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Best books 2022
Image: Steve Beech/Time Out

The best books of 2022

In need of some brain food? Here are the best new reads we enjoyed in the past 12 months

Edited by
Joe Mackertich
Written by
Time Out editors
&
Time Out contributors
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Lockdown (sorry for bringing it up) affected people in myriad ways. One of those ways? Drastically reduced attention spans, which made reading anything other than a takeaway menu very tricky indeed.

Happily, 2022 was the year most people seemed to get their literary mojo back. Suddenly we found it possible to read not just one book, very slowly, over the course of a year, but multiple books. And we feel all the better for it.

Here are the Time Out staff’s picks for best books released this year (or near as dammit).

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Best books of 2022

‘Treacle Walker’ – Alan Garner
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

1. ‘Treacle Walker’ – Alan Garner

It would have been perfect if Alan Garner had taken home this year’s Booker Prize, which fell on his eighty-eighth birthday. But really it was victory enough that the venerable novelist had written a book as good as ‘Treacle Walker’ at his ripe age. Following on from 2012’s ‘Boneland’ – an eerie, elegiac adult finale to his Alderly Edge trilogy that began in 1960  – ‘Treacle Walker’ was an unclassifiable, thrillingly original novel about a sickly boy who is gifted the ability to see all of time as one. You wouldn’t put it past Garner to knock out a follow-up aged 100, but if this is his last book it’s a pretty monumental way to go out. Andrzej Lukowski, Theatre Editor, London

‘The Premonitions Bureau’ – Sam Knight
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

2. ‘The Premonitions Bureau’ – Sam Knight

If you’re superstitious, believe in coincidences, or are just one of those people who gets ‘a funny feeling’ about random things, this is a must-read. Sam Knight’s entertaining history recounts a bizarre and shortlived British experiment in the 1960s investigating the science behind people who claimed to have seen the (usually terrible) future: air disasters, mining disasters, you-name-it disasters. What’s so compelling – along with Knight’s dashingly readable style – is there’s no mockery or scepticism here, just a heartening sympathy for these academics who hoped that as man conquered space and fought for civil rights, there might be some way of preventing horrible things happening to ordinary people. Chris Waywell, Deputy Editor, London

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‘Young Mungo’ – Douglas Stuart
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

3. ‘Young Mungo’ – Douglas Stuart

Having sobbed my way through Shuggie Bain, I was prepped for another emotional onslaught with Douglas Stuart’s new book, Young Mungo. Set against the backdrop of an unforgiving Glasgow estate divided by religion and class, the novel follows the tender tale of Protestant Mungo and Catholic James’ blossoming relationship. While I managed to hold it together slightly better than Stuart’s first novel, this bittersweet story hits you where it hurts and contains an undercurrent of menace that’s hard to shake. Ella Jinadu, SEO Manager

‘Red Clocks’ – Leni Zumas
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

4. ‘Red Clocks’ – Leni Zumas

When I started reading ‘Red Clocks’ it was a work of dystopian fiction, but by the time I’d finished the last chapter it might as well have been the morning paper. The book covers the lives of a handful of American women following an abortion ban in the US. One teenager seeks an illegal termination. Another woman struggles to conceive. While a mother questions her decision to have children. It’s clever, frank, jarring and doesn’t fall into the lazy trap of trying to make the female characters ‘likeable.’ Jess Phillips, Senior Social Media Editor

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‘There Is No Antimemetic Division’ – QNTM
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

5. ‘There Is No Antimemetic Division’ – QNTM

A meme is an idea that spreads itself, so an antimeme is an idea that does the opposite: erases any trace of its own existence. This apocalyptical sci-fi nightmare imagines a world slowly deleting itself from existence, conceptually and physically. A government agency is tasked with stopping that from happening, but how do you know you’ve won if you don’t remember fighting in the first place? It’s weird, uncomfortable, dizzying, clever and absolutely terrifying. Eddy Frankel, Art & Culture Editor, London

'Every Version of You' - Grace Chan
Image: courtesy of the publisher

6. 'Every Version of You' - Grace Chan

I picked this novel up from the store on a whim, and as soon as I cracked it open, I couldn't put it down until I finished it. Set in a polluted and ecologically decimated Melbourne in the 2080s, ‘Every Version of You’ follows Tao-Yi and her partner Navin as they navigate real life and a virtual reality world called Gaia. In Gaia, you can eat, socialise and work sans the pains and worries of the physical world - but Tao-Yi starts to question whether it strips away the joys of being human. It's like ‘Ready Player One’ meets ‘Station Eleven’ and ‘Ex Machina’, and it's the book I can't stop thinking about this year. Adena Maier, lifestyle editor, Time Out Melbourne

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‘Crying in H Mart’ – Michelle Zauner
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

7. ‘Crying in H Mart’ – Michelle Zauner

Getting grief memoirs right can be tricky: if done wrong, they can turn into self-indulgent, depressing trauma porn. But in this sad, yet hopeful book, Michelle Zauner writes astutely and honestly about grief, her late mother, and the complicated relationships we have with the people who raised us. Through the lens of her dual Korean-American identity, the book, and incidentally Zauner, come alive through her loving and visceral depictions of cooking and eating Korean food. India Lawrence, contributing writer

‘The Employees’ – Olga Ravn
Image: courtesy of the publisher

8. ‘The Employees’ – Olga Ravn

An unsettling, unmistakably moving novel. Don’t be fooled by how thin ‘The Employees’ looks; this book’s approach to space and time creates a sense of epic scale. It’s the story of some kind of vessel travelling through the deepest bits of deep space. The crew has picked up some kind of alien species and is gradually becoming obsessed with it. The vagueness is intentional. ‘The Employees’ is told through brief, poem-like chapters which keep easy interpretation at arm’s length. One for fans of sci-fi and experimental fiction. Joseph Mackertich, Editor, London

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‘The Netanyahus’ – Joshua Cohen
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9. ‘The Netanyahus’ – Joshua Cohen

Fully subtitled An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family, The Netanyahus is loosely based on the real-life story of US scholar Harold Bloom’s encounter with the family of Benzion Netanyahu (including his famous son – and future Israeli PM – Benjamin). And while, sure, all that might sound a bit heavy or political or controversial or whatever – The Netanyahus totally isn’t. Cohen keeps you chuckling whilst masterfully communicating his main character’s polite, awkward dread and frustrated helplessness. Anchored by Cohen’s direct, fat-free prose, it’s one of the funniest, tensest, most absorbing things I’ve read in years. Ed Cunningham, contributing writer

‘Takeaway’ – Angela Hui
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

10. ‘Takeaway’ – Angela Hui

‘Takeaway’ hits you in all the right places. It makes you laugh. It makes you angry. And often, it makes you very, very hungry. Food writer Angela Hui’s writing is punchy and heartfelt, recounting her experience of growing up above a Chinese takeaway in rural Wales with such vividness, you can basically smell the kitchen. But ‘Takeaway’ is about much more than just food: it’s an eye-opening record of a family’s resilience as they grapple with experiences of racism, as well as Hui’s own exploration of being an east asian in Britain. Chiara Wilkinson, Chief Features Writer, UK

 

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‘The Pachinko Parlour’ – Elisa Shua Dusapin
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

11. ‘The Pachinko Parlour’ – Elisa Shua Dusapin

As London gets ever more obsessed with K-pop and all things hallyu, this slim, elegant novel offers a less fevered perspective on Korean identity. I loved it for the way it transports you to a hidden world, that of Tokyo's Pachinko parlours, gaming halls run almost exclusively by Korean migrants who've been locked out of other forms of employment. Its protagonist Claire is full of longing: for connection to her Korean heritage, for a fast-vanishing past, for a sense of belonging in a glittering but ultimately inhospitable city. I devoured it quickly, and was left with this pungent sense of nostalgia for a world I'd never encountered except through its pages. Alice Saville, contributing writer

‘Notes on Heartbreak’ – Annie Lord
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12. ‘Notes on Heartbreak’ – Annie Lord

Notes on Heartbreak’ by Vogue’s dating columnist, Annie Lord, is a frank, play-by-play of the breakdown of the author’s five-year relationship after her boyfriend unexpectedly dumps her outside King’s Cross Station. It’s painful, cathartic and beautifully written — a reminder that you’ll always come out of a breakup alive, no matter how gut-wrenchingly horrendous it is. ‘Notes on Heartbreak’ will have you monologuing your own love life to yourself like you’re the main character in a Dolly Alderton book. And there will be tears, lots of them. Ellie Muir, contributing writer

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‘Getting Lost’ – Annie Ernaux
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13. ‘Getting Lost’ – Annie Ernaux

Whether it's because we're all already living in what feels like a fictional dystopia, or because relentless exposure to the everyday goings-on of people's lives on social media has simply made us all nosier, self-writing (whether that's personal essays, memoir or autofiction) is really having its moment. Enter Annie Ernaux, whose steamy diary entries detailing her affair with a Russian diplomat in the late eighties won this year's Nobel Prize. A no holds barred account of the all-consuming nature of desire, 'Getting Lost' is highly recommended reading for anyone who's acted a fool for a sneaky link. Grace Beard, Deputy Travel Editor

‘Devotion’ – Hannah Kent
Image: courtesy of the publisher

14. ‘Devotion’ – Hannah Kent

I spent a good chunk of the darkest January days completely in thrall of some exiled Lutherans escaping Prussia in the early nineteenth century, risking it all to make new lives in Australia. Yes, it’s on the solemn side, but ‘Devotion’ by Australian author Hannah Kent is gorgeously written and filled with massively unexpected plot twists. Kent dedicated her third novel to her wife, and its central love story between two young women is one of the most sensitive and vivid portrayals of queer love that I’ve read. Rose Johnstone, Head of Commercial Content, UK

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‘Trust’ – Hernan Diaz
Image: Courtesy of the publisher

15. ‘Trust’ – Hernan Diaz

Like when your mate Steve regales the pub with the same story four times after varying amounts of Neck Oil, this Scott Fitzgerald-y parable of one dodgy Wall Street banker’s rise to untold wealth offers four different perspectives on the same gripping fable. There’s a Jazz Age novel, a memoir, a journal and another half-finished memoir. Together they ask you to parse truth from fiction and figure out who this man really is and what darkness lies at the heart of the American dream. Phil De Semlyen, Global Film Editor

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