From novels to non-fiction and memoirs, here are the books we loved in 2022.
Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention — and How to Think Deeply Again
Johann Hari (Crown)
If you’ve found yourself finding it just about impossible to concentrate these days, you’re not alone. Spoiler alert: It may have something to do with your phone! When Hari found himself unable to focus, jumping from tab to tab, app to app, he decided to embark on a 3-month tech sabbatical. It was glorious, but nothing changed when it ended; he was quickly back to his old addiction. “Stolen Focus” takes a stunning, alarming look at what devices are doing to everyone’s attention — and how it should be treated as a systemic issue. An important read.
Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath
Bill Browder (Simon & Schuster)
Who said financial crimes were dull? Certainly not Bill Browder. In his followup to the rip-roaring bestseller “Red Notice,” the author further explains how he became one of Vladimir Putin’s biggest enemies — by exposing his billion-dollar campaign of theft and money laundering to the world. (Browder’s lawyer was Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in a Russian jail; Browder has made it his life’s mission to expose his killers, ending up on numerous watchlists himself.)
Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania are Ruining Kids’ Sports — And Why it Matters
Linda Flanagan (Portfolio)
In the past few decades, youth sports have gotten out of control in terms of intensity and the seriousness with which they are taken (we’ve all seen the headlines about parents punching out referees.) Flanagan explains why and how this came to be the case — and what parents can do to fight back. This book is for anyone who has ever found themselves spending entire weekends at youth soccer events and asked, “Why?”
Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties
David DeJong (Mariner Books)
Gunther Quandt was the head of the dynasty that today controls BMW. Accused of Nazi collaboration in 1946, he was acquitted after lying in his testimony, claiming that he had forced by Joseph Goebbels to join the Nazi party. This deeply researched book takes a look at this and other German dynasties with dark pasts that have never been fully resolved — and which have amassed even greater wealth in the decades that followed World War II.
Muppets in Moscow: The Unexpected Crazy True Story of Making Sesame Street in Russia
Natasha Lance Rogoff (Rowman & LIttlefield)
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s brought incredible opportunities — among them, the ability to bring the beloved show “Sesame Street” to a Russian audience. Rogoff was the producer of this (not at all straightforward) undertaking, which brought extreme challenges, car bombings, a military takeover of the production office, and cultural clashes. Above all, it is a story of great poignance and a love letter to the ideal of educating children through television.
When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm
Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe (Doubleday)
McKinsey & Co. is one of the most prestigious consulting companies in the world; its value statement aims to make the world a better place (while commanding billions of dollars in fees). But what does McKinsey & Co. actually do? The authors of this thoroughly reported book took a look behind the curtain and found that the company’s dealings frequently did not line up with its purported values.
Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks
Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)
The bestselling author of “Say Nothing” and “Empire of Pain” brings together some of his best known essays from The New Yorker which, as Keefe explains in the preface, “reflect on some of my abiding preoccupations: crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial.”
Adam Piore (The Real Deal)
New York real estate is theater, business, and blood sport combined, and journalist Piore offers a look at how the New York City skyline was remade in a short period of time as the city transformed from gritty and nearly bankrupt to luxury cosmopolis. He recounts the players and the wheeling and dealing that came along with some of the city’s major real estate projects, from Billionaire’s Row to Hudson Yards.
American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis
Adam Hochschild (Mariner)
A fascinating look at the time between World War I and the Roaring Twenties, a turbulent time when Black churches were burned to the ground by angry mobs, lynchings occurred, citizen’s arrests ran rampant, newspapers and magazines were banned by mail, and the foundations of American democracy were crumbling.
Nikki May (Custom House)
This sharp, glittering debut follows three Ango-Nigerian besties — Ronke, Boo and Simi — and the absolute chaos that ensues when a 4th woman — charismatic Isobel — inserts her way into their group. At first it seems like Isobel brings out the best in each woman — and then, not so much.
Dani Shapiro (Knopf)
On a summer night in 1985, three teenagers have been drinking when they are involved in a car accident. The doctor who arrives on the scene — Ben Wilf — makes a decision that will alter his career and his life, and no one on Division Street will ever be the same. Decades later, the couple across the street has a baby boy, and again, Wilf becomes involved. A beautiful novel about connections, loss, and the passage of time on a quiet suburban street.
Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry (Ballantine)
Anya and Milka are best friends coming of age in the USSR in the 1980s, spending summers at Anya’s family dacha outside of Moscow. While Anya’s parents fixate on the past, she and Milka are obsessed with Queen, bootleg tapes and travel outside their country. As the USSR collapses, their lives diverge — and years later, Anya is left trying to negotiate her new American life with the world she left behind. Loosely based on Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” and achingly sad.
Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf)
In 1550s Florence, young Lucrezia is the third daughter of a grand duke. Her childhood is happy until it ends quite abruptly in her marriage to a much older man, the duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio. She leaves home behind to enter the court of Alfonso — a man she barely knows and who, as she soon realizes, has plenty of secrets. A fascinating fictionalized account of the young Lucrezia de Medici.
John Irving (Simon & Schuster)
Clocking in at 912 pages, no one will accuse John Irving of being too succinct. He has his themes, and he does like to go on at length. Luckily for the reader, the themes resonate and become almost meditative in their repetition. This novel — about Adam, a boy growing up in an unconventional family with a ski instructor mother, Little Rae, funny and wholly unconcerned with societal norms and expectations — is a beautiful celebration of life lived on its own terms.
Lynn Steger Strong (Mariner Books)
Siblings Henry, Kate and Martin have gathered with their spouses in upstate New York to observe the first Christmas without their mother. The group is there, children under foot, to observe traditional family rituals — but also to figure out what to do with their mother’s Florida house, her sole inheritance. Financial concerns and other tensions linger thickly in the air. Just as it seems like the sibling ties are fraying, a frightening event brings them together and restores perspective.
Seaside is a summer town, but Brian and Margot Dunne have made their lives there year-round, renting out real estate properties to tourists while raising their daughters, now teenagers. Money has always been tight. But when Brian develops a brain tumor and his personality changes overnight, the family’s future becomes precarious, and Margot finds herself dreaming of moving away and starting over. There aren’t enough novels that deal with the concerns of people who pay bills, and this one is poignant and raw.
Marcy Dermansky (Knopf)
The author of the popular “Very Nice” is back with a highly original (seriously, you haven’t read a book like this before) novel about Allison Brody, a 32-year-old woman who buys a beach house on the coast and owns it for a whole week before a hurricane demolishes it. She eventually makes her way back to her childhood home and spends the next few months looking for a new plan — in the form of a rooftop swimming pool and a new boyfriend’s luxe but sterile apartment.
Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting
Clare Pooley (Pamela Dorman)
Every day, a magazine columnist named Iona sees the same people on her train from Hampton Court to Waterloo Station. She doesn’t know their names, and they never speak — that’s the first rule of commuting. But one day when one of the commuters chokes on a grape and is saved by a quick-thinking male nurse named Sanjay, the group of quiet commuters begins to speak to each other — and they even become a group of unlikely friends. Endearing and quirky, this novel might make you actually want to commute.
Bernadette Jiwa (Dutton)
In 1990s Dublin, the country of Ireland is undergoing an economic boom and Joan and her husband are a part of it. Life is good and their house is impressive. Appearances are being kept up. Then one day, a letter arrives one day from Emma, the daughter she and her husband gave up for adoption 30 years prior in a very different Ireland. Emma doesn’t want to reconnect — she has a serious favor to ask, one that will have Joan questioning nearly every aspect of her life.
Leah Franqui (William Morrow)
Puerto Rico is where Elena Vega’s father lives — but no one has seen him since Hurricane Maria. Troubled by alcoholism and bipolar disorder, he is a man given to disappearing, leaving his daughter to pick up the pieces. Elena returns to the battered island and starts searching for him, trying to solve the mystery of a man she doesn’t know very well. Puerto Rico comes alive in this book about family and secrets.
Christopher M Hood (Harper)
In this haunting debut novel, the Shark Flu pandemic has destroyed much of the world’s population. Bill and Penelope have survived and are rebuilding their new lives — when their grown daughter Hannah gets in touch over the shortwave radio and tells them she’s joined a cult in Bishop, California. Bill and Penelope begin a dangerous cross-country trek to save their family as they navigate a strange and often terrifying new world where the old rules of society no longer apply.
Daisy LaFarge (fiction, Riverhead Books)
Frances is a young graduate student spending the summer in Southern France, volunteering on a farm. The farm’s owner, Paul, is mysterious and strange (very strange), and she soon finds herself romantically involved with him. But as the summer wears on, Frances starts to realize with growing unease that she doesn’t know very much about him.
Wanda Morris (fiction, William Morrow)
From the talented author of “All Her Little Secrets” comes this gripping tale of two Black sisters on the run in the 1960s South. Violet has killed the man who attacked her — and she’s now fleeing, looking for a place — any place — where she can start over. Her sister Marigold has also left their town of Jackson, Mississippi, fearing the police will turn their attention on her. But there’s a man who’s been paid to find Violet — and he won’t stop until he tracks her down.
Elaine Hsieh Chou (fiction, Penguin Press)
Twenty-nine-year-old PhD student Ingrid Yang is almost finished with her dissertation on Chinese poet Xiao-Wen Chou; once she gets that PhD, she can do what she really wants — even if she doesn’t quite know what that is. But a strange note in the archives leads her down a strange new path of secrets and cover-ups. A hilarious campus satire.
Catherine Newman (Harper)
Edith and Ashley have been friends for 42 years, sharing just about everything together. As Ash says, “Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.” Now, Edi is dying of ovarian cancer and spending her last days in a hospice home near Ash as a cast of characters rotate in and out. Not advised for reading in public, unless you enjoy crying around strangers.
Rob Delaney (Spiegel & Grau)
At the age of 1, actor Rob Delaney’s son Henry was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Two years later, he would die — leaving the family devastated. This is not an easy read, and to his credit, Delaney makes no attempt to sugarcoat the experience with platitudes. The result is this raw, beautiful book about loss, grief and what matters most.
A Waiter In Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City
Edward Chisholm (Pegasus)
Behind the opulent calm of any Parisian restaurant is a waiter ready to deceive you, writes Edward Chisholm in this moving tale of a young British man who moves to Paris and — despite speaking subpar French, manages to secure a post as a waiter. It’s here that he meets a backroom staff of other immigrants, ex-soldiers, aspiring actors and others caught between their dreams of a better life and the paltry paycheck they receive each week.
Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story
Bono (memoir, Knopf)
For the first time ever, legendary musician Bono writes about his family and upbringing, from his early days as a boy in Dublin to the death of his mother when he was 14 — “We were three Irish men, and we avoided the pain that we knew would come from thinking and speaking about her,” he writes, of sharing the house with his father and older brother — to his decades of activism.
Heather Havrilesky (Ecco)
Havrilesky has counseled readers through many a troubled relationship under the guise of Ask Polly; in this memoir, she turns the lens on herself, examining her own 15-year marriage and its highs and lows, aggravations, slights, and sweet moments.
Because Our Fathers Lied: A Memoir of Truth and Family, from Vietnam to Today
Craig McNamara (Little, Brown)
McNamara grew up in the late 1960s, a time of political tumult. His father Robert served as John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense and the architect of the Vietnam War — while Craig would grow up to participate in anti-war protests. When he failed his draft physical, he decided to travel by motorcycle across Central and South America, learning about agriculture. The book tells the story of the Vietnam War from a singular perspective, as McNamara tries to come to terms with his father’s legacy.