Best Books of 2022: My top-rated fiction reads
My Best Books of 2022 list includes both new release fiction and novels on my wish list that I finally found time to read… because here at Booklover Book Reviews, the very best books have no expiry date!
2022 was not a big reading year for me in quantity, but it was top shelf in terms of quality.
Regular readers will know it takes something extra special to squeeze a 5-star rating out of me. So it should come as no surprise that only two novels (both from my wish list) did just that. If ever there was a lesson in the value of reading from the backlists it has to be that…
However, 2022 produced a bumper crop of 4.5+ star fiction, both from favourite authors of mine along with bold new entrants to the publishing scene.
I awarded 4.75 star read status to eight wonderful novels, with a further four earning the still-excellent 4.5 stars grade. Many of these were brand spanky new releases, that I urge readers not to let slip off their radar as we move into the new reading year.
So without further ado, here are my Best Books of 2022 — all highly recommended reading!
Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.
Best Books of 2022
The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock
(HarperCollins Australia, July 2021)
I can now attest to why Kim Lock’s breakout novel The Other Side of Beautiful earned spots on many readers’ Best Books of 2021 lists.
Who doesn’t love a fish-out-of-water story? Or a warm-hearted road trip to redemption with a gorgeous sausage dog as a sidekick? Yes, at first it seems Lock has simply selected her ingredients wisely. But then you come to realise it is the remarkable depth and raw authenticity she has achieved in lead Mercy Blain’s characterisation that elevate this novel to something truly special. Read more >>
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
(Flatiron Books, 2019)
With the sequel to this novel one of the most highly anticipated new releases of January 2023, I thought it high time I experienced for myself just what earned Leigh Bardugo’s adult debut its worldwide bestselling status.
Its Yale college setting steeped in history and notable alumni proved fertile ground for Bardugo’s skilful world-building and a stage large enough for her inspiringly ambitious mystery plot to play out credibly. But, what hooked me almost from the word go was her strikingly real characters. Read more >>
The Oceanography of the Moon by Glendy Vanderah
(Lake Union Publishing, March 2022)
I had some reservations about this author’s debut novel Where The Forest Meets the Stars, but found this novel (her third) utterly captivating.
Her artistically vivid descriptions of natural flora, fauna and even the changing weather conditions, cultivated an enchanting sense of tension between the characters and their surroundings. Strikingly refreshing also was the uncommon level of open-mindedness and selfless goodwill displayed by Vanderah’s beautifully developed secondary character set, who are amongst the most authentically endearing I have read. Read more >>
One for Sorrow by Helen Fields
(HarperCollins, March 2022)
I was kicking myself that this was my first time experiencing Helen Fields’ fiction. But, this seventh title in her DI Callanach Series was an uttlerly gripping read even as a standalone.
DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are both dedicated to their work, colleagues, friends and each other. Ava is gutsy and brave to a fault; Luc is steadfast, caring, a protector. Fields clearly understands the human psyche well, and expertly mines the fear and dread that witnessing the simplest of sliding door moments can evoke. A crime narrative tackling confronting topics that pulsates with emotional depth and gut-wrenching suspense. Read more >>
Impossible (aka The Impossible Us) by Sara Lotz
(HarperCollins Australia, March 2022)
This novel gave me shell shock, in a good way. If you are not ‘into sci-fi’ you must not let that element put you off. Why? This is an epistolary novel overwhelmingly about love in all its mysterious and wonderful forms – the romantic (big tick), but also the love between friends, parents and children, cranky neighbours and animals… even love for a cause and ultimately, for ourselves.
The blistering rapid-fire dialogue, simmering tension and authentically raw and messy pulsating hearts of Lotz’s lead characters Nick and Bee had me glued to its pages. And, if that wasn’t enough, even the most jaded of readers will be won over by the eclectic and feisty supporting cast. Read more >>
The Maid by Nita Prose
(Harper Collins, January 2022)
This novel has so many intriguing and intelligent layers. On one level it is a clever cozy crime mystery. On another, it is a compelling character study. Molly Gray, aka Molly the Maid, finds comfort and satisfaction in black and white rules, but is all at sea in the ‘grey’ of human interactions. Her quirks and propensity to take things literally spawns light-hearted moments, of course. But as we know, those that are different walk paths more difficult than most.
But what really elevates Nita Prose’ The Maid is its capacity to surprise even the most avid reader. Emotionally astute and highly satisfying literature. Read more >>
The Stranger Times by C.K. McDonnell
(Penguin, January 2021)
A hilariously dark comedy novel and brilliant start to C.K. McDonnell’s fun urban fantasy mystery series for adults.
McDonnell’s vividly-drawn eclectic (and ever surprisingly layered) character ensemble trade clever barbed dialogue like a troupe of knife throwers on Red Bull. Hannah Willis is just one of the fabulously feisty females in this cast along with curmudgeonly editor Banecroft, the lava-like core of this motley newspaper crew’s daily trauma. But beneath the frenetically paced comedic farce there’s also a satisfying dose of social commentary, journalistic gumption, renegade bravery and team loyalty at its heart. Read more >>
The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland
(Text Publishing, August 2022)
I absolutely loved Greg Woodland’s debut The Night Whistler – it was my favourite crime read of 2020 – so I did wonder, would it be possible to conjure up that same magic in this sequel? Almost!
Woodland’s scene-setting mastery is once again on full display, and fans of the dogged Sergeant Mick Goodenough will be pleased to know his world-weary dry inner monologue remains in play. Once sweet pre-teen characters are now sometimes reckless, oftentimes frustrated late teens, which leads to several scenes with knife-edge tension — Woodland’s dialogue and depiction of confrontations superb. Read more >>
Dinner with the Schnabels by Toni Jordan
(Hachette Australia, April 2022)
In 2016 I declared the then-new Our Tiny, Useless Hearts ‘her best novel yet’. But with this 2022 release she’s topped that. Its what I’d classify a ‘literary dramedy’. Literary, because of the intelligence that radiates from its prose. And dramedy, because although it does have a rom-com feel, it is really just a story about contemporary life.
Jordan’s razor-sharp dry humour and talent for comedic farce are once again on glorious display. But, what makes this a cut above the rest is its up-to-the-minute social commentary and its deceptive depth of heart. The latter really creeps up on you while you are busy laughing, and the denouement really packs a tear-in-the-eye punch. Read more >>
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
(Allen and Unwin, 2016)
Dominic Smith reveals his characters’ complex inner lives through wonderfully descriptive prose. The moods he skilfully evokes range from witty and darkly cutting, to artistic and wistful, through to the haunting and ethereal.
But as much as I savour prose artistry, it is the interwoven mystery elements that propel this largely reflective story along. The tension and suspense cultivated by Smith’s judicious revelation of the alternating timelines and character viewpoints make this an outstanding literary page-turner. Read more >>
The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss
(Harper Collins, June 2022)
The thrilling second novel in Tara Moss’ wonderfully engaging Billie Walker PI historical mystery series.
Dear Alma, wily flamboyant Ella, resourceful Shyla and the enigmatic Hank Cooper all make delightful return appearances, but it is the wonderfully steadfast, loyal and handsome Sam Baker (her assistant) that shares top billing in this outing as Billie’s European travel companion – and the energy between them is utterly delectable. Read more >>
The Tilt (aka Dead Man’s Creek) by Chris Hammer
(Allen & Unwin, October 2022)
Last year Hammer introduced readers to a new pairing of detectives Lucic and Buchanan in the Treasure & Dirt (aka Opal Country). Ivan Lucic is enigmatic and bridges the Scarsden series’ storyworld with this new one, but I loved Nell Buchanan from the moment she was introduced. So, I was very pleased to see the spotlight turn her way in this sequel.
Cinematic alternating historical narratives take centre stage when the case they are sent to investigate turns very cold. Nell’s local knowledge comes to the fore, and we learn a whole lot more about her personal backstory. Read more >>
Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp
(Harper Collins Australia, February 2022)
In her debut novel Kimberley Allsopp displays a real knack for writing snappy and amusing character dialogue (inner and outer). I found it intellectual without being pretentious, sassy rather than sarcastic… even the dour moments are not depressing. And, she’s made it look effortless. It was Gilmore Girls-esque, but lite on the mental aerobics.
Allsopp has brought nostalgic fun and feelings back to the modern rom-com. A cocktail of wit and nostalgic pop-culture minus the hangover. Read more >>
Pachyderm by Hugh McGinlay
(Clan Destine Press, October 2021)
The colourfully sassy second title in the highly entertaining Catherine Kint mystery series.
Looking for a thoroughly modern and edgy Phryne Fisher-esque leading lady? Meet Catherine Kint, ex-cop now bolshy high-end milliner, very partial to gin, and not so inclined to stick to the rules now that she’s a mere civilian. But, Catherine’s heart is in the right place even if she’s prone to putting her foot in her mouth, and her devoted bestie Boris (her local barman) knows this. So much so, that she can badger him into almost any adventure – even a perilous night-time B&E – in pursuit of the truth. Read more >>
As you can see from the diverse mix genre of genre and authors, 2022 really has been a wonderful year of reading for me.
How many of my best books of 2022 have you read?
Which of these have sparked your interest and will be earning a spot on your book wish list?