The Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2022
I feel a bit weird making this list right now. I’ve spent the last two and a half months preparing for and executing a move, and as a result my capacity to process the written word (much less produce it) has dropped to nothing. I think I’ve read maybe four books since December. Plus, I’ve just had it brought home to me in a very palpable, physical way just how many books I already own, including many that I haven’t read yet.
But as the experience of the last few years has shown, the most anticipated books list isn’t a reading plan (I think I’ve read fewer than half of the books I listed last year) so much as it is a snapshot of the literary year to come. And it’s a reflection of one’s own reading history—my copy of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life has sat unread on a shelf for more than six years, so I can’t participate in the ebullience and/or disdain that has greeted the news of her new novel, To Paradise. On the other hand, when authors I’ve reviewed and championed, like Isaac Fellman or Rachel Hartman, announce new books, I feel invested in advertising that fact and widening their readership circle.
Before we get to the list, I wanted to call the readership’s attention to Samit Basu’s The City Inside, forthcoming from Tor in June. I read it two years ago, under its original title Chosen Spirits, and thought it was one of the most exciting, thought-provoking science fiction novels of the last few years (see my review here). A riveting, terrifying but also oddly hopeful vision of a future India, it’s a reminder that cyberpunk is still a vibrant, evolving mode, but that the most interesting authors exploring it tend to be from outside the US and UK.
As I’ve done in previous years, here are a few books published in late 2021 that would have made last year’s list if I’d known they were coming:
- The Good Neighbors by Nina Allan – As well as publishing a short story collection in 2021, Allan delivered this novel, about a woman who returns to her home town to photograph the house where her teenage best friend was murdered, and begins to believe that the official story of her death is incomplete. Anyone who reads Allan’s excellent blog knows of her fondness for detective fiction and true crime, but like all of her writing, The Good Neighbors mixes those elements with atmospheric weirdness, resulting less in a mystery novel as a meditation on memory and survivor’s guilt.
- All’s Well by Mona Awad – Awad’s Bunny was an excellent entry in the subgenre of the witchy school story, a great horror novel that was also a pitch-perfect coming of age story. She follows it up with another novel set in a school, but this time the protagonist is a teacher, who is staging Shakespeare while supernatural happenings begin to manifest.
- Civilizations by Laurent Binet – The author of HHhH returns with an alternate history in which the European colonization and conquest of the rest of the world doesn’t occur, and instead Europe is colonized by the Incas. Which feels like the perfect scope for his unique and exhilarating approach to creative nonfiction.
- Search History by Eugene Lim – I was blown away by Lim’s previous novel, Dear Cyborgs, a weird and experimental work about superheroes, politics, and protest that was hard to sum up and equally hard to put down. A new novel by him is an automatic purchase for him, even if it sounds just as weird and indescribable.
- Devil House by John Darnielle – Darnielle’s second career as a horror writer continues with this novel, which combines some of the hottest trends in the field—true crime, murder houses—but with, I’m sure, his own unique stamp on the material.
- How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagmatsu – There’s a slew of interesting-sounding climate and pandemic novels coming out this year, but Nagmatsu’s debut is the one that I’ve found myself drawn to—perhaps because it combines both elements, following a scientist who travels to the north pole to investigate a virus unleashed by the receding ice.
- Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi – The follow-up to Onyebuchi’s Hugo-nominated novella Riot Baby is, like that work, a combination of the fantastical and the achingly relevant, imagining an environmentally ravaged, mostly-abandoned Earth whose inhabitants make a living by dismantling the abandoned cities and infrastructure and sending them into space.
- When I’m Gone, Look For Me in the East by Quan Barry – Last year I reviewed Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks, in which a high school girls’ field hockey team improve their game by making a deal with the devil (think of it as a much more wholesome Yellowjackets). Her new novel, about a pair of twins making their way across Mongolia in search of enlightenment, sounds completely different, which marks her out as my favorite kind of writer, the kind who never writes the same book twice.
- Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman – Fellman’s debut novel, The Breath of the Sun, was a fantasy about mountain climbing and religion, one of the most distinctive and assured debuts I’ve ever read, with shades of Sofia Samatar and Ursula K. Le Guin. (I reviewed the novel under Fellman’s previous name and pronoun.) His follow-up sounds no less distinctive: a love story about a vampire archivist. I have a copy already, and am just waiting for the right moment to sink in.
- In the Serpent’s Wake by Rachel Hartman – In Hartman’s Tess of the Road, the eponymous heroine walks away from her troubles—chiefly, a society that has taught her to hate herself for having been sexually abused—and finds a whole new life and sense of purpose. In this sequel, she sets off on a sea adventure, which will no doubt give Hartman scope to even further expand the wonderfully-realized fantasy world of Goredd, which she has been steadily building for several novels.
- Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James – My review of Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first volume in Booker-winner James’s proposed “African Game of Thrones” trilogy, was decidedly mixed, finding much to admire in the book while also feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole of it. I was particularly skeptical of James’s stated project with the trilogy, to retell the same story from three different perspectives. But here I am, a few years later, feeling extremely keen to get my hands on this book, and find out how the witch Sogolon, who was such a negative, manipulative figure in the previous novel, tells her own story.
- Booth by Karen Joy Fowler – The fact that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by the 19th century equivalent of Luke Hemsworth has been catnip for fiction writers almost from the moment it happened, and it’s incredibly exciting to learn that the latest author to take a crack at the renowned theatrical family and their most infamous member will be none other than Fowler. I can’t wait to see what she does with the material.
- Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza – The follow-up to Gainza’s Optic Nerve appears to be, like it, a meditation on art and the effect it has on people that straddles the divide between fiction and nonfiction. This time, Gainza’s narrator and authorial stand-in is on the trail of a notorious art forger.
- Paradais by Fernanda Melchor – I was alternately fascinated and horrified by Melchor’s Hurricane Season, a polyphonic investigation of the murder of a trans woman in a poor, crime-ridden Mexican village that was unsparing in its depiction of violence and the poverty that breeds it. You’d think I’d run in the other direction at the news of another of her novels being translated into English, but instead I’m drawn back in, the lure of Melchor’s powerful, incisive writing proving too powerful to ignore.
- All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie – Another historical fantasy from the inimitable Tolmie, this time about a Norse trader who travels halfway around the world to sell his wares. Tolmie’s unique gift is in capturing the minutiae of the past, its quietest and most mundane moments, and I’m sure this new setting will provide ample opportunity for her to extend her craft.
- Flint and Mirror by John Crowley – I’m woefully behind on Crowley’s novels, but this new work, about an English general who uses magic and fairies to suppress an Irish rebellion, sounds like the closest he’s come in a long while to the subject matter and themes of his masterwork, 1981’s Little, Big.
- The Candy House by Jennifer Egan – After more than a decade, Egan returns to the setting and characters of her magnificent A Visit to the Goon Squad for another time-jumping novel that peers into the future as well as the past. I don’t suppose anything will have the same effect that Goon Squad had on me ten years ago, but I’m thrilled at the opportunity to revisit it.
- The Landing by Mary Gentle – Gentle has had a varied career, but in the 70s and 80s she was a writer of Le Guin-esque planetary romances about first contact and the inevitable culture clashes between humans and aliens. Her latest novel seems to be returning to that realm, with a healthy dollop of Rendezvous with Rama thrown in for good measure.
- The Dolphin House by Audrey Schulman – Going by her previous novel, Theory of Bastards (which I reviewed in 2019) and now this one, Schulman’s niche is fiction about scientists, and specifically how their life experiences impact on their studies. In this new novel, her protagonists are studying dolphin behavior, but given what a huge swerve Theory of Bastards made at its midpoint, I’m guessing there’s more to the story than that.
- Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel – Hot on the heels of the brilliant, moving adaptation of her breakout novel Station Eleven, Mandel returns with yet another work that straddles the divide between literary fiction and science fiction. The plot description sounds even more strongly SFnal than Station Eleven, encompassing moon colonies and time travel, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mandel does with this material.
- We Had to Remove This Post by Hannah Bervoets – 2021 saw several high profile novels about life on the internet, but Dutch author Bervoets might be the first writer to address an aspect of that life that most of us prefer not to think about—the experiences of, and the strain placed on, content moderators. It’s a tough topic, and I’m curious to see how it can be addressed in fiction.
- Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon – I read Chaon’s previous novel, Ill Will, while recovering from surgery, and it was the perfect read for that situation—a dark, engrossing thriller with a sickening secret at its core. His follow-up, about a professional henchman who is forced to reckon with his shady employers, sounds no less twisty, and I’m pretty sure I’ll scarf it down even without the excuse of being sick in bed.
- You Made a Fool Out of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi – The terrifyingly prolific Emezi returns with yet another novel. After the semi-autobiographical tale of magical self-discovery Freshwater, and the heartbreaking story of African queerness The Death of Vivek Oji, Fool sounds much lighter and more romance-focused, though I’m sure there will quite a few twists on that premise.
- The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez – Jimenez’s debut novel, The Vanished Birds, was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and a fascinating riff on some core science fiction tropes. In his second novel, it sounds as if he’s turning a similar gaze on epic fantasy, following three characters on a desperate journey to save and remake their world.
- Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller – Miller has had tremendous success with novels in recent years, writing fiction for adults and young readers in various genres. But I first met him as a writer of short fiction, in which guise he delivered some of the most memorable stories of the last decade. It’s exciting to learn that these are now being collected, an opportunity to revisit old favorites and discover new ones.
- The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara – Yet another twist on the internet novel, this debut examines one of the most controversial figures of our current moment, the tech billionaire, through the eyes of his skeptical daughter. As someone who thinks the best thing in Don’t Look Up was its take on Musk/Bezos/Zuckerberg, I’m all for more fiction that skewers these figures and cuts them down to size.
- The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison – Seven years after publishing the utterly unique fantasy of manners The Goblin Emperor, Addison returned last year with The Witness for the Dead, which was not a sequel so much as a companion volume, a multi-story mystery novel in the vein of Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. Happily, we only have to wait a few more months to get the continuing adventures of Celehar, the gentle, brooding priest-detective.
- Lapvona by Otessa Moshfegh – Thinking about it, it’s a bit strange that it has taken this long for the furiously prolific Moshfegh to get around to writing a medieval-set historical novel. The setting and premise, which centers on the conflict between a village midwife and the local priest, are entirely up Moshfegh’s misanthropic, irreverent alley, and I’m looking forward to the meal she will no doubt make of them.
- January Fifteenth by Rachel Swirsky – For as prolific as she is, Hugo-winner Swirsky hasn’t written much in the longer formats. This is, I think, her first novella, and it might also be the first work of science fiction about UBI.
- The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton – Burton’s The Miniaturist was an unexpected delight, an engrossing, luxuriously detailed historical novel about the new wife of a 17th century Dutch merchant who is thrust into unexpected authority, power, and a vantage point on social turmoil when she learns the secrets of her husband’s family. (It was also made into an enjoyable miniseries starring a just-on-the-cusp-of-stardom Anya Taylor-Joy.) Now Burton is returning with a sequel, which I’m extremely eager to devour.
- The Moonday Letters by Emmy Itäranta – Finnish author Itäranta has published several well-regarded science fiction novels that I haven’t yet read, but her newest sounds just up my alley, and like a perfect opportunity to jump on the bandwagon: an epistolary novel in which a woman on Earth searches for her missing Mars-born spouse, in a future in which Earth is environmentally ravaged and the rich have moved off-planet.
- The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid – It’s been five years since Hamid’s Exit West, which beautifully married the achingly relevant real-life issue of refugeeism to a brilliant, haunting SFnal conceit. His newest novel seems to be continuing in the same vein, imagining a world in which some force is causing whiteness to disappear.
- High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson – Another prolific short fiction writer who is moving into the novella form, Robson’s new story is about parliamentary shenanigans at the fairy court, which is an intersection of so many of my fictional interests that one might almost imagine the story was written with me in mind.
- Unraveller by Frances Hardinge – Long-time readers of these lists know that a new Hardinge novel is an automatic purchase for me. Not only a great YA author, she’s also a prodigious talent at creating strange, detailed, utterly unique fantasy worlds. Her latest is set in a world where everyone has the power to curse other people, but only one person can lift those curses.
- Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – I’m not as in love with Muir’s Locked Tomb novels as some people, but I won’t deny that they are fun and propulsive and, perhaps most importantly, entirely their own thing in a way that few works in SFF manage to be. This third volume (in what was planned as a trilogy and is now probably a quartet) appears to be giving readers a glance at the world outside the rarefied halls of the imperial stronghold, which is something I was sorely missing in the previous two books.
- Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk – I’ve fallen off the Pamuk wagon in recent years, which is absurd, because this Nobel-winning author is never less than astonishing. His new novel, about a plague overrunning a Turkish island in the early 20th century, sounds like a great opportunity to jump back on.
- The Furrows by Namwali Serpell – Serpell’s debut novel, The Old Drift, was a greatn Zambian novel with science fiction and fantasy touches that ended up getting awards recognition from both mainstream and genre prizes. Her new novel seems to be a more intimate story, about a woman haunted by the disappearance of her brother, but once again there seem to be hints of something stranger going on.
- The White Mosque by Sofia Samatar – One of the most important—and under-appreciated—fantasy writers of her generation, Samatar returns with her first book in five years, a memoir of her journey in the footsteps of a group of Mennonites who, in the 19th century, founded a village in central Asia, which is also a reflection on her own mixed Mennonite and Muslim heritage. Readers of these lists know that my nonfiction reading is pretty minimal, but where Samatar goes, I will always follow.