Having decided to shove New Year’s resolutions to one side, my only vow for 2022 is to read more. I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic recently for the part of childhood where it was acceptable to sit for hours and devour a book in one go, content and with no other distractions.
That being said, here is my list of hopeful reads for the new year. A few are recommendations from friends, whilst others have been sat on bestseller lists for a while. Some are yet to be released and are by new and exciting voices that I think will be popular. In the mix are also some classics that even I don’t know how I’ve avoided for this many years (looking at you, Sylvia).
If you’re stuck for your next read, I hope this helps a little! And if you have any recommendations yourself, I would truly love to know them…
1. Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell
The imagined story of Shakespeare’s son who died aged eleven. After being seriously ill in childhood, O’Farrell became fascinated by the Bard’s son, and how his death inspired the renowned play, Hamlet. She explores a life subjugated to the footnotes of history, and the legacy of grief.
2. Sunset, Jessie Cave
Sunset focuses upon two sisters’ relationship and grief. Known for her comedy Sunrise, Cave also openly discusses the aftermath of losing a sibling. Sunset is a culmination of all these facets of Cave, a both funny and heartbreaking story that honours siblinghood.
3. My Body, Emily Ratajkowski
The follow-on from Buying Myself Back, Ratajkowski’s essay discusses self-ownership and pressures from the male gaze in the modelling world. Growing up, Emily Ratajkowski was the beauty standard that many aspired to; it is this uneasy dynamic that makes her work so interesting.
4. Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante
The Neapolitan series follows two childhood friends. Gifted children, their lives take different paths after only one can afford further education. The novels study the intersection of class and gender, and the resilience of friendship.
5. The Transgender Issue, Shon Faye
Lauded as a monumental work in understanding and celebrating what transgender liberation means in modern Britain.
6. Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart
Set in 1980s Glasgow, Shuggie Bain follows the life of a young boy, tackling topics that range from alcoholism to the experience of queerness in working class communities.
7. Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson
A lyrical depiction of an affair between two artists in London. Azumah Nelson has been applauded for both the novel’s celebration of young black identity in Britain, and his unconventional and expressive second person narration.
8. The Right to Sex, Amia Srinivasan
Srinivasan examines the politics and ethics of sex in society. Issues are discussed that range from race, pornography, to the politics behind conventional ‘attractiveness.’
9. Les Années, Annie Ernaux
Ernaux is renowned for autobiography, yet Les Années is also the biography of a whole generation. Spanning from 1941 to 2006, the narrative follows collective lives and the changes they experience.
10. Notes on Heartbreak (2022 release), Annie Lord
Lord’s book explores the different shades of her own heartbreak after a break-up. A columnist for Vogue, Lord’s writing is visceral and moving, as well as funny in her self-awareness.
11. Animal, Lisa Taddeo
Following the success of Three Women, Animal’s protagonist is a deeply flawed woman, forced to confront the trauma of her past.
12. Everybody: A Book About Freedom, Olivia Laing
Laing is personally one of my favourite writers. Her latest work examines the power and vulnerability of the body, questioning how it can experience and withstand oppression.
13. Black and British: A Forgotten History, David Olusoga
Challenging the marginalisation of black experiences in history, Olusoga’s breadth study spans from the Roman era to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in 2020.
14. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Cited as the beginning of the ‘dark academia’ genre, Tartt’s detective story centres a group of classics students at their prestigious college.
15. Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong
Vuong’s debut collection of poetry; a delve into sexuality, masculinity, and experiences as an immigrant in America.
16. Poor Little Sick Girls – A Love Letter to Unacceptable Women (2022 release), Ione Gamble
Becoming chronically ill aged nineteen, Gamble discusses her relationship with feminism. The trend of ‘girl boss’ empowerment was inaccessible to her and her disability, leading her to forge her own path and identity.
17. Nobody is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood
Lockwood’s debut novel explores the reality of our lives online, and the power of human connection.
18. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owen
The story of a young woman who grows up isolated from her town, known to them only as ‘the marsh girl.’ A coming-of-age novel, tension occurs once she begins to yearn for acceptance and love from this community, with certain members becoming equally fascinated.
19. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
Plath’s classic novel needs little explanation, often a steady place-holder on the ‘100 books to read before you die’ lists.
20. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Another permanent fixture on the ‘100 books to read before you die’ list, Heller’s satirical novel is set during World War Two and exemplifies the foolishness of war. I also just want to know the origins of the phrase ‘Catch-22!’
21. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
I have wanted to read this for a while, following Jia Tolentino’s essay “Pure Heroines”; the Lisbon sisters are used as a prime example of the complication and limitations surrounding teenage girl characters in literature.
22. Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë
Originally on my list because I felt guilty for always overlooking the third Brontë sister, I am quite happy to learn that Tenant of Wildfell Hall is considered the Brontës’ ‘most shocking novel.’ Good for Anne.