A year ago I set out to rediscover my love of reading and incorporate more reading for leisure into my daily life. It's been a wonderful journey and I'm proud to share that I was able to read 80 books in 2022. This year's reading list did not lean heavily into a single genre, however I did prioritize authors of color.
Many of those books were amazing and selecting a favorite wasn't easy, but are the top 10 books I read in 2022:
Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan is the story of divorced-couple Yasmen and Josiah who experience insurmountable loss that they have to navigate their way back from. You know that Hamilton line that goes "there is suffering too terrible to name"? Kennedy Ryan found a way to make that into a novel. It's such a beautiful story of how grief can affect each member of a family in many different ways. It's also a love story for the ages. I don't know that I can tell you how many times I've cried reading this book or if it's just better to assume I never stopped.
The Legendborn Cycle by Tracy Deonn is a fantasy series based in Arthurian legend. It follows Bree Matthews, a highschooler attempting to escape the grief surrounding her mother's death by attending a summer college experience on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. What she finds instead is a much deeper connection to her mother and her destiny than she ever planned.
Not only was this book action packed, it was a beautifully told story that touches on important themes like grief, the relationship between Black mothers and daughters, generational trauma and the importance of speaking truth to history's very ugly side here in the U.S and especially in the South.
The Brown Sisters Series by Talia Hibbert features three standalone romcoms that are connected by their titular characters (who happen to be the funniest sisters you'll ever meet.) Each of the sisters faces a personal struggle that prevents them from navigating the world as their full selves. Each of their stories also features a love story that will have you grinning from ear to ear.
My personal favorites of the three are Take A Hint, Dani Brown (Book 2) and Act Your Age, Eve Brown (Book 3). Talia Hibbert is an incredible writer whose characters are frustrating and lovable in all the best ways.
The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty is the story of Nahri, a young woman in Cairo living life according to her own rules thanks to her ingenuity and street smarts. When one of her tricks goes left it opens her up to a world full of magic, war, and painful history.
This series features interesting plots, enjoyable characters and complicated but alluring world building that I didn't want to put down. It's sad that in 2022 it's rare to find a novel where every single character is a person of color - even more rare for those characters and their cultures to be based on North African and Middle Eastern cultures and faiths. Each sequel in the trilogy is just as fascinating as the original.
All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson is a collection of essays that form his memoir, covering his upbringing and journey through young adulthood as a queer boy growing up in the Black community.
I don't typically read memoirs. I picked this one up as soon as I saw that racist homophobes were hell bent on getting it banned. I wanted to contribute to their collective ashy rage by giving George Johnson my money. This book ended up being one of the most important books I'll read in my lifetime. There are so many heartbreaking moments that make you wish you could go back in time and protect little George and every other queer Black boy from how cruel this world has been and can continue to be to them. No matter your background this book leaves you raw, with a new throbbing and painful understanding and empathy for people who live outside of the peace of societal norms. There was a lot in this story that I resonated with. To have a book this powerful come from someone within my own generation is something I'll cherish forever.
Seven Days In June by Tia Williams is the story of two teenage soulmates who find each other again in adulthood after life, love, trauma, and more have altered the courses of their lives.
Tia Williams, if you read this: girl how dare you!? This book left me wanting nothing by the end - I just sat there feeling EVERYTHING. It's such a beautiful story. It really takes time to explore the complicated layers of each character. It's written with a modern voice and feels like you're being given the tea on an epic love story by your best friend. Written incredibly well - I was laughing out loud, blushing, crying, all of it. I didn't want it to end.
The Deathless Series by Namina Forna is a young adult fantasy about a patriarchal society that tests young girls for blood purity and what happens when the protagonist, Deka, fails that test and is forced to fight to the death as a warrior for her country.
This book is healing my inner child who was starved of epic fantasy series with Black protagonists for TOO much of her life, ok!? Great pacing. Dope characters. The world building is really good, and that overarching theme of "eff the patriarchy" has me sold. Both books 1 and 2 were excellent and book 3 is scheduled for February 2024.
I can't gush enough about this book! The Other Man by Farad J. Dadyburjor is the story of Ved, the closeted son of a prominent family who is dead set on living the exact life he feels has been laid before him by his ever-expectant parents.
Set in India prior to the overturn of Section 377 by India's Supreme Court, this isn't just your average quirky romcom. It's a complicated love story that opens a window to the injustices still faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community throughout the world.
Following Ved's journey from denial to self-acceptance was heartwarming, heartbreaking, and everything in between.
If you're looking for great reads by Black authors and you enjoy historical fiction this one needs to be on your list. Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie a coming-of-age story of a biracial (Black and Japanese) girl born out of wedlock into a dynastic family in Japan and everything she endured as a result.
What I loved about this book is first that it is really beautifully written. The uncomfortable parts make you TRULY uncomfortable. I enjoyed the incorporation of the Japanese perspective of WWII and the fact that, because the author is a lover of music, it was woven into the main characters love for and relationship with her brother. The ending broke my heart but I can't even say I disliked it. This one was definitely a tear jerker.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt follows a middle-aged woman as she navigates the grief of losing her son to a mysterious boating accident. The woman, who decides to get a part-time job at an aquarium in the Pacific Northwest, develops a bond with a remarkably bright giant Pacific octupus (Marcellus) who lives at the aquarium.
If you really want the best experience of this story, I recommend the audio version which features actor Michael Urie as a phenomenal Marcellus. This was such a well-written and compelling story. It's such an interesting commentary on life, humanity, love, and loss told through some *very* interesting points of view.