The Best Things We Read in 2022

Dear Listeners,

Of all the lists and awards that are reigned down on books at the end of the year, this list is my most favorite. I have reached out to past guests from The Stacks in 2022 and asked them to share with us their favorite book they read this year, and the one book in 2023 they’re looking forward to. I love the list because, as you know, The Stacks’ guests have the best taste in books, and the list is unlike what you get in every other publication. My guests have range.

I hope you enjoy reconnecting with the many voices from our 2022 season.

Cree Myles
Curator behind Penguin Random House’s All Ways Black

The best book I read in 2022 was Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. As a lover of Jordan Peele I wanted to make sure I spent some time with the OG and Levin didn’t disappoint. A masterclass in social commentary, Levin uses the genre of horror to explore how little control women had over their bodies in the 1960s.

Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor

Cree was our guest for Episode 197, where she discussed her project All Ways Black, and for Episode 200, where she discussed our book club pick Passing by Nella Larsen.

Tessa Miller
Author of What Doesn’t Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness – Lessons from a Body in Revolt 

As a composition professor, the best thing I read in 2022 was Other People’s English by Vershawn Ashanti Young. It’s a strong rebuke of code-switching ideology and an endorsement of code-meshing, which encourages speakers and writers to draw on their entire linguistic repertoires (even, and especially, in academic settings where language standards are steeped in racism). 

Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: Year of the Tiger by Alice Wong. 

Tessa was our guest for Episode 201, where she discussed her book What Doesn’t Kill You and Episode 203, where she discussed our book club pick I Live a Life Like Yours by Jan Grue.

Katrina Stokes
Director of the Warren County – Vicksburg Public Library

I had the pleasure of reading the Graphic Adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower this year. This book holds special distinction for me because the artist of this fantastic adaptation is John Jennings, who grew up not far from where I live in Mississippi. This novel is a Hugo Award Winner for Best Graphic Story. Octavia Butler’s novel is one of the most realistic and believable works of dystopian fiction I’ve ever read. It’s compelling and detailed, with exceptional character and plot development. It pulls you so far into the story that you can’t stop turning the pages until you’ve reached the end. I highly recommend it!

Katrina was our guest for Day 1 of Banned Books Week, where she talked about curating a collection and the process of banning a book in public libraries.

Stephanie Foo
Author of What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma

I read a lot of great books this year, but perhaps the most worldview-altering was Disability Visibilityedited by Alice Wong, which provided such a nuanced and diverse understanding of what it means to be disabled today. It was by turns enraging, optimistic and empowering, and even convinced me to self-identify as disabled, a terminology I had previously rejected because of its stigma.

Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: I have bell hooks’ All About Love on my shelf and I haven’t started it yet, but am very excited to finally get to a timeless classic.

Stephanie was our guest on Episode 205, where she discussed her book What My Bones Know.

Danny Pellegrino
Author of How Do I Un-Remember This?: Unfortunately True Stories

My favorite read of 2022 was Delia Ephron’s Left on Tenth. It’s such a beautiful story about finding love and strength later in life.

Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: I have a pile of frothy, unread rom-coms on my nightstand waiting to be read on holiday, and I’m especially excited to sip some bed-wine and tackle The Rewind during the first few days of the new year before work starts up again. 

Danny was our guest on Episode 210, where he discussed his memoir How Do I Un-Remember This?

Danyel Smith
Author of Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop

Best book I read in 2022 is a re-read. 1992’s The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes from the late Janet Malcolm. I’m writing a lot right now, and Malcolm, who was deeply cognizant of biography as a “flawed genre,” inspires me with her ability to investigate, to tell a person’s story, tell her story, and tell the big story— all at once. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: Well, I’m hearing Bernice McFadden is releasing a memoir next autumn called First Born Girls. As a first born girl myself, I will be first in line. 

Danyel was our guest on Episode 215, where she discussed her book Shine Bright.

Kate Schatz
Author of Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book

The best book of non-fiction I read in 2022 was How To Read Now by Elaine Castillo. A trenchant and sly and super-readable, super-smart collection of essays that lays bare how much white supremacy fucks up all aspects of literature, from the reader’s experience with language and story and the page to the limits of the captalist publishing imagination. I will read anything that Castillo writes, and this book is no exception. The best book of fiction was Mecca by Susan Straight. I absolutely love everything about this sprawling, ambitious novel set in California’s Inland Empire, and I can’t think of another white author I would trust to explore the experiences and identities of a multiethnic cast of characters than Straight. She writes with respect, compassion, clarity, and depth, especially when she goes in on the twin traumas of police violence and COVID on Black, Latinx, and undocumented folks. The best book of poetry was Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong because, seriously, everything that Ocean writes and says is just beyond brilliant and gorgeous. I can go into these poems again and again and always find something new. And I’m really not an avid reader of cookbooks or food writing but special shoutout to Simply Julia by Julia Turshen. Sure, the recipes are really fantastic, but what got me is how quietly radical the book is: sandwiched between a chicken cutlet recipe and one for a baked spinach and artichoke dip is a short essay titled “On the Worthiness Of Our Bodies.” It’s a deeply personal and powerful rejection of diet culture, internalized fatphobia and how the culture of “healthy eating” culture too often functions as a front for disordered eating. I can’t think of any other cookbook that includes lines like “There is nothing wrong with being fat. The only thing wrong is thinking that any person, living in any type of body, is less valuable than someone else.”

Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden by Camille Dungy. I’ve had the honor of reading this in ARC form and cannot wait for the final, glorious book. To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness by Robin Coste Lewis. I bought this “film for the hands,” as Lewis describes it, for my wife for Christmas, but really I got it so we can read it together. 

Kate was our guest on Episode 227, where she discussed her book Do the Work!

Anthony Christian Ocampo
Author of Brown and Gay in LA: The Lives of Immigrant Sons

The best book I read in 2022 was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe [by Benjamin Alire Sáenz], a YA novel about two Mexican-American teenagers coming into their queerness in the late 1980s. I love this book because I get to vicariously experience the queer adolescence I should’ve been able to have, but never did.

Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: Chasing Pacquiao by Rod Pulido.

Anthony was our guest on Episode 235, where he discussed his book Brown and Gay in LA, and on Episode 238, where he discussed our book club pick Fairest by Meredith Talusan.

Brandon Kyle Goodman
Author of You Gotta Be You: How to Embrace This Messy Life and Step Into Who You Really Are

So many great books  I read this year, but my favorite was Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson PsyD. As jarring as that title can be, it actually helped me develop even more empathy for the adults that raised me, seeing more of their humanity in the decisions they made. The book does a great job of helping readers hold accountability and create steps to move forward without blame or shame. I highly recommend it for anyone who is on the journey of healing their childhood wounds, especially anyone who has or is interested in having kids of their own one day.

Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: I’m truly most looking forward to reading South to America by Imani Perry. 

Brandon was our guest on Episode 236, where he discussed his book You Gotta Be You.

Jemele Hill
Author of Uphill: A Memoir

The best book I read in 2022 is Leila Mottley’s Nightcrawling. I am floored and inspired by her tremendous talent. She wrote a raw, honest, emotional fiction novel that is a heartfelt coming of age story that’s based in Oakland. She’s a rare talent and it’s impossible not to be shifted by this book in some way.

Jemele was our guest on Episode 240, where she discussed her book Uphill.

Jonathan Abrams
Author of The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop

My favorite book in 2022 is His Name Is George Floyd by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa. I love books that explain the whys of situations. It is a gripping look at the macro issues of the racial and systematic mechanisms that shaped George Floyd’s life and death. (Dan Charnas’ memoir on J Dilla and Howard Bryant’s book on Rickey Henderson were close runner-ups among my favs of the the year.)
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: Questlove’s Music is History. It’s been on my list for a little while.

Jonathan was our guest on Episode 241, where he discussed his book The Come Up.

Steven Thrasher
Author of The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide

The book I thought with the most this year was Victor Ray’s On Critical Race Theory: Why It Matters & Why You Should Care. The point of theory is to help us think about things, and Dr. Ray gives us a bountiful gift by sharing his own story and breaking down philosophy in a way that helps us to think about the most pressing issues of race and class in our time. This slim volume is also a masterclass in craft, as every sentence is composed in a way that is elegant, compact, illuminating and inviting.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: The New American Homeless by Brian Goldstone. Dr. Goldstone writes about housing and houselessness with such compassion, rigor and pathos, presenting the moral case for housing as a human right with the urgency it deserves. His writings on Twitter and in The New Republic have deeply informed my own politics and ethics, and his book is going to be a game-changer in American society confronting the scourge of homelessness.

Steven was our guest on Episode 242, where he discussed his book The Viral Underclass.

Toluse Olurunnipa
Co-Author of His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice

The best book I read in 2022 was Where the Children Take Us by Zain Asher. What a loving and elegantly written tribute to a mother’s determination to put her children on her back and carry them through the most devastating of storms. It’s a story of tragic loss, triumphant love, extraordinary perseverance and odds-shattering achievement delivered in beautiful prose.  The tough-love parenting strategies, the immigrant come-up, the Nigerian “no carry last” mandate for excellence  – it all hit home for me in such a searing, affirming way.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: A Coastline is an Immeasurable Thing: A Memoir Across Three Continents by Mary-Alice Daniel

Toluse was our guest on Episode 245, where he discussed his book His Name is George Floyd.

Andrew Limbong
Host of NPR’s Book of the Day podcast

Easily the best book I read in 2022 was Kate Beaton’s DucksTwo Years in the Oil Sands. It’s a graphic novel memoir about Beaton’s time digging for oil in northern Canada. It’s a tough and crappy job in a tough and awful environment. She doesn’t sugarcoat it, but she doesn’t condescend to the (mostly) men who have little choice but to work there. It’s an empathetic, complicated, and beautifully drawn look at labor, class, and the choices we make.

Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America by Abraham Riesman. I’m not even one of those wrestling nerds, but even I can appreciate how uniquely of-the-moment professional wrestling is right now – with its reliance on blending “truth” and “performance.” And what better way to understand all that than an exploration of the guy behind it all.

Andrew was our guest on Episode 246, where he discussed his favorite books of 2022

Traci Thomas
Host and creator of The Stacks

The best thing I read this year was South to America by Imani Perry. Perry does an extraordinary job of making the argument for The American South as the center of The United States .The book is captivating and wide ranging and full of complexities. It is a challenge to read and that is precisely what makes it feel like such an enjoyable read. The writing is unreal. The storytelling is dynamic. This book is easily one of the best things I’ve read in the last five years.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2023: Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and Raw Dog by Jamie Loftus, because ya’ll know I love any excuse to talk about glizzies.

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