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Best Books of 2022: All My Rage, Book Lovers, The Sunbearer Trials and more

Best Books of 2022: All My Rage, Book Lovers, The Sunbearer Trials and more

With so many brilliant books to shout about each year, it’s always a difficult task to narrow the favourites down to just a few, and 2022 was no different. We had impressive debuts, exciting sequels and must-read standalones across every genre. From fantasy to romantic comedies to historical fiction, these are some of our favourites from across the year.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir (Atom)

Sabaa Tahir’s unforgettable contemporary debut All My Rage is a beautiful, heartbreaking, all-consuming, emotional powerhouse of a novel. But more importantly, it’s one of those YA novels that proves that ‘teen fiction’ can – and, in this particular case, should – be read by everyone, no matter your age. Alternating between Lahore, Pakistan in the past and California, USA in the present, All My Rage is an unflinching story about family, love, pain, struggle, faith, home and yes, rage that explores trauma, hope, healing and so much more in the stories of its two brilliant and endearing leads Sal and Noor. Tahir’s writing remains as lyrical and sharp as it was throughout the epic fantasy Ember Quartet series that Tahir is known for. With All My Rage, Tahir has honed her talent to create something devastating and profound that will stay with you long after you turn the final page. – Megan Davies

Book Lovers by Emily Henry (Penguin)

Not only is Book Lovers a pitch-perfect rom-com, but it’s an absolute dream of a novel for bibliophiles too. Peppered throughout with Emily Henry’s trademark quick-wit and warmth, it centres on a cut-throat literary agent and a cantankerous editor who find themselves unexpectedly thrown together in a small North Carolina town. Funny, romantic and sweet without a hint of Hallmark mawkishness, this is a quintessential summer read – and one that readers will happily return to again and again. – Natalie Xenos

Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola (Headline Review)

If Bolu Babalola’s bestselling (and utterly fantastic) short story collection Love In Colour offered a taste of the kinds of stories that this author can tell, then there’s no denying that her full-length debut Honey & Spice has confirmed without a doubt that Babalola is a romance writing force to be reckoned with. Packed with just as much passion, chemistry and heart as those stories that came before it, Honey & Spice has a lot of fun with its genre as expert relationship-evader Kiki and the man she recently publicly declared ‘The Wasteman of Whitewell’ embark on a fake relationship in a bid to achieve their respective goals. Beneath the story of Kiki and Malakai’s surprising connection and electric chemistry, however, is an equally well-developed narrative of identity, friendship, love and growth. It’s all told with such an intelligent, sparkling narrative style and such delicious romantic tension that Honey & Spice will leave you desperately wanting to hear more from Bolu Babalola. – Megan Davies

Wahala by Nikki May (Doubleday)

Nikki May’s sharp, socially aware and darkly witty debut is the kind of book that grabs your attention from the very first page. It follows friends Ronke, Simi and Boo as their lives are uprooted by the arrival of the glamorous and wealthy Isobel, who’s determined to stir up trouble. Wahala is a story about race, wealth, colourism, class, food, family and female friendship in all its messy, wonderful forms. Half the time you’re cheering the characters on, the other half of the time you want to scream at them. All eyes should be on Nikki May’s next book, which is sure to be just as unputdownable. – Natalie Xenos

The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas (Macmillan)

Aiden Thomas’ YA fantasy about semidioses competing in a country-wide competition for the honour of keeping their world safe might seem like a familiar concept. But the Mexican-inspired setting, the challenges of the competition and the interplay between the characters feels incredibly fresh. When Teo, the trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds, his best friend Niya, daughter of Terra, god of the earth, Teo’s nemesis and former best friend Aurelio, his twin sister, and a selection of other young semidioses, are chosen to compete in the Sunbearer Trials, these 17 and 18 years olds learn the meaning of survival and what their true natures are, against the backdrop of rivalries, hierarchies and ferocious battles. – Nick Gomez

A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin (HarperCollins)

Bridgerton meets Vanity Fair in Sophie Irwin’s sparkling debut novel A Ladys Guide to Fortune Hunting about a young woman who needs a fortune and the Lord who recognises her for the mercenary fortune-hunter that she is. This historical romance novel is a smart, frothy delight from start to finish, following the intelligent, cunning Kitty Talbot as she throws herself into the London Season in a bid to find a wealthy husband, settle her father’s debts and save her family in just twelve weeks. As she continues to trick and fake her way into these wealthy social circles, she finds her best efforts thwarted by the dashing and protective Lord Radcliffe who is equally willing to do whatever it takes to keep Kitty’s claws out of his family’s money. Of course, neither of them expect for love to play a big part in their new game… This is a slow burn romance built on schemes, sharp wit and plenty of mutual pining from afar, and it’s a read that offers a perfect dose of escapism for when you’re craving something fun, clever and romantic. – Megan Davies

Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen (Hodder & Stoughton)

2022 was a stellar year for YA fantasy but few novels captured my heart so easily and completely as Gina Chen’s Violet Made of Thorns did. Full of court intrigue, witchy machinations and characters whose motives are as untrustworthy as their morals, it’s a sizzling enemies-to-lovers tale of fate-twisted destinies and the price that must be paid for defying prophecies. Enchanting and utterly addictive, it paves the way for what promises to be a captivating sequel. – Natalie Xenos

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey (Avon)

Tessa Bailey has already proven herself a firm favourite among romance readers, and with three books published in 2022 – ranging from a spicy murder mystery to a why choose rom-com – she’s certainly an author who gives fans of the genre plenty to discover and enjoy too. Of all her latest releases, however, it’s the friends-to-lovers connection of Hannah and Fox in Hook, Line, and Sinker that proved an easy standout, offering a simmering slow burn romance that delivers flirtatious conversations, a close-knit friendship and two characters who only want the best for one another. As the second book in the Bellinger Sister duology, this novel provides a welcome return to the small town of Westport and the familiar presence of It Happened One Summer’s Brendan and Piper too. But for me there’s just no competing with the chemistry between Hannah and Fox in a narrative that plays with lots of fun tropes and delves deep into some genuine emotional issues too. – Megan Davies

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace (Hodder & Stoughton)

Arriving at the end of a stifling summer, Belladonna was just the novel needed to ease fantasy readers into the colder, darker months. With its ghostly haunted house setting and atmospheric gothic vibes, Adalyn Grace’s third novel is a beautiful blend of heart-fluttering romance, spooky chills, Victorian sensibilities and a murder mystery that wouldn’t be out of place in an Agatha Christie story. It gave me a book hangover that I still haven’t quite recovered from. – Natalie Xenos

See Also

If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So (Stripes Publishing)

A sweet and emotional sapphic YA romance, If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So is a joyful and thoughtful story. Elsie has a surprising summer reconnecting with an old friend, meeting new ones, and negotiating possible romances (or perhaps just infatuations) as she continues her journey into independent adulthood. Alongside Elsie’s budding feelings, this novel explores generational differences in thinking, particularly between Elsie, her mother and her grandmother. There is a cast of LGBTQIA+ side characters too who feel real and nuanced, including older people. And there is an exciting bit of fandom for a fictional graphic novel that should be real. A great read, any time of the year. – Nick Gomez

Spells For Forgetting by Adrienne Young (Quercus)

Adrienne Young’s debut adult novel is a story that’s infused with the mystical spirit of autumn. Told from multiple perspectives, it transports readers to the remote and windswept Pacific Coast island of Saoirse, where the inhabitants are still haunted by the mysterious death of a teenager fourteen years earlier. At the heart of the tale are Emery and August, once-childhood sweethearts who discover that letting go of the past isn’t such an easy thing to do. A slow burn romance with evocative descriptions and lyrical writing, Spells for Forgetting is the epitome of an autumn novel. It would take a powerful spell indeed to make me forget this affecting and immersive story. – Natalie Xenos

The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber (Hodder & Stoughton)

From its very first page, Stephanie Garber’s The Ballad of Never After offers up a perfect slice of romance, fantasy and adventure. Picking up directly in the aftermath of the delightful Once Upon a Broken Heart, the latest book in the Caraval spin-off series is another magical whirlwind and a truly brilliant example of just what makes the fantasy genre so exciting. This is a book that’s steeped in fairytale and romance, but the detailed and enchanting narrative is built on so much more, weaving together strands of magic, danger and heartbreak to tell a story that’s both completely charming and utterly unique at every turn. As the second book in a series, The Ballad of Never After raises the stakes and expands its world and mythology effortlessly, introducing new mysteries, new characters and new secrets that readers are left itching to uncover, while the action-packed plot will have fantasy fans turning pages long into the night. At its heart, however, this novel remains a fairytale through and through, and the story of the deceptively cruel Prince of Hearts, the compassionate and driven Princess and the fireworks that spark whenever they’re together is a dark, compelling and breathless delight from start to finish. – Megan Davies

Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday)

Set against the backdrop of the 1960’s, Lessons In Chemistry follows smart and self-assured chemist Elizabeth Zott as she becomes the unlikely and reluctant star of the most beloved cooking show in America. But not everyone is happy with Zott’s ever-growing following. Because she’s not just teaching women how to cook. She’s showing them how to change a status quo that’s been favouring men for way too long. Elizabeth was an instant hit with readers who fell in love with her intelligence, determination and fearless spirit. Not only was this book a BBC Between the Covers Book Club pick, but author Bonnie Garmus also won the title of Waterstones Author of the Year – and it couldn’t be more deserved. A wonderful and inspiring debut. – Natalie Xenos

Honorable Mentions: Twin Crowns (Katherine Webber & Catherine Doyle), The Stardust Thief (Chelsea Abdullah), Elektra (Jennifer Saint), The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea (Axie Oh ), Her Perfect Twin (Sarah Bonner), The Marriage Portrait (Maggie O’Farrell ), Truly, Darkly, Deeply (Victoria Selman), The Daughter of Doctor Moreau (Silvia Moreno-Garcia), Stone Blind (Natalie Haynes), Forever Home (Graham Norton), Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (Gabrielle Zevin), Do No Harm (Jack Jordan), Babel (R.F. Kuang), Bloodmarked (Tracy Deonn)

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