The first half of the year, believe it or not, is quickly coming to a close. This midway point may serve as a good checkpoint for your reading journey this year. Maybe you started the year with some high goals in mind or maybe you’re still looking to get started on your reading journey.
Aside from some older reads that you might already have on your list, you might need to add a couple more as the first half of the year has presented a lot of powerhouse books (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and essay collections alike)!
Here are 10 of the crème de la crème from this year’s publications so far.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Already in the works of having a series adaptation starring actress Aubrey Plaza, Olga Dies Dreaming may already be considered one of the most influential and groundbreaking books of 2022. Gonzalez’s ambitious debut novel raises her voice into the ranks of those we continuously need to look out for.
Set in 2017, this novel follows the publicly glamorous (though privately struggling) lives of upper echelon wedding planner, Olga, and her politician brother Prieto. Unfolding around the months of Puerto Rico’s most devastating hurricane, Hurricane Maria, the Latinx siblings are forced to face themselves and their family traumas as the hurricane winds push their radical activist and absent mother back into their lives.
To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
Following her emotional rollercoaster that was A Little Life, Yanagihara offers another colossal ride filled to the brim with emotion. If you’ve read or even heard about A Little Lifethen you can expect to find more of the same profound sadness within these pages: forcing you to face all the things that make us human.
Similar to A Little Life, this new Yanagihara novel is quite a dense odyssey. Telling three stories in three different time periods, To Paradise tells the story of an arranged marriage, a young man hiding his past from his much older (and wealthier) partner, and a granddaughter left to fend for herself after the passing of her esteemed grandfather (while also trying to unravel the mystery behind her husband’s sudden disappearance). This novel forces us to question just how much we are willing to protect the things we love and what will happen to us when we can’t.
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamtsu
Another debut establishing a fresh new voice into the literary scene, Nagamatsu illustrates the indomitable spirit of the human race.
Starting with the discovery of a mummy containing an ancient disease that spreads like wildfire across the globe and ending with a journey into the cosmos more than 6,000 years later. Nagamatsu picks apart her from her created society which continuously tries to pump out solutions, some bordering on the ridiculous but still believable. Some of the things that exist in this reality are pigs that talk, euthanasia theme parks for the terminally ill, and mechanical companions containing memories of the dead.
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire
A highly anticipated release from Warsan Shire who rose to fame thanks to her collaboration with music icon Beyonce Knowles. Shire’s poetry chronicles a girl’s journey into womanhood despite the lack of a strong and reliable parental figure in her life. Shire takes inspiration from her own life as well as from people and topics in the public eye.
This poetry collection appeals to each of your senses. Peek into the kinetic and dynamic world of immigrant mothers and daughters. Hear sounds of joy and sounds of sorrow. Smell the perfume of certain people as it lingers in the air, and experience tastes embedded with memories good and bad.
Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
Another poet whose words drip with meaning, this new collection by Ocean Vuong follows his monumental love letter in the form of his debut novel: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Intimate and impactful, Vuong continues to shine as a writer of our time.
Chronicling the grief he feels after his mother’s passing (after a brief battle with cancer, and mere weeks after the release of Vuong’s debut novel), Vuong looks at grief through an especially wide lens. If his poetic mind of him informed the writing of his novel, his experience of him as a prose writer has definitely influenced how he now writes his poetry of him. This poetry collection beautifully tells the story of how history informs grief and only makes it more devastatingly important.
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
While this isn’t necessarily a sequel to Egan’s 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squadsome beloved characters from the novel do make appearances in The Candy House.
Just as the characters in the story experiments with the concept of memories, Egan experiments with her use of narrative style in depicting their journey. The world of The Candy House is almost like a BlackMirror episode as it introduces the concept of uploading all your memories onto a publicly accessible drive. Upbeat and electric, this novel contains the soul of the ’60-’70s rebelliousness and rock and roll. Told through shifting perspectives, emails, end even tweets, The Candy House follows multiple characters over generations as they search to discover what privacy, memories, and human connection really mean to us.
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
Another novel illustrating an (eerily plausible) dystopian future, The School for Good Mothers is Jessamine Chan’s tenacious novel that will have you terrified by the tension but with no other choice but to keep turning every single page.
Frida Liu is having a very bad day. On top of feeling like a disappointment to her Chinese immigrant parents and having an unfaithful husband, she might just lose the one thing that makes her life worth living: her daughter de ella, Harriet. Sleep-deprived and exhausted, Frida’s lapse in judgment ends with her leaving her baby alone for hours. The government is always watching, especially on mothers like Frida who could let the ball drop at any time. Due to her mistake, she is given a choice: enter the school for good mothers or have her daughter taken away from her. What other choice does she have? She opts to take care of a robot baby (that records everything she does) for a chance to hold her real baby in her arms once again.
Auē by Becky Manawatu
Another emerging voice in literature, Beck Manawatu opens the world to a Māori story that has already won 2 awards in New Zealand.
After losing their parents due to gang violence within their area, each sibling in the family gets a share of the spotlight as they tell their raw and honest stories. To make the story even more heart-wrenching, we also hear the story of Aroha, their mother de ella, as she tells her story of ella from the afterlife.
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
“Average men become interesting when they start hurting women,” Kukafka writes in the preface of her novel, “this is a book for the women who survive.”
With 12 hours to live, Ansel Packer awaits his execution. As the clock winds down, the story of how he got there is told by his teenage mother who had to face a tough decision, his wife’s twin sister who witnessed his treatment of her beloved sister, and the detective committed to bringing him to justice. This story explores the strength of femininity, how we must live with the outcomes of the choices we make, and the general peculiar fascination we have with the crime story narrative.
Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy & Earthquakes by Jazmina Barrera
“Linea nigra” refers to the dark line that runs vertically across a pregnant person’s tummy. Barrera is able to eloquently put into words the intimate and brave journey of motherhood.
From pregnancy to the early stages of motherhood, Barrera takes each experience and stands in awe at the mystical powers of the body and the magic of motherhood. Through her words de ella, Barrera is able to prove that childbearing is an art and in turn, art is the act of childbearing.
This list is only a tiny taste of what the literary world has produced in the first half of 2022, it only makes one wonder how much better the rest of the year may be for us book lovers!
Other POP! stories you might like:
15 books with LBTQIA+ stories to read this Pride Month
Nostalgic books to remind you why you fell in love with reading
Get the latest POP! news delivered to your inbox