Remember when I used to do monthly book reviews? That was fun! Well, I can't commit to doing monthly book reports - I can barely commit to anything more than brushing my teeth these days - but I did want to drop in and share some of the books I've read in 2022, specifically those I loved the most.
Consider this a quick and dirty round-up of book reviews. For more detailed reviews (possibly) and real-time updates on what I'm reading, find me on Goodreads.
My Favourite Books From This Year... So Far.
So far in 2022, I've read 29 books and the vast majority of them have been romance. That said, not all of my favourite books of the year have been romance books so you can expect a nice mix below. (But if you want to know why I read more romance these days, read this post.)
The Good Ally by Nova Reid
There's a reason this book is top of this list. If you're white (or white presenting) it's an essential book that I strongly urge one and all to read. It would be too simplistic to say my reasons for recommending this book is because of the anti-racism training I have done with the author - although that work has been transformative on its own - but really this book is about opening one's eyes to the hard and harsh realities that many Black people and POC experience at the hands of white supremacy, and white people who do not do their bit to dismantle white supremacy within themselves, their families, their communities and their institutions.
I choose the words "opening one's eyes" carefully because once you finish reading this book, which is exquisitely well written, researched thoroughly and presented in ways that will speak to your heart, mind and soul, you really are only at the beginning of a lifelong journey to do the work, and make the world a better place. But The Good Ally is exactly that, an essential first step, especially for white people in the UK or of British descent.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Moving on to contemporary fiction, I'm actually a bit surprised this book is making this list. For all the hype that surrounded its release, I very much expected it to fall flat or rather, to be a bit of a stretch in terms of appreciating its quirkiness, knowing exactly how Sally Rooney likes to be quirky and different based on her other two novels Conversations with Friends and Normal People. And yes, it is quirky and different, but the charm for me came in the way very mundane and normal moments were portrayed; how we use social media, how we interact with those we are attracted to, how we endure strained relationships.
I can't imagine what it's like being as popular as Sally Rooney so to write a novel that appears both undeniably affected and unabashedly unaffected by her rise to fame in recent years feels like a true achievement.
Thornchapel Series by Sierra Simone
Technically, I read this series on my Kindle at the end of last year, but I fell in love with the story and the characters so deeply I bought the full series in paperback and when they arrived, I picked the first one up (A Lesson in Thorns) and started reading it all over again.
Unlike anything else I've ever read before, the books tell the stories of six characters who are connected to Thornchapel, an old estate located in the moors of Devon, England. The mystical grounds hold many secrets involving rituals and magic, and so it seems do the characters as their lives intertwine and together they dig deeper into a history they may or may not want to discover.
If you've never read Sierra Simone before, you should know that her books are very, very erotic and indeed the explicit love scenes are incremental to the story - think group acts of pleasure on sacred monuments - so if that's not your cup of tea, this is a series to skip. That said, it's so poetically written and the characters are so beautifully torn apart (and sometimes put back together again) that I urge you to give it a go if you're curious.
A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of historical romance. There's something about the restrictions it presents that makes it harder for me to lose myself in. That said, I have very much enjoyed historical romance written by Alexis Hall, a queer author that writes in a number of genres, but I have mostly enjoyed his romances.
The reason I picked up A Lady for a Duke is because one of the main characters is a trans woman and I was very curious how this would be portrayed in a historical context (early 1800s) and specifically with regard to the aforementioned restrictions former eras' present in terms of queerphobia. As it happened I shouldn't have worried. Yes, the restrictions were there, but no they didn't constrict or suffocate this beautiful love story that features a woman reunite with her childhood best friend and fall in love. Similar to Hall's other historical romance novel Something Fabulous, I adored how the book had an abundance of queer characters and they were all portrayed in positive light.
Another book I read this year by Alexis Hall is Boyfriend Material, a contemporary romance about two men fake-dating and being very silly as they fall madly in love. It's easily the funniest book I've read this year so definitely deserves a special mention.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Moving from romance to dark, dark suspense, I am almost surprising myself by including this book in this list because it wasn't enjoyable, rather it was enticing and demanding in what it made me think and feel, and it was written in a prosaic but addictive way that always held my attention.
In my Goodreads review, I said that this is a book I would not have been able to read a few years ago, i.e. in my post-partum and early years as a mother, because it very much tackles the topics of motherhood and parenting head on and not in a way that gives you much room to breathe or feel any kind of peace or ease with it all. That said, I did find some perverse comfort in recognising I don't have many of the problems the main character does!
All About Love by bell hooks
There's a reason this book is last on this list, because it is simply the single most important book I've read this year, and possibly ever. bell hooks' study, exploration, examination and campaign for love is essential reading for all humans. It should be taught in schools and in companies. It should be given out to babies at birth. It should live on every single book shelf in the world.
Simply put, All About Love is exactly that, all about love. It explains what love is, and importantly, what it isn't, and it prescribes to a love ethic being the only way we can undo many - if not all - of life's evils and pain. While this sounds grand and almost outlandish, the scary and most significant thing about this book is that it's not. It's really very simple. Let love rule.
Of course to get to this point and to have it be a manifesto one and all subscribe to isn't as simple or easy, but this book shows us the direction we must move in. It's up to us to make it a road we can all travel along.
Frances M. Thompson
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