It’s time to bid goodbye to 2022 and welcome a new year — and an avalanche of highly-anticipated, newly published books. But before that happens, make sure you didn’t miss the very best reads from the past year, especially now that many of them are either on sale or on clearance.
Here at Scary Mommy, we’re mostly moms with young kids and we’re mostly pretty busy reading lots and lots of stories at our day jobs. But we’re also people who absolutely love to read and who make time for books outside of work whenever we can. It’s also all part of our day’s work to share our favorite reads with each other and talk about all of the latest releases.
With all that said, we sat down and shared the very favorite novels and memoirs we read in 2022. There’s not a dud in here, and they’re all worth the hours of self-care time it takes to read them. Enjoy!
Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends—often in love, but never lovers—come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
Recommended by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Sarah Aswell: One day, way back in the early 90s, a boy and a girl met at a children’s hospital. They talked, played a Nintendo, and became fast friends. What they didn’t know is that their friendship would last for their entire lives – or that their love of games and gaming would propel them to fame and fortune.
This sweeping, sweet, and compulsively readable novel sees best friends Sadie and Sam through 30 years of their lives, from awkward kids, to dreaming college students, to two of the leading game designers in the world. Along the way, there are challenges and heartache, amazing achievements and unthinkable tragedy. But through it all is Sam and Sadie.
This is one of my very favorite reads of the year, and I devoured it while loving every page. Don’t worry at all if you’re not interested in the gaming world (although if you are interested, it only adds to your experience) — author Gabrielle Zevin adeptly immerses readers into the world and makes it both accessible and interesting. It is so, so refreshing to read such a lovely story about friendship over romantic love and so, so fun to read about games and game theory within the context of a novel. I also loved how it’s at once traditionally written and linear, but also has moments – and twice, entire chapters – that are abstract and experimental and innovative. If there’s one word for this book, it’s fun.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Recommendations by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Emily Weaver: If Hallmark ever wanted to do a modern, romance-minded retelling of The Devil Wears Prada, this is the perfect script for adaptation. Book Lovers is equal parts romance and comedy with a splash of small town charm. The novel follows big-shot book editor, Nora, and her sweet little sister, Libby, as they embark on a sisterly bonding trip to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. But, their peaceful stay is disrupted when she runs into her equally cut-throat work nemesis (and heartthrob), Charlie Lastra.
Emily Henry is the queen of witty banter and I had the pleasure of interviewing her for Scary Mommy Book Club, which you can read here!
I'll Show Myself Out by Jessi Klein
Reccomended by Scary Mommy Editor-in-Chief Kate Auletta: I'll Show Myself Out by Jessi Klein had me both laughing on the floor and catching my breath. It's a very fun grouping of short essays about motherhood, identity, and entering that weird phase in your life when you're not young but you're not old but you certainly don't want to call yourself middle aged. I gifted it to my sisters in law for Christmas cause I know they'll see themselves in some of these pages just as I did.
Less Is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer
Recommended by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Sarah Aswell: This is the book that made me laugh out loud the most in 2022. It’s the sequel to the Pulitzer-Prize winning book Less, and it continues to follow around Author Less, the sorta, kinda successful gay author who struggles to find his place in the world, both literary and otherwise. In the first book, he travels the world, but in the second book he stays closer to home, embarking on a slightly doomed book tour in a bid to make money. The people he meets along the way and the stuff that happens to him are unforgettable – but what can sometimes read as an extremely light comedy is also filled with meaning and touching moments.
I already know I’ll re-read this delightful book.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life.
Recommended by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Sarah Aswell: This memoir has rocketed to the top of the non-fiction best-seller lists and is one of the most talked-about books of the year — and yet I wasn’t sure if I’d like it because I wasn’t familiar with the actress who wrote it (she was on Nickelodeon after my time).
But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn’t matter much if I was familiar with her work, because her story was beautifully written, candid, unblinking, and more than a little bit shocking. While I couldn’t identify with a lot of the specific topics of the book – like emotional abuse, addiction, child stardom, and disordered eating – I absolutely could identify with the greater themes that McCrudy explored with such openness, like loneliness, grief, control, and relationships.
Following her career from her early days of acting to her realized dream of being a child star to her disenchantment with the entire industry, this book is a fast, page-turning read that centers of McCurdy’s toxic and complex relationship with her mom. The storytelling is adept and fresh – and by the end, you can clearly see that the author’s dream to become a writer (and not an actor) has been realized.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Reccomended by Scary Mommy Editor-in-Chief Kate Auletta: I read Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez at the behest of Sarah Aswell, our trusty Book Club editor. The book tells the story of Civil Townsend, who is just out of nursing school and wants to make a difference. Civil's tale shows the major discrepancies in care between Black and white Americans in our healthcare system. It's a beautiful, sad story and definitely worth a read.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Recommended by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Sarah Aswell: Benny and Byron have recently lost their mother—and when her attorney tells them that she’s left them a mysterious audio file and a traditional Jamaican black cake for them to eat together, they aren’t sure what to expect.
The story that unfolds next is completely unexpected—and takes the siblings back to the time of their parents’ childhood, a journey that includes the Caribbean, London, and beyond. It also introduces them to a person deeply connected to their mom who they never knew existed.
This bombshell debut novel asks again and again: What are you willing to do? What are you willing to do for love? For your family? For your dreams? To stay true to yourself? It’s a book with a story that has a little bit of everything: mystery, heartbreak, love, courage, forgiveness, adventure. And it manages to be funny and uplifting, somehow, too.
I. Could. Not. Put. This. Book. Down. It’s beautifully written, and the story will stay with you forever. I fell in love with the main characters and their hopes became my hopes until I turned the last page — and I did not ever want to turn the last page!
Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron
Recommended by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Sarah Aswell: You’re probably familiar with Nora Ephron, but did you know that her sister Delia is not only also a decorated writer, but that she’s just as charming and funny? In this memoir, she recounts the loss of her husband Jerry and her sister Nora – and then the surprising way she was able to find love again. In the second half of the book, she then battles the same cancer that took her sister, with her new husband at her side. I loved that this book focused on all that can happen to you late in life, no matter how you might think that things are just over for you. I also love that it shows just how rich and beautiful life can be even in the midst of grief, sickness, and heartache. A beautiful read about a strong, funny woman.
The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
An indie musician reeling from tragedy and a public breakdown reconnects with her father on a weeklong cruise in “a pitch-perfect story about the ways we recover love in the strangest places” (Rebecca Serle, bestselling author of In Five Years).
Recommendations by Book Club Editor Emily Weaver: I felt so much compassion for main character Greta Jones, a singer-songwriter whose career is on the rocks following the recent loss of her mom. In hopes of mending their broken hearts, Greta accompanies her estranged father on an Alaskan cruise, which was originally booked as their anniversary trip.I loved everything about this book from the vivid storytelling to the complex father-daughter relationship. Jennifer webs a moving story about grief, love, and family — it had me both laughing and crying! This book will resonate with anyone who's ever traveled the unbeaten path or chased an unsupportive dream. I need this book adapted into a TV series like ASAP.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Heavy hitter Louise Erdrich is back with a new novel after winning both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in recent years. In this timely and original story, an indie bookstore owner is tasked with finding out why the ghost of a dead customer is haunting the building—as the world rages around them during 2019 and 2020 in Minneapolis. It’s worth noting that Erdrich herself owns a bookstore in Minneapolis, making the book personal and profound.
Recommended by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Sarah Aswell: Written by the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author Louis Erdrich, The Sentence takes place in a little indie bookstore in Minneapolis that’s populated with a colorful cast of characters on both sides of the checkout counter. There’s just one problem: the events of this book begin at the tail end of 2019 and a whole lot of trouble is coming for everyone. A strange virus is about to descend and a Black man named George Floyd is about to be murdered by the police just miles away. Not to mention: the bookstore is being haunted by a ghost who is far from happy.
In the middle of all of this is Tookie: an Indigenous bookseller who spent much of her life in prison for a crime she can’t let go of, and a person who is struggling with all sorts of other ghosts of her own.
I won’t lie: this is the best book I’ve read in a long time, and the only thing that I’ve read that’s captured 2020 in any sort of realistic fashion. I was swept away from the first chapter and fell completely in love with Tookie, an incredibly resilient, funny, smart woman who still struggles greatly just to get through each day. This book contains an enormous heart, a head swimming full of ideas, and one of my favorite love stories I’ve read to date (and it’s as unconventional as they come). It’s for anyone who believes in the power of books and reading, the love of chosen family, and that there’s some hope out there in our future.
Now Is Not The Time To Panic by Kevin Wilson
Recommended by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Sarah Aswell: After devouring his last novel, Nothing to See Here, I was super excited to pick up Kevin Wilson’s latest effort, Now Is Not The Time To Panic. It’s the completely original story of two teenage friends, Frankie and Zeke, who create an art project together that spirals out of control, first through their small town and then across the country and globe. The book opens 20 years later, when a reporter approaches Frankie and reveals that she knows that she’s responsible for the phenomenon.
I’ve never read anything quite like this book, which is saying a lot! I loved the unique premise, all of the characters, and how Wilson writes with thoughtfulness, fun, speed, and humor. With this book, he’s cemented himself as one of my favorite authors.
First Born by Will Dean
From the acclaimed author of 'The Last Thing to Burn,' a psychological thriller about the dark secrets that emerge when a woman’s twin sister is murdered, with his signature “intense, gripping, taut, terrifying, moving, and brilliant” (Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Times bestselling author) prose.
Recommendations by Scary Mommy Book Club Editor Emily Weaver: If I had to pick my favorite thriller of 2022 it would be First Born, a chilling story about twenty-something-year-old English twins Katie and Molly. While they may have identical features, that's where their similarities end. Katie is adventurous and impulsive; she’s moved across the pond to attend NYU. Then there’s Molly, who doesn’t agree to plan A until she has plan B, C, and D mapped out to a tee. When Molly learns that Katie has died, she flies to NYC to bring justice to Katie’s name and put her killer behind bars. As details of Katie’s new life begin to unravel, Molly realizes she never quite knew her twin at all. I can’t put into words how suspenseful and jaw dropping this thriller is. Whenever I thought I solved the case, Dean threw in a twist I never saw coming. Great for fans of Lisa Jewell and The Wife Between Us!