The Fiction Fox
Year In Review: Most Surprising Books of 2022
With 2022 drawing to a close, it’s finally time for one of my favourite series to do each year: my Year in Review. As always, this will be a five-parter of daily posts between Christmas and New-Year consisting of the following:
- Most Surprising Books of 2022
- Most Underrated Books of 2022
- Most Disappointing Books of 2022
- Favourite Books of 2022
- Anticipated Releases for 2023
In many ways, compiling these lists was the polar opposite experience from last year. 2021 was my worst reading-year in perhaps as long as a decade. So much so that I couldn’t even manage to select a top-10 for my favourites-list, as there simply weren’t enough books I felt I enjoyed enough to qualify. 2022 however came back with a vengeance as one of my best reading-years. I re-found my enthusiasm and enjoyment for reading early in the year, and kept that momentum going through some incredible books. Out of the 120 books I read, there were a few duds, but they were greatly outweighed by the underrated gems, wonderful surprises and new all-time favourites I discovered.
As always, these lists are entirely subjective and no book is ever read in a vacuum. For that reason, a little bit about my personal year to give you an idea of the context I read these books in. Quite a few significant event happened in my life in 2022: I graduated my masters and started my first job as an M.D. in my dream-field of Oncology. This has been an incredible experience, but has also brought some of my own oncological experiences (as a patient and caregiver) back to the foreground. As such, you will find some of these themes within (cancer, trauma, grief) within many of my favourites, as they resonated with me on a deeper level this year. I also moved house and had to do a lot of thing “for the first time”. It was a year of being pushed very far outside my comfort zone, but also a year of rapid growth. Books as always, were a mirror, a companion and an escape throughout.
Because this year was great overall, it feels only right to start this Year in Review on a positive note with a short-and-sweet one. These 4 books were quite different than what I expected (in a good way), or that I somehow didn’t expect to love as much as I did. In no particular order, let’s talk about my surprising reads of 2022.
Most Surprising Books of 2022
1. A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
If you’ve been here for a while, you know my general feelings about fantasy-romance novels. In short: they’re not for me and almost never work. “Almost” being the keyword, as A River Enchanted proved the exception to this rule. This lush Scottish inspired fantasy novel, swept me up in its beautiful prose, worldbuilding with roots in Scottish folklore and its likable characters; so much so that I was even on board with a romance trope that I’d otherwise detest. I’m hoping this holds up in the sequel, which I’m actually excited to pick up soon. You can find my full review here. Rated it: 3.75/5 stars Readalikes: Queens of Innis Lear and Uprooted.
2. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Emmie Ruth Lang
I’ve had this book on my shelves for almost 4 years after finding it for a few euro’s at the second hand bookstore, and never quite knew what to expect of it. The synopsis is quite winding yet leaves you with little concrete to go off. And frankly, that’s probably a decent description of the book itself as well. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a quiet piece of magical realism that tells the life story of a strange young man from the people who knew him, loved him and some who thought he was plain cuckoo. Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey never stays in one place for long. Along the way he leaves a trail of stories behind: stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it. This story shines with its atmosphere and characters, and managed to tuck my heartstrings in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. Rated it: 4/5 stars, Readalikes: Bone Gap, We Speak in Storms or works by Anna-Marie McLemore.
3. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
The Library at Mount Char is a fantasy-sci-fi-horror hybrid that I’d heard such mixed things about, yet the only thing reviewers seemed to agree on is that is it strange and quite dark. Knowing that, I was quite intimidated to pick up this 400 page novel. Luckily, this was entirely my kind of weird. You can find my full review here, as well as a link to the book so you can read the synopsis for yourself. Let me say for now that this was a quick ride of absurdist fun that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world. Rated it: 4.5/5 stars Readalikes: American Gods, The Magicians, Vita Nostra.
4. Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi
Sticking with the theme of me underestimating horror aswell as the emotional impact of novels, Black Mouth combines both of these elements into one. I picked this up as an “in-between-read”, fully expecting a Stephen-King-esque spookfest that would be entertaining but little else. What I got was an emotional piece of psychological horror that brilliantly covered childhood trauma and the way guilt, grief and shame can haunt a person into adulthood. My full review and thoughts can be found here. Had it not been such a fantastic reading year with such strong competition, Black Mouth might have made my favourites-list.
Rated it: 5/5 stars Readalikes: It.
Tomorrow, we'll continue my Year in Review with my list of 10 most underrated books of 2022. Until then of course, happy holidays and happy reading!