All My Favorite Books and Comics of 2022

Last week, I posted a list of all the novels, novellas, web comics, and graphic novels I read in 2022. Today, I’ll be discussing some of those books in more detail, with some normal categories like Favorite Nonfiction but mostly silly categories like Favorite Fluffy Zombie Apocalypse. It’s kinda like a Top Ten, except it’s really a Top Whatever Number I Arbitrarily End Up At—and then there are a bunch of honorable mentions, too, because, goddamnit, I couldn’t help myself.

As always, I’ll be discussing any books I loved reading in 2022, regardless of what year they were actually published. There actually are multiple things on this list from 2022—pretty rare for me, as I’m forever playing catchup—but still. I’m not just gonna ignore something I loved because it came out in 2021, like. Why?

Favorite Ongoing Webcomic, Favorite Found Family

I’ve been religiously reading Wayne Family Adventures since it first came out in 2021, and it’s the cozy, slice of life Batfamily story that I’ve always wanted, focusing on the lighter, funnier side of crimefighting and the heartwarming (if complicated) relationships between DC characters. The angst is relatively minimal here, but when  we do get some our way (the Jason Todd PTSD story, for example), it’s always pretty much H/C with a heavy dollop of C. Which I enjoy cause, like, sometimes you just need a little comfort to get you through the day.

Favorite Completed Web Comic, Favorite Fluffy Zombie Apocalypse

Speaking of hopeful stories to get you through the day. I can’t exactly remember how I first came across ShootAround, but I immediately fell in love with it: this story’s about a girl’s high school basketball team who has to survive together when the zombie apocalypse hits, and it’s probably the queerest and most optimistic zombie story you’re ever going to find. I loved so many of the characters and relationships here. Cozy horror is kind of my jam, and I read all 136 episodes pretty damn quickly.

Favorite Horror Comic Series, Favorite Ongoing Series

For something considerably less cozy . . . well, it doesn’t get much darker than this. These graphic novels are grim as hell. I’m really enjoying them so far: I’m always here for a monster hunter storyline, and the horror artwork is just fantastic, really gorgeous, gruesome stuff.  Also, I think it’d be fun as hell to cosplay Erica Slaughter someday. Plus there’s an ancient organization called the Order of St. George, which obviously appeals to me personally. Still, this series is brutal, so know what you’re getting into if you check this out. The deaths are very on screen, so to speak, and—as the title suggests—some of those deaths are children.

Favorite Standalone Graphic Novel, Favorite Memoir

Gender Queer is apparently the most banned book in America, which I actually didn’t realize when I picked it up at this super cute bookstore on my trip to NYC. Having now read it, I’m not surprised that it’s been banned so many times, exactly—I know the country I live in—but it’s still incredibly frustrating. This book could be useful to so many teens. I certainly wish I could’ve read something like this when I was young. Not because of my gender identity—I’m pretty cis—but because there are other aspects of Maia’s story that I related to and could’ve been helpful to discover, you know, a decade or so earlier. And while some images did surprise me, that’s only because it’s so rare to see anyone depict everyday stuff like menstrual pads, pubic hair, etc. It’s so galling to see Gender Queer condemned as pornography when it feels like the very rare depiction of naked bodies which aren’t sexualized. Besides all that, this is just a very funny and moving coming-of-age memoir, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Favorite Non-Fiction, Favorite Substitute for the Current Curriculum

When I pick up a non-fiction book, it’s often about, oh, some bit of forensics history, or analyzing the supernatural through a scientific and/or sociological lens, or books about grave robbing and skull theft—you know, normal stuff like that. I generally do not go for books about the US Constitution, but I tried this one out after my sister recommended it, and it was easily one of the most entertaining and informative books I’ve read all year. There’s this thing sometimes with nonfiction (particularly with journalism), where it seems like everyone is very, very careful to write as “objectively” and dispassionately as possible. Allow Me to Retort doesn’t have time for that shit. It is chockfull of voice and completely unapologetic as it discusses in incredible detail why the Constitution sucks, why it’s always sucked, why it should be ripped up in favor of something better, and—barring that—what can actually be done to apply Constitutional rights to every citizen who lives here in this country. It’s really great stuff.

Favorite Historical Fantasy, Favorite Alt Hollywood

Nghi Vo is quickly becoming an automatic buy for me. I loved this fantastical AU take on old Hollywood, with literal monsters and intuitive magic that’s explored but never fully explained. This isn’t the kind of novel with some carefully categorized magic system; you’ve gotta be willing to just go with it, and I absolutely was. Siren Queen is very character driven, and I really enjoyed the focus on Luli’s multiple queer romantic relationships, as well as her platonic friendships, which were just as meaningful. (Always a big bonus for me.) The novel is lovely and atmospheric and a really good examination of racism, prejudice, and privilege; it definitely reignited my interest in checking out some Anna May Wong movies. And while there’s a certain sorrow to Siren Queen, it’s also much less of a tragedy than I had feared, which I found to be an extremely welcome surprise.

Favorite Wuxia Inspired Fantasy, Favorite Story Within A Story

Hey, look! More Nghi Vo! Into the Riverlands is the third entry in Vo’s fantastic The Singing Hill Cycle series. There’s a bit more action in this one, which I did enjoy—Into the Riverlands is heavily inspired by wuxia dramas—but the focus here still remains on collecting histories and legends and telling stories within stories. As always, I love Chih and, really, the entire cast of new characters. I was particularly happy to see Almost Brilliant return. And the prose continues to be lovely, full of gentle humor and moments of quiet reflection. I find these novellas to be great comfort reads and am so relieved there will be at least two more before the series concludes.

Favorite YA Mystery, Favorite Summer Camp Murder Story

I adore the Truly Devious books. They’re funny, compulsively readable mysteries and just the thing to get me out of a reading slump like, say, the one I was in at the beginning of 2022. The Box in the Woods is the first standalone mystery in the series, and I absolutely devoured it. Investigating a decades-old murder mystery at a summer camp? I mean, come on. This is the dream. I continue to enjoy all the characters (Nate, of course, remains my absolute favorite, but I also love Stevie and Janelle, and even David is finally beginning to grow on me.) And as a bonus, I had some nostalgic flashbacks to when I was 18, working at a deli and also constantly thinking of the various ways I could murder people with the restaurant equipment at my disposal! What I’m saying is, I had very normal reactions to this novel and am eagerly looking forward to its followup Nine Liars, which is currently sitting in my very literal To-Read Pile.

Favorite YA Fantasy; Favorite Protest Novel

I’m not always one for prequels, but Pet—set in a better world, a world without monsters—was one of my absolute favorite reads of 2020, and left me really interested in getting a closer look at the revolution that paved the way towards this kinder future. Bitter gives us that look and, unsurprisingly, it’s a much darker novel: this one is about protests and rebellion and injustice and anxiety, and I really like that when it comes to the difficult choices characters make—say, when someone refuses to take active part in the resistance, or when others team up with terrifying creatures to murder their oppressors—Emezi gives plenty of time and space to those decisions, allowing other characters (as well as the reader) the opportunity to understand and empathize, even if they don’t agree. Bitter is a great protagonist, and I enjoy seeing her and Aloe as teens; I particularly like that when they fight, it’s both A) about real shit, and B) pretty short-lived. Everyone in this book is way too busy for any BS manufactured angst.

Favorite “Fuck Capitalism” Novel, Favorite Book That Made Me Cry

Also very much a protest book, Firebreak is an action-packed dystopian SF novel with an introverted ace/aro heroine, amazing platonic friendships, and big goddamn stakes. I decided to pick this one up after reading Kornher-Stace’s incredible novelette “Pathfinding!” in 2021, and what’s kinda hilarious (and kinda tragic) about this is that while I knew Firebreak was in the same universe as “Pathfinding!” I didn’t realize it was ALSO in the same universe as Archivist Wasp. See, I read and loved that novel, too, but it was several years ago now, and I have a goldfish memory, so sadly, I remember almost nothing about it. (And no, I haven’t read Latchkey yet.) It wasn’t until AFTER finishing Firebreak that I realized . . . well, I don’t want to spoil anyone, but let’s just say that some of my emotional devastation eased a bit, once I finally made a few connections. Of course, you can absolutely enjoy Firebreak as a standalone novel; please don’t be dissuaded from checking this one out. I’m just laughing at myself because—for a short time after reading Firebreak—my brain was very much this.

Favorite Queer Noir (Speculative), Favorite Last Lines

Novellas can be tricky to balance (she says, as a reader—I haven’t quite managed to write one myself . . . yet), but Even Though I Knew The End is extremely well paced with great characters (Helen, Haraniel, and Marlowe are my favorites) and an absolutely perfect ending. I won’t talk about that ending in detail, of course, but damn, this novella lands those last lines. We’re introduced to a really interesting world here: this is 1940’s hardboiled noir with all the systemic homophobia and sexism that you would unfortunately expect (queer girls getting institutionalized, doctors dismissing women’s observations and consent). But there’s also demons, angels, astrology, secret orders, and blood magic, all of which I’d love to see more of. This is easily my favorite C.L. Polk work to date, and if they ever wanted to write another novella or novel in this verse? I’m just saying, I’d be in.

Favorite Queer Noir (Non-Speculative), Favorite Novel Set (Almost Literally) In My Neck of the Woods

To my surprise, I was lucky enough to find multiple queer noir stories in 2022. Lavender House was one of the very last books I read, and I enjoyed it an awful lot. It’s a quick read with a pretty straightforward murder mystery, an almost entirely queer cast of characters, and an optimistic ending that absolutely opens the door for potential sequels. (I don’t know that any are actually planned? But I’d scoop em up real fast should any ever appear.) One of the things I liked best about Lavender House is that our protagonist, Andy, is a cop who’s just been kicked off the force after being caught in a raid on a gay bar, and throughout the novel he encounters several other queer characters with wildly differing opinions on both him and his old job. Some people are sympathetic, but plenty of others, understandably, are not, and I like that Rosen allows this range of response without feeling the need to demonize anyone who doesn’t let Andy off the hook for his past failures. It’s all really solid stuff.

Favorite Space Opera, Favorite First Contact Novel

Man. You ever love a thing but feel utterly incapable of articulating exactly how or why it’s so goddamn cool? I feel like that pretty often, TBH, but maybe most especially with A Desolation Called Peace, which—just like its predecessor—is so intricate and clever and fascinating, and I’m sitting here, like . . . uh, the ideas were shiny? The words were real good? I apologize for my failures as a writer. What I can tell you is that I continue to love all the characters: Mahit, Yskander, and Three Seagrass remain wonderful (Three Seagrass, especially—I adore her), I’m all about our newcomers Nine Hibiscus and Twenty Cicada, and I loved Eight Antidote’s POV, like, way more than I ever would’ve expected. This novel is sharp and insightful and funny—I quoted approximately a billion things—and is a truly excellent deep dive into language, translation, and first contact.

Favorite Horror Novella, Creepiest Bunny Book

Okay, technically, there are no bunnies. There are only hares, which are . . . apparently different than rabbits? Yes, fine, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know that prior to reading this novella. What’s important is this: What Moves the Dead is both delightful and delightfully creepy, a retelling of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a story I definitely read once upon a time and remember precisely none of. That didn’t bother me; I kind of liked not knowing what to expect. One of my favorite things I didn’t expect, for example, is that our protagonist, Easton, is nonbinary and goes by ka/kan pronouns, which essentially translates as soldier. We get a whole mini-history exploring the gender, language, and military history of Easton’s home country, and it’s really interesting stuff. Other things I really enjoyed: the humor, the characters, and—once again—all the great creepy shit, which I won’t detail here for fear of spoilers. I will only say that I had an unexpected amount of sympathy for the antagonist of this novella and found myself relieved to discover that apparently Kingfisher, herself, did too.

Favorite Fairy Tale, Favorite Quest Novel

T. Kingfisher is A) very prolific, and B) one of my absolute favorite authors, so yeah, I’m not terribly surprised that she’s popping up on this list twice. I enjoyed the hell out of Nettle & Bone. It has absolutely all the things: blessings and curses, fairy godmothers, almost-nuns, demon chickens, bonedogs, goblin markets, disturbing teeth shit, witches/guides for the dead, etc. I’m always here for a quest novel, especially when that quest is ‘kill your sister’s abusive and murderous husband.’ And this particular novel—like most T. Kingfisher books I’ve loved—has a lot of warmth, a lot of humor, a dash of creepiness, and just some good, weird, earthy vibes. Highly recommended.

Favorite Romance (Speculative), Favorite Edwardian Fantasy

Oh, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. At first, I was concerned that I might not be able to get into the romance—I love a grumpy/sunshine dynamic, but if one of the characters is too mean towards the other, it tends to kill the ship for me—but I needn’t have worried. I really got to like both Robin and Edwin a lot. Robin’s just a nice, good natured guy who gets thrown into some magical bullshit. Meanwhile, Edwin’s whole life basically is magical bullshit, and I (shockingly, so shockingly) relate to his quiet reserve and defensiveness. The magic system in this novel is  super interesting, and I really enjoy some of the side characters, particularly Adelaide. There’s a lot of good humor in this book, and overall, it was just a delight to read.

Favorite Romance (Non-Speculative); Favorite Cozy Mystery

I’m grouping these two novels together because I’m a dirty rotten cheater who cheats and because the Page & Sommers books are quick, easy reads that I had a great time with. Hither, Page introduces us to our heroes—Leo Page, a spy in postwar England who’s come to a tiny village to investigate/cover up a murder, and James Sommers, a country doctor with PTSD who wants absolutely nothing to do with murders, spies, romance, or any other adventurous nonsense. I really enjoyed The Missing Page, too. I picked it up shortly after getting sick and was grateful to having something cute and clever to focus on rather than just, you know, my own general misery. Plus, established romance? Family secrets? Investigating a decades old mystery? Yes, please. More, please. (No, seriously, can there be more, please?)

Favorite Hopeful SF, Favorite Whole Damn Existential Mood

Cheating again. One of the things I love about Becky Chambers’s work is how hopeful her far futures are. She creates such fascinating societies where humanity has turned away from overwhelming greed and self-destruction in favor of something kinder and, frankly, more interesting. Which isn’t to say that her characters live perfect, wholly content lives; in fact, the Monk & Robot books are very much about struggling with depression and purposelessness without obvious external reasons for such discontent. It’s pretty relatable content, TBH. But there’s definitely room for hope here, which I found comforting in these considerably less hopeful times. A Psalm for The Wild Built is a first contact story, as well as an introduction to this world and our characters. (Dex and Mosscap? Both great.) A Prayer For the Crown-Shy, meanwhile, is a road trip novella that gives us a deeper glimpse into the growing friendship between these two, as well as the various communities they travel to. Both novellas are absolutely lovely.

Favorite Gothic Comedy, Favorite Bright Young Narrator

It’s basic, I apologize, but Uncommon Charm is, well. Goddamn charming. Neon Hemlock publishes a lot of really interesting work, but this fantasy set in an alternate 1920’s London might be the story that brought the biggest smile to my face. The voice here is especially fantastic. Julia is really a very funny and irrepressible heroine (a triumph, honestly, considering how easily her character could’ve been unbearable in less skilled hands), and I quickly became invested in her friendship with her extremely likable cousin, Simon. Uncommon Charm is a short read and not particularly heavy on plot, but the glimpses we get of this world are fascinating; I’m especially interested in the magic and magical theory here. And though this story itself feels complete, I was very much left wanting more. Another novella, a series of novellas, a whole novel. Given the opportunity, I would happily free fall into this verse again.

Favorite Book About Cannibalism, Most Disturbing Read

Whew, this novel is brutal. It is almost relentlessly grim, which is one of the reasons it took me a while to finish, despite its relatively short length. I really thought I knew how this one was going to end, and that ending would’ve been . . . fine . . . but the one we get instead is so much better. It’s actually just as bleak and fucked up as the ending I expected, but in a wholly different way, like, the last few pages really tie this novel together beautifully. The prose throughout is solid, deliberately simple and stark. We get a very detailed, horrifying look at how exactly legalized factory cannibalism would work. And also, I learned that the title of Soylent Green in Argentina and other Spanish-speaking countries is Cuando el destino nos alcance, which is such a better title, oh my God. Tender is the Flesh is about the farthest thing from an easy read, but it is thoughtful and extremely well written horror, and I’m glad I ended up sticking with it to the end.

Finally, here are even MORE novels and novellas I enjoyed in 2022!

Another – Yukito Ayatsuji
The House in the Cerulean Sea – TJ Klune
The Clackity – Lora Senf

A Master of Djinn – P. Djèlí Clark
Fireheart Tiger – Aliette de Bodard
The Case of the Constant Suicides – John Dickson Carr
Fugitive Telemetry – Martha Wells
A Nice Class of Corpse – Simon Brett
The Cybernetic Tea Shop – Meredith Katz
The Giants of the Violet Sea – Eugenia Triantafyllou

Dead Collections – Isaac Fellman

If you’re feeling so kind as to comment today, please tell me about all the books that you really enjoyed this past year! I love hearing recommendations—even if my To-Read pile is already WAY too high and on the verge of total collapse. (Seriously, folks. It’s a problem. I have a definite problem here.)

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