on the best of 2022

There are two types of readers: the ones who can tell you what their favourite book is immediately upon asking and the ones who simply cannot even fathom the question, because there are so many books. I’m definitely in the latter category, which made the task of figuring out the best books of 2022 that much harder. 

I started with the 100 books I’ve read this year, immediately eliminating all the ones I’d rated 4 stars and below. That left me with 54 5-star reads! 54! A closer look at the list, and I realised I would rate more than half of those books much lower in retrospect. I think the high of reading a book and finishing that last page makes me overly soft towards it. I should probably have a cooling off period and rate my books at least a week later. Not to worry, I put together a pros and cons list to make better decisions this time around.

That brought me down to the final eight. I think it’s perfectly fair to have eight best books of 2022. However, because I do enjoy self-inflicting emotional pain, I went onto BracketHQ to set up a round robin style tournament to decide which book was my actual best of 2022. 

First, here are the top eight books I’ve read in 2022 in no particular order:

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree
coffeeshop AU dungeons and dragons adventure; cosy fantasy done right

Heart of the Sun Warrior by Sue Lynn Tan
Chinese mythological action/romance; subverts trope expectations

The Enigma of Room 622 by Joël Dicker
convoluted Swiss banking world murder mystery; chef’s kiss audiobook narration

Bakemonogatari by NISIOISIN
high school students thrown into Japanese folktales and legends; supernaturally absurd

The Athenian Murders by José Carlos Somoza
murder mystery set in Ancient Greece or is it?; experimental format

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
epic reimagining of the rise of the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang; brilliant characterisation

The Hike by Drew Magary
a hike turns into … a battle for life; deconstructed fairy tale with side quests

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
a cowardly wizard, a flame, and an old lady go on an adventure; grittier original of the softer Ghibli film

And here’s the winner of the round robin book tournament: Howl’s Moving Castle

After being cursed into old age by the Witch of the Waste, Sophie Hatter sets out to find Wizard Howl in the hopes that he can break the spell. The wizard is not really how she expected him to be, and … chaos ensues (that’s putting it mildly). There is a Studio Ghibli anime movie of the same name, and I do have to admit I watched the movie first and fell in love with it. So I was ecstatic when I realised there was a book as well. Now, there is always some risk with adaptations. Once I read the book, would I think the anime paled in comparison? Or the other way around, even. However, nothing could have prepared me for the utter joy and satisfaction of realising both the book and the anime were excellent, though completely different. Artist Mochiwei captures the differences perfectly here:

Is the book something I’d recommend to everyone? Probably not. However, it was an undeniably joyous read for me, and the story and the characters will stay in my heart for a long time. If you love fantasy stories with a little absurdity in them, you will love this book. And if you’ve watched the movie, you should definitely read the book.

Well, now that the torture of deciding the best book is over, I’m going to drown my guilt over picking one book over the rest in a glass of mulled wine and rewatch the movie for the thirtieth time to end this year on a good note. 

Happy New Year!

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