Congratulations, dear reader: we’ve made it to another great season in books. Whether you read like the wind this spring or fell short of your goals, summer is peak reading season, meaning that it’s a new lease on life, a new you, and a whole new slate of releases to devour. Whether you’re looking to understand our current moment through rigorous nonfiction or escape it through otherworldly plots, 2022’s crop of titles offers something for readers of every persuasion. Our favorite books of the year so far run the gamut of genres, from epic fantasy to literary fiction, and tackle a constellation of subjects. If you want to read about spaceships, talking pigs, or supervillains, you’ve come to the right place.
There’s just nothing like cracking open a new book. I was always that kid getting in trouble for reading under my desk, working my way through the classroom bookshelf and then the school library, huddled in a corner with a paperback during recess. Imagine my delight when I got older and realized that reading and writing about books could be a career! Books offer an escape when the real world feels too stressful or scary, can spark even the most dormant imaginations with fantasy or historical fiction, send a chill up the straightest of spines with a good thriller, melt even the most hardened hearts with a steamy romance novel or give us a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes through nonfiction or memoir.
David Yoon’s haunting new novel opens with a man lying supine in a desert, clueless as to what happened to him and where he is. The world has ended. The apocalypse has happened. As pieces of his memory slowly return, it becomes evident that he had a wife and daughter who are now lost forever. As the man figures out how to survive in this new barren land, he transitions from isolation to fear too, and finally, acceptance. The City of Orange is Yoon’s second book for adults, following Version Zero; he’s also written the young-adult novels Frankly in Love and Super Fake Love Song.
Sara Foster runs away from home at sixteen, leaving behind the girl she once was, capable of trust and intimacy. Years later, in Los Angeles, she is a sought-after bartender, renowned as much for her brilliant cocktails as for the mystery that clings to her. Across the city, Emilie Dubois is in a holding pattern, yearning for the beauty and community her Creole grandparents cultivated but unable to commit. On a whim, she takes a job arranging flowers at the glamorous restaurant Yerba Buena.
The morning Emilie and Sara first meet at Yerba Buena, their connection is immediate. But soon Sara’s old life catches up to her, upending everything she thought she wanted, just as Emilie has finally gained her own sense of purpose. Will their love be more powerful than their pasts?
At once exquisite and expansive, astonishing in its humanity and heart, Yerba Buena is a testament to the healing qualities of a shared meal, a perfectly crafted drink, and a space we claim for ourselves. Nina LaCour’s adult debut novel is a love story for our time.
Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home—she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.
Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business—someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.
Swift, surprising, and sharply comic, Counterfeit is a stylish and feminist caper with a strong point of view and an axe to grind. Peering behind the curtain of the upscale designer storefronts and the Chinese factories where luxury goods are produced, Kirstin Chen interrogates the myth of the model minority through two unforgettable women determined to demand more from life.
One night in New York City’s Chinatown, a woman is at a work reunion dinner with former colleagues when she excuses herself to buy a pack of cigarettes. On her way back, she runs into a former boyfriend. And then another. And . . . another. Soon nothing is quite what it seems as the city becomes awash with ghosts of heartbreaks past.
What would normally pass for coincidence becomes something far stranger as our heroine, the recently engaged Lola, must contend not only with the viability of her current relationship but the fact that both her best friend and her former boss, a magazine editor turned mystical guru, might have an unhealthy investment in the outcome. Memories of the past swirl and converge in ways both comic and eerie, as Lola is forced to decide if she will surrender herself to the conspiring of one very contemporary cult.
Is it possible to have a happy ending in an age when the past is ever at your fingertips and sanity is for sale? With her gimlet eye, Sloane Crosley spins a wry literary fantasy that is equal parts page-turner and poignant portrayal of alienation.
Things are looking up for Mr. and Mrs. Cho. Their dream of franchising their Korean plate lunch restaurants across Hawaiʻi seems within reach after a visit from Guy Fieri boosts the profile of Cho’s Delicatessen. Their daughter, Grace, is busy finishing her senior year of college and working for her parents, while her older brother, Jacob, just moved to Seoul to teach English. But when a viral video shows Jacob trying—and failing—to cross the Korean demilitarized zone, nothing can protect the family from suspicion and the restaurant from waning sales.
No one knows that Jacob has been possessed by the ghost of his lost grandfather, who feverishly wishes to cross the divide and find the family he left behind in the north. As Jacob is detained by the South Korean government, Mr. and Mrs. Cho fear their son won’t ever be able to return home, and Grace gets more and more stoned as she negotiates her family’s undoing. Struggling with what they don’t know about themselves and one another, the Chaos must confront the separations that have endured in their family for decades.
Set in the months leading up to the 2018 false missile alert in Hawaiʻi, Joseph Han’s profoundly funny and strikingly beautiful debut novel is an offering that aches with histories inherited and reunions missed, asking how we heal in the face of what we forget and who we remember.
“Lapvona flips all the conventions of familial and parental relations, putting hatred where love should be or a negotiation where grief should be . . . Through a mix of witchery, deception, murder, abuse, grand delusion, ludicrous conversations, and cringeworthy moments of bodily disgust, Moshfegh creates a world that you definitely don’t want to live in, but from which you can’t look away.” —The Atlantic
In a village in a medieval fiefdom buffeted by natural disasters, a motherless shepherd boy finds himself the unlikely pivot of a power struggle that puts all manner of faith to a savage test, in a spellbinding novel that represents Ottessa Moshfegh’s most exciting leap yet
Little Marek, the abused and delusional son of the village shepherd, never knew his mother; his father told him she died in childbirth. One of life’s few consolations for Marek is his enduring bond with the blind village midwife, Ina, who suckled him when he was a baby, as she did so many of the village’s children. Ina’s gifts extend beyond childcare: she possesses a unique ability to communicate with the natural world. Her gift often brings her the transmission of sacred knowledge on levels far beyond those available to other villagers, however religious they might be. For some people, Ina’s home in the woods outside of the village is a place to fear and avoid, a godless place. Among their number are Father Barnabas, the town priest and lackey for the depraved lord and governor, Villiam, whose hilltop manor contains a secret embarrassment of riches. The people’s desperate need to believe that there are powers that be who have their best interests at heart is put to a cruel test by Villiam and the priest, especially in this year of record drought and famine. But when fate brings Marek into violent proximity to the lord’s family, new and occult forces upset the old order. By year’s end, the veil between blindness and sight, life and death, the natural world and the spirit world, will prove to be very thin indeed.
Lidia Yuknavitch has an unmatched gift for capturing stories of people on the margins—vulnerable humans leading lives of challenge and transcendence. Now, Yuknavitch offers an imaginative masterpiece: the story of Laisvė, a motherless girl from the late 21st century who is learning her power as a carrier, a person who can harness the power of meaningful objects to carry her through time. Sifting through the detritus of a fallen city known as the Brook, she discovers a talisman that will mysteriously connect her with a series of characters from the past two centuries: a French sculptor; a woman of the American underworld; a dictator’s daughter; an accused murderer; and a squad of laborers at work on a national monument. Through intricately braided storylines, Laisvė must dodge enforcement raids and find her way to the present day, and then, finally, to the early days of her imperfect country, to forge a connection that might save their lives–and their shared dream of freedom.
Reminiscent of the works of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Octavia Butler, a biting social commentary from the acclaimed author of Lakewood that speaks to our times—a piercing dystopian novel about the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her mysterious mother, set in a world in which witches are real and single women are closely monitored.
Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother’s disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behavior raises suspicions and a woman—especially a Black woman—can find herself on trial for witchcraft.
But fourteen years have passed since her mother’s disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30—or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At 28, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has never understood her mother more. When she’s offered the opportunity to honor one last request from her mother’s will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time. In this powerful and timely novel, Megan Giddings explores the limits women face—and the powers they have to transgress and transcend them.
Germany’s brutal colonization of East Africa (what is known as Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda today) provides the backdrop to Abdulrazak Gurnah’s arresting novel, Afterlives. Centering on the intersecting lives of Ilyas, Afiya, and Hamza, three young people who return home after being separated by war and slavery, the novel explores what is gained and what is lost in the name of survival. Gurnah, who won the 2021 Nobel Prize for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism,” employs sensitivity and tenderness in each storyline.
At thirty-five, Mika Suzuki’s life is a mess. Her last relationship ended in flames. Her roommate-slash-best friend might be a hoarder. She’s a perpetual disappointment to her traditional Japanese parents. And, most recently, she’s been fired from her latest dead-end job.
Mika is at her lowest point when she receives a phone call from Penny—the daughter she placed for adoption sixteen years ago. Penny is determined to forge a relationship with her birth mother, and in turn, Mika longs to be someone Penny is proud of. Faced with her own inadequacies, Mika embellishes a fact about her life. What starts as a tiny white lie slowly snowballs into a fully-fledged fake life, one where Mika is mature, put-together, and successful in love and her career.
The details of Mika’s life might be an illusion, but everything she shares with curious, headstrong Penny is real: her hopes, dreams, flaws, and Japanese heritage. The harder-won heart belongs to Thomas Calvin, Penny’s adoptive widower father. What starts as a rocky, contentious relationship slowly blossoms into a friendship and, over time, something more. But can Mika really have it all—love, her daughter, the life she’s always wanted? Or will Mika’s deceptions ultimately catch up to her? In the end, Mika must face the truth—about herself, her family, and her past—and answer the question, just who is Mika in real life?
Perfect for fans of Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and Rebecca Serle’s In Five Years, Mika in Real Life is at once a heart-wrenching and uplifting novel that explores the weight of silence, the secrets we keep, and what it means to be a mother.