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My favourite books of the year

I'm not saying they're the most literary, or the brainiest - I don't care about that. These are the ones that left me begging for more

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It’s that time of year when the papers are full of books of the year lists that, much like their summer reading lists (Opens in a new window), are bursting with books that look like they’re zero fun to read.  (For more on this, catch up with Milly Johnson (Opens in a new window) on last week’s episode of the podcast.  She has PLENTY to say about the way commercial fiction is sidelined by the bookish establishment – particularly if it’s aimed at women, particularly if it's working class. Anyway...) 

I’m not saying there’s not a place for books about military history and macro economics. There is. It’s just not on my bookshelf.

So here are my favourite books of 2022. They’re not necessarily 'the best' (at the level of the sentence!). I can't guarantee they're all fun (in fact, I can guarantee some of them are very much not), but I loved each and every one of them, in their own ways. And there’s not a book here I wouldn’t buy again and pass on. 


This was a bumper year for fiction (let's face it, most years are), so I need to write this quickly before I start changing my mind and trying to add things in. 

I tried (and failed) to choose a fiction book of the year, but a definite contender would be The Old Woman With The Knife by Gu Byeong-Mo (Opens in a new window). Hornclaw is one of those characters you’ll never forget: a 65 year old serial killer on the cusp of retirement (and pretty depressed about it), when she’s sabotaged by a young male upstart she decides she’s not about to allow herself to be erased quite so easily. A gripping thriller that's unlike anything else I've ever read, but also a laser-focussed analysis of society’s stinking attitude to ageing women. In the spirit of changing the narrative, Notes On An Execution by Danya Kukafka (Opens in a new window)makes us question the traditional serial-killer-worshipping narrative by looking at it from a different perspective. Ansel Packer is a serial killer on death row. He has 12 hours to go. So what? This is not his story. Instead it's told through the eyes of three women impacted by his crimes: the detective, the mother, the sister-in-law. In a world where an industry has grown up around the likes of Ted Bundy (to whom Packer bears more than a passing resemblance), this turns that on its head.

On a slightly lighter note, Monica Ali’s big-hearted Love Marriage (Opens in a new window) is the story of not one but two love marriages. (As opposed to arranged marriages.) The imminent nuptials of Yasmin Ghorami and Joe Sangster and that of Yasmin’s parents, whose love marriage is the stuff of family legend. But when Yasmin’s seemingly traditional parents and Joe’s outspoken feminist mother meet, the stories on which both families are built start to unravel. Ali credits Jane Austen as a massive influence, well here she gives her a run for her money. More family chaos comes in the shape of Fight Night by Miriam Toews (Opens in a new window). And when I say chaos, I mean CHAOS in the form of three generations of fighting women living under one small Canadian roof. Grandma's health is deteriorating, mom is heavily pregnant and running low on just about everything, while nine-year-old Swiv has been suspended from school (after taking Grandma Elvira's advice on fighting to heart). Now she's being homeschooled by Grandma and generally being her wing-kid, as Elvira tries to instil the fighting spirit for which the family is known. I can’t remember the last time I laughed this loud and long on public transport. All hail Swiv and Grandma Elvira!

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