One of my goals this year was to read more. In 2021, I was an ‘average’ reader, completing fourteen books. I set the same initial goal in January—at least one book a month—and, as of today, have exceeded my expectations. Maybe the person I was a few years ago would be disappointed, but I’m not. Prior to 2020, I read about forty or so books a year; since then, the number has gone down. I still want to celebrate the twenty-two books I did read in 2022, as well as the other bits and pieces.
However, I didn’t have quite the diversity in genres as I normally do so I’m not going to pick a favorite per category. I was sorely lacking in poetry and nonfiction, and (overwhelmingly) most of these reads are horror. Every year, we mature and develop as readers, and I think I’m finding a new path for myself. So, let’s revisit this year in reading—the highs and lows—and dive into these pages.
The year began with Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall, a psychedelic epistolary novel about a band composing what will be their best known album and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it. Combining folk horror and folk rock is brilliant, and the lush description of the setting captured my imagination. I also read the first two volumes of Kaiu Shirai’s The Promised Neverland. However, it’s been a while since I’ve read manga and—with watching the anime first—I forgot how slow the pacing can be compared to episodes. I may continue with this series so I can figure out where it diverges and exactly how bad season two was compared to the manga.
This was the year I also got back into YA, specifically the great run of thrillers that have been coming out since 2016-ish. I largely stopped reading young adult fiction during grad school, and a lot has changed since then. I reviewed Claire McFall’s The Last Witness, which was formulaic and had a few too many twists, but still entertained. While on my Getaway, I read Lauren Oliver’s Broken Things, and loved how the world of fantasy, fan fiction, and true crime blended together. The Project by Courtney Summers uses its dual timeline and perspectives well, and it’s amazing how a charismatic antagonist can still sway you. Rory Power’s Wilder Girls was a bit of a letdown because I had some hype going in, but the unique world-building, isolation, and body horror was still fun.
I read two books by Rachel Hawkins—The Wife Upstairs and Reckless Girls. Both of these books were fast-paced and hard to put down. Even though I haven’t read Jane Eyre—yet—I was able to see the homage and familiar elements in what became a Southern Gothic adaptation. As a kid, deserted island and survival stories were some of my favorites. While Reckless Girls didn’t quite lean on survival as much as paranoia, it was entertaining and the drama was better than reality TV. I’ll be reading her next novel—The Villa—in the new year.
Most of all, I read a lot of horror. It was refreshing to dive deeper into this blood-soaked genre and read favorite authors and discover new ones. I reviewed My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, full of allusions to popular horror films and with a protagonist I’m not soon to forget. I can’t wait for the sequel in 2023. Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth gave me all the thrills of a haunted house but with a unique setting and folklore. Eric LaRocca’s Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke deserves its reputation and more; I will never see apple peelers the same way. It uses a technological epistolary style to its advantage. Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare is technically YA, but I have never seen that amount of blood and guts put to anything but an R-rating. We all hate clowns and teenagers, but the combination is wild.
I reviewed Daniel Kraus’ The Ghost That Ate Us, V. Castro’s Goddess of Filth, and Katrina Monroe’s They Drown Our Daughters. All of these stories do vastly different things within the realm of horror: haunted fast food chains, powerful possession and exorcisms, and haunted memories and oceans. Kraus blends fiction and nonfiction together into a true crime document that is somehow easy to believe. Castro tells a tale of female friendship and empowerment through an unlikely source. Monroe explores generational trauma and the impact of motherhood. These stories helped me through the summer.
In the fall, I continued diving into horror. Catriona Ward’s Sundial is desert-soaked and traumatic, and shares the darker sides of parenthood with lots of twists and turns. Children of Demeter by E.V. Knight is a psychedelic journey into a missing cult and reveals some secrets are best forgotten. Zin E. Rocklyn’s Flowers for the Sea is a novella that packs a powerful punch in its mix of allegory and the cosmic with a side of revenge. Anoka by Shane Hawk is a collection of stories centered in the same town, and they’re all designed to unsettle readers. “Imitate” is one that will sit with me for a bit. For Christmastime, I finally read Joe Hill’s N0S4A2, a story that combines my love of horror with escapism. It was the longest book I read this year, but surprisingly easy to read and stay engaged in. And, yes, horrifying.
The best surprise of this year has been audiobooks. Prior to 2022, I had only listened to one all the way through—Lemony Snicket’s The Vile Village, narrated by Tim Curry. Although it’s not a medium I may choose every day, it’s one that I am more comfortable with. This is largely due to Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, narrated by Nancy Wu. I have never read a book like this, and I don’t know if I will again. It details the largely monotonous life of Keiko, a convenience store worker, as she tries to navigate what is and isn’t acceptable to society as an unmarried, childless woman now in her 30s. The book contains one of the most unlikeable male characters I’ve met, but still captivates in its exploration of what it means to be ‘valuable’ to society and live a good life.
I also read short stories and flash fiction online. Hailey Piper’s “Last on Santa’s List” packs a harrowing apocalypse into such short space. “The Closet Game” by Robert Levy shows another side of queer horror and its haunting impact. “This Village” by Eugenia Triantafyllou has all the tender imagination of playing pretend and somehow rips your heart out at the same time. Shannon Scott’s “Synchronous Online” was particularly haunting as someone who taught via Zoom for an entire schoolyear.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to all the fanfiction that got me through this year. I don’t even know how many words I read, but it was a lot (maybe too much). When I gave a shout-out in 2020, however, the author abandoned the story not long after so I’m only going to credit completed stories here. “Manacled” by senlinyu is as devastating and dark as you might have heard. One day, I want to write a last sentence as powerful as this one. “Measure of a Man” by inadaze22 brilliantly captures the hope and hurt of caring for a terminally ill loved one, and the relationships that can grow or change because of one person. I got really into fix-it fics like “Harry Potter in the Claw of the Raven” by BakenandEggs, because we all want happier childhoods and to overcome trauma. There were many (many) more, but I didn’t keep much track of them this year. Perhaps 2023 will be different.
Next year, I want to read thirty books (at least). I’ll try to branch out beyond horror or thrillers but may stick to what’s familiar. I’m going to keep reading out of my collection or through my Kindle. I will read too much fanfiction. Poetry, nonfiction, and other genres and mediums are needed. Even though my collection isn’t as large as it once was, I still hope to shrink some of it. I want to read new releases, classics, and ones I’ve missed. I will never read enough. Lastly, I want the books of 2023 to capture my imagination, teach me something, or help me escape.
2022 has been full of good books. I don’t doubt next year will be too.
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