2022 was a whopper of a year. I spent less time than ever watching TV and film; I mostly filled those hours reading more books, writing, and taking care of plants. I went on a lot of walks too.
Overall, I read 126 books in 2022, with reading as my primary entertainment source. I’m a consistent reader, not a quick reader, and this does not count the many times I’ve reread my own unpublished writing or the writing of others.
What matters most in reading is that you enjoy it. Goals help me, but they may not work for you, and I wanted to read this year 45 books that were already sitting on my to-read shelves at the end of last year. I also started recording TikTok book reviews. I love reviewing books, but I want to keep myself from putting in excessive labor and making a PROJECT out of something fun.
I feel like I need to DNF more books I’m not enjoying. Maybe I’ve grown pickier over time, or I realize that I can only read so many per year.
Some of these books are published by Harper-Collins. Since the beginning of November, the Harper-Collins Union has been on strike. They’re on strike for living wages and diversity and inclusion initiatives. The Union has asked book reviewers not to post reviews of HC books, but for end-of-year lists, they have made an exception as long as we support the Union! Sign their letter or donate funds to help these workers.
For 2023, I’ll have another 100 book goal, but more importantly, 50 more books off my shelf purchased in 2022 or earlier.
My Top 10 Books from 2022
1. Collected Essays: Notes of a Native Son / Nobody Knows My Name / The Fire Next Time / No Name in the Street / The Devil Finds Work / Other Essays by James Baldwin
Genre: nonfiction American & African-American history
What am I supposed to write here? Baldwin remains one of the most relevant writers on America and its people. I continually wish to someday read Baldwin and find his writing outdated or the way it used to be and reflect on how life is much better now. (Yes, he was not without his faults, being human and all.)
Reading a body of work covering an artist’s lifetime is a gift. There was something in every single essay that zapped me in my bones — what a treasure.
It feels so weird to be “finished” with this collection, even if I know I’ll revisit many of these essays. This book took me several years to read. The Fire Next Time remains my favorite of Baldwin’s nonfiction books.
2. A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall
Genre: historical m/f romance
I freaking loved A Lady for a Duke. It’s so romantic and swoony and sexy when it gets there. I am typically not someone who gets swoony, so this hit my buttons.
Best friends to lovers may be my very favorite romance trope.
Hall said he wanted to write a book about a trans woman where being trans wasn’t the center of the plot. I’m not sure he achieved that, but there were plenty of other plots and interesting characters that Viola’s story had more layers than only her transition.
I found Gracewood the more relatable character through his struggles with the specter of his father’s expectations and Gracewood’s disability. But Gracewood and Viola got down to their very tender cores as they came back together as friends and lovers.
The cast of characters around them was delightful and felt fleshed out without serving as only props for the main two. The epilogue’s ending was perfect, giving me all the feels about coming into yourself.
3. Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3) by Ann Leckie
You must love tea to love the Imperial Radch books. Good thing I love tea.
Please, more sci-fi books like this, exploring freedom, love, choice, and identity. Breq’s journey from all-seeing AI to individual and the ultimate lesson that there’s nothing more remarkable than the freedom to love was perfect.
Highly suggest this entire trilogy of books.
4. Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Genre: historical m/f romance
Rhys Winterborne may have ruined all other romance heroes for me. He immediately insisted Helen brings all 200 of her orchids (and books!), and he learned about the orchids and built her a greenhouse. This is some daddy energy I can get behind.
Marrying Winterborne is my first Lisa Kleypas book, and I was not disappointed. (I might as well start with one of the highly recommended and beloved ones.) I’m sure it’s not surprising that Kleypas knows how to write, and I greatly enjoyed how she worked modern sensibilities into her characters, especially Rhys.
At the end of the day, Rhys Winterborne is basically Victorian Jeff Bezos, only he’s smart, hot, has ethics, self-made, and supports labor rights. (Basically, he’s the anti-Bezos except in wealth.) Rhys’ superpowers are his incredible will, immense fortune, and the 1,000 people under his employment. While Kleypas shows Rhys taking on emotional labor, she doesn’t deny that his employees are doing most of the heavy lifting and details. But written in 2016, Marrying Winterborne may need to go further into labor issues for my 2022 brain.
Helen’s no lightweight, either. She is sheltered and naive in many ways, but she has her own will of steel. Helen takes incredible risks and won’t allow herself to be unwillingly under anyone’s thumb. “After all… I am a Winterborne.” may be the best ending line ever in showing Helen’s true self and evolution from the virgin caretaker in mourning she appeared to be in Rhys’ office.
The sex was great. Rhys may have thought about his big 🍆 on page 11, but clearly, it’s his tongue. I sometimes stumble over cishet historical romances where our heroine is a virgin. Still, Kleypas deftly used this “education” to show not only Helen’s ignorance (and how she’s going to ensure her younger sisters know what’s what) but also Rhys’ beliefs around sex and their balance with each other. He’s not perfect about it, either.
The side characters were fabulous, and I wanted books about them. Kleypas’ turning on the 3rd act breakup was brilliantly executed. Enormous stakes for Helen and significant life changes, but essentially she only breaks up with Rhys in her head, even as he suspects something’s wrong, so her anguish is defused sharply.
I loved Marrying Winterborne. It was incredibly romantic, and I melted at so many points. Like when Helen placed an orchid on Rhys’ jacket, he correctly identified it as a Dendrobium.
5. The Companion by E.E. Ottoman
Genre: historical m/f/f romance
A beautiful, spellbinding book that’s a trans fairy tale, or historical romance in this case.
It’s not that transphobia and other hurts by the greater world don’t exist, but this posits a haven from that. There are no cis characters here. I’ve never read a book without cis characters, and as a trans person, that’s magical.
Madeline, Audrey, and Victor all deal with that hurt in separate ways and blossom fully together. Victor lets in criticism of his writing but won’t go to town. Audrey makes her art for herself and no one else but will take what she wants or needs from the world. And Madeline is somewhere in the middle. Victor is the Beast in his castle, Audrey is the witch in the woods, and Madeline is the lost princess who loves them both. Except everyone is very hot and sexy, don’t worry.
The sex was sweet and hit some sexy moments. Ottoman balances both historical sex language with trans-inclusive sex language well.
Some of this is charmingly convenient. But Ottoman is writing a haven in the backdrop of hate and danger happening to trans people today. (This was published in 2021.)
I wanted to sit with these characters on their plant-covered porch, eat popcorn, and smoke weed. Maybe they’d let this non-binary writer join them.
6. Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White
Genre: YA horror fantasy
This book gutted me. It’s pure queer and trans rage at the dangerous homophobic and transphobic world we live in. It’s absolutely commentary about COVID-19, the rise in Christian fascism, and the targeting of queer people.
Teenage Benji escapes from the Evangelical cult he was raised in — in which his mother and his finance are high-ranking — with the help of his father. The cult murders his father, and Benji barely survives capture, thanks to a group of queer teens hiding in a former LGBTQ+ teen center.
While Benji is safe to live his truth as a gay trans man, he’s hiding a monster seraph growing inside of him from these teens. The plague unleashed on the world by the cult creates literal monsters from dead human flesh, and Benji can control them.
There are a lot of Bible quotes, especially from Revelation, and as someone indoctrinated in that faith, it all came flooding back into my brain like I read it yesterday. Trauma is so fun.
This nonstop action ride is very gory, with lots of body horror and murder. The queer teens are a delightful cast that carefully shows differences in the LGBTQ+ community but how we all need each other. It was incredibly cathartic at times, if a challenging read, that I didn’t want to sit down. Some of Benji’s thoughts and experiences around his gender and religious upbringing felt too close to my own experiences. Only perhaps, unlike me, Benji heads right back into the belly of the beast.
7. The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2) by S.A. Chakraborty
Genre: historical fantasy
I couldn’t put this down. Good thing I was listening to the audiobook, and I have lots of chores. This is a fantasy world with so many stories to tell.
The action and pacing are great. I like the generational critique. The world is fascinating, and the layered ways each player has their own agendas worked perfectly.
I was so worried there would be a dead gay trope.
Ali’s nativity is a little too much. My partner says his growth is all in the next book, but so frustrating when Nahri, Dara, and Muntadhir all grow up so much and deal with their choices, actions, and inactions.
I’ve read all three books, and the middle one remains the strongest, but I highly recommend the entire Daevabad Trilogy.
8. Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert
Genre: contemporary m/f romance
Yes, I loved Zafir and Dani and how much he loves love. Hibbert’s writing definitely leveled up in this second book.
Fake dating is one of my least favorite romance tropes, but this was for a good cause. Usually, fake dating stories are employed for the characters’ selfish reasons.
Dani’s story deals with her confidence — both in romantic and professional situations — and Zafir’s story deals with turning grief and mental health struggles into something new and wonderful. Hibbert’s writing is so seamless that she doesn’t smack you over the head with these themes. Instead, the themes are expertly woven against Dani and Zafi falling in love.
9. For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes
Genre: m/f contemporary romance
An incredible love story with scorching BDSM play and sex scenes. The writing had me immediately, and April and Dennis, along with the supporting cast of friends, coworkers, and family, pop off the page as author Penny Aimes understands characterization and brings humanity to them.
This m/f romance features a Black cis male dom and a white bisexual trans woman. The author is a trans woman who knows BDSM and its community. Both April and Dennis have issues that they work through with friends, family, mentors, support groups, and therapists.
I loved how April is with her community. There’s always a Mama April in the best communities, and it ended in a rewarding manner for a too-often underappreciated type of labor in our society. Dennis getting mentored by another dom was excellent. More of this in BDSM romances, please!
Overall, I loved this novel and couldn’t put it down. It was exactly what I needed. I cannot wait to see what Penny Aimes writes next, and I hope she continues to write many more books.
10. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
Genre: nonfiction WWII graphic novel
This has been embarrassingly sitting on my shelf unread for 12 years, and between the banning of this book and rising antisemitism, it finally seemed like time. Spiegelman’s framing of his Holocaust concentration camp survivor parents’ story is so smart and human. It explores the horrors you’d expect and also the lasting impact and generational trauma.
Other 5-Star Reads (all fiction, alphanumerical by author’s last name):
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Genre: contemporary YA
Finding Home Volume 4: The Gardener (Finding Home #4) by Hari Conner
Genre: m/m historical fantasy romance graphic novel
Darryl by Jackie Ess
Genre: contemporary fiction
The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle #3) by Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: YA historical fantasy
Powers (Annals of the Western Shore #3) by Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: YA historical fantasy
Mamo Vol. 1 by Sas Milledge
Genre: YA fantasy graphic novel
Sugar Town by Hazel Newlevant
Genre: contemporary f/f romance graphic novel
Dewdrop by Kay O’Neill
Genre: fantasy children’s picture book
The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Tea Dragon #3) by Kay O’Neill
Genre: fantasy middle reader graphic novel
Better Than People (Garnet Run #1) and Best Laid Plans (Garnet Run #2) by Roan Parrish
Genre: contemporary m/m romance
A Good, Old-Fashioned Chanukah Pegging: A Small Change Story by Roan Parrish
Genre: m/f erotica short story
Read for free!
Smut Peddler Presents: Silver, edited by Andrea Purcell
Genre: erotica romance comics (variety of genders and sexual orientations)
Lazarus: Risen #7 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark
Genre: sci-fi comic book
Patience & Esther: An Edwardian Romance by Sarah Winifred Searle
Genre: f/f historical romance comic
Cemetery Boys (Cemetery Boys #1) by Aiden Thomas
Genre: YA fantasy
Distortion by Max Traster
Genre: fantasy superhero
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss and E.G. Keller
Genre: children’s picture book
Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera, and Miquel Muerto
Genre: contemporary horror comic
The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela
Genre: LGBTQ+ fiction
Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory by Martha Wells
Genre: sci-fi short story
Sins of the Black Flamingo Vol 1 by Andrew Wheeler, Travis Moore, Tamra Bonvillain, and Aditya Bidikar
Genre: fantasy heist comic
Alice in Leatherland by Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli
Genre: f/f contemporary romance comic
A reread: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Genre: Classic LGBTQ+
I first read this book 19 years ago when I was a very different, yet the same, person, without the hindsight of time and experience.
That first read, David’s American shame matched the era and my rural upbringing. Though I felt I had one up on the character, given that I was out of the closet about my sexuality. I felt progress from David and Giovanni.
This read, I fear this place 30% of Americans desire a return to and are driving us back to, and how some of the most beloved people in my life are talking about fleeing abroad.
But will we really be free? Or do we just punch vertically and harm each other? Will we queer Americans once again be specters in Paris?
I adore Baldwin’s writing, but Hella is his worst female character, as her femininity is only a tool for David to question his manhood against.
Though how much more do we understand Giovanni? I suppose we do get his story by the end.
A 4-star rating I cannot get out of my head: Morning Glory Milking Farm (Cambric Creek #1) by C.M. Nascosta
Genre: monster m/f romance
Dang. I have so many thoughts about this book.
1. Don’t read this book if you don’t aesthetically enjoy penises.
(Compulsory heterosexuality is cis straight women that don’t like dicks. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.)
2. This is actually a very sweet romance.
3. How is Morning Glory Milking Farm, a book about a cis human woman who jacks off cis minotaur men for a living, less bio-essentialist than half of the contemporary cishet romances out there?
Rourke has a giant cock, but this book avoids size shaming while also describing in detail his dick; the head is the size of Violet’s fist. It’s not the size that ultimately ruins her for other men but that he knows how to use it.
4. In the print version, the typesetting and layout have a ton of errors. (I’d never take away stars for publishing errors. It’s like saying you hate a product because the delivery service smashed the box.)
5. Violet was relatable. (It’s been a while since a woman in a cishet romance was the character I personally identified with.)
6. The world-building has the same issues as any universe with 1 planet and multiple thriving Turing-passing species. That’s not the book’s point, and I did enjoy the thought put into the parts that mattered.
7. Rourke is a gentleman. He is all about consent (and eating pussy).
8. Yes, side characters and friends! Gay people exist too!
9. In this world, the monsters are minorities, and like many texts who do this, we don’t know how this affects the human majority and world setup. The metaphor only goes so far. (I’ve read enough X-Men comics to know this.)
10. Violet says it doesn’t go super well with her mom when she tells her she has a minotaur boyfriend, but we don’t know their actual exchange. I also wondered if Violet’s parents purposely lived in an all-human community.
11. If Violet can watch minotaur porn on the internet, she could undoubtedly google some of her monster cultural and anatomical questions. She does come off as a lookie-loo in some of her questions.
12. Nascosta’s prose is enjoyable, and I’m here for her growth in prose strength, as her ideas and thoughtful writing really stood out.