These books really took us places.
With a New Year upon us, it’s time for one last bit of reflections, reflections, reflections. As we bid adieu to another year that zigged as much as it zagged, is the 2022 flashback playing in your head? The best memories, the most memorable travels, the most delicious tables? Us, too!
And our year in review also includes the books that went from the “To Read” to the “Favorite Read” pile. Some of the Fodor’s editors are sharing what they loved to read this year, from new releases to books that have been on their wishlist for years. Regardless of when they were published, all of these books took us places.
Top Picks for You
‘Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science Behind Bisexuality’ by Dr. Julia Shaw
Criminal psychologist Dr. Julia Shaw set out to answer basic questions about bisexuality in this book. She narrates her own story as a bisexual woman and explains how bisexuals are a minority within the community, misunderstood by the LGBTQ+ community as well as heterosexuals. She informs with facts, studies, research, and historic stories, and shines a light on marginalized and overlooked bi people.
Why It’s on the List: “I had little to no understanding of bisexuality. I had no idea that bi-sexual people were a minority within a minority and that jolt of knowledge made quite an impact. We picked it for the Fodor’s Book Club (I might not have read it otherwise) and this enlightening non-fiction became one of my top reads this year.” – Apeksha Bhateja, Staff Writer
‘The City We Became’ by N.K. Jemisin
First in the Great Cities series, this book has fantasy, science-fiction, and magic all in one. It starts with a homeless Black teen who is the soul of New York. In the process of the city being born as great cities do, the primary avatar goes into a coma and five other souls (one representing and embodying qualities of each New York borough) awaken. These five individuals have to come together, harness their power, and stop an enemy from taking over New York. So weirdly captivating!
Why It’s on the List: “Intelligently written, it introduces you to New York like never before. Underlying and deep-rooted societal issues (racism, abuse, immigration) were cleverly integrated into this fantastical novel, and I loved how each borough had its own distinct vibe and personality. As strange as it was at times, it was super fun to read.” – Apeksha Bhateja, Staff Writer
‘Crying in H-Mart’ by Michelle Zauner
The 2021 memoir by musician and artist Michelle Zauner made it into every booklist possible. Zauner reminisces about her relationship with her family: growing up Korean in America, her mother’s high expectations of her, their trips to Seoul, and foods that remind her of home. After losing her mother to cancer, she finds solace in H Mart (an Asian supermarket chain in America) and reclaims her Korean heritage. The theme of grief resonated with readers around the world and it’s a tear-jerker.
Why It’s on the List: “While this book is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful, I really enjoyed reading Zauner’s writing and how wonderfully she captured the highs and lows of a mother-daughter bond.” – Nikki Vargas, Senior Editor
‘The Honjin Murders’ by Seishi Yokomizo
This one is a classic Japanese murder mystery first published in 1946. The book by the famous crime writer Seishi Yokomizo takes you to the village of Okamura. The wealthy Ichiyanagi family is celebrating the wedding of their son Kenzo with Katsuko when on the night of the festivities, both are murdered. Among strange clues is a bloody samurai sword. An amateur detective is enlisted to help and the locked room mystery makes for an entertaining whodunit novel.
Why It’s on the List: “Seishi Yokomizo was a master of the Japanese murder mystery, and many of his novels are currently undergoing a revival thanks to new English translations by Pushkin Press. This novel is the first appearance of detective Kosuke Kindaichi, Yokomizo’s frequent protagonist who’s every bit as peculiar, brilliant, and compelling as Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. Set in a bucolic honjin house in agrarian Okayama several years before the war, the murders are shocking, and the solutions shockingly clever.” – Jeremy Tarr, Digital Editorial Director
‘How High We Go in the Dark’ by Sequoia Nagamatsu
This epic novel is about a 30,000-year-old plague. An expedition in 2030 finds the remains of a prehistoric girl who died due to a virus. The melting permafrost releases it and the plague spreads globally, killing mercilessly. The 2022 novel strikes close to home with its descriptions of the pandemic, healthcare services stretched beyond belief, heart-breaking stories, and the commercialization and normalization of the crisis.
Through stories of different individuals, the novel shows the aftermaths of the plague—theme parks for terminally ill children; hotels for the dead; genetic modification of a pig; and space exploration to find another planet. As sad as it sounds, the heart of it is human resilience.
Why It’s on the List: “Worried about climate change and more pandemics? This won’t help, but somehow, it’s still sublimely hopeful and gorgeously wrought.” – Rachael Levitt, Managing Editor
‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig
The protagonist of this fantasy novel is Nora Seed, who is sad and lost. Her cat is dead, her relationship with her brother has disintegrated, and she has been fired. She tries to kill herself, but lands up in a library of possibilities. Each decision of her life is laid out in the books. What would life have been if she had married her fiance? What if she had become a glaciologist? Where would she be if she had continued competitive swimming? She can change her present and choose another version of her life. So, what will it be?
Why It’s on the List: “This was one of the most creative and life-impacting reads I’ve enjoyed in a while. If you’ve ever wondered what your life would look like had you taken a different path—whether it’s a different career, stuck it out with a lost love, or moved to that city you always dreamt of living—this is the book for you.” – Nikki Vargas, Senior Editor
‘Nightbitch’ by Rachel Yoder
The premise of this book is unusual but simple: a mother thinks she’s turning into a dog. Once an artist, she is now a stay-at-home mom whose husband is always traveling for work, so she’s alone in the house with her two-year-old. With deep loneliness settling into her heart, she starts noticing dog-like features: sharper canines, hair on the back of her neck, signs of a tail, and a craving for raw meat. She’s becoming Nightbitch. There is magical realism in the book, and it’s a commentary on motherhood in the modern age.
Why It’s on the List: “I finally got around to reading this hilarious and fresh allegory about the perils, exhaustion, and tiny little deaths women often suffer when entering motherhood. But I think in this popular pick from 2021, any woman can see themselves, which is probably why it’s becoming a film starring the luminous Amy Adams. Through a sarcastic stream of consciousness, we follow The Mother/Nightbitch and her increasing paranoia (I’ll avoid spoilers!). I love magical realism, which this story has in spades, but most of all, I loved how much I saw myself in it, despite currently being childless.” – Eva Morreale, Assignment Editor
‘Red at the Bone’ by Jacqueline Woodson
It’s a poignant, beautiful story of two Black families. It starts with the coming-of-age ceremony of Melody. She wears her mother’s dress, one that she never got to wear, already pregnant at the age of 16. The readers are introduced to Melody’s grandparents and their struggles; Melody’s mother who left for college to live her life and Melody’s father who was content with his job and his role as a father. Touching upon racism, class, parenthood, familial love, romance, and sexuality, this seemingly short novel packs a big punch.
Why It’s on the List: “This is an exquisitely told multi-generational/perspective story about actions and consequences, race and age, legacy and regret (plus, Prince’s “Darling Nikki” as the anchor song of the would-be soundtrack).” – Rachael Levitt, Managing Editor
‘A Touch of Jen’ by Beth Morgan
Beth Morgan’s debut novel is funny, disturbing, and wild. It introduces a couple who don’t seem to like each other very much, Remy and Alicia. Both are trying to make it work in New York and both are obsessed with a globetrotting social media figure, Jen. So much so that their fantasies of her inspire their sex lives and their toxic, dysfunctional relationship depends on their fixation of a curated profile. When they run into her and get invited for a surfing trip with her rich boyfriend in Montauk, the book takes a terrifying turn.
Why It’s on the List: “This book left me mulling on so much! Toxic masculinity, our perception of self, the way we fuse together with our partners in relationships into a single organism, our collective obsession with social media. It’s also somehow sexy, wry, disturbing, and very, very, funny all at once. I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll be wide-eyed and flipping through the last 25 or so pages at lightning speed.” – Eva Morreale, Assignment Editor
‘Two Faces of January’ by Patricia Highsmith
Published in 1964, this one is another classic. Conman Chester MacFarland is traveling in Europe with his wife Colette when they meet fellow American Rydal Keener in Greece. Chester reminds Rydal of his father who recently passed away, while Colette has a striking resemblance to a cousin he once loved. When Chester accidentally kills a man, Rydal helps the couple escape and gets entangled in their lives. Thus, drama and darkness ensue.
This psychological thriller was adapted into a movie in 2014 featuring Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, and Oscar Isaac.
Why It’s on the List: “Patricia Highsmith’s brilliant psychological thriller showcases Greece much as she did with Italy in Talented Mr. Ripley. We experience an almost unimaginable Greece to contemporary readers—a barely touristed country, where it’s easy to disappear. A cat-and-mouse scene at the Palace of Knossos in Crete is so beautifully written that it will simultaneously enthrall you and have you itching to book a plane ticket.” – Jeremy Tarr, Digital Editorial Director