ending.
Have you read any of these books? Or will you now try one of them? Let me know in the comments!
For more info on my reading habits in 2022, check out my reading wrapped! And if you're curious, find out what happened when I tried to plan my TBR list.
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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